How to Keep “A” Player Applicants Engaged

Hire the Best - Use for Web applications, emails, etcRecently, Dr. Brad Smart, Founder of Topgrading, which is a proven method for hiring the “best of the best,” commented on my radio show, BizTalk, that the best people stayed put during the recent recession.  They were not willing to make a career move until the dust settled.  Well, it’s settled and in fact, the job market is picking up steam. The good news is “A” players are on the move again.  The problem is that you won’t see them.

Why You Won’t See “A” Players

It is an accepted fact there are two types of applicants:  passive and active.  Most hiring processes are designed to attract the active candidate.  However, since 2008, the active applicant pool has consisted mainly of the unemployed, under-performers, job hoppers, industry retreads, and at best, “C” players.

The passive applicant pool is impervious to your job ads because they are passive.  They are happy where they are at and they have no incentive to become active.  When they do become active, most of them will have the same attributes of the people that make up the active applicant pool.

There is new pool of applicants I call the selectively active pool. They are willing to move if the right career opportunity comes along.  They are happy, productive and well-compensated but, if an opportunity that better aligns with their talents and career goals comes along, it will get their attention. Once you have their attention, they will move into the active pool pretty quickly. Remember, however, they are selectively active. They are not doing what other active candidates do by posting their resumes on job boards, setting up the auto reply to job ads, or blasting out emails that they are looking.

Most “A” players are in the selectively active pool.

You can see that this creates a problem if your hiring process is set up only to attract active candidates. “A” players don’t pop-up on the radar screen and for the most part, they find their next job on their own. They become available and make the move before you are even aware that they were on the market.

This development of the selectively active applicant has gone mostly unnoticed and because of this hiring processes have not been modified to attract them.

How to Modify Your Hiring Process When You Accidently Find an “A” Player

If an “A” player shows up on your doorstop or you accidently find one, you must modify your hiring process to accommodate for the fact that they will not be on the market for long; less than ten days in most cases.

Singled-OutYour current process is probably designed to take a long time in order to ensure that you don’t make a hiring mistake.  Between the phone calls, group interviews, and assessments, it can take several weeks.  I would agree that this timeline is appropriate when most of your applicant pool is made up of “B” and “C” players.

“A” players don’t have that kind of time.  You have to modify your process to ensure it is moving at the same speed as the “A” player’s opportunity evaluation process is moving.

Most of us know when we have an “A” player. They respond and act far superior than the rest of the applicants.  The problem is that you don’t trust your instincts when you see one because you have been burnt in the past so, you stick to your guns and continue your slow weeding out process designed for “B” and “C” players.

Here are some things you can do to fast track and engage an “A” player applicant:

  1. If you have conducted a group interview, have each member of that group send a follow-up email stating what they specifically like about him/her and how they see them fitting on the team.
  2. You, as the hiring manger, should communicate to them, regularly, as to where they are at in the process and explain the remaining steps in your process.
  3. Get the company president to talk to them … an e-mail or a letter won’t due … he/she needs to call and talk to them. The president’s role in this conversation is to answer any questions about the company’s vision and culture.
  4. Even if you are not ready to take the next step, get it on their calendar now! Furthermore, clear your calendar to accommodate their schedule.  At Performance Group, we work solely on placing “A” players in vice presidents of sales and salesperson positions.  The excuse we hear most often is that the hiring manager’s calendar is full of internal company meetings or client appointments.  I can’t change your priorities but I can only tell you from experience that “A” players don’t sit around waiting for your calendar to open up.  If you are responsible for driving revenues and you have an open position, is there no higher priority that getting that position filled?
  5. Ask them for references and start your reference checks immediately.  Don’t wait until the end of your process.  Reference checks take too long and you could lose them while you’re tracking a reference down.
  6. Get started on your background check for the same reason as above.
  7. The number one complaint I hear from applicants is that they do not hear from the company with regards to how they are doing or where they are at in the process.  This is the number one mistake companies make with “A” players.  Turn that into your advantage by increasing your communication with them.

“A” players find their own opportunities.  Don’t be naïve thinking your opportunity is the only one or the best one available to them.  Know when to stop screening and start recruiting.