How NOT to Hire Tiger Woods!

Finding a Tiger Woods is the Easy Part

A common complaint among both hiring managers and recruiters is that they have difficulty in hiring top caliber talent like Tiger Woods. Some call these extraordinary individuals top performers, while others call them game changers or innovators. Regardless of what they are called, everyone understands that you need these unique individuals if you want to dominate your industry.

Most managers argue that there is a "shortage" of top talent. More often than not, I find that the real problem in recruiting these game changers is not the number available (obviously the top 1% is by definition, a small number) but instead, an inability to design a recruiting and hiring process capable of attracting them.

It turns out that the first step of recruiting, the "finding" of top talent like a Tiger Woods, is actually quite easy. These exceptional individuals tend to be well-known based on their accomplishments and are often public award winners. Your firm probably knows them already, mostly because your current employees routinely compete against and often lose to them. In the modern era, the difficult part of recruiting top talent comes in the later stages of the process, those stages where you need to convince top performers to apply for and eventually accept a job at your firm.

If you're not attracting and hiring top performers of the caliber of Tiger Woods in your industry, I suggest you look long and hard at your attracting and "convincing" methodologies in order to identify the flaws that reduce or effectively eliminate any chance of your firm routinely landing "game changer" performers like Tiger Woods.

10 Recruiting Errors That Would Prevent You From Hiring Tiger Woods

I realize that recruiting a professional golfer isn't exactly the same as recruiting a top engineer or a top salesperson. However, the "flaws" that cause failure in both of these unique recruiting processes are almost exactly the same. Because most corporate recruiting programs benchmark against one another, a majority of the corporate recruiting programs in place today contain the same errors or flaws.

If you're having difficulty recruiting game changers, examine your current processes to see whether they contain these roadblocks and common errors:

  1. Assuming that Tiger would come to you. Because Tiger Woods already has a job, it would be unlikely that he would actively approach your firm about a job as a result of his reading a newspaper ad or an Internet job posting, and even more unlikely that you would run into him at a job fair. It would also be highly unlikely that Tiger Woods would be actively looking for a job at the precise time that your firm had an opening that would fit him. So, if you expect to hire him and people like him, you would need the capability of seeking them out. Once identified, your approach would need to be compelling, and you would need to be ready and able to make an offer in a very short period of time, often during a period when they are "frustrated" in their current job.
  2. Failing to build your brand and image with top performers. As a top performer, Tiger has almost unlimited choices when it comes to organizations to work for. If he were to begin considering his options, he would need to narrow his choices relatively quickly. Human nature has already taught us that he would most likely only consider firms that he knew a lot about, that others whom he respects speaks highly of, and those that he considers to be among the very best when it comes to managing their top-performing employees. In short, if he didn't know that you were a well-managed firm and a great place to work, you would never make his short list.
  3. Failing to build a relationship over time. Even if you actually got the opportunity to approach Tiger, the offer of a job opportunity from a stranger would most likely be rebuffed or even laughed at. Tiger would expect to have known and trusted the person who approached him over a period of time before he would even entertain the serious notion of changing jobs. As a result, it would have to be a fellow top-performing professional (i.e., one of your employees approaching them as part of the referral process but not a recruiter) that builds the relationship of trust and that eventually approaches him with the job switch opportunity.
  4. Not asking him about job-switch criteria. Because Tiger is already treated well in his current position, it would take a significantly better job for him to consider a move. As a result, you would need to ask him directly (or find out from his colleagues) what specific elements of a job (known as his job-switch criteria) he would need to be present in order to accept a new one. Obviously, if you didn't tailor your job to his specific criteria, you would have no chance of landing him.
  5. Making the application process tedious. Because he is currently working and is quite busy, he would have little time available to apply for a new position. As a result, if the application process was tedious or took a long time, he would drop out immediately. If you required him to update his resume or to fill out a lengthy application before he would be considered as an applicant, he might delay applying until after your current opening is already filled or, even worse, never apply.
  6. Having a poorly designed resume screening process. Even if he did submit a resume, most resume screening systems would reject the real Tiger Woods because he was a college dropout (even if it was from Stanford). Despite being the world's top golfer, his resume might be rejected because of his grades, because he misspelled a word, because of his non-rigorous academic major, or even because for a long period he had no steady "continuous" record of employment. He might even be rejected by some in your firm because he would be clearly judged as "overqualified" for this "average" position.
  7. Having a poorly designed interview process. Tiger would probably drop out of the hiring process soon after learning that he would have to come in several different times for the multiple interviews that your firm required (each of which was scheduled at the manager's convenience). He would be undoubtedly be frustrated with a process that relied 100% on verbal exchanges (interviews) but never actually asked him to demonstrate his real on-the-job skills (i.e., on the golf course). The ordeal would likely frustrate him because the process was one-sided and no one bothered to ask him who he needed to talk to (i.e., interview) in order to complete his assessment of the firm and the job. If the interviewers were not well-versed in his background, or if they seemed disinterested during the interview, he would likely drop out of the process. Tiger would probably not score very well during most interviews because he would likely wear that silly Nike baseball cap and dress in golf attire. In addition, he might be labeled as "arrogant" (because of his often stated expectation of not just winning, but winning by as many as 10 strokes). Tiger will also likely be labeled a "bad fit" by any "B" quality managers and employees, who were mistakenly allowed to participate in the interview, because they would literally be threatened by him and be put off by his superior abilities and the possibility that he would dominate them.
  8. The delay in making a decision. Even after Tiger impressed you during the interview, many hiring managers and HR professionals would still want to bring in two additional candidates "just for comparison purposes," further delaying the hiring decision. Once Tiger began looking for a new position he would be bombarded with offers, and because of the pressure from those offers, it would be unlikely that he would wait around for days or even weeks for your organization to make a decision. In addition, if he called HR after the interview, he would most likely be given the standard HR answer of "don't call us, we'll call you.” He would assume that you are rude and uncommunicative to your current employees, and he would be history.
  9. The lowball non-compelling offer. If the offer that you eventually made to Tiger Woods didn't meet each of his job-switch criteria, and it was not clearly superior to his current job, he would reject your offer out of hand. In short, by trying to lowball him and to save a few dollars, you would offend him and lose any current or future opportunity to land him. If you expect to land Tiger, your job offer must "wow!" him and exceed his expectations on your first and only try.
  10. Failing to influence the influencers. Because Tiger Woods is well-respected, he has numerous mentors and colleagues who advise him on all of his major decisions. Failing to identify and to influence those who advise Tiger's decisions (including his family) would almost guarantee that he would instead take another offer, based on the recommendations of the people he respects.

More Reasons You Can't Hire a Tiger

There are miscellaneous errors that will prevent your firm from hiring game changers, innovators, and top performers. These additional errors include:

  • Failing to calculate the business impact of a game changer. If hiring and recruiting managers are not made aware of the differential in business impact and performance between average hires and game changer hires in the same job (it's between 3 and 300 times more bottom-line impact), they will never change the recruiting process or the way that they act.
  • Treating all jobs the same. Top performers applying for key positions have high expectations of the hiring process. If you don't make them feel "special" and make the hiring process customer friendly, you will lose them. Obviously, it's better to treat every applicant for every job as special, but if you can't, don't use the same hiring process and approach for mission-critical jobs that you use for every other corporate job.
  • Not understanding that diverse individuals often require diverse treatment. In real life, Tiger is a diverse person. When you're hiring diverse individuals, everyone involved in the employment process must understand that, by definition, being diverse means that you are different. That means that your recruiting, selection, on-boarding, and retention efforts must have some degree of allowable variation built into them in order to meet the unique needs and expectations of diverse individuals.
  • No metrics and rewards. Managers and recruiters tend to be inattentive and even sloppy whenever their lack of effort or their failure to hire top performers goes unrecorded. As a result, if you expect to hire game changers, you need to have metrics to measure your individual success and failures, as well as rewards for both recruiters and managers who succeed in hiring these extraordinary individuals.
  • No strategic recruiting team. Because it takes the very best recruiters to successfully recruit the very best, you need a specialized recruiting team that focuses on the high-impact, mission-critical jobs. The individuals on this strategic recruiting team must have superior customer service and sales skills.

Final Thoughts

I've outlined the many roadblocks that prevent firms and hiring managers from landing these desirable game changers, innovators, and top performers. If you use this compilation of errors as a checklist, it's fairly easy to identify the major weaknesses in your current hiring process.

The most difficult part is convincing hard-headed hiring managers and risk-adverse HR and recruiting professionals to change, in spite of the millions of dollars that their current "one size fits none" approach to recruiting is currently costing their firm.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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