Introverts and Interviews

This has become an area of particular interest in my HR world – Introverts. How and why do they operate the way they do? Coming from a long-line of extroverts, I would consider myself an ambivert. I can toggle between being an extrovert, shining in a room full of strangers, to wanting the reclusive, recharging nature of introverts. I have also started to classify individuals in my life as extroverts, introverts and ambiverts. Being able to classify and understand the way that introverts operate has helped my interpersonal relationships a great deal.

If you haven’t read anything from Susan Cain on the topic of introverts, I HIGHLY recommend doing so. She not only breaks down the characteristics of introverts but also how they shine in everyday situations. She has cracked the DaVinci Code on how introverts think and how, even though they seem quiet, aloof or disinterested, that may not be the case at all. They are simply wired differently than the extroverts in their lives.

This got me thinking: It is imperative that a hiring manager to understand the behavioral traits of introverts in order to not “step-over” quality talent in the interview process. Introverts shine in one-on-one or very small social situations. Group interviews may cause an introvert anxiety due to the nature of feeling ganged-upon or not being able to establish the level of relationship they would intend to with the hiring manager. Introverts use small social situations to establish credibility, a working relationship and an interpersonal bond with the hiring manager. Introverts also like to take a second or two to formulate an acceptable response to your question. They aren’t the type to have a conditioned response like extroverts tend to do. The hiring manager may assume that individual is attempting to come up with whatever answer they can because they don’t know what to say when they aren’t wired to blurt out.

Introverts like to take their time whereas extroverts are quick to hit the ground running. Some roles that one would assume that an introvert wouldn’t be a fit for (i.e. sales) are actually the ones that they are best at. They are adept to building a one-on-one relationship with the client, gaining their trust, and making sure that they are taken care of. Not all introverts need someone to “make the first move” before they can build a relationship – they can do that themselves – they are just better served in smaller settings. Another role an introvert would be a fit for is small call-center team-oriented environments. Such as one supervisor and six or seven team members, enough where they have the ability to listen and contribute as appropriate.

So, what you’re saying is: Introverts can’t interview because hiring managers want to see “enthusiasm” and “quick-thinking” individuals in an interview and introverts can’t compete? NOPE. Not at all. Hiring managers just need to stop looking for everyone being an extrovert and understand an introvert’s hardware.

Introverts can be extroverted and vice-versa, but in the proper situation. It’s also important to notice the tell-tale signs that someone is introverted and tailor the interview experience to get the best response from them. If you notice they take a second or two before answering your questions, you’re probably dealing with an introvert. If you notice they’re uncomfortable with the level of people in the interview, suggest taking a tour during the interview process, giving the introvert the ability to ask questions and establish a relationship in a much smaller setting. I am not a fan of group interviews in general where it’s one person in the “hot seat” and four or five people sitting around firing off questions. That interview experience can be stressful for anyone. If able, 15 or 20 minute speed-interviews can achieve the same result without all of the stress on the candidate. While that can be a bit of a pain, losing a rock star candidate and having to re-open the position in a few months due to not finding your fit may be a bigger pain.

The Importance of Sourcing

Sourcing is a key facet of the job for a recruiter, although some will grumble at the fact that sourcing is involved for a certain role. This task takes a great deal of work, research, understanding and cooperation with the hiring manager to ensure that the proper talent is being funneled. It takes a lot of time to be an “overnight expert” at a particular role and one that a recruiter can acquire with practice. Not all roles require sourcing, though, so it is imperative to understand the role to not misappropriate sourcing efforts for roles that do require a deeper dive.

 

Job Description

The job description has a great deal of sourcing information, neatly wrapped in a pretty package for the recruiter. Yet, the recruiter is not immersed in the day-to-day of this role as the hiring manager is. It is important for the recruiter to read the job description and pick out key skills the individual must have. This is a great way for the recruiter to come up with questions for the hiring manager prior to the intake/discovery call with the hiring manager as well.

When doing a “scrub” of the job description, the recruiter should pick out hard-skills that the individual must have to use as keywords in a search. Hard-skills would include:

  • Programs utilized
  • Certifications
  • Highly-specialized tasks performed (i.e. routing cables for networking)

The recruiter should keep in the back of their minds the soft-skills required for the role (i.e. team player, leadership skills, customer service skills, etc.). Those skills can be found in the screening call.

 

Intake/Discovery Call

            Intake/Discovery calls are a means of establishing a relationship with a new hiring manager or maintaining a relationship with a previous hiring manager. It is a way for the recruiter to introduce themselves, review the role, ask questions, explain the hiring process and establish a timeline for benchmarking progress. Intake/Discovery calls are also another means of gleaning hard-skills from the hiring manager (that may or may not be listed in the job description) to be utilized in sourcing efforts.

 

The Art of the Source

Once all of the available information is acquired regarding the role, the recruiter is ready to source within their available avenues. This step is where the recruiter must flex their researching skills because one cannot simply search for all of the hard-skills and expect to find their candidate. Between reading the job description and talking to the hiring manager, the recruiter must pick out one or two hard-skills that the individual must have and start their search. As the results appear, the recruiter can ebb and flex their search with more or less hard-skills to streamline their candidate results. The key is to have enough candidate results to reach out to qualified candidates but not too many that they are spending hours and hours sifting through resumes or profiles.

 

Soft-Reach vs. Hard-Reach

There are two ways a recruiter can reach out to a candidate: Soft-reach (email) or Hard-reach (cold-call). Both means can be effective, if utilized correctly, and their effectiveness belies on their ability to personalize. Personalization takes a little bit more time but is much more effective in getting the candidate to make the initial interest move. A simple phone call, outlining how the recruiter received the resume and an appropriate time to talk works to engage the candidate. Indeed has made it so the recruiter must engage the candidate via email FIRST before a call can be made. This is how the recruiter can retrieve the candidate’s contact information. With CareerBuilder, it’s the opposite: The candidate’s full resume is displayed so the recruiter can choose between email and call. The time and effort it takes to personalize an email can be alleviated through email templates created in either an ATS, LinkedIn or CareerBuilder.

 

Email Templates

Search Engine templates or Outlook signatures are a gift to a recruiter – it allows the pre-created message to be sent to the candidate with spaces to personalize (name, how the resume was found, networking, etc.) without having to rewrite the message over and over again. A recruiter can simply plug in the personalized information and send. Personalized emails are more likely to be read and replied to than generic email blasts.

 

And, finally, the Purple Squirrel (or Unicorn Candidate)

This is the equivalency of finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the recruiter. It’s that great candidate (either actively looking or passive talent) that has the right mix of skills, talent (both hard and soft skills) for the salary range that the hiring manager is looking for. They can be found and they are what every recruiter aspires to find in their career, hopefully many times over.

A good rule of thumb for a recruiter is to treat every candidate like they are a purple squirrel: Respond to emails and phone calls, engage their referrals and treat them with the utmost respect. In the busy world of a recruiter, such as the personalized emails, time is of the essence but a little extra time treating candidates like purple squirrels can mean much less extra time sourcing down the line for a role that they are a fit for. Don’t save ten minutes now to have to use twenty minutes later – building a network and establishing a reputation as a skilled recruiter is a great time-saver in the future.

Tapping a New Breed of Talent

Summertime… the time of year teens love and parents dread.  While teens rejoice that they survived another year of tests, homework, and grades, parents scramble to figure out what to do with their teen for the next 8 weeks to keep them active and engaged.  Sure, they can do the traditional babysitting, lifeguarding, etc., but some companies are challenging high school teens to do more by joining company internships historically reserved for college students.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, companies are seeking to capitalize on the Gen Z mentality that they “are willing to start at the bottom and work their way to the top”, a vast contrast from the previous generation who tends to be labeled as the “everyone gets a trophy” generation.  While there is still much to learn about this latest generation, David Stillman, who co-authored Gen Z @ Work with his son, has research that suggests the Gen Z views on employment and company loyalty may mirror those similar to earlier generations who tended to stay with companies for much of their career, as long as the opportunity was there.

If true, this would be a welcome relief and change for organizations who today still face a high number of employees seeking to make a job change.  According to recent research published by ADP, 63% of an employer’s total workforce is potentially seeking a new opportunity either actively or passively and, with a job market already struggling to find quality talent to fill critical openings, this number can be detrimental to a company’s ability to meet company goals and business objectives.

“We have consciously set down a path to start reaching a much younger audience to encourage them and make them aware of a career…” – Greg Muccio, Southwest Airlines

By creating internships tailored to high school juniors and seniors, companies are hoping they will gain an early influence on students that could help shape their college degree choice and potentially lead them to a career with the company once they have achieved their academic requirements.   It will also help companies fill some critical skill gaps in their organization with talent who has already been exposed to the work environment and has a vested interest in their own success, as well as the success of the company.

Talent Acquisition: Now & Moving Forward, Observations & Best Practices

Over the last month, I’ve attended a couple of major talent acquisition events and heard lots of TA providers and leaders discuss the current state of talent acquisition and what the future may hold. The observations below capture the some of that current landscape, some of best practices and ideas heard and what’s coming.

Proactivity is the Goal, But Not the Norm

TA leaders understand the compelling need and strongly desire to become more proactive in their approaches to TA initiatives. But, for most practitioners, the day-to-day hiring urgencies drive these well-meaning plans into secondary status or even drop off ‘to do’ lists altogether. In many cases, the TA leaders still have to work too hard to get the business strategy and direction from business leaders. Without this critical information, TA can’t effectively understand and build the talent pipelines necessary to successfully respond to their businesses. Overall, this means not enough time to hire all the people they need and not enough quality candidates coming through their standard TA processes.

Shrinking Leadership Talent Pools

This situation is exacerbated by the prevailing demographics of baby boomers exiting the workforce. That trend is accelerating with economic conditions improving. This huge cohort group is leaving a gaping void of the necessary leadership experience and inherent and invaluable intellectual property that may not get captured before they walk out the door.

This leadership gap is also confirmed by the fact that most organizations’ succession plans reflect not near enough “ready now” successors for leadership roles. This significant and expanding leadership gap is both a TA challenge and a leadership development condemnation. This external hiring pressure for these key roles apply enormous pressure to find top external leaders with the right capabilities and , more importantly, the right cultural fit for their organization.

Best Practice: Best-in-class organizations are working hard to proactively court external talent for key technical, leadership and mission critical roles. And, they are urgently developing the best internal talent to step up when needed. These companies are also predictably superior in their strategic workforce planning processes, i.e. they are intentional in projecting & filling their key talent needs. Inertia (the motion part) is their friend and not their enemy.

Too Many Reqs., Not Enough Quality Candidates

With the overwhelming requisition loads for most recruiters so high, sourcing for passive and “stereotypically better” talent is difficult at best. Recruiters want to create robust talent funnels, but either time constraints, urgent demands or heavy req. loads take away this valuable talent resource. Most job postings only access 15-20% (at most) of the real and qualified talent available. Therefore, in most cases, recruiters are screening and handing desperate hiring managers “the best of the bunch” of mostly active job seekers. Not exactly “move the needle” type talent. If this becomes typical, the average talent level within an organization has to go down. And, that spells trouble for when the CEOs and leadership steps on the gas, and the talent engine sputters and simply cannot deliver the business results required.

Best Practice: In better organizations, where better recruiters and hiring managers hold out for the right talent, the time-to-fill metric spikes higher creating pressures from above. But, the better organizations do realize that quality talent trumps speed of hire and do not succumb to lesser talent acquisition metrics. It’s all about quality hires, people!! In my early days in recruiting, I learned a valuable lesson – hiring managers will forget how long it took to find a quality hire, but they will not care how fast you hired a mediocre performer.

New TA Technologies Exciting, But Process Improvement Still Needed

Everyone is trying to learn how to better and more efficiently leverage all the current and new TA technologies to speed up and tighten the sourcing and screening processes. There is broad consensus in wanting better yield from the technology tools and applications already in place. But, integrating new tools with existing ones is still a work-in-progress. Getting righteous reporting and clean and actionable data are still challenges for many HR and TA organizations. TA leadership wants and needs actionable data to make their business cases for new investments and for measuring TA performance.

Best Practice: New TA productivity tools and apps can automate much of the initial TA processes for sourcing and screening. Organizations are still trying to figure how best to leverage these new tools well while at the same time assuring a terrific candidate experience for their applicants. Positive candidate experience and recognition has become differentiators for top TA organizations.

TA Delivery Now & In the Future

TA delivery is becoming more challenging to do completely in house. Most organizations are embracing the outsourcing of many of their business and HR processes. And, there are internal financial pressures to reduce fixed costs as much as possible to be able to respond nimbly to the uncertain business climate today and into the future. Variable cost models of delivery are being explored throughout organizations. Companies are identifying their core competencies and looking to outsource processes which do not fall into their core competencies. This is forcing HR and TA leaders to objectively assess all their processes with this scrutiny to determine what stays in and what should or could be outsourced.

Best Practice: Most organizations of scale are partnered with one or several recruiting process (RPO) partners. They use these trusted TA partners to:

  • augment their current TA capabilities (surge capacity, focused TA projects),
  • hire ‘veins of homogenous talent” across their organization (such as sales),
  • take on the organization’s full TA process (from req. generation through onboarding), or
  • execute various segments of the TA process (such as source & screen or talent pipelining).

The better organizations have substantive SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to manage these powerful partnerships effectively. Better organizations strive for world class recruiting results both internally and with external TA partners. They reserve the option to turn on or off, scale up or down the resources of their TA partners as their business dictates.

Many organizations, therefore, are moving toward or adopting a “hybrid” recruiting model which leverages both internal TA resources as well as trusted external TA partners to flex as their businesses flex.

The Great Salary Debate – To Share or Not to Share

It’s a question that has been debated for years… “Should a candidate have to divulge their salary history during the early stages of interviewing?”  In many cases today, it is still mandatory in company applications that you notate your ending salary for each of your roles that you list.  Often times, if the process is automated, the system has it as a required field and it will not let you move forward with submitting the application if you try and leave it blank – forcing a candidate to either enter $0 or divulge the information to avoid being disqualified from consideration.  There are also a number of recruiters that still require a candidate give their salary history before they will pass along the candidate’s resume to the prospective hiring manager.  But is that really fair?  Candidates would say no and others are starting to agree.

As the push for pay equality continues and more regulations are passed, we will most likely see this question start to be eliminated, or at the very least approached in a different and better way.  Last year, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their current salary and making them reveal their salary history.   Since then, California and New York City have passed similar laws and amendments.  Philadelphia is currently in process of pushing the same, with more cities and states expected to follow.

So, how do you control what salary information you share with companies or recruiters?  The key, according to Liz Ryan in her article Never Give Up Your Salary Details – Do This, Instead, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2017/03/28/never-give-up-your-salary-details-do-this-instead/#2f3f570d8d6e, is to find a recruiter that values your capabilities and your experience, not your salary history.  It’s important for you to know your worth, be able to justify that worth through your job history and performance, and to be able to communicate a salary range or desired salary figure that fits your expertise and desired outcome.   Whatever you do, don’t sell yourself short.  If a recruiter isn’t willing to work with you unless you give up your salary history, then find one that will.  As Ms. Ryan points out, there are plenty of recruiters out there that will be an advocate for you.  Learn to distinguish the consultative ones from the order takers.  A recruiter should be as much of an advocate for you as they are for their client or employer.

Bridging the Gap Between HR & the Rest of the Business

I hear it all the time as a Talent Acquisition Consultant & Advisor. When talking with HR/Talent leaders about their Talent strategy and how it aligns to the larger corporate goals & objectives, there is often a gap — a big gap. In fact, in most cases the Talent strategy is not factored into or aligned with corporate objectives at all, creating gaps in HR’s ability to effectively to deliver on the strategy and leaving C-level executives frustrated that the overall business objectives & growth initiatives are potentially missed – in large part due to talent issues, or more importantly, lack of talent.

Last year, I co-authored a white paper on how the importance of aligning the HR/Talent strategy to the broader corporate objectives. Without alignment, HR is often left out of the corporate discussions & budget planning to ensure growth and success & the ability to fund hiring initiatives suffers. As a result, the critical support needed to deliver on open positions and the ability to find the right talent pool often falls short.

CEOs identified talent supply and retention as their No. 1 “hot button” issue in 2016, and talent shortages are cited as one of the primary constraints on corporate growth.

This issue was also examined in a recent Forbes publication, “Are You There, HR? It’s Me, Business.” In it author Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith points out the steady decline of the “human” side of HR and the continual shift to reliance on technology in order to fill the talent gap. However, I would argue that this isn’t necessarily a strategic move – as she eludes to in her article. If anything, the heavy reliance on technology can create more gaps in the talent strategy, as the technology (in most cases an Applicant Tracking System) is only as good as the recruitment process that has been put in place. Without the right process, the ATS becomes a “catch all” for job applicants, but it doesn’t necessarily drive the right candidates through the process. In order to create a successful recruitment and talent strategy, three things need to occur.

First and foremost, HR has to have a seat at the Executive table and play a role in the corporate objectives. If the HR objectives align to the corporate objectives, more times than not, a company is going to have success and drive growth.

Second, HR has to have a flexible, strategic hiring strategy in place to respond to the changing demands of the business throughout the year. This is often a combination of the right recruitment technology, internal recruitment support, and augmented support through a trusted recruitment partner.

Finally, HR has to fight for the necessary funds and budget needs in order to make their strategy successful. Often times when a company starts to lose financial momentum, HR is the first to feel the pain through budget cuts & restraints. By restricting HR’s ability to find and hire the right talent to drive growth – in essence a company is stunting it’s growth. HR has to stay strategic in their conversations with company executives, no matter what.

 

Why Fit Is So Critical In Every Hire Decision

As I was sitting in my office the other day, I could hear the friendly conversations throughout our office. It was really nice to hear such genuine, positive energy as everyone shared their holiday plans amid their normal work conversations that take place every day. I was struck by the cheerful and respectful banter of our associates, all different in gender, age and ethnicity. Everyone listened to each other’s plans and asked interested questions. It was a special moment for me, realizing that we had not only hired very talented people, but people who respected each other and genuinely “got along”.

Talent is Important, But “Fit” is Also Key

For our own organization, we certainly try to hire talented people. However, we’ve found the intangibles of “fit” are even more critical in our selection process. Ensuring we bring in people who “resonate” with our core values and our core purpose as an organization is a must. For us to be nimble and adaptive in solving our clients’ recruiting challenges, we must live out our core values and core purpose every day. It’s who we are at our core.

We have the privilege of working with many great organizations and work cultures. We get to see what works and doesn’t work across a broad spectrum of companies and work groups. We see organizations struggle to attract and acquire the talent they need. And, if they do find the talented people they want, they oftentimes lose this talent sooner than expected because of cultural fit issues. So, fit really does matter and more than you might think.

Work Group Chemistry and Fit Should Always Be a Strong Selection Criterion

Every individual you bring on board affects your work group and your organizational culture. Even a highly talented person can still be a very disruptive influence to your work group chemistry if they don’t buy in to your organization’s core values. Or, if you hired an individual to whom you weren’t clear about your core values, they may experience the uncomfortable dissonance of not naturally embracing your core values. In either scenario, if people can’t work well together, no matter how talented, you will not get the desired, sustainable results from that group. And, eventually, damaging turnover and poor productivity will result.

Therefore, it’s in your best interests to address these important fit issues in your selection process. This emphasis on cultural fit is important both for your organizational well-being as well as the candidates applying and being considered for each and every role you fill. Your screening and interview questions should reflect your priority to find talented people who will also fit well into your culture. Obviously, these core value considerations should be legally defensible and always support a diverse work environment. But, you need to discern through your selection process whether a candidate will be a positive influence on your team or organization.

You must also be forthcoming in your communication with each candidate as to the organization’s core values and core purpose. This will also give candidates the opportunity to “select out” if they realize your organization’s core beliefs are not congruent with their own. Too often, we are blinded by the “halo effect” of great talent and fail to appropriately articulate our core values for fear of losing such talent. However, it’s better to hold out for a better “fit” and talented candidate than to lose your highly talented and poor fit candidate six months down the road.

Great Fit Associates Bring Multiple Benefits

There are multiple benefits in hiring great fit people for your organization.

  • First, people who fit well within your culture bring that reinforcing ‘can do’ energy. They want to make this new chapter in their career work – they sincerely want to be there.
  • Newly hired, great fit people deliver more and better employee referral candidates.
  • Great fit hires will be accepted more readily by their new team members and their socialization into your organization will be quicker and more effective reducing early disengagement and early turnover.
  • Great fit hires get productive quicker. They sincerely want to make a positive difference for your organization.
  • People you hire who fit well within your organization reinforce your already powerful force of your core values, your core purpose. It reinforces who they are, who you are and what you stand for together as an organization.

So, I hope you can see the benefits in expending the important efforts and developing a winning process to deliver great fit hires into your organization. Building a great team, a truly great organization takes intention, it doesn’t just happen. Even getting great talent (if you can) alone will not deliver the results you seek. However, getting the right people all rowing in the same direction will give you a sustainable competitive advantage and provide the culture that will make the journey truly enjoyable.

Help! I’m Not An Extrovert!

I didn’t know there was an actual term for it, but have always figured myself to be what I have called a Middle-vert. What does this mean, you ask? I don’t know exactly either, but will attempt to explain.

I enjoy the company of people, but lengthy interaction zaps my energy. I enjoy my own company, but I get bored if alone too long. As a business leader, it seems stereotypical that if you are not viewed as an extrovert, you are assumed to be unable to achieve certain success. It’s a label us extrovert-challenged souls must battle. Frankly, I’ve always felt I’ve had a great blend of both traits that have allowed me to navigate the extremes of both, resulting in more balanced relationships and outcomes. And low and behold…I recently ran across some information that has given my theory some credibility! It has an actual name (coined by psychologist Hans Eysenck in 1947):

Ambivert (n): Someone who exhibits qualities of both introversion and extroversion.

In an article by Vanessa Van Edwards, published author, behavioral investigator and founder of Science of People, she shares the studies of Adam Grant, associate professor at the Wharton School, where study analysis demonstrates basically zero relationship between extroversion and results. Further, he conducted a survey of over 300, male and female, salespeople that showed us middle-roaders turned out to be better salespeople.

Ambiverts pulled in 24 percent more in revenue than introverts, and a mind-boggling 32 percent more in revenue than extroverts! (Study conducted by Adam Grant, Associate Professor at the Wharton School/Adam Grant

“The ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited,” Grant said.

This is refreshing validation and further, personal confidence, that my ability to reside in the middle is a very valuable asset. In another article from Inc., writer Larry Kim, he shares Adam Grant’s idea of the “The Ambivert Advantage” which notes the traits of flexibility, stability, intuition and influence that give an ambivert balance. Spelled out this way, I can see how these traits manifest themselves. Where I’ve seen myself as “being on the fence” due to my 50/50 tendencies, it actually appears that I possess the ability to adapt well in a quickly evolving landscapes, balance the sensitivity of introverts and the assertiveness of extroverts, know the right time and place to make a move and lastly, effectively influence outcomes.

I believe it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that there are many positive factors associated with each of the three personalities. Without the far left focused, detailed and introspective traits of the introvert we wouldn’t have Green Eggs & Ham, Facebook, Microsoft, Harry Potter, the flux capacitor, Google or The Gettysburg Address. Dr. Seuss, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg and Abraham Lincoln…all introverts. And without their extroverted counterparts, we wouldn’t have found Nemo, known the “Greatest”, The Iron Lady, Forrest Gump, The Cable Guy or enjoy our iPhones. Ellen DeGeneres, Muhammad Ali, Margaret Thatcher, Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey and Steve Jobs are clearly well known for their outgoing, high-energy and determination driven accomplishments.

The bottom line…it takes the diversity of all personality types to achieve the well-round world around us. Each brings critically important perspectives that prevent a one dimensional society, lead to innovation, entertain us and balance us. However, it’s quite clear that saying success is mostly achieved by extroverts, is false. Where do you fall?

PS…here are some quick definitions to help you decide!

Extroverts are drawn to people. These individuals get energy from social gatherings and are often very outgoing.
Ambiverts strike a balance between extroversion and introversion. These individuals typically slide up and down the spectrum depending on the situation, the context and the people around them.
Introverts prefer peace, solitude and quiet time. It is often draining for these individuals to be around a lot of people.

Leverage Your Intuition

Have you ever made a decision based on a hunch? I’m sure you can think of a situation where, in the absence of concrete data, you’ve had to rely on intuition to make the call. In management science, this occasional reliance on intuition “has been portrayed as everything from a magical sixth sense to an innate personality trait to an accumulation of experience.”1 Recruiting is a discipline, it seems, which highly rewards innovation in identifying, attracting, and engaging top talent. And there’s no doubt that intuition has a definite place in driving success.

However, it’s fundamentally difficult to measure the impact intuition has on the quality of our decisions. After all, these are decisions we make subconsciously or associatively – sometimes, we rely on intuition without knowing it! On one hand, we praise (experienced) professionals who are able to “pull the trigger” and make tough decisions without all the data – which can certainly tilt the scales of the competitive landscape. On the other hand, disciplines like Six Sigma emphasize process over everything, in order to squeeze variation out of the picture and deliver consistent quality.

So where does that leave those of us who just need to get stuff done? Seth Godin points out a reaction many have had to strict process: “we bristle when we’re asked for our weekly goals sheets, or when the boss wants us to use a database or when the insurance company requires docs to follow data-driven guidelines.”2 As individuals and as organizations, we want to surround ourselves with people and arm ourselves with information necessary to make the best possible decision at any given time. And yet, we know that we simply have to make decisions without complete data, or risk being outmaneuvered by the competition.

While it’s true that experience can sometimes get us results that process cannot, the reverse is also true. Take this example from Seth Godin (I’ve replaced “salesperson” with “recruiter”):

What happens when a star [recruiter] starts tracking her calls, her time spent, her rolodex and her results? Her day isn’t intuitive any longer… just the act of [recruiting] is. The result: dramatic improvements. Measuring, and measuring in public, is a piece of process that can’t help but organize and leverage your intuition.

If process makes you nervous, it’s probably because it threatens your reliance on intuition. Get over it. The best processes leverage your intuition and give it room to thrive.

In conclusion, it’s critically important to bring the right combination of experience and process to bear on a given business problem. Intuition and process are not mutually exclusive. We would do well to understand them as two sides of the same coin, and act accordingly.

1.  Lisa A. Burke, & Monica K. Miller. (1999). Taking the Mystery out of Intuitive Decision Making. The Academy of Management Executive (1993-2005), 13(4), 91-99.
2. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/04/why_are_you_afr.html

Great Sales Talent Drives the Elusive Top Line Growth

Consistent Top Line Revenue Growth is Challenging

Consistent and enduring organizational top line revenue growth has been elusive and rare. As organizations grow and mature, substantial revenue growth gets more challenging. Even exceptional brands find it difficult to maintain double-digit revenue growth beyond their early years of corporate development. Most successful organizations do figure out how to successfully squeeze ever more earnings to deliver to bottom line expectations. However, consistently driving the top line revenue growth has always been the more daunting business task.

Strategic initiatives and plans for consistently driving sustainable double-digit revenue growth are what most visionary CEOs want to see from their executive teams. In recent years, the most effective way companies have found to successfully accomplish top line growth has been through mergers and acquisitions. However, the potential value of that acquisition strategy has produced very mixed results and has not delivered on the promise of synergistic market growth.

Sound Business Fundamentals: Key to Sustained Growth

The most reliable and sustainable corporate growth seems to consistently generate from the basic and well-honed organic growth strategy. This simple growth recipe includes:

• sound and ethical business fundamentals and practices,
• taking amazingly care of your clients through passionate service, collaboration and partnership
• generating new clients through responsive and relevant consultative solutions to the ever-changing and complex market needs
• successfully delivering on the promise with effective services and solutions
• a willingness to try, learn, fail, own and repeat the cycle with humility in collaboration with their clients
• a high performing and responsive salesforce

Highly Effective Salespeople Produce Dramatically Higher Revenue

A very key factor in delivering on this strategy mentioned above is having a highly effective salesforce. In most organizations, there is a normal distribution of sales talent. Most companies have a limited number of high performers, a large group of steady performers and some lower performers that seem to constantly churn. This means that 20% of your sales performers delivers 80% of your sales. The “pareto effect” is alive and present.

In my experience, the highest performing organizations have more than their share of top sales people. Why is that? Are they just luckier in finding the top sales people? Or, do they take seriously the fact that every hiring decision is an intention decision to add another top performer to their high-performing sales team? Top organization know the value of talent and act intentionally upon that knowledge to acquire top talent.

In all my 35 years in working in and with great organizations, outstanding sales performers have proven so critical to those businesses’ success. In my experience, exceptional sales people have two very distinct things in common without exception:

• They are relentless in their pursuit of ever more clients and corresponding business and getting more business from their current clients.
• They are fearless in exploring new ideas and options with clients and prospects and pushing the envelope in building and ensuring their organizations deliver ever more effective solutions their clients and their markets require.

If organizations are genuinely serious about consistently growing their top line revenue, the most effective way is: 1) follow the fundamental business recipe above and 2) intentionally find and hire the top performing sales people who will work relentlessly and fearlessly to grow their business.

Great Sales Performers Aren’t Looking For Another Job

However, top sales performers aren’t posting for jobs or even aware of such postings. They are delivering consistently strong sales performance results for another organization. To find, attract, engage and acquire these passive top sales performers, organizations must explore viable methods of getting their employer value proposition in front of these extraordinary sales people. The powerful top line results which proven exceptionally talented and committed sales performers deliver is worth organizations exploring how to acquire more than their share of these high-impact sales performers.