Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Talent Pool or Talent Puddle

This article was written by Larry Tucker, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

“I don’t have the time to search for the best employees for my new company. It’s all I can do just to get product out the door.”

Sound familiar?

My cousin Mario

So we fall into the “my cousin Mario” trap. “The guy’s looking for a job, so I’m going to hire him.”   

Stop! What are the odds that out of the 200,000 people who live and work near your business, this guy is the right fit? One in 200,000, I guess. You have to reduce those odds. The time, energy and dollars you spend turning over one employee after another will drain your time and focus you on the wrong priorities.

Plan…just a little

What are the characteristics of a successful employee for this role? You probably have time to list those behaviors as you’re taking your shower in the morning. Consider these behaviors in two categories:

Minimum standards: A waitperson, for example, must present herself well, know food and beverage, and be able to handle the check.

My value differentiator: But my restaurant, for example, will cater to people who enjoy gourmet food, so “knowledge of food” or “ability to learn quickly” becomes key characteristics. You will likely have a list of 5 or ten characteristics, each with its own priority.

If you’re expecting your company to grow, today’s hires may be tomorrow’s managers. This expectation may add a few more characteristics to your list.

The talent puddle

“It’s not a talent pool; it’s a talent puddle. I’m thrilled just to get someone to answer my ad.” You might be surprised. Advertising for employees has many similarities to selling products. Whether you advertise on Monster.com or in the local paper, consider including these elements in your ad:

Tell them about your company, why it’s different, what you’re trying to be. (If you’ve got a website, referring to it in the ad is the best way to communicate this information.)

Make it clear what behaviors/talents/expertise you are looking for.

Explain why your company may be a better place to work than somewhere else. The ad should reflect well on your company.

Interviewing for behaviors

“An interview is where I tell them what they are expected to do in this job, right?” Yes, but that’s only a small portion of the interview. Experts say that if you spend more than 20% of the interview talking, you probably haven’t done a very good job of interviewing. Interview for your list of characteristics by asking behavioral questions. Looking for a multi-tasker? “Give me an example of a time when you had two or more top priorities and how you handled that situation.” A team player? “Tell me about the last time you worked or played in a team and how you handled it.”

There will be a significant return on investment for the time you spend hiring the right employee the first time out. Of course, the success rate is never 100%, but if you can reduce your chances from one in 200,000 to one in 2, you’ll have time to focus on building a successful business.