How to attract superstars to your business

It takes an average 90-120 days to fill a position, so you need to build a talent pipeline in exactly the same way you develop a client prospect list. Instead of hiring in desperation with time running out, you’ll get a better long-term return if you have already begun a dialogue with prospective candidates whom you know share your values and culture.

Every company, no matter how big or small, is looking for an “A player” to bring on to the team. But, to do that, you and everyone on the team needs to know what an A player looks like for your business. That’s only possible if you have built a strong culture and you all know what your values are.

You should always recruit against values – finding a candidate who shares your own values will give you a better long-term return than recruiting on the basis of skill. Skill will go the highest bidder  – it can be quite a mercenary transaction – whereas shared values and a strong cultural match will build a deeper relationship.

The second mistake too many bosses make is not selling their firms when they’re recruiting; not explaining their core values. You need to appeal on an emotional level all the way through the process.

That starts with the job advert, which needs to adhere to four core principles:

  • Attention – write a bold, striking headline;
  • Interest – trigger a response in the next paragraph;
  • Desire – catch the imagination; and
  • Action – ask them to send an email, write a letter, tweet you or create a video.
It needs to continue with the first email you send, the first telephone call, the look and feel of your reception area when they arrive for an interview and how they’re welcomed. I’m a great believer in having a warm-up phone call before you get to the interview stage; it helps build a rapport but is also an opportunity to discuss salary expectations.

Salary banding is always better than advertising a fixed salary – know what your low end is and the absolute top of your range. Be flexible. Think how many times on Location, Location, Location Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsop persuade house-hunters to extend their budget – after all, if you’ve found your dream home why let it slip for the sake of a few thousand pounds?

The same is true in recruitment. Too few companies are prepared to pay for talent. That’s a short-sighted approach. Look at it the other way round: if you could find the perfect candidate, someone who ticks every one of your boxes and will be an asset to the company then you should be happy to pay more than you envisaged because you’ll see a return on investment. Don’t go for the lowest common denominator; investing in people is never money wasted.

The ideal job search is a four-stage process:

Stage 1: Phone call – build a rapport, understand expectations;
Stage 2: Skills test – find evidence of aptitude;
Stage 3: Structured interview – evidence of shared values; and
Stage 4: Reference checking – two previous employees, plus one personal.

The system falls down when you miss out any of these elements, but recruiting “A players” is only the beginning of the story, not the end. You need a proper induction period where the company’s values are reiterated and expectations are reinforced. You need a framework in place that gives them a clear idea of expected behaviour. Values need to be self-policed.

Once they are embedded in your company you need to talk to them regularly about their goals, personal and professional. I’m not talking about annual appraisals – they’re useless, they’ve had their day. On-going, informal appraisals are much more effective; they let you get under the skin of an employee as much as monitoring the quality of their work.

What you have to remember is the most important thing to most people is their family, their home, their holiday, their pets. Your business – however important it may be to you – will struggle to make it on to that list.

But if you can tap into that and align what’s important in their lives with your vision for them as employees – whether it’s given them a bit of flexibility so they can pick up the children from school a couple of days a week, or timing a bonus award so they get it when they’re trying to book a holiday – you will keep them motivated.

In a sense, the recruitment process only ends when that person leaves the company. It’s one thing to find that special “A player” who will improve the performance of your business. But keeping them, motivating them, getting the best out of them, is a process that never stops – however good they are – and a business owner need to provide the vision that will inspire them.

Adam Butler is managing director of Adam Butler Recruitment Group and teaches at the Entrepreneurs Circle Training Academy

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