A Secret to Talent Acquisition: Great People Collect Great People

January 31, 2019

Talent acquisition

The holidays are always a great time to reflect on our lives. Such was the case this holiday season as several interrelated thoughts came crashing into my head from divergent sources. In the end, the revelation that kept coming back to me was that great people collect great people.

This idea abounded during the TV coverage surrounding the passing of former president George H.W. Bush. It was heartwarming and awe-inspiring to see the deep friendships and mutual respect the president had enjoyed with so many of his colleagues.

True and lasting friendships mean a great deal in the political sphere, but also in business and in our daily lives. Organizations and people that stand the test of time and succeed in their missions tend to earn the respect and loyalty of their colleagues, employees, and neighbors through an innate “trust factor.”

Companies that consistently win awards like “Best Places to Work” generally share some common traits, including long-tenured leadership, strong employee retention rates, consistent communication in good times and bad, and enviable financial performance.

Focus on the backstory in candidate interviews

These observations form the foundation of today’s message: When looking to hire new talent for your organization, dig deep into a candidate’s backstory to learn how the person changed jobs throughout his or her years of employment. Typically, a pattern will emerge. I’d recommend running for the hills if it turns out a candidate has repeatedly left companies because he or she acted on enticing calls from recruiters.

Conversely, your interest should be piqued if you learn that a candidate has been routinely recruited by a former boss or colleague. Although some people simply like to surround themselves with familiar faces (that is, the buddy system), most supervisors try to hire the best available talent. So it’s noteworthy when a manager is so impressed by an employee at a previous company that he or she seeks to recruit that person to a new venture as well.

The next time you interview a candidate, don’t just rely on standard behavioral questions. Instead, focus on two simple inquiries:

  • Why did you leave company X?
  • How did you find your way to company Y?

What you learn from these questions may greatly impact your thinking about certain candidates. Taken at face value, a resume filled with several different companies can quickly earn someone the label of a job hopper. This generalization may be far from the truth, however, as some people have simply chosen to follow a former boss or mentor they admire.

Concepts such as stability, loyalty, trust, and civility translate into a common mantra of doing the right thing, the right way. The importance of these values cannot be overlooked if you seek to attract and retain great people to further your organization’s mission of achieving excellence.

What does this mean for job seekers? It’s simple. Reach out to former bosses and colleagues. Friends hire friends, especially if past mutual successes exist.

The moral of the story: Go out and start collecting great people/friends, but precede such an effort by being a good friend first. Such a strategy should yield dividends beyond your imagination.

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About The Author

Jay Meschke is president of CBIZ Talent and Compensation Solutions. He oversees a business unit that provides retained executive search, compensation consulting, HR consulting and career transition services. He is a sought-after subject matter expert on issues related to executive search and talent management. For additional insights, visit the CBIZ blog and follow him on Twitter at @jay_meschke.

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