How to Find and Hire Top Talent
By Taso Du Val
All companies want to hire top talent. The catch: Many don’t know how.
The competition to find and hire the right candidate—along with the increased globalization of today’s marketplace—makes it more and more difficult to secure top talent. The good news is that the key to finding and acquiring this talent exists. But, the landscape for hiring managers who wish to source top candidates has changed. Here are some of the important concepts that relate to this shift.
First, when sourcing top candidates, ensure that the candidate’s profile and résumé contain keywords that strongly correlate with the position at hand—not vaguely, but specifically and in detail. For example, a professional in the software development world may expect that a good iOS developer will have skills such as iOS, Mac OS X, Cocoa and iOS 7, all of which may integrate with technology stacks such as Ruby, Python and others.
Surprisingly, many people don't articulate on job applications what they've actually done. Instead, they cite only "iOS developer" or a similarly vague title. Those applicants are usually the ones companies should avoid hiring.
Second, most brilliant (and, more importantly, professional) candidates will be articulate. When hiring managers get a chance to connect with candidates, they should engage in a natural conversation and ask questions.
When applicants say they're introverted programmers and don't want to put their detailed accomplishments out there, nine times out of 10 this indicates that these persons aren't worth interviewing. Most companies end up hiring people who are brilliant but not professional. This is often the case, not only with software engineers, but in many other fields as well.
Third, even after a hiring manager sources and interviews an ideal candidate, the process of signing, motivating and leading the candidate forward remains an open challenge. Although those processes are separate areas, we see that many hirers fail up front during the sourcing and interviewing process.
Traditional sourcing involves simply looking at candidates who come to you or having recruiters search for people with matching keywords. However, by taking the time to pursue only the best leads, hiring managers can succeed in sourcing and capturing the most qualified candidates.
The goal is to hire a candidate who can produce results, not details. Although hiring managers often look for candidates who are detail-oriented rather than results-oriented, these qualities are not identical. In fact, they often conflict.
Being results-oriented makes up a critical piece of an individual’s personality, and it’s paradoxical to see both characteristics in one person. I’m not suggesting that details aren't important, but rather that results are always more important.
For example, when candidates present empirical evidence and data to verify things they’ve done, they support their claims with tangible touchpoints. Someone who can solve an algorithm in the correct runtime complexity is demonstrating that he or she looks at the details, but about half of the time, these individuals don’t deliver extraordinary results.
Capability Trumps Proximity
As a result of globalization and employees’ ability to work remotely, hiring managers no longer have to limit themselves to finding talent in their home country. Capability is increasingly trumping proximity. Again, it’s all about the results.
Hiring managers can cross borders when it comes to finding the best candidate for a job. International reach and an interconnected world open up a large new pool of candidates and allow for more options.
This may seem easy given the technology at hand, but the key to evaluating these international candidates is to make good connections in person at least once. If hiring managers find themselves unable to meet candidates face to face, they need to trust the strength of the recruiting process, verifying top sourcing efforts even further.
To sum up, screening itself is both an art and a science. Recruiters and hiring managers must evaluate both hard and soft skills with the end goal of finding individuals who both pass tests and deliver results.
Evaluating hard skills, such as proficiency in iOS and Java, can be rather easy by doing some research on the candidate and a test or other form of evaluation. On the other hand, it’s harder to evaluate soft skills, such as time management and teamwork, although this must occur before an individual is brought on board.
The paradox in this case is that hiring people with poor soft skills usually has a negative impact on the company, bringing morale and momentum down. Hiring people with poor hard skills may have a softer negative impact on the company, although it can take some extra training to improve those skills.
To go through the entire process of top sourcing, hiring managers must understand the top level of excellence in the field and then define what makes someone great in that industry. Keep in mind that all candidates worthy of top sourcing tend to be self-motivated. There’s no need to micromanage these candidates because they have drive and passion for what they do. Best of all, the impact of a top sourced candidate is always positive.
In the end, finding and sourcing top talent benefits every company, regardless of field or industry. When top sourced talent comes on board, the best results occur.
Taso Du Val is founder and CEO of Toptal, an organization that connects companies with software engineers and developers around the world. Before that, he was a member of the founding team at Art.sy and an engineer at Slide and Fotolog.