In my decade-plus of recruiting, I have worked with companies of all sizes in filling many kinds of roles. I have built out entire teams, as well as filling individual positions. Along the way, I have learned a lot about what it takes to hire top-notch talent and build an exceptional team.
Know Your Value
If you’re looking to build an exceptional team the first thing you must do is know your value. Any time I am working with a new client, I ask them – ‘What makes your company or team different? Why would someone want to work with you?’ Most of the time, a long pause follows. They have no idea. When building a team, it is vitally important that you know and communicate the value you bring to potential employees.
If this is unclear, start by examining what makes your company, culture, team, or even the work that you do different from anyone else. Differentiating factors could be doing meaningful work for a specific cause, such as helping underserved populations. It could also be that the work you do is exciting or interesting. Are you working with cutting-edge technology? Are you making new discoveries or creating impactful solutions? Or maybe you offer flexible scheduling, unique benefits, or opportunities for training or advancement?
Take some time to figure out what you offer that is unique and appealing, then make sure you can sell it to potential team members.
Examine Your Interview Process
The next thing that I would encourage you to do is examine your interview process. If it is not a streamlined, authentic process, you are setting yourself up for failure. There is nothing worse than requiring a talented candidate to come in multiple times over the course of several weeks and meet with an endless number of people who pepper them with a barrage of unnecessary questions.
A streamlined, authentic interview process includes a handful of interviewers getting to know the candidate on a meaningful level over the course of roughly a week (two weeks max) by asking thoughtful, relevant questions. In turn, this affords the candidate the time and space they need to get to know you and your business on a meaningful level as well. If this is not what your interview process currently looks like, you may want to consider making some changes. The best talent is in high demand, and if your process is too difficult or drags on for too long, they will simply go elsewhere.
Another key to acquiring the best talent for your team is flexibility. If you have a promising candidate who makes a request that is outside of your comfort zone (think higher salary, hybrid or remote work, more vacation days, etc.), I encourage you to be flexible and deliver. I’ve seen many clients lose excellent candidates because they weren’t willing to compromise in small areas.
One former client, a Private Equity firm, was hiring a CTO. They found a candidate they liked who was also interested in the role, but he accepted a different offer. The owner of the Private Equity firm called and asked how he could get him back. I recommended that he increase the salary and offer a certain amount of equity. He did so, and after further negotiations, the candidate accepted the offer as CTO at the firm. That hiring manager found someone that he thought was exceptional, went above and beyond to accommodate him, and made it happen in the end.
If you want to build a team of highly talented people, you must be open-minded and flexible – willing to do whatever it takes (within reason, of course) to get them on board. I have never had a client hire an exceptional candidate and then say, ‘I wish I hadn’t hired that person. They weren’t worth the extra vacation days.’ Instead, they regret letting them get away and lose additional time and money in the struggle to find a comparable candidate.
Search for Skill & Character
My final piece of advice when building a team is to search for core skills and quality character. First, a strong candidate must have the core skills necessary to do the job at hand. To make a successful hire, you have to know the role well enough to understand what skills are needed. This sounds obvious, but, if the requirements are not well-defined, hiring managers can often be swayed by things as simple as polish, degrees, salary, or even the personality of a candidate. This is not enough. What technologies are involved? What education, experience, or interpersonal skills are needed? Know what the candidate MUST have, and search on those terms. Also important to note here – knowing what skills are NOT must-haves, so you can avoid losing a great candidate on a technicality.
Last, but most certainly not least, what is their character? Above all else, I need to be able to trust anyone that is on my team. While most skills can be taught, character is pre-existing. Take the time to ask the right questions, talk to the right people, and get a strong sense of who your potential teammate is before extending the offer.
If you are successful in finding hardworking, high-character people, you will build an exceptional team that will see you through the tough times with honesty and grit.
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