The Hardest Skill to Recruit

Hire the Best - Use for Web applications, emails, etcRecently, I joined in on a conversation about the hardest skill to recruit for and here were some of the comments:

“It’s funny but admin/execs have always seemed to take a little longer.  I think it’s because it is usually more about “personality” fit then the actual skills the candidates possess.”

“Defense engineering being the hardest due to the nature of there being high clearance level defense engineering prospects.”

“How about a patent attorney with a background in electrical engineering?”

“International tax consultant, hands down is the hardest.”

Reflecting back on the conversation, the conclusion I came to was that the hardest skill set to find is the one for your position.  Your position is always the hardest fill.

Why is this?

Here are a couple of reasons why based on my experience:

Typically our standards are unrealistic.

For example, a HR director recently described to me that she wanted a salesperson who:

  • has engineering experience, has been selling for five pus years,
  • had worked in manufacturing where it takes six month to close a deal,
  • will do the job for a $50,000 annual salary, and
  • will live in the town where the home office is, which by the way is a small rural town of 1,500 residences with no real relocation package.

Really!  Good luck.  Here is a litmus test on the validity of your criteria for any existing position:  Does anyone who is currently or ever has been employed by your company fit the criteria?  If the answer is “no,” your criteria are wrong.

The importance of having the correct hiring criteria is why, at Performance Group, we walk our clients though a Candidate Search Criteria Questionnaire that gathers thirty-two data points to determine if this ideal candidate even exists.  If they do, then because of our Questionnaire, we have a clear picture of who we are looking for.

Too often the criteria are set by a hiring manager who is frustrated to the point that he/she wants Superman to show up at the door step and save the day, and nobody in the company challenges their criteria.   Having good applicants is based on having accurate data on who you are seeking.

We want more than the skill.

Hiring mangers value things like being a team player; someone who is a self-starter and will contribute ideas on how to improve how things are done or what could be done.  The hiring manager rarely states these intangibles, therefore, the incorrect criteria are sent to HR which begins a search looking for the wrong type of person.

We are posting ads and not following a process.

Remember when job boards where supposed to be the answer. Post an ad and they will come. Well today they come all right!  Your email inbox is clogged with mostly unqualified, unemployed people with resumes manufactured by some professional resume writer.

Business is about systems and processes run by talented people.  Some of us never quite get that.  What is your process to identify, source, screen, and recruit top talent.  At Performance Group, we have our Hire the Best process, which means we are managing a process.  Therefore, we can do process improvement to ensure the process consistently produces qualified people.  Having this process enables us to modify it to keep in step with an ever-changing employment market. Most companies have steps in their process that includes posting an ad and separating resumes into the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pile… pretty much the way it was done thirty years ago! The only process improvement these companies have made is moving the Help Wanted ad out of the newspaper and on to the Internet.  After all, the Internet is the answer to everything, right?


The net effect of all of this:

Not committed to excellence.

Since the hardest position to fill is your position, you may get a little frustrated at finding good people.  Your frustration leads to despair and then, to desperation.  Between despair and desperation, you lower your standards by which you would employ someone because you believe that no good people exist.  Good people exist… the reality is that you may not be good at finding them or your company is not attractive enough for them to consider you.

Myopic view of your hiring process.

My friend, Roy Williams, states, “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle.”  This is just another way of saying that maybe another set of eyes are needed to get a reality check.

We have conducted numerous hiring process reviews for our clients in an attempt to identify the steps in their process that need to be clarified, changed, or eliminated in order to attract “A” players.

When is the last time you audited your hiring process?

Do you even have a process that could be audited?