Finding the right candidates: are you sniping, or simply spraying and praying?

“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”  Jim Collins

As the latest Gartner quarterly update on Global Workforce Trends shows, about 30% of the global workforce is actively seeking jobs, which leaves 70% not actively looking.  The question I’d like you to ask yourself is: which pool of candidates is your company recruiting from?

With 46% of all hires being mis-hires,  and considering the importance of hiring A Players, the success of both your company and your executive career depends on finding the best people for your team.  And that all starts with sourcing the best possible talent to interview. 

But when did you last ask your human resources or talent acquisition team where they are sourcing candidates from, or ask your recruiters to explain their processes that result in the candidates whose details land on your desk?    

You see, in order to give yourself the best chance of hiring A Players, you need to be sure that your candidate sources aren’t limited to just the active 30% part. Even that 30% plus a little bit extra is not enough; you need to be covering 100% of the market.

Chances are that your company sources candidates using a selection of standard methods: putting job adverts on boards like Indeed and LinkedIn, placing social media notices, asking employees to refer anyone they know that’s looking for a new job, and using contingency recruiters.  Guess what?  That’s exactly the same as everyone else is doing.  Stick to this approach and you’re certainly decreasing your chances of seeing and engaging with the A Players that are not actively looking, but still waiting to hear from you.

Yes, of course there can be some great candidates out there that are actively looking, but it’s certainly not a given.  If you look at your own team now, generally speaking, which individuals would you say are more likely to be actively looking for new jobs at any one time?  Your A Players – your top performers who are happy, motivated and kicking ass against target (and who you’re working hard to retain with financial and non-financial incentives?)  Or your B and C Players – the people who are less motivated and not performing as well against target (some of whom you even hope might see the light and move on of their own accord)?

Once you acknowledge the need to target 100% of the market, the next step is to ensure you’re using the right candidate sourcing method.  The most effective proven methodology for this is search (also known as headhunting).

Before I became a headhunter I was in the military, so excuse the metaphors I’m about to use, but I think they help visualise my point.  Think of a professional headhunter as a sniper, an elite well-trained and experienced marksman with the best available long-range rifle.  In contrast, all other methods of recruitment are armed only with a short-range submachine gun.   

Done properly, search is an art in itself.  You’ll often hear contingency recruiters say: “Oh yeah, we do search and will approach everyone in your sector”, but in reality that’s far from the truth for most.  What they really do is send out 20 or 50 poorly worded emails, then maybe follow through with cold calls on a volume basis to “see what sticks”.  This would be like the ‘spray and pray’ method: firing a submachine gun into to bushes half a mile away and hoping if there’s someone in the bushes they might get a hit.  Compare that to taking a sniper’s calculated, focused approach that aims to guarantee hits. 

A highly proficient headhunter shares many traits with the sniper:

  • He has an extensive set of tools in his armoury and the range to reach a much wider variety of targets than other foot soldiers.

  • He has carefully identified his targets, based on extensive recon, sector knowledge and experience. 

  • He understands his targets, and their backgrounds, value and locations.

  • He is well prepared for the engagement, and knows exactly how to engage with his targets.

  • He takes his time, favouring quality engagements over quantity of shots and mis-fires.

  • When he confidently engages he will be determined to ensure it’s a successful shot.

Your success as a leader – which will in turn provide you with the career prospects, financial future and personal wellbeing you desire – is dependent upon building and leading a team of A Players.   But when it comes to hiring, are you sure you’re getting to see the best candidates the whole market can offer you, or are you limiting your options to just the active 30%? 

Contact us to discuss how our proactive search processes result in covering 100% of the candidate market in order to deliver you A Players.


About the author. Shawn Rutter is the Founder of Excelsior Search, a market-leading, niche search company, specializing in international executive search and recruitment solutions for financial technology (fintech), data, and research providers to the global capital markets and investment industry. With experience delivering search assignments across the Americas, EMEA and APAC, he founded Excelsior in 1999, having previously worked as an Army Officer and for the international search firm MRI.  Shawn invites you to connect on LinkedIn.