How to Hire a “Sure Thing”

special-personThey say there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when recruiting.

They’re. Dead. Wrong.

I’m about to tell you what it is.

But before I do, a few reminders that will make your heart sink:

  • 50% is the average hiring accuracy (i.e. you can skip the whole fancypants interview process, flip a coin, and wind up with the same hit-rate. And before you say you’re far better than average, in 25 years, I’ve only met a handful over 70%.)
  • 80% of candidates lie on their résumé
  • 80% of candidates lie to your face during a job interview
  • 90% of hiring managers skip reference checks or treat them as a joke i.e. They have no interest in hearing bad news about the candidate they’ve fallen in love with.

And then you wonder why hiring is so tricky?

So, when you have the chance to hire a sure thing, you’d be crazy not to.

Even if it means paying a premium. Because the cost of a bad hire is 5x their annual salary. (You can’t afford to get this stuff wrong.)

So here it is Hire boomerangs.

That’s it. Goodnight, folks! (applause)

Okay, okay. Allow me to put some color on this.

What’s a boomerang? A boomerang, of course, is someone that previously worked at your company but they no longer does. You fired them because they weren’t delivering in their role, or they quit (because they got a better offer, or because they hated the lousy manager you stuck them with.)

Why a boomerang? A boomerang is a known entity. You know their strengths and liabilities. You know their DNA. You know they won’t steal or treat people like cr*p. You know them. And you don’t know that outside candidate you’re considering. Yes, they look great on paper. Yes, they interviewed great. But they could be a liar. Or psychotic. Or wholly incapable.

Devil you know versus devil you don’t. Easy choice, in my experience.

How to do it?

  1. Make a list of every person that’s left your employ in the past 4 years.
  2. Cross off the folks whose DNA didn’t match your companies. (Never allow these folks to return, no matter how tempted you may be.). Think about the current roles in which you think they’d excel
  3. Email them & say you’d like to have a “catchup”
  4. On the phone or over a salad, ask them how they’re enjoying their new situation. Listen. Don’t interrupt. Ask about the industry, company, manager, and their role. Do they rave with enthusiasm? Or are they just passing time?
  5. Then explain what’s changed, how your business has grown, how you finally parted ways with their lousy manager. Apologize if necessary for your bad behavior, for your impatience, for your misdeeds. For letting them get away from you.
  6. Invite them over to the office to catch up with the rest of the team. “I know they’d love to see you again.”

(If this sounds like winning back a guy or gal, it is.)

You get the point.

And you may need to set your ego aside. She quit and that hurt you. Left you with a real gap in your organization. She left you because you underpaid her, under-recognized her, or whatever.

Let it go.

Ask her forgiveness. And ask for a second chance. This time, pay her what she’s worth. Far better than giving it to a stranger… which entails a ton of risk.

And let me know how it goes.

Never settle,

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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