MOOCs are massive open online courses. They're the next big thing in higher education. They link hundreds, sometimes thousands of students in free educational programs offered on the Internet. What's that have to do with recruiting? They've learned how to deliver content that adults will read.

Tragically, job postings are often ignored by the very candidates recruiter most want to reach. That's not a criticism, just a fact. Passive, high caliber talent has the attention span of a gnat, so getting them to focus on an opening isn't easy.

Sometimes, however, we make grabbing their attention harder than it already is. How? It begins with our vocabulary.

We use language in our job postings that only an employer could love. Talking about a job's "requirements and responsibilities" may be the way we've always described vacant jobs, but, in this case at least, tradition is a trap. People's behaviors and preferences have evolved and so too must the job posting.

What do job seekers - and especially the passive top performers -most want to read in a job posting? They want to know "what's in it for them." That means the ad must answer five key questions:

  • What will they get to do?
  • What will they get to learn?
  • What will they get to accomplish?
  • With whom with they get to work?
  • How will they be recognized and rewarded?

Yes, those answers present a job's requirements and responsibilities, but they do so from the candidate's perspective. They provide information as candidates want it articulated, not as employers have traditionally presented it. They adhere to the most basic of consumer principles: always put yourself in the customer's shoes.

But, here's the rub. Even with the right vocabulary, a job posting is likely to remain unread, at least by the best talent. Why? Because more often than not, it's presented in the wrong format.

source link The Handcuffs That Keep Adults Reading

MOOCs apply the latest research in adult learning to capture and hold the attention of tired, stressed, overworked and, occasionally, lazy adults. And, their completion rates - the number of people who successfully pass the end-of-course exam - is proof positive that students are actually reading and absorbing the content.

At the risk of trivializing some very sophisticated studies, the key concept MOOCs use in their content delivery is to format it in bite-sized pieces. It turns out that most adults - a population that includes active as well as passive job seekers - have the attention span of a gnat. Or, to put it in more general terms, adult minds tend to wander if not stimulated regularly.

For that reason, a MOOC lecture is interrupted every 15 minutes with a test of attention - an inquiry which forces students to absorb, think about and react to the content. And, job postings should be organized to do the same.

Every three paragraphs, a job posting should insert a test of attention - an inquiry that acts like a set of handcuffs on the reader. These inquiries should be carefully crafted to help the reader (a) better understand the information that's being presented and (b) relate it to the answers they seek to those five key questions.

This format prevents the job seeker's attention from wandering because they aren't just reading the ad, they're participating in it. They experience the content rather than simply being shown it. They are challenged by rather than spoken to, and that stimulates their interest, especially if they are high caliber talent.

Like resumes, there are plenty of critics of job postings and yet, they remain the lingua franca of employer-to-candidate communication. For that reason, it's important to get their vocabulary and format right. And the key to success is to craft both for adults, for they are the readers we're trying to reach.

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Recruiting is an art, so it's not only appropriate but essential that it be conducted in accordance with an aesthetic. Unlike a strategy or tactic, an aesthetic is neither a game plan nor a set of actions. It is, instead, a guiding principle that shapes the formation and implementation of strategies and tactics with a core value.

While much is said and written about strategy in today's War for Talent, only one game plan can actually yield true victory. If talent is the key to success in the global economy, then "capturing an unfair share of the best talent" must be every enterprise's goal. And if that's the objective of recruiting, then the choice of tactics must be based on a single, complementary criterion: which actions provide the best assurance of achieving that goal.

An aesthetic, in contrast, must provide an ethos to which both the strategy and tactics adhere. If a brand differentiates an employer by characterizing its culture, an aesthetic does so by extolling its character - its dominant organizational value. If brand describes the "what" of its employment experience, its aesthetic describes the "why."

And, why has never been more important. One of the most famous maxims in employment states that "Talent joins an organization, but leaves managers." It is usually cited to underscore the importance of leadership. However, if the first part of the maxim - joining the organization - isn't achieved, the quality of leadership is moot. And for top talent, the decision to accept an offer is based first and foremost on an organization's core value.

So, what should be an organization's recruiting aesthetic in a War for Talent? It should be its own tailored version of Universal Mutualism - providing a win-win proposition for every working person.

Implementing Universal Mutualism

To understand the meaning of the term "universal mutualism," it's necessary to deconstruct it.

The first word - Universal - indicates that an employer consciously seeks to engage 100 percent of the workforce. While most organizations think they do so, the reality of their strategy and tactics says otherwise. For example, visit virtually any employer's career site and you'll find the term "job seeker" or "candidate" used to address those who visit. Yet, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, at any point in time, just 16 percent of the workforce is actively in transition. As a result, 84 percent of the population doesn't think employers are talking to them.

Similarly, look at the content on corporate career sites. Once again, it's almost entirely devoted to soliciting applications. While information about an employer's facilities and benefits is helpful to active job seekers, it provides nothing of value to the other 84 percent of the workforce who aren't looking for a job (at that moment), but are looking for help advancing their career. It optimizes the candidate experience, but does nothing to optimize the experience for everyone else.

That reality is what makes the other word in the aesthetic - Mutualism - so important. Employers that are guided by Universal Mutualism provide a win-win experience for everyone. They provide job application support for active job seekers and job advancement support - for example, tips on setting career goals and dealing with career roadblocks - for the rest of their site's visitors In effect, they develop a symbiotic relationship with those who aren't looking for a job (right now) as well as those who are.

Universal Mutualism is a critically important aspect of the art of recruiting. It enables small and mid-sized employers to compete with large organizations, and large employers to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Is it possible to survive in the War for Talent without such an aesthetic? Yes. Is it possible to win the War for Talent without it? Absolutely not.

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Employment branding gets a lot of coverage both at recruiting conferences and in recruiting publications. Despite the interest, however, most employers don't have an employment brand. They either can't be bothered or the brand they do create doesn't say anything memorable. As a result, they are a faceless organization, and that vacant expression becomes their image in the job market.

A strong employment brand is essential to success in the War for the Best Talent. Top performers have choices. They are almost always employed so they can stay with their current employer or they can consider a new one from among the numerous inquiries they receive on a regular basis. And, the single most important input to their assessment of the alternatives is each organization's employment brand.

Why, then, do so many organizations either lack an employment brand altogether or develop one that makes them invisible to top talent? Not surprisingly, each situation has a different cause.

see The Case of the Missing Brand

Despite the constant battle for top performers in recruiting today, many employers never get around to developing a brand that will attract and engage these individuals. And yet, many of those that lack such a brand actually think they have one. They believe their organization's consumer brand is their employment brand.

Consumer brands, however, only work because buyers already know something about a product. They have experience with cars or computers or television sets, so the brand can leverage that knowledge and take shortcuts - in the form of a short phrase or tag line - to communicate an image or sense of the organization and/or its product.

Candidates, on the other hand, aren't shopping for an organization's products but rather for its employment opportunity. They've had no experience with the organization so know little or nothing about what it's like to work there. For that reason, an employment brand must be more comprehensive - in the form of a brief but descriptive statement - and communicate what the organization stands for as an employer.

Think of the difference this way: a consumer brand only has to entice a buyer, while an employment brand must educate as well as attract a prospective new hire. That's why using a consumer brand as an employment brand is the functional equivalent of not having an employment brand at all.

The Case of the Say Nothing Brand

Other employers think that they have branded themselves with the content on the career or employment page of their corporate Web-site. They believe that by describing the organization's benefits, facilities and corporate track record, they've established an employment brand that matters to top talent. They haven't.

An employment brand is not a description of the organization, but rather a window on what it's like to work for and in the organization. It is based on culture and values, to be sure, but it translates those organizational attributes into a signature statement about the unique experience it offers to the individuals who are employed there.

Why is developing such an experiential brand so important? Because research has shown that the nature of work in the organization is the #1 trigger for top talent. Sure, they want to know what the requirements and responsibilities of a job are, but whether or not they will choose to do the work will be based on the environment in which it is performed.

Top performers want to stay top performers so they look for organizations that establish the right conditions for their success. They look for an employer that provides the support, leadership, camaraderie and ethos they need to do their best work, and the first judgment they make about those conditions is based on its employment brand.

With too many open reqs to fill and too many applicants to screen, it's easy to put an employment brand on the back burner. In a highly competitive labor market, however, that brand is the single best way to reach and engage those top performers who will best contribute to an organization's success.

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The Most Unpopular Term in the Job Market For Recruiters

A.S. Byatt once opined that “Vocabularies are crossing circles and loops. We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by.”  Words have meaning, of course – they convey information – but they also elicit responses – they touch nerves – that shape the perceptions of those who read them.

For that reason, the choice of words as much as their definition matters in recruitment.  In the minds of the people who visit corporate career sites and read job postings, an employer is defined as much by the words it uses as it is by the information it provides or the practices it follows.

The impression is often unintentional, but it is real and potent nevertheless.  And, one term that is now jargon to recruiters but anathema to everyone else on the planet is “job seeker.”  It says an organization views prospective employees as supplicants for work. 

creative writing prose The Active & Passive Interpretation

To put it bluntly, both those who are actively looking for a new job and those who are passive prospects think the term “job seeker” signals an organization that may be prejudiced against them.  After all, they read the same news reports that everyone else does – you know, the ones that report on surveys which find an unspecified number of recruiters who now view today’s job seekers as damaged goods.

Those actively in the job market may not be put off by the term – they have no choice – but to them it says the employer may well view them as Losers.  Passive prospects, on the other hand, refuse to even acknowledge that the term applies to them and avoid the organizations that use it.

If you have any doubt about that latter point, do a survey of the visitors to your corporate career site.  Ask about their employment status, and you’ll almost certainly find that the vast majority – 80 to 90 percent – are unemployed.  And, yet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at any point in time, just 16 percent of the workforce is actively in transition.  In other words, your site is plumbing the depths of the small cohort of the population that has no choice and missing out altogether on the much larger cohort of people who do.

How can you redress this situation?  Not simply by using different words.  To be credible, a change in vocabulary must be more than simply a matter of semantics.  It must reflect an organization’s culture and values.

So first, change the mindset of your organization to remove any conscious or unconscious bias against any prospective hire because of their employment status.  That means ensuring a more inclusive perspective among hiring managers and receptionists as well as recruiters.

Second, change the vocabulary on your corporate career site and in your job postings to remove any impression that you view potential applicants as Losers.  To have a lasting impact on the perception of your organization’s employment brand, however, that involves more than simply replacing one word with another.

For example, you might decide to replace the term “Job Seeker” with the more respectful word “Candidate.”  Site visitors and ad readers will certainly notice the difference – it’s such a rarity among employers – but they may not understand why you’ve made the change.  So, also include a visible statement – not one hidden six clicks deep in your site – that affirms your organization’s commitment to treating everyone as a valued employment prospect.

Jargon is often criticized for its lack of clarity, but in the case of the term “job seeker,” its impact is exactly the opposite.  To active and passive candidates, it sends a clear (if unintentional) signal that the organization views them as damaged goods, and that impression, in turn, undermines the organization’s ability to recruit high caliber talent effectively.

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Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American DreamThe Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hang Onto the Job of Your Dreams, The Career Activist Republic, The Success Matrix: Wisdom from the Web on How to Get Hired & Not Be Fired, and WEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet.  Get them at and today.

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Companies are screening more closely than ever before. Getting caught in a lie could raise enough questions about your character to cost you the job.

When searching for a job, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. You can stutter during a cold call, get lost on the way to the interview or even forget the name of the hiring manager. These are all honest mistakes and likely can be overcome with hard work and perseverance. Lying, though, can be irredeemable.

“The worst thing you can do in an interview process is to lie,” said Lorne Epstein, author of You’re Hired. “All you have at work is trust, but once you lose it that way, it’s over.”

Scott Thompson, the former CEO of Yahoo, learned that lesson the hard way. He resigned in 2012 when it was revealed that he forged an entry on his resume, claiming he had a computer science degree from Stonehill College when, in fact, that degree wasn’t even given out there until two years later. Thompson later said that his cancer diagnosis was part of his reason for leaving Yahoo, but the damage had already been done to his reputation and to the integrity of the company — not to mention all its shareholders.

"I don’t know who would hire this guy again,” Epstein said. “It’s a horrible reason to get fired. … When people do things that are egregious, criminal acts and lying scare people the most.”Epstein works with college students and speaks to groups about the nuances of interviewing — all with the goal of helping people get the job that’s the right fit for them. Through his experiences, though, he’s seen some alarming behavior from job seekers. “A lot of people lie on their resume,” he said. “I see people putting things on their resume that shouldn’t be there — especially skill sets that they don’t really know.”

Vicky Phillips operates The Diploma Mill Police, a free service that protects consumers from claims about fake colleges or degree and diplomas. “Our studies of consumer and employer behavior on the issue of falsifying education documents and credentials show that the practice of listing inaccurate or fake educational backgrounds is fairly common,” she said. “One survey we did in 2009 with site users resulted in 80 percent reporting that they would lie about their educational backgrounds if it meant they were being held back from a job that they personally believed they were qualified for.” The problem isn’t only prevalent at entry levels, either. Phillips said there are plenty of top executives, like Thompson, who turn to fudging — if not outright counterfeiting — their resumes.

“We took a peek at resumes on LinkedIn in 2010 and found a shocking number of high-level career officials publicly listing degrees from fake colleges,” Phillips said. “This is not minor fudging on one’s major as Scott (Thompson) did, but all out deliberate buying of fake educational packets — diplomas and transcripts — and then using them boldly and publicly to secure and advance in employment.” She said the driving force behind this disturbing behavior comes from the simple fact that people don’t think they’ll get caught. Also there’s tremendous potential upside as extra degrees often warrant higher salaries.

Epstein noted how cultural changes and the erosion of loyalty within the American workforce have led us to where we are now — a world where our business leaders and politicians feel that lying is fair game if it means a better chance of getting ahead.

“It’s a deeper cultural problem,” he said. “We don’t live in a society where honor is stressed as much as it should be.” The incident with Thompson could spark a change in thinking among desperate job seekers or at least prompt hiring managers to apply some due diligence, but it probably won’t, Epstein said.

According to reports, Thompson walked away from this mess with $7 million for his 130-day stint at the helm of Yahoo.

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Why are these rules so important?  Because passive, high caliber candidates are different from everyone else in the workforce.  They are almost always employed.  In order to recruit them, therefore, you have to convince them to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: change.  Your ad has to convince them to go from the devil they know – their current employer, boss and commute – to the devil they don’t know – a new employer, a different boss and an unfamiliar commute.

Rule #1:  Turn Titles into Magnets

Job postings are not position descriptions; they are electronic sales brochures.  Their purpose is to sell top candidates on the opportunity inherent in an opening.  That can’t happen, however, unless they are attracted to an opening and intrigued enough to pause and read it.  So, give your job posting titles a magnetic pull by using the three most important triggers to action among passive prospects, separating each with a dash:
◾Location – top talent want to work where they live so begin the title with the postal code abbreviation (e.g., CT) for the state in which the opening is located:
◾Skill – top talent want to see themselves in the job, not some HR job title (e.g., Programmer III) so next add the skill (e.g., C++ Programmer) they use to describe the work they do;
◾Sizzle – top talent are herd animals so ask the top performers in your organization why they came to work there and use that factor as the concluding element in your title.

So, here’s how a good title  might look: CT – C++ Programmer – Great team with a unique project

Rule #2: Develop Content for Them, Not You

Requirements and responsibilities are words only recruiters could love.  They say absolutely nothing important to top talent.  Those prospects are interested in the same information, but they want it presented in a way that indicates “what’s in it for them.”  So, describe your opening by answering five questions:
◾What will they get to do?
◾What will they get to learn?
◾What will they get to accomplish?
◾With whom will they get to work?
◾How will they be recognized and rewarded?

Rule #3: Sell First, Explain Later

Passive candidates have the attention span of a gnat, so it’s critical that you lead with your strength when composing your ad.  In effect, you have to convince them to read on before you can convince them your opening is right for them.  So, begin every job posting with an enticement – a hard-hitting summary of why the position is a rare and extraordinary opportunity.  First, tell them why it’s a dream job with a dream employer and then provide the details of “what’s in it for them.”

Rule #4: Use a Format That Gnats Would Like

Given the short attention span of passive candidates, you have to make your message accessible in the blink of an eye.  These candidates aren’t looking for a job so they simply aren’t going to plow through the thick, pithy paragraphs of a typical job posting.  The most they will do is scan your content so make it easy for them to do so.  Replace your prose with headlines and bullets, so they can quickly get an accurate picture of the position and decide if it’s right for them.

Rule #5: Get Them to Act Even if They Don’t Apply

Writing a job posting for passive, high caliber candidates is an investment of your time and talent, so make sure you derive a meaningful return on that effort.  The optimal response, of course, is an application, but if that doesn’t happen, make sure you have a fallback.  Offer them two additional ways to act on your opportunity: give them the ability to refer the opening to a friend or colleague (because top talent know other top talent) and invite them to join your network of contacts so you can keep them informed of other openings in the future.

Unfortunately, most job postings today are a modern medical miracle.  They are a cure for insomnia in 500 words or less.  To avoid that outcome, write your job postings using the five rules for seducing top talent.  They’ll be much more likely to fall for your opening if you do.

Thanks for reading, Peter Weddle

Even top performers are worried these days. Thanks to the drumbeat of news stories about business miscalculations, facility relocations, and corporate mergers and acquisitions - all of which produce layoffs - they too fear they will end up out on the bricks. As a result, uncertainty has now become as important a recruiting factor as a job's salary level and an organization's employment brand.

According to Wikipedia, uncertainty "is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields." Those multiple definitions can be arranged on a continuum that stretches from the benign - as in situations where a person simply lacks information - to the hostile - as in those cases where the lack of information leads to harmful outcomes.

Uncertainty is now important in recruiting because the business environment has moved top performers' perception of the term from one end of the continuum to the other. While they have traditionally been able to view uncertainty as a benign or at least neutral condition, they now see it as full of risk. And, that shift in perception provides a wedge for recruiting them.

The key, of course, is to provide a contrast between a top performer's current situation and one which your organization can provide. Since its crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else's, however, there's no way your employer can accurately predict its future workforce needs. It is as afflicted with uncertainty as any other employer. So, how can you give candidates the confidence that they will not be harmed by taking a position with your organization?

source url Adding Certainty in Uncertain Times

The risk in uncertainty comes from a lack of information that has the potential to undermine your security. We live and work in an era of constant change, and being in the dark exposes a person to that change without any recourse. Change isn't necessarily bad, but when it happens without warning - without adequate time for preparation - it can and often does derail a person's progress, diminish their personal brand and undercut their financial wellbeing.

The antidote to this dark side of uncertainty, therefore, is proactive messaging or what might best be described as "add-certainty communications" - the nonstop transmission of accurate information that promotes preparation. The better informed employees are about the status, strategy and goals of their organization, the less risk they will perceive in the unpredictability of today's economy. The availability of information doesn't limit the incidence of change, but it does enable a person to develop and implement effective recourses to it.

Admittedly, add-certainty communications doesn't seem like a very exciting or glamorous addition to an organization's employment brand. In these days of high risk unpredictability, however, it says two important things about an employer: first, that it an organization which understands how precarious employment is now perceived to be and second, that it is committed to doing what it can to minimize the risk to its employees.

How can an organization credibly claim such a brand attribute? It must express its commitment to add-certainty communications in two ways:

  • First, add-certainty communications have to be a central part of the organization's culture and, by extension, its employment brand. They have to be the way it operates and the way it describes itself to prospective employees. That takes courage as the resulting worker preparation can be a risk to organizational wellbeing. The return on such a commitment, however, is likely to be greater interest from top prospects and better retention among top performers.

  • Second, they have to be practiced in the organization's recruiting process. The organization must proactively communicate with prospective employees - it must reach out to them, not once or twice but constantly throughout the experience - and provide them with information they view as appropriate and useful. There must be near continuous feedback on the organization's progress in its review of applicants and an individual's status in that evaluation.

All employees, to include top performers, are now struggling with uncertainty in the workplace. While its source - constant change - cannot be eliminated, its impact can be mitigated with the nonstop distribution of useful information. Organizations which brand themselves with a commitment to add-certainty communications, therefore, will differentiate themselves from their competitors and strengthen their appeal.

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Don’t Post a Job, Advertise Respect – Where Does Your Candidate Experience Begin?

Peter Weddle, wrote a compelling newsletter January 3rd, 2013.

Part two of this edition focuses on the nature of the job posting as a communication medium to enhance the Candidate Experience. Peter’s suggestion is just one more example of great practices which contribute to staffing process improvement. With Peter’s permission, the article is provided below.

Peter also mentions the recent focus on the candidate experience. One organization in particular that has raised the visibility on the candidate experience is the Talent Board and their Candidate Experience Award. The list of the 2012 award winners can be found here. A white paper with highlights from the 2012 submission and evaluation process will be released in late January 2013. Look back here for a link to the report.

Candidate Experience Award Don’t Post a Job, Advertise Respect

Job postings are now routinely used on both job boards and social media sites. These online communications remain the most widespread method of candidate sourcing, yet are disparaged and ignored at almost every recruitment conference. Why? Because recruiters intuitively grasp the cost-benefit advantage of job postings, but all too often don’t grab hold of their power. They use job postings to describe a job, when they would be better served by delivering respect.

There’s been much written and spoken over the past couple of years about the importance of optimizing the candidate experience. In a highly competitive recruiting market, top performers will always gravitate to where they are treated best. As a consequence, the organization which gives candidates a distinctive and memorable experience will have a formidable advantage in the War for Talent.

That experience is typically defined as what happens to a candidate while they are passing through an organization’s recruiting process. For the candidate, however, the experience starts well before that point. It begins when they first encounter an employment opportunity. That interaction sets the tone for everything else that happens between the organization and the candidate.

Thanks to their heritage in print publications, job postings have traditionally been viewed as advertisements or announcements. Indeed, all too often, job postings are simply classified ad copy or position descriptions re-purposed online. They sell or inform, but they do not engage the candidate. They generate applications from active job seekers, but have little or no impact on the passive prospects who make up the majority of the workforce.

What’s the best way for your organization to engage that passive population? Publish job postings that deliver respect. Use word choice and content to signal to candidates that you recognize and value their talent.

A Respectful Job Posting

There are many facets to a “respectful job posting,” but the following four are among the most important.

Number 1. Use vocabulary that corresponds to the reader’s self image. Top performers never think of themselves as a supplicant for work (even when they are in transition) and they seldom have a resume, so engage them by using more respectful terms and phrases. Address them as a “candidate” or “prospect” rather than as a “job seeker” and ask them to submit “an application” rather than “a resume.”

Number 2. Tell the reader how long it will take to complete the application. Top performers are almost always employed and thus consider their time to be quite valuable, so engage them by acknowledging and showing your respect for that point of view. Indicate how much time they will have to invest to apply for your opening and whether they must complete the application in a single sitting or can do so over several periods of time.

Number 3. Give the reader the information that’s important to them. Top performers don’t care about an opening’s requirements and responsibilities, so engage them by respecting their wishes and telling them what’s in it for them. Describe what they will get to do, learn and accomplish in your organization and its opening and with whom they will get to work and how they will be recognized for their contribution.

Number 4. Show the reader that your organization is courteous. Top performers don’t like being left in the dark or ignored when they apply for an opening, so engage them by treating them as politely as you would a guest. State that your organization will acknowledge the receipt of their application and provide the email address from which it will arrive so they can ensure it doesn’t get caught in their spam filter.

A job posting works best when it operates as a talent engagement platform rather than as an advertisement or announcement. And, engagement is best achieved with a posting that uses both vocabulary and content to convey an organization’s respect for the reader.

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What is Talent Anyway?
By Peter Weddle

Every recruiter on the planet knows that we're waging a War for Talent. We use the term so frequently, it's become a part of our professional jargon. But what is talent? We all probably have at least a subliminal definition of the word, but more often than not, those definitions vary widely even within the same organization. And, when they do, our recruiting results suffer.

The prevailing definition of talent, at least for the moment, seems to be that it denotes a rare skill. We use the word as a catchphrase for those hard-to-find Python programmers, clinical scientists and mechanical engineers whom hiring managers seem most to crave. Winning the War for Talent, therefore, is simply a matter of filling open positions with those who have such skills. The faster and cheaper that's done, the greater our victory.

Or is it? What happens when we fill an opening with a mediocre programmer, scientist or engineer? Or worse, a substandard one? Have we won the war or simply filled a req?

If the goal of our recruiting is to position our employer or client to achieve its mission, then we have won a battle, but lost the War. We have, in effect, done only half our job. We may have completed an assignment, but we have not contributed as we must. We have acquired skills, but not the talent that is essential to an organization's success.

Talent, you see, is much more than even the hardest to find skill. Talent is the capacity for excellence. The good news is that every human being has it. As I explain in my book, The Career Activist Republic, it is a characteristic of our species. It is a gift with which we have all been endowed. The bad news is that many people don't bring their talent to work with them. And, it's that human shortcoming which creates the War for Talent.

The shortage of excellence would be bad enough, but the hyper competition of today's global marketplace exacerbates its impact. There are now "A" level Python programmers, clinical scientists and mechanical engineers working in China and India, Brazil and Germany. To survive and have even a chance to prosper, therefore, employers don't need those with rare skills, they need those with the rare commitment to superior performance in every skill.

How do you identify such talented candidates?

Here are some telltale signs. They aren't foolproof or all inclusive, but they will give you a sense of what to look for:

Talented candidates move around. They shift continuously from assignment-to-assignment within their current employer or from one employer to another. They have what might best be described as a "three year itch." Every three years or so, they feel compelled to find a new challenge to conquer in their field.

Talented candidates are renaissance students. They see themselves as multidimensional contributors rather than as experts in a single function. For that reason, they devote themselves to professional development not only in their primary field of work, but in ancillary areas that will enable them to express their talent in a wider range of work situations.

Talented candidates seek advancement by testing rather than by pay grade. They are constantly striving to express and experience more of their talent, more of their capacity for excellence. When they interview, therefore, they are less interested in the opportunities for upward mobility and more interested in what new challenges they will get to face on-the-job.

The only way to win the War for Talent is have a clear understanding of what victory we are trying to achieve. Our goal is not simply to fill openings with those who have rare skills. Our goal must be to ensure that our employer or client succeeds. And the only way to accomplish that objective is to recruit rare performers in as many skill categories as possible. For in the end, what matters most is not if we win the War for Talent, but if our organization does.

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Recruit the Right Blend of Talent by Peter Weddle
Victory in the War for Talent is generally defined as the recruitment of more "A" level performers than the competition. Organizations that employ the lion's share of such individuals have higher levels of productivity and innovation and greater sales and profits than do other organizations. Or, do they?

Research suggests that there are actually two kinds of superior performers:

  • The "A" level person is the best he or she can be in their profession, craft or trade. They are motivated by the external recognition and rewards that come from their outsized contribution to an organization.
  • The "B" level person is every bit as good a performer as the "A' level person, but he or she is motivated by what one writer called "mental chocolate" - the intrinsic satisfaction that comes from doing a job well.

    Historically, organizations have chased the "A" level performer and put up with their sometimes less than collegial behavior because they were thought to be the sole key to organizational success. Today, however, employers are finding that a blend of "A" and "B" level performers provides the best (and most durable) results.

    How do you recruit such a blend?

    Focus on what they have in common. As different as they are, both "A" and "B" level performers have one very important similarity. Neither thinks of him or herself as a job seeker. Ever. Even when they are actively in transition, they see themselves engaged in a search for something other than a job. What they want - what is most likely to motivate a response whenever they are contacted by a recruiter - is a career advancement opportunity.

    The Career Advancement Value Proposition

    From an "A" and "B" level performer's perspective, a career advancement opportunity has several critical elements. It is a position that will:

  • challenge them to test the limits of their skills and knowledge;
  • allow them to gain expertise and experience they value;
  • enable them to achieve continued success in work they find meaningful;
  • expose them to peers who will encourage and support their best work;
  • employ them in an organization that will respect and reward their contribution.

    While a career advancement opportunity can be described in the conventional terminology of job postings, doing so places an organization at a significant disadvantage in the competition for top talent. Let's face it, requirements and responsibilities are words only an employer could love. Worse, they force prospects to translate the employer's information into terms that have meaning and importance for them. And, frankly, a lot of "A" and "B" level performers simply can't be bothered; they have too many other opportunities being offered to them by other recruiters.

    A better way to communicate the value proposition of a career advancement opportunity, therefore, is to address the five questions every "A" and "B" level performer wants answered about an opening.

    Those questions are:

  • What will I get to do?
  • What will I get to learn?
  • What will I get to accomplish?
  • Whom will I get to work with?
  • How will I be recognized and rewarded for my work?

    Whether you're posting on a job board or a social media site, on your own corporate career site or in a print publication, the key to success is to describe your openings as career advancement opportunities. Provide the information that "A" and "B" level performers want to know, and you'll recruit the blend of talent your organization needs to succeed.

    Thanks for reading,
    Peter Weddle
    Visit me at

    P.S. Please tell your coworkers and friends about WEDDLE's Newsletter. They'll appreciate your thoughtfulness, and so will we.

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