Any big employer would kill to have high level talent. Period. It’s one of the first things tech company executives brag about when talking about their company.
A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a recruiter from a Fortune 100 company asking for advice on how to attract great talent, especially in technology. Here’s my response.
Set realistic expectations
Take a look at any job description or skill set criteria over the last 4 years and you’ll notice that so much of the time the applicant they are looking for doesn’t exist. You might recognize the norm to look something like this:
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Analytics skills
- Organizational skills
- Ability to juggle multiple projects, prioritize, and multi-task.
- Creative thinker with entrepreneurial aptitude.
- Minimum 3.75 GPA
You may have even had a thought like this one, “Well, I’m really creative, entrepreneurial, and I have a 3.9 GPA, but I don’t multi-task very well…” The bummer is that the company with that job description, may have just alienated some amazing potential.
The fact is, the unicorn, good-at-everything employee doesn’t exist. People are always going to lack in some skill sets, and that’s a good thing! This may sound strange, considering how talented our team is, but the distinction to make, is that I’m talking about the team as a whole being able to tackle anything.
Bring on an employee to fill A skill gap, not ALL of your skill gaps
People who are really good at one thing are usually bad at something else. It just makes sense that, in order to develop really well in one area, you have to sacrifice time you might have spent learning something else. With that in mind, getting someone who can do all of the things you ask, often means that they are only able to do it adequately. The more you add to your laundry list of job criteria, the less likely you are to find a superstar in a particular area.
Let’s say your shoes have all worn out and you’ve decided to buy three new pairs to fit your lifestyle. There are two ways you could approach the purchase:
1) Be like the average business and ask everything of each pair of shoes. Each shoe must be able to pair with a suit, be great for going for a run, work well for long hikes through the wilderness, and not break the bank. Sure, it would be great if something like that existed, but what you’re really getting is a great mix of mediocrity, or even deficiency.
2) You can, instead, spread your needs across all three new pairs of shoes, all of a sudden you have 3 great pairs to fit your needs. Sure, your AE Cap Toes can’t handle your hike through the high Sierras, but they’ll help you land the next big sale.
So, what does this mean for bringing in great talent?
1) Assess what you need in order to run your business, then accept that in order to fill each need with someone good, you’re best bet is to choose someone with the skills that best fit the needs on your list, and not worry if they lack somewhere else. So what if your UI Designer can’t code the HTML for your new site? If they took the time to learn HTML proficiently, they risk loosing a step in design. If they haven’t taken the time to learn it proficiently, you risk the final product looking different than their mock-ups. However, if you have a good designer, and a good developer working together, you end up with a great result.
Take the specific trade-offs, they’re better than broad mediocrity or holding off to fill needs you have right now.
2) Be careful with someone who claims to be awesome at everything; odds are, they aren’t. Dig deeper to find out what they’re really good at, and allow that to guide your decision.
All in all, don’t count out the diamond in the rough. Given the right opportunity, it can shine even brighter than the ones in the display case.