What Recruiting and Magic Buses Have in Common
September 9, 2013
What do you think of this job posting?
Spend your days driving a honkin’ dual-tandem, 700 HP eco-machine through the most beautiful city in the world.
It was the winning creative job posting at one of our recent Recruiter Boot Camp workshops. The position was a bus driver for the city of Vancouver, Canada. The point of the exercise was to drive home the idea that recruiters need to be able to capture the intrinsic motivator of their ideal candidate in a 140- character tweet. This description will be used in job postings, bus stops, InMails, voice mails and on first contact. It’s how you capture the attention of someone who is not actively looking for another job.
Keeping on the bus theme, most of us recall Jim Collins’ theme from his bestseller Good to Great : In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.
Which brings us to my rather superficial “Magic Bus Theory of Recruiting.” It’s described in a more down-to-earth approach in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired .
The quick summary goes something like this: imagine your bus is a big job posting with compelling titles, flashy neon lights, a cool horn, and wicked wheels. It’s a big bus with enough space for all types of people, although some routes would just be for sales folks, or engineers, or whatever. The idea is to have the best get on the bus and drive. This is what good sourcing is all about. However, sourcing is not hiring, nor is it recruiting.
Let the person have the wheel for a moment or two. This is the purpose of the pitch. But once behind the wheel, good recruiting needs to kick in. In this case of buses, good recruiting is about putting the person in the passenger seat as soon as possible. One way is by asking something like, ”Would you be open to go for a short drive if this job represented a true career move?” No one will refuse. The recruiter is now driving the bus with the candidate in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, too many recruiters start describing a job, i.e., the destination of the drive, before they know where the person wants to go. If the job is not appealing, candidates will get off the bus at the first stop.
Don’t take this turn. Once the person says yes, recognize they have agreed to a short drive, destination unknown. To figure out the best destination, conduct a quick phone screen. The purpose of this is to determine if the candidate is qualified and your job represents a possible career move. Both of these conditions are necessary. That’s the only reason the person agreed to go for the drive. During the 5-10 minute discussion you need to look for the “opportunity gap” between what the candidate has accomplished and your open job. This would include things like a bigger team, a bigger budget, a more important project, more exposure, more challenges and a faster growing organization. If the person is top-notch you might even want to modify the job to better fit their needs.
Assuming there is an opportunity gap, describe it, but don’t oversell. Instead, explain the job, the challenges involved, and the potential upside. As part of this, suggest that the candidate, while worthy, could be a bit light. To validate this, describe the most important part of your open job and ask the person to describe something he or she has accomplished that’s most comparable. If still interested, the person will then try to convince you why he or she is more than qualified for the job. This is what good recruiting is all about. It’s not about you selling the candidate; it’s about getting the candidate to sell you. Make the candidate earn the job. It has more value this way. You know you’ve successfully recruited the candidate when they are anxious to drive the bus again.
One key point: from a talent strategy standpoint, and paraphrasing Collins’ “right people on the bus” concept, the idea is to first get the most talented people possible onto the right bus, but don’t let them off until you get them to the right stop. Unfortunately, most companies have predesigned bus routes, aka skills-infested job descriptions and too many filters, that preclude getting the right people on the bus in the first place. Worse, it takes an act of God to change bus routes.
Of course, banishing skills-based job descriptions and modifying the job to better suit the candidate is no easy task. Despite these challenges, the benefits are enormous compared to the issues to be overcome. As a minimum, you’ll hire more talented people; you’ll increase on-the-job performance, job satisfaction and retention; your new-found job design flexibility will allow you to structure work to better meet the needs of a demographically changing workforce; and your hiring productivity will soar by eliminating all of the self-imposed bureaucratic inefficiencies. All it takes is a magic bus.
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* image by hz536n/George Thomas