Why You Can’t Find Good Talent

by Brian Cavataio 03/30/2021


A Common Tale

So, you want to hire good talent. You sit down, fire up your favorite word processor, and hammer out a Director of Global Supply Chain job description.  It’s full of the latest stuff. The job posting has leading global sales & operations planning (S&OP), lead the global demand planning, develop and executing supply plans, blah, blah, and blah. The list goes on and on.

Excitedly, you post it on your favorite job board (LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, etc.), sit back, and wait for the responses to flow in. Five, ten, fifteen resumes come in, you schedule a few interviews, and you’re off to the races.

Or so you think.

Your hiring manager reports back to you: none of the candidates are what you’re looking for. They have gaps in their skill-sets, not enough strategic experience in key areas, can’t answer basic technical questions — whatever the reason may be, the result is the same — they’re not qualified.

Frustrated, you go back to the job board, find more candidates, and the cycle continues until you settle on someone who is the best of the group but not necessarily who you want. No one is happy, and you don’t know why.

Luckily, I can help. The problem is actually rather simple: You want too much from one person and posting the position is just not enough to find extraordinary talent.

In my 10+ years of running/owning a global search firm, I have done 284 placements, and out of those 284 placements, 91 were executive-level searches. This does not include my time as a talent manager for 2 corporations previously.

The first thing I do is take the job description and throw it out! Why? It’s too long and needs to be condensed into 4-5 key strategic competencies of what is actually needed to succeed in the position.  Any more, you are going down a rabbit hole of chasing the perfect candidate, which normally leads to 8-12 months without finding an exceptional person or just settling on the best available person who applied for the position. 

I would advise thinking about what the ideal candidate will have and leave out years of experience for the position. You will be surprised by the level of
talent you will find by not looking at how many years someone has been in a position. You are now taking a pond of talent and turning it into an ocean of talent.

A prime example would be Mr. Theodore Mathas, who is now the Chairman of New York Life Insurance Company. He became the CEO of the company at 41—the youngest CEO for a Fortune 500 company. If New York Life Insurance went solely based on years of experience, Mr. Mathas might have been passed over because he may not have had the years of experience necessary to win the position. Some other CEOs with global corporations are Roy Harvey, Alcoa Corporation, 44 years old.  Lorenzo Simonelli, Baker Hughes Company, is 44.  Elon Musk, Tesla is 45.  

You get the point.  Some of the brightest minds could be interested in working for your company but are turned away because you ask for too much.  

Recruiters, we need to do a better job of listening to the hiring managers and understanding what they are after. Those job descriptions saved in the database are not necessarily what the hiring manager is after. Those job descriptions are just a baseline that requires alterations every time you are looking to hire someone. If the hiring manager tells you to post the same job, ask them some strategic questions before posting the position.  Chances are, yes, the position might be the same, but he may need someone with a little different expertise for his group.  

The next part is how do we find those talented individuals?

Posting jobs is one step of the game; however, it’s not the best way to win the war on talent. The best way to win the war on talent is by talking with those in the industry who are winning. I cannot overemphasize this enough.  To win the war on talent, you must talk to those winning the war on talent.  Why?  Because extraordinary talent wants to be around a winning culture. 

Look at the KC Chiefs or the current world champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Players gravitate to those who are winning.  Those teams have a winning quarterback in Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady.   Jason Licht, GM of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Brett Veach GM for the Kansas City Chiefs, built a winning culture by bringing in winners.  Sports organizations should be no different from business corporations in fighting to win the war on talent.  They are one of the same.  If you don’t have the best talent available, you may lose to your competition. 

Apple is a prime example of a company that was losing and on the verge of bankruptcy; how we forget about this company.  A little over 20 years ago, the media was predicting Apple’s death, and it was losing $1 billion a year.  All that changed when founder Steve Jobs returned to the fold, launching revolutionary products like the iMac and, eventually, the iPod.  Now, Apple products are ubiquitous, from iPhones to iTunes, and people are wishing they’d picked up some of the company’s stock when it was at bargain-basement prices.  

You, too, can be an Apple, but it all starts with talent.  

Find out in your niche who are the shakers and movers in the industry.  Get to those disrupters and talk with them.  Buy them a cup of coffee and be a sponge.  They are key to you in building a talent pipeline.  They may share some candidates who left to go somewhere else or someone who needs to leave their company because they know they are stuck and nothing is coming up anytime soon for them.  That is a true leader!  Someone who is looking out for another person well being.  If you find one of those, hold onto them.  But, don’t always take from these influencers.  Please bring something to the table for them as well.  As much as they may not mind helping you out, they do like to have the favor returned.  It does not need to be with talent, but it could be some information you read that they may have an interest in.  

Here’s what I leave you with to fight the war on talent.

  1. Condense/Rewrite the job description according to what the hiring manager is after
  2. Leave years of experience off of the job description. We are limiting the talent universe by only having tunnel vision
  3. Talk with your competitors and find out what they are doing to win the war on talent. You will be surprised at what they will share.
  4. Find out why their talent stays by talking with the lower level staff
  5. Return the favor of those helping you

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