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Attract Quality Candidates by Thinking Like a Product Marketer

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Talented people are bombarded with opportunities. So many that yours could easily be lost in the crowd. There’s a simple way to make your opportunities stand out—package your jobs as if you’re marketing a product.

I was reminded of this method when I was in the tea aisle of Whole Foods Market. If you’ve never been in their tea aisle, it’s a plethora of color, size, and shape. It’s quite a sight…and a potential sales nightmare for individual suppliers.

Manufacturers have learned to compete in this cornucopia by packaging their tea in boxes, tins, and containers of all colors, sizes, and shapes to attract your attention.

There was a woman standing in the aisle gazing at the wall of tea. As I watched her consider her options, I noticed that she was scanning the shelves, occasionally picking up a box or tin, checking out the back and then either placing the item in her cart or putting it back on the shelf.

I watched a bit longer, curious about the system she had going. Eventually my curiosity won out and I approached her.

“Excuse me, I hope I’m not intruding. I was noticing how you were looking at tea. I’m a consultant. My clients are always interested in how people make choices. I noticed you’re very particular with what you’re looking for. May I ask why?”

“Well,” she started, “I’m bored with my current brand of tea. I’ve decided to try some new flavors and brands. Maybe there’s something better than what I was buying before.”

“Okay, and how are you going to pick?”

“Well, I like a robust tea so I’m looking for cues—pictures or words—on the front of the box that tell me it might be full-flavored.”

“Okay. I noticed that when one grabbed your attention, that’s when you picked it up and checked the back.”

“Right. The front of the box is what captures my attention. Then I look at the back to finalize my decision. Simple as that.”

Tea Lady reminded me that packaging matters. How something is packaged either grabs or repels our attention.

This is why good jobs are often overlooked. They’re poorly packaged.

To get the attention of top talent, you must think like a product marketer. Your packaging (ads, posts, and verbal communication) must quickly grab people’s attention. This is the “front of the box.” Only after you’ve gotten a candidate’s attention will the details matter (the “back of the box”).

Take these steps to improve how you package opportunities.

Step #1: Next time you’re in a retail establishment, notice how product marketers package their offerings. Note the colors they use, the pictures they choose, and how carefully and sparingly they use words on the front of the box.

Step #2: Imagine your jobs were in a store competing with other opportunities. Each job is in a box, waiting for top talent to come down the aisle.

Step #3: Design the “box” with the jobseeker in mind. What pictures, words, and colors can you use to grab people’s attention?

Step #4: Test out a few designs with internal staff or an external focus group.

What’s this look like in action? A tech company with great opportunities was drawing in a trickle of talent. Using these steps, they created colorful images and short videos (under 10 seconds) of current employees sharing brief soundbites about how working at the company has improved their lives. They used these same soundbites as the opening content for written postings and conversations with candidates. Today, the company draws in a strong steady flow of highly qualified people.

Your jobs are important. They’re a product as important as what your company provides to its customers. Package them so that they stand out and get the attention they deserve.

Scott WintripAttract Quality Candidates by Thinking Like a Product Marketer
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If You Want to Improve Results Adopt this Business Practice

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A top task for most leaders is to generate results. These could include increasing revenue, improving retention on your team, growing market share, filling jobs faster, or one of many other measurable outcomes that demonstrate you’re during your job. In this episode, I share a simple way to increase the likelihood that you’ll achieve the desired results.

Scott WintripIf You Want to Improve Results Adopt this Business Practice
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Want to Hire Faster? Eliminate These 3 Obstacles.

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Many organizations are struggling to fill open positions. It takes them weeks or months to fill just one job. The skills shortage often gets the blame. Because there are more jobs than people to fill them, leaders have come to expect that hiring will be a time-consuming challenge.

Another group of companies is having a different hiring experience. These organizations fill their open seats with relative ease and speed, even though there aren’t enough qualified people to go around. What makes these organizations different isn’t their reputation, location, work environment, or pay and benefits. It’s how they’ve chosen to address the talent shortage. They’ve overcome three common obstacles that slow down fast hiring.

THE REAL PROBLEM
While the global talent shortage is an ongoing reality, it’s not the real problem. The skills shortage is merely a challenge that can be solved by a better process.

The critical problem—the only one you can control—is having the right kind of hiring process. The right process taps into a sufficient pool of talent and efficiently moves candidates toward hire.

To fill jobs quickly with top talent, your hiring process must overcome these three obstacles.

Obstacle #1: Tapping into a candidate pool that’s too small
If you asked employers why they can’t fill jobs, over a third will tell you they’re not getting enough applicants, or they’re getting no applicants at all. Yet, only 10 percent of these employers leverage untapped talent pools.

Faster hiring requires mass: You must build a critical mass of candidates to select from. Building mass requires tapping into overlooked pools of people.

To determine if your organization is tapping into a candidate pool that’s too small, take these three steps.

Step #1: Review the eight talent streams
There are eight streams of talent. Each stream provides access to unique people. Compare these streams to how your company acquires candidates.

Step #2: Determine which streams lead to successful hires
Review your organization’s hires over the past six to 12 months. Note which streams these hires came from and which streams didn’t produce any successful hires.

Step #3: Assess which streams are being under-used or overlooked
Every talent stream should be producing candidates, some of whom become quality hires. Those that don’t are under-used or overlooked.

Obstacle #2: Employing interviewing methods that are inaccurate and slow
During typical interviews, candidates are on their best behavior. As a result, interviews are often a poor barometer as to who will fail or succeed in a given role. Some “newer” interview methods, such as behavioral interviewing, have only made the process longer. Hundreds of books and articles have been written on how to beat behavioral interviews. These books and articles demonstrate simple methods for telling interviewers exactly what they want to hear.

Interviews cannot be a conceptual exercise. They must allow you to see proof then-and-there that a candidate can do the job and do it well.

Take time to evaluate the speed and accuracy of your interviewing methods by reviewing each step of the process, evaluating the effectiveness of techniques used by interviewers. Answer these questions.

  • Does the interviewing technique consistently uncover irrefutable proof about a candidate’s fitness for the job?
  • If “no,” how can we replace or eliminate that technique to get a better result?
  • If “yes,” what can we do to streamline this technique and still get the same consistent irrefutable proof?

Obstacle #3: Failing to build and maintain a prospective employee pipeline
When a seat opens suddenly, the amount of activity it generates can feel overwhelming. Without an active talent pipeline, a frantic dance ensues. Managers have to handle extra work as the company tries to find suitable candidates. Days later, schedules have to be coordinated for phone screenings and interviews. Work piles up, good candidates take other jobs, and nerves fray.

Maintaining a pipeline of ready-to-hire prospective employees eliminates the dance. When jobs open, there’s no rush, panic, or chaos. Instead, you can hire from your overflowing pipeline.

It’s vital that your organization assess its pipelining strategies. Starting with the most critical roles in your organization, answer these questions.

  • For each role, how many people are ready to hire right now?
  • For any roles where there aren’t people ready to hire now, where is the pipelining process failing? For example, are there viable candidates who are stuck at the interview stage? Is there a lack of suitable candidates to interview? Is recruiting failing to generate candidates? Use what you learn to address those process problems.

Speed is no longer a competitive advantage. In today’s fast-paced competitive world, it’s a requirement for doing business and hiring quality employees. The importance of having talented people exactly when they’re needed makes fast and accurate hiring a strategic imperative.

Scott WintripWant to Hire Faster? Eliminate These 3 Obstacles.
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Want to Keep Candidates Fully Engaged During the Hiring Process? Do What Teachers Do.

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Teachers have a secret weapon for keeping students engaged—homework. As students do their homework, the subject matter stays top of mind even though the teacher isn’t present. That’s the benefit of giving candidates homework during the hiring process. You and your company remain top of mind even though you’re not present physically.

Why is this important? You rarely make a hire in the very first interaction with someone. There will be some downtime between your initial connection and each step of the hiring process. These gaps in interaction are when doubts arise, concerns develop, or people simply forget to think about your company and the opportunity.

Candidates jump on the internet to research other jobs, recall conversations they’ve had with other companies, and get feedback from friends and colleagues about what you’ve put on the table thus far.

It’s important to shape that downtime, as much as you can, into something that benefits the candidate, the hiring process, and your developing relationship. That’s where assigning homework comes in.

You may be thinking, “How in the world am I supposed to get candidates to do homework? Especially in this competitive job market.” That’s a common reaction. Which is why any homework you give has to be in the best interest of the candidate.

When you design candidate homework, each question, task, or thought assignment is geared toward benefiting the candidate. People are much more likely to engage in a process when they can see the obvious benefit for themselves in completing the task.

How’s this work? My interactions with Melissa are a good example. We were introduced at a social event by a mutual friend who thought Melissa would fit in well at my company.

My first conversation with Melissa was brief, but it was clear there was mutual interest. We set up a time the next day for a phone interview. In preparation for that, I asked Melissa to do two things. First, send me her resume. Second, think about her objectives if we had the chance to work together and be ready to discuss those in our call.

This particular homework assignment was mutually beneficial in four ways:

Benefit #1
If Melissa were considering other jobs, she’d still be thinking about the possibility of working with me.

Benefit #2
The homework assignment was about visualizing a positive, successful working relationship together.

Benefit #3
Melissa would come to our call with specific needs and goals, allowing me to share specific details of how a job on my team could address those.

Benefit #4
I’d get a real experience of Melissa’s ability to take direction and follow through, both important traits among people who’d succeeded on my team.

Our phone interview, including our discussion of how her wants and needs matched up with our company, went well. We scheduled a face-to-face interview for the next day. In preparation for that, I gave her another homework assignment: think about what she’d learned so far about our company and come prepared to discuss how we fit her professional and personal goals.

This second homework assignment kept our company top of mind. Plus, it gave me another opportunity to experience her ability to take direction and follow-through.

The face-to-face interview also well and, you guessed it, included more homework…with a twist. She appeared to be a good fit, so I wasn’t going to delay taking action. While expediting her background check that afternoon, I gave her two questions to ponder and asked her to call me a few hours later with the answers. Those questions were

Question #1
If we work together, how can we make it mutually beneficial?

Question #2
If we both agree to proceed, when could you start and what will you need to do to make that happen?

Like the previous homework, these questions kept up the mindfulness and momentum. This assignment also let the better closer close “the deal.” That was her, not me. I knew she’d believe everything she said but may or may not believe me. Rather than trying to talk her into accepting an offer, I let her do it instead. All the while keeping me, the opportunity, and the company top of mind until we spoke again in that final conversation.

I did make Melissa an offer in that final call, which she accepted on the spot. Shortly after she started the job, she told me, “It won’t have made sense to say no. I was considering other opportunities, two of which paid more money. But I couldn’t get the job on your team out of my head. I’m so glad I said yes.”

Giving homework to candidates allows them to continue to experience the benefit of remembering you, your company, and the potential value of working together. Instead of being out of sight and out of mind, which could push you out of contention of landing a talented person, meaningful homework improves your chances of celebrating your latest, greatest hire.

 

Scott WintripWant to Keep Candidates Fully Engaged During the Hiring Process? Do What Teachers Do.
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Your Jobs On Indeed Are About To Disappear. Here’s What You Can Do About It.

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If you work in a staffing or recruitment firm, your jobs won’t appear in Indeed’s organic search results after January 6, 2019. You can learn more about the reasons for this in a blog post from Indeed.

Not surprisingly, many people are in a panic. But not everyone. Some firms have unleashed a force greater than Indeed that gives them a steady flow of top talent. More talent than they can place in jobs and assignments. Read on to learn how to access this force.

HOW TO INCREASE THE FLOW OF TALENT

In movies, we’ve heard about the concept of “force.” Some films use this idea for protection, as in a force field that repels. Then there’s the force that’s like a special positive power, helping the good guys defeat the bad ones.

In recruiting, there’s also a positive type of force related to sourcing talent. It’s called candidate gravity.

Candidate gravity is the “pull” that your firm has on talent. This pull may be weak, drawing in an insufficient supply of candidates; inconsistent, coming in ebbs and flows; or strong, generating a consistent stream of people.

Staffing and recruitment firms with strong candidate gravity always draw a stronger flow of top talent their way, leaving second and third-tier candidates for everyone else.

Only 10 percent of firms across the globe maintain strong candidate gravity. They’re able to do this because they maximize all eight of the talent streams that generate candidate gravity; the other 90 percent do not.

If you want your company to have stronger candidate gravity, you must first identify where your pull on talent is weak and improve those areas of weakness. When you do, Indeed’s decision to remove you from their organic search results will be irrelevant.

Here are the eight talent streams.

Advertising
This includes print and online ads

Automation
Technology options include job boards, career sites, applicant tracking systems, tools for finding passive candidates, and more being added every year

Candidate Mining
You mine your digital and paper files of previous candidates, looking at them as prospective candidates and referral sources

Market Presence
Drawing in talent using your online and physical presence

Networking
Includes the virtual and physical worlds

Referrals
Still the most potent stream, referrals consistently point you to the right people for a job

Talent Manufacturing
Education and internships are used to create new talent

Talent Scouts
Creating talent sharing agreements with other staffing and recruitment firms, including competitors

Each talent stream gives you access to a different group of candidates. Some of the talent streams provide overlapping access to the same candidates, but no single stream can secure every qualified individual.

If your company is experiencing an inconsistent flow of qualified candidates, you’re likely not using all eight streams effectively. Also, if you’re getting much of your talent flow from Indeed, you’re over-relying on the automation stream. Improving your flow from the other seven streams will make the loss of Indeed a distant memory.

To more effectively leverage all eight talent streams, take these three steps.

Step #1: Determine which streams have a consistently strong flow (and those that do not).
A talent stream is serving you well when it generates a continuous flow of qualified candidates, some of whom regularly become good hires on jobs and assignments. Those talent streams that don’t produce qualified candidates aren’t yet being fully leveraged.

Step #2: Improve the flow of talent one stream at a time.
It’s tempting to improve the flow of each of your weak talent streams at the same time. However, rapid changes like that rarely stick. Instead, improve the flow one at a time. Add resources or upgrade your recruiting methods to make that happen. Then move on to the next talent stream, and then the next. Improving talent flow one stream at time is how the most successful firms generate a consistent and sustainable strong flow of talent.

Step #3: Maintain the flow of each talent stream.
Regularly monitor the flow of each stream individually. Is that stream still generating a flow of qualified candidates, some of whom regularly become good hires on jobs and assignments? If not, quickly address the issue by going back to step 2. When you’re effectively using all eight streams of talent, you’ll have a surplus of quality candidates.

No one talent source is the do all, end all. If you’ve been relying too heavily on Indeed this is your chance to change that. I hope you’ll get started on improving your candidate gravity today.

 

Scott WintripYour Jobs On Indeed Are About To Disappear. Here’s What You Can Do About It.
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Do This One Thing To Improve Employee Engagement

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Improving employee engagement can happen in one step. I know…sounds too good to be true. That’s a common reaction. Listen to this podcast and you’ll quickly see why it works. BTW—I mention the Dilbert comic strip in the podcast. Here’s a link to the specific one that inspired this episode.

 

Scott WintripDo This One Thing To Improve Employee Engagement
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Frustrated By Your ATS Experience? Here’s How You Can Change That

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It’s common to love tech when it works and despise it when it does not. This episode of my podcast is an open conversation about one specific type of tech: applicant tracking systems. In particular, what everyone involved with them can do better. This includes the software companies who make the systems and the buyers who use it. Whether you’re a buyer or vendor, you’ll take away concrete actions that will improve the ATS experience. Joining me for this conversation is Jonathan Novich, Vice President of Product Strategy for Bullhorn.

Scott WintripFrustrated By Your ATS Experience? Here’s How You Can Change That
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4 Counterproductive Leadership Habits And How To Change Them

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Most leaders I meet are conscientious, wanting to do right by their team. In an attempt to do so, they sometimes end up getting the wrong results. Their behavior as leaders contributes to common staff problems including lack of autonomy, change that doesn’t stick, and a failure to get buy-in.

Why does this happen? Shared habits. Many leaders keep doing the same things because that’s how they’ve always done them. They share those habits with their direct reports, some of whom go on to be leaders. These new leaders end up leading how they were led, repeating the cycle.

You can break this cycle by changing your habits. Here are 4 common counterproductive leadership habits and what to do instead.

Leadership Habit #1
Maintaining an open-door policy

In an attempt to be present and available, leaders allow direct reports to access them on demand. This fosters a dependent relationship. Wanting to avoid mistakes, staff get in the routine of going to the boss for the answers. Instead of developing autonomy, team members become overly dependent on the boss’ intellect. Managers end up bearing a heavy burden. They become the “helicopter” and “lawnmower” parents of the business world.

What to do instead
Maintain an occasionally open-door policy

Closing your door is healthy. It gives you uninterrupted time to get things done. More importantly, it gives your staff space to do their jobs—independently. Yes, making yourself immediately available for true emergencies is prudent, and you should remain in the loop about what’s going on. But remember this—no one benefits when you enable and participate in co-dependent behavior.

Engage with your team daily. Schedule weekly one-on-ones with each staff member. Keep regular office hours, and don’t be afraid to close your door.

Leadership Habit #2
Answering staff questions

Another habit that creates unhealthy dependence is answering staff questions. Team members, wanting to do what’s right, tend to believe the boss has the answer. Every answer given reinforces that the boss knows best.

What to do instead
Let staff answer more of their own questions

Use one of more of these questions next time someone on your team comes looking for an answer.

“What could you do about this?”

“How have you solved that in the past?”

“What’s a possible next step? And the next? And the next?”

“I don’t know. How do you think this should be handled?”

Staff members, without realizing it, often know the answer. They’re closest to the situation at hand and, because of that, have better insights than you. Sometimes they just need help unlocking their own wisdom.

Leadership Habit #3
Telling people what to do

There are times when staff do need direction. New hires require training and insights. Tenured staff confront situations for which they have no experience.

Many leaders mistakenly tell people what to do, forgetting that talk is cheap. What’s said goes in one ear and out the other.

What to do instead
Show people what to do

Showing sticks. The employee sees how it’s done. You can then watch and help her make adjustments.

When a new hire needs to understand how to do something, show, don’t tell. If a tenured employee is facing something new, demonstrate, don’t pontificate. And if you’re lacking the expertise needed, have someone else do the showing instead.

Leadership Habit #4
Attempting to create buy-in

Creating buy-in is a form of selling. Leaders attempt to sell their team on the latest strategy or idea. The hope is that the team will buy in. Sometimes they do. Other times they don’t, creating an uphill battle as the leader attempts to drive things forward.

What to do instead
Let people talk themselves into buying in

Remember that buyers of anything, including ideas, always believe themselves. But may or may not believe you. Let the better salesperson sell. That’s your staff, not you. Your job as a leader is to point the way. The job of the team is to discuss how you’ll get there together.

You can say something like this

“As a leadership team, we’ve decided to <BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF STRATEGY OR IDEA>. Let’s discuss how we’re going to do that. What do you suggest as our next steps?

Scott Wintrip4 Counterproductive Leadership Habits And How To Change Them
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