January 2016

Powerlessness and Hiring Don’t Mix

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Powerlessness and Hiring Don't Mix

Feeling powerless is one of the darker aspects of being human. Whether you’re a parent who can’t stop an illness from ravaging your defenseless child, or you’re at home on the couch watching a television newscast about the latest violent attack in the Middle East, you all—we all—experience powerlessness at some point during life. Much of it, like incurable diseases, can’t be stopped. Some of it, however, like the powerless feeling many people have during the hiring process, can and should be minimized or eliminated.

Powerlessness is front and center in my life today as I watch my wife go through a round of chemotherapy. A few months back, this beautiful, amazing woman found a lump—a lump that turned out to be cancer. I’ve felt powerless many times in my life, but this experience beats them all.

While I’m grateful to be healthy and capable of being helpful, I’d trade places with her in a heartbeat. I think most husbands would feel the same. They’d gladly sacrifice themselves. I say cut me open. Pump toxic chemicals into me. Hell, I have no hair so I’m already one step ahead. Just don’t make me watch the woman I love and adore go through this. She’s dealt with enough in the past six months with her father dying from cancer and her mom being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Enough already.

I wish I could will this feeling away. I wish it were that easy. That’s not possible, though, and therein lies the rub. The way I see it, when you’re feeling powerless you have two options: you can move through it or run from it. The former approach processes the feeling and the latter ignores it. One is productive; the other isn’t. Unfortunately, when people experience powerlessness during the hiring process, they tend to default toward the latter.

It’s a problem.

Top talent who can’t get an employer to respond or act quickly will go somewhere else. Hiring managers who can’t get their internal people to fill an open job quickly will look outside the system. Staffing agencies and recruitment firms who can’t get their customers to promptly reply to candidate submissions will shop talent to other customers.

It makes sense to cut and run when things aren’t working. It’s easy to understand why people do it. What companies need to understand is that it’s not productive. You can’t run from powerlessness—you have to move through it.

You have to engage.

There’s a direct relationship between powerlessness and engagement. The more in control the candidate, hiring manager, or staffing agency representative feels, the more invested and engaged they are in the process.

The Power Spectrum of Hiring

We may be impotent before some things, but we have real power to change others. When hiring, the ability to create an experience wherein all parties feel empowered is well within our control—all we have to do is follow the three S’s:

  • Schedule
  • Share
  • Surprise

A long, drawn out series of interviews makes no sense when you need the seat filled yesterday. It makes even less sense if you want to create an engaging, potent process. One well-planned phone screening is all you need to gauge if a candidate is a good fit. One well-planned live interview allows you to see, hear, and experience if the good fit is a match made in employment heaven.

Because of their importance, the three S’s are an integral part of the High Velocity Hiring process I’ve pioneered and rolled out at hundreds of companies across the globe. The results speak for themselves: the retention rate at these companies is more than 90%.

Transparency creates trust, which becomes the foundation of a budding employment relationship and solid rapport with candidates, hiring managers, and staffing partners. Share not only how you’re shortening and streamlining your process, but also exactly what will happen during it. You don’t have to give away personal secrets or tricks of the hiring trade you use to ascertain traits like honesty or follow-through. Simply share what, who, when, and why: what decisions and choices will be made, who will make them, when they’ll happen, and why they’re made. When all the stakeholders know what’s happening beforehand, the hiring process becomes fast, lean, and efficient.

Unpleasant surprises have no place in a process that begins a relationship, but positive ones are welcome, remembered, and passed on. Surprise candidates by making them smarter during the hiring process. This includes giving them access to educational materials or industry insights. Hiring managers dream of being surprised by faster response times than promised. Staffing partners go out of their way to help customers who skip excessive interviews, trusting both that the firm sent the right person to do the job and will replace them if the hire goes south. Planning surprises ahead of time allows them to be used consistently and generously as a tool for keeping all parties positively engaged.


While I’m powerless over my wife having cancer, I can and certainly will remain engaged in the process, doing my part to help her manage her treatment, recovery, and healing. I plan to meet everything head on and move through my feelings of powerlessness. Her prognosis is good and that gives me tremendous hope. The prognosis is also good for companies that do everything within their power to minimize and eliminate powerlessness for candidates, hiring managers, and staffing partners. Those that do won’t have to hope people stay involved—they will because the company made it so. Those that do won’t have to wish the hiring process produced positive results—it will because they made it so.

It will happen because they engaged. It will happen because they made it happen.


Scott WintripPowerlessness and Hiring Don’t Mix
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How to Avoid Being an Employment Commodity

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How to Avoid Being an Employment Commodity
Here’s a fact about the jobs at your company that you may not like: they’re a commodity. You might think that what you have to offer is unique and the position you’re filling is like no other. You may believe your work environment is novel and the culture you create in your workspace is special. While this is partially true, in that every company is slightly different, I propose a thought experiment.

For a moment, try seeing things from a different angle. Flip your perspective one-hundred eighty degrees and see things from the perspective of the job-seeker.

ChoicesJob-seekers—your candidates—typically pursue more than one job opportunity at a time. They have to, in order to increase their chances at being hired. They can’t put all their eggs in one basket. They send out multiple resumes and cover letters every week. Sometimes they’re looking at dozens of jobs with the exact same title, all at different companies. They scan employment sites and read scores of job postings with nearly identical language. Every company tries to add their own flair to their blurbs, but to the candidates, they all start to run together.

It doesn’t stop there.

The rest of the process follows a pattern. Email resume, receive response. Exchange emails and possibly phone calls. Then comes the interview: leaders ask a series of questions, which the candidate answers. The questions don’t vary much, and the people asking them tend to dress and act the same. The jobs even look alike, too. They involve similar tasks often done in standard cube farms. Employees use similar technology and software from one company to the next.

For the candidate, all the jobs become a blur. All the interviewers start to sound like the adults do to Charlie Brown and his friends: wah-wah-wah, wah-wah-wah-wah. Like it or not, that exceptional position at your extraordinary company is a commodity.

Now, let’s flip the perspective back to you, the employer.

You can avoid falling into the commodity trap by adopting sound strategies to separate yourself from the masses. A growing group of savvy business leaders are differentiating their organizations by combining shifts in business practices with better approaches to hiring and employee engagement. Two innovations gaining great traction are The Quid Pro Approach and Micro-Niching.

Quid Pro Quo: Value Where it Counts

Companies are learning to leverage their value by charging more and subsequently re-investing in their employees. Leslie, founder and managing partner of a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, cites this strategy as central to his company’s success. “Because our service offering is higher, the price point is as well, and honoring this assures a better match between a prospective client and our company.”

Leslie’s firm provides finance and accounting support services. Their quid pro quo approach to service value has led to dramatic and consistent growth and an impressive repeat business rate over the past five years. By reinvesting a significant portion of these gains back into the company-especially in enhancing best practices and improving technology-customers and employees benefit from the marriage of an on-demand, responsive service with a user-friendly approach to customer interactions. Their current paradigm includes client counseling, which leads clients to better returns in their business endeavors, and focuses on career development for staff, which, in turn, drives productivity and improves customer service.

Value offerings such as these, combined with a willingness to charge for this increased value, positions firms like Leslie’s to create custom service packages for potential clients, thereby expanding both what and how much they buy. The practice of escalating value for an escalating price not only creates more options, but also puts Leslie’s competitors on the back foot. They now struggle to compete with the new and interesting bundles her company offers. The end result is a firm that has the financial resources to hire great people, invest in their development, and cultivate a culture that retains top talent.

Micro-Niching: Niching the Niche

Working within a niche is a time-tested strategy that many business leaders believe has helped reduce commoditization. This is true to a certain extent, but there’s a catch: many know about it and many do it, which means its effect has become diluted. The ability to create a distinct option that buyers view as one-of-a-kind requires more than it used to. It requires a renewed focus, a sharpened vision, and a new approach.

Michael, the CEO of a UK-based human capital management organization, has successfully met the challenge of refining and deepening the niche-based approach of his company. Michael is a leader in what’s called Micro-Niching.

“We have reshaped our company to have clearly defined divisions of specialization that are led by industry experts,” Michael says. “They have been tasked with not just creating their own areas of expertise, but also in developing independent cultures representing the sectors they support.”

These Micro-Niching initiatives mean that the distinct brands are now situated to corner their respective markets with increasing efficiency and effectiveness. As their level of knowledge and engagement deepens, Michael’s team creates lasting client relationships and delivers targeted value unparalleled by traditional niche providers.

“In a relatively short period of time, we have increased margins and improved our productivity,” Michael reports. “The longer-term effects include a much better market presence as we have been able to position our brands more clearly in the market, becoming de facto thought leaders in the process. People are clamoring to work for us.”

In a short period of time, his company has grown substantially and he’s had to hire dozens of new people. The company’s prestige and unique position in the market makes it relatively easy to attract top-shelf candidates for all his new positions.

Creativity: The Anti-Commodity

What Quid Pro Quo and Micro-Niching have in common is creativity. To return to the thought experiment from earlier for a moment, creativity is what will make your company stand out from the dozens-scratch that-the hundreds of job postings a job seeker sorts through every day. For the employer, creativity separates a run-of-the-mill company from the pack when competing for customers and top talent. Creativity counts, now more than ever. An entrepreneurial spirit in companies both large and small fuels profitability and attracts top-talent. Add hefty doses of inspiration, and your organization and the jobs you offer become unique. People will want to work for you. Value them. Show them how you do it. In turn, they’ll value you. If you do, they’ll choose you over your competitors. Remember: no one wants to be a drone in a cubicle.

Scott WintripHow to Avoid Being an Employment Commodity
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The Recipe for Loyalty – How Staffing and Recruitment Firms Can Gain and Keep Buyer Trust

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With a satisfaction score of -4%, the staffing industry has some work to do. In this podcast, Scott shares five ways to improve trust, reputations, and loyalty.

Scott WintripThe Recipe for Loyalty – How Staffing and Recruitment Firms Can Gain and Keep Buyer Trust
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