As finding good staff grows harder, talent-finders will become crucial
As a veteran of many succession planning exercises to find future leaders
for an organisation, I have found that only a small group of managers recruit
good succession candidates – most managers fail to generate talent for their
Some managers are talented at finding and recruiting good people, others are
not. If you are not convinced, try a practical exercise: list your succession
candidates and who hired each of them. You will not need to do an analysis to
see that only some managers hire good people. These are your "talent-finders"
– the people in your organisation who are good at "finding the best".
So every HR manager should be asking how they do it. And why don’t the
others achieve it? The talent-finders I have known have had four points in
First, they make recruitment a priority, important in their allocation of
time. They are available and they do not "lose" candidates because of
Second, they are never afraid to hire someone who will challenge everyone in
their organisation. New recruits must raise the average capability level. One
excellent talent-finder once told me that he wanted every new employee to
challenge him for his job in as short a time as possible. Good talent-finders
do not see talent as a threat.
Third, talent-finders persuasively enthuse potential employees and sell the
job and the organisation effectively. They generate "I want to work
And fourth, they close effectively. They reach decisions and make offers
that get accepted. They are the ones arguing with HR about the offer terms and
they do not accept delays from HR. The most effective talent-finders also add
personal touches – a phone call to confirm the offer or a meeting with the
candidate and spouse to answer questions.
At the other extreme are the "talent-avoiders". You have some of
these and know who they are. A talent avoider reschedules and delays
interviews. Candidates who are too young, over-qualified or too expensive, and
anyone who could challenge the talent-avoider himself or others in the team,
has to have something wrong with them. This person will not fit. If a good
reason cannot be found, simply delaying a decision usually ensures the person
is (happily) no longer available.
So how do you take the best advantage of your talent-finders and avoid the
problems the talent-avoider causes?
One solution is to review and change your recruitment processes. Use
talent-finders to interview candidates even if the vacancy is not in their
department. Present your talent-avoiders only with candidates pre-screened by
your talent-finders. Secure top management support that selection decisions
should be taken only by selection teams – and get the right people on those
Also, face up to the issue with your talent-avoiders – talk to them. They
are probably insecure in their roles and if you can make them feel more
confident about their own role and their future, you can help them to stop
losing good people.
Most of your managers are probably neither gifted talent-finders nor
unchangeable talent-avoiders – with encouragement they can all do better.
Review the training you provide. Add practical exercises or case studies to
stress that recruiting talent means making hiring a top priority, not just for
HR. Every new hire should raise the organisation’s average level of talent;
recruiting managers must positively but realistically sell your organisation to
potential recruits; and effective closing – making and getting acceptance to an
employment offer – is vital
Getting good people is becoming more and more difficult. If HR people start
to find and use talent-finders, it can only be for the better.
James Simpson is an independent consultant on European-wide recruitment,
training and development. His previous post was European training and
development manager at Texas Instrumentsng