‘Talent Makers’ Spread Responsibility for Hiring Around the Organization

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer July 13, 2021
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recruiter interviewing

​Despite its critical significance to business success, talent acquisition continues to be an undervalued part of many organizations.

Lack of support and investment in recruiting holds companies back from consistently hiring strategically, argue Daniel Chait and Jon Stross, the co-founders of New York City-based recruitment software company Greenhouse.

Chait and Stross have been saying for years that employers should spread the responsibility for talent acquisition around the organization. The idea that stakeholders from the CEO to hiring managers need to commit to structured processes and make hiring a priority is the focus of their new book, Talent Makers: How the Best Organizations Win Through Structured and Inclusive Hiring (Wiley, 2021).

Chait and Stross discussed the book with SHRM Online, including the "talent maker" concept, why recruiting shouldn't be left just to recruiters, why companies continue to struggle to attract and retain talent, and the importance of onboarding as part of the hiring process.

SHRM Online: Can you explain the term "talent maker" and how the concept fits into strategic talent acquisition?

Chait: Most leaders know they have a role to play in making their organization great at hiring, but they just don't always know how to go about it. The role of the leader is to be what we call a "talent maker." These talent makers—whether they're the CEO, the head of sales or the head of engineering—have three basic responsibilities: First, they need to be a talent leader, helping to build a culture of hiring within their organization. Second, they need to be a talent magnet, helping to attract great talent to the company and closing the deal with in-demand candidates. And third, they need to be a talent partner, demonstrating what being a good partner to the recruiting team is about. They are engaged in the hiring process, they make sure the team has the tools and resources they need to be successful, and they make decisions quickly when it comes to approving offers.

SHRM Online: Is it really a missed opportunity for organizations to leave recruiting solely to recruiters?

Stross: One of the main points we make in the book is that hiring has become more competitive than ever. Talent is in demand these days, and companies need to compete for their attention. Working with thousands of companies, we've seen that the best companies win in hiring because they work differently. The entire company is involved in hiring, and it is seen as a top leadership priority.

A lot of times hiring managers will think [their] job is to go build [the] organization or bring in sales, and recruiting is the recruiter's job on the other side of the office. What many business leaders miss is that their organization's success is hugely dependent on their involvement with hiring. Building your team is your primary job as a leader. When you get involved with a structured hiring approach, you create a culture of good hiring, you get more predictable in the hires you make, and you identify better talent. This is crucial work you can't outsource to recruiters. You have to get involved yourself to build the team you want.

SHRM Online: It's often said that people are a company's most valuable asset, but companies continue to struggle to attract and retain great talent. Why is that?

Chait: Many companies don't have a hiring plan in place, and their recruiting process is disorganized. And when competing for top talent, organizations with a chaotic hiring strategy will stand out from the crowd—in a bad way. When you don't have a process or plan, that leaves you to make arbitrary, biased decisions. It keeps you from finding the best candidates for the job because you're shooting from the hip. You aren't being measured in the way you hire, and you have no data to tell what's working and what's not.

The "hiring maturity curve" is a term we coined at Greenhouse to help companies understand how they're doing when it comes to hiring. The curve goes from chaos, where nothing's really working well; to inconsistent, where you're having some success but it may be mostly dependent on a rock star recruiter; to systematic, where everyone is working together in a consistent and structured way; to strategic, where hiring is a differentiator for the company.

Companies that continue to invest in strategic hiring find that their pipeline is flowing with high-quality candidates. A focus on building a structured and data-driven process means companies become better at sourcing, hiring and retaining talent.

Structured hiring means you have a plan upfront: You lay out exactly what skills, experiences and traits you're looking for; you identify the best places to find candidates with those characteristics; then you put every candidate through the same process and collect data along the way. It not only helps you make smarter, more fair hiring decisions, but it also makes for a much better candidate experience.

SHRM Online: In the book you state, "Companies need people more than ever. At the same time, people need companies less than ever." How can business leaders looking to attract talent become more attractive to potential employees?

Stross: First, the key to becoming great at hiring is making sure that you have a plan for how to fill the role. Whenever hiring managers talk about how their company's recruiters are not able to find the right talent, my first question is to ask whether they actually sat down to discuss and agree on the attributes and qualities needed for the job. Then I ask whether they created a written plan to find and hire the right talent.

My second recommendation relates to job posts, job ads and job descriptions. Many organizations do not make a clear distinction between these three documents.

The job description is the internal document that outlines the responsibilities, requirements, expectations, pay and so on. The job post lists the open role on an organization's website with enough information and enticement to appeal to talented people so they decide to submit their information.

The job ad is a placement on an external site, like Indeed or ZipRecruiter, meant to get people to click through. Companies need to take the time to customize these documents to fit the audience. It's no surprise the best candidates are not interested in vague materials.

Third, candidates want to know who you are as a leader, what it will be like to work with your team, what your organization stands for and what are your values. It's up to leaders to step into that role and tell that story. When you demonstrate a commitment to structured hiring, you're showing candidates you care about 1) finding the best person for the job, 2) being strategic and data-driven, 3) being inclusive and equitable, and 4) investing in the long-term success of your team.

SHRM Online: In Talent Makers, you emphasize the importance of onboarding. Now that remote work has become the norm, what does good onboarding look like and why is it so important?

Stross: We're seeing the best companies create a systematic process that gets new hires up to speed even before they walk in the door. The ultimate goal of onboarding is to make sure the new hire is having a great experience, beyond paperwork and logistics. A successful onboarding process focuses on engaging the new hire and making sure they are ready to go from the time the offer letter is signed through day one. Use the time before day one to get new employees excited and introduce them to the people who will be on their team and others in their start class. Build an intentional plan to figure out who does what.

In a world where a lot of people will be working in distributed environments, it's even harder to connect new members to the team and the culture of the organization. Now, when people are working from home and don't meet any of their co-workers in person, companies have to be that much more proactive about ensuring that new hires are getting integrated well.

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