Most managers don’t worry about recruiting unless there is a hole to fill.  Holes can open suddenly if someone unexpectedly gives their notice, or they can develop slowly over time as a problem employee fails to respond to attempts to salvage them, or their responsibilities outgrow their abilities. 

Holes also occur on a planned basis.  As an organization grows, new positions are created.  What used to be just one job gets sub-divided and then sub-divided again. 

Steve Jobs famously said that his most important role was that of a recruiter, and his goal was to hire only the best.  For him it was a constant thing, not just something to be done when there was a hole.  As well as continually growing his company, Jobs was constantly pruning the tree and making it stronger, not just adding to it. 

Filling Holes

When there is a vacancy to fill, if you accept the goal of “hiring the best”, then there are several things that you can do to increase the odds of achieving your objective.  Many organizations fail on one or more of these simple steps:

    • Throw a wide net – Just posting your job opening on-line may not be enough, except for the most junior position.  Many good candidates are already employed and reasonably happy, therefore they are not actively seeking a new position.  However, many will consider a new opportunity if it is actively presented to them.
    • Move quickly to develop a short list – Once you have identified a number of suitable “suspects”, deal with them in a timely way.  The best candidates are those most likely to get another offer, so they won’t be around for long.  If you think that you are in the driver’s seat and can go at your own slow pace, the “A” candidates that you identify will always be gone when you get around to dealing with them and you will be choosing from among the “B’s” and “C’s”.
    • Have a streamlined decision process – Determine in advance who needs to be involved and whether you want separate individual interviews or panel interviews where several interviewers meet each candidate at the same time.  Panel interviews can be very time efficient and since they are a shared experience, they provide a good basis for a group discussion about the pros and cons of each candidate. 
    • Be decisive – Recruiting is time sensitive.  Take your time to find the right candidate, but having found them, don’t take forever to get the offer together and present it.

Pruning the Tree

Even when there aren’t any current holes to fill, you should be constantly evaluating how the organization could be stronger.  Where are the weak links?  Which direction will the organization grow in the coming months and years?  Will the incumbents in current positions be capable of growing into expanded roles as the organization grows?  How will the future organization take shape and what can you do now to prepare by hiring the key talent you will require down the road?

Some members of your existing team may be blocking the future development of your organization because they are already at the limit of their ability and will not be able to grow into the expanded roles that you will need to fill.  It’s not just that they will not be able to fill these roles; they are actually preventing you from filling them by taking up the spaces you need to use to hire and groom your future leaders.

Recruiting isn’t a once in a while thing.  It is an everyday thing.  Steve Jobs knew that.

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