How come we keep seeing the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool?

STOP trying to hook candidates floating near the surface - these represent the bottom third of the candidate pool (pond)

The primary method you use to attract candidates is guaranteed to bring the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool to the table.

The primary method is posting job descriptions as job advertisements on job boards. Then we wait for those “fish” floating near the surface to pop up and come forward. We rarely consider fishing in deeper waters for candidates who not aggressively waiting for the fishing hook.

Here’s the typical job board posting experience: You post your ad. You receive 300 resumes. Of the 300, you cannot figure out what keyword 298 of the applicants clicked to apply. This group was so far off the mark, not only did looking at those resumes waste your time, but you’re now angry because you missed the lastest installment of “Dancing with the Stars.”

2 of the resumes in the group were outstanding. When you emailed/called those two candidates, you discovered they had gone off the market in the blink of an eye. You could have predicted that was going to happen when you saw their backgrounds – many others found their backgrounds attractive also.

This approach tends to bring the unemployed, useless, worthless, non-productive, toxic, poor performer to the table. Occasionally, you get lucky and find a “needle in a haystack”. Usually, the process of collecting resumes from job ads based on posting a job description is a complete waste of time.

What do you do now? Traditionally, you would have either re-run the job advertisement on a different job board, hoping you might see a different group of candidates. What you got was the same group of candidates you attracted the first time.

Your other option is to look at the 298 candidates from your initial job ad response and pick someone from that group. You’re probably thinking: better a warm body in that seat that no body.

Imagine you considered the first group to be the entire universe of available candidates for your open position (complete fallacy – but I’ll address the issue of candidate pools and how to fish deeply for the best talent in another blog post).

You know deep down that none of these candidates can get you the results you need, but now you’re desperate. You take the top 3, interview them, and pick the “tallest pygmy”, crossing your fingers hoping your deadbeat candidate makes it through the 90 day probationary period.

Does this sound dysfunctional?

What if there was a better way to attract candidates? Let’s tackle those “hiring best practices” for sourcing and finding great talent in our next post.


Your Primary Tool To Find Candidates STINKS

Holding Your Nose Because Your Primary Recruiting Tactic STINKS!



The primary tool that most companies use to attract professional or management candidates is classified job advertising through posting a job description on a major job board like Career Builder or Monster.


This technique stinks!


This technique works great when you really want to attract the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool.


This technique works great when you feel like wasting 2-3 months finding a candidate, and then restarting the whole process over again.


This technique works great when you want your next important hire to be a function of luck and hope.


Stop using methods that are useless, worthless, a waste of time, and yield poor results based on luck and hope.


Instead, we recommend diversifying your search efforts into 3 main categories to attract selective candidates. Check out our blog post defining the various categories of candidates and why “selective” candidates are the “sweet spot” to recruit for most companies. Click here to read this popular blog article on Hiring Mistake #7: Fishing in Shallow Waters.



Referrals to find great candidates


First, employee referrals are your most valuable tool to bring great talent to the table. Research shows these folks tend to be better performers and are a better fit within your culture.  I’d like to move beyond the concept of just leveraging employee referrals. I’d like to recommend we call it “stakeholder” referrals and look at customers, vendors, and suppliers – in addition to employees.

Step 1 is to create a Compelling Marketing Statement. Read the Chapter in our free e-book titled “How to Attract the Bottom 1/3 of the Candidate Pool” for the lesson on how to craft a Compelling Marketing Statement. The link to get a FREE digital copy of our popular and best-selling book can be found on our IMPACT Hiring Solutions home page by clicking here. Send the Compelling Marketing Statement to your employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers via email with a short message. Perhaps, you could say something like:


Attached is a Compelling Marketing Statement for a role we are recruiting for right now. Could you please pass this along to others in your network (former business associates, contacts, connections, neighbors, alumni) who you think would be compelled by the opportunity and able to achieve some of the success factors we’ve described.


The ten you sent it to send it to ten they know who send it to ten they know – and so on until two weeks it’s now in the hands of other 1,000 appropriate and targeted candidates. You’ve just leveraged the natural networks of your employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers – without randomly picking strangers off generic advertising.

Your minimum goal for using referrals should be that 50% of your hires from this point forward come from referrals.



On-Line Job Boards to find great candidates

It’s not that the job boards stink – it’s your method of using them. Posting a traditional job description is worthless. It gets lost in the clutter since 99.99% of the ads look exactly the same. Most candidates hunting on the job boards are in the “aggressive” bucket and desperate to get out of their current situation or they’ve been unemployed for a very long time. Finding a great candidate using this approach is like the proverbial “looking for a needle in a haystack”.

To top it off, a job description posted on a job board is not an advertisement. It’s a job description MASQUERADING as a job advertisement.

Have you ever read a job description and been compelled by it? It’s the most superficial, meaningless, conglomeration of bureaucratic terms and buzzwords you’ve ever come across. It’s a complete turn-off.

We call this technique of posting the job description as your ad “Drill Instructor Advertising”. It reads like a drill instructor at army basic training screaming at you on the first day when you step off the bus. We DON’T want you if you DON’T have 3 of these, 4 of that, 2 of those! It’s negative, demeaning, and degrading to read these. Here’s the basic problem with allowing your job description to MASQUERADE for your ad: Top talent DOES NOT give a darn what you want as an employer – they don’t care! They want to know WIIFM. What will I learn in this role, what impact will I have, and what will I become for having been in this role for a period of time.

Remember, early in this article I mentioned that the most common technique of posting the job description brought the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool. It’s even worse than that if that’s even possible. Top caliber candidates are so turned-off by the traditional job description MASQUERADING as your advertisement, that they take their hand and pull it down. You never get to see these candidates in your ad response since they self-select out after reading the first sentence. They are disgusted, repelled, irritated, and feel like screaming when they see jobs posted using job descriptions.

So, even though I am not a huge proponent of job boards to find and attract great talent, you should still use them because they are so cheap and the exposure to your potential universe of candidates is so large. However, instead of posting the traditional job description as a weak MASQUERADE for your ad, instead post the Compelling Marketing Statement. We’ve got some samples in our book and on our website under the FREE Resources tab.


Networking Through ONE Degree of Separation

You’ve heard the old adage that we’re all connected to Kevin Bacon through 6 levels, or you can reach anyone on the planet through 6 phone calls.

B.S. – If I had to go through six individuals to get one referral, I’d retired before the job got filled.

I would like to recommend a tactic of “ONE DEGREE” of Separation.

Let’s say Bob is the candidate we would like to recruit. Where does Bob hang out with others just like him?

  • Alumni Groups
  • Trade Association Dinner Meetings
  • Continuing Education Programs
  • Seminars and Workshops
  • Online Discussion Groups and Forums
  • LinkedIn Groups

Now we reach into each group and connect with Bob who is not the perfect candidate. However, Bob refers us to through one degree of separation to the person on his right or his left. I’ve found this technique of using ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION – both on-line and off-line to be one of the most powerful sources of great candidates. In over 25 years of executive search and over 1000 search assignments, I’ve probably placed over 90 percent of the candidates through using ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION.

If would like a quick 15 minute phone review of how to use ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION in finding your next hire, shoot me a note through LinkedIn that you would like to take advantage of our “I could have had a V-8 to find better talent review”, and we’ll set up a quick 15 minute call where I’ll show you 3-4 ideas you’ve probably not thought of yet to find that ideal candidate.

Barry Deutsch


Why Does Top Talent Consider Your Job Ads to be Repulsive?

Candidate disgusted by your job advertisement

The vast majority of high-performing, top talent candidates consider your ads to be repulsive. The are disgusted, aghast, turned-off, repulsed, and consider your company’s attempt to hire to be an utter “fail.” They literally want to vomit when they read your job ads.

I see thousands of job ads on a weekly basis. Over 99% possess the same common element – the content of the ad is either the entire job description or a modified version of it.

Let’s be clear about two issues once and for all:

  • First, using the job description for your ad is not an ad! It’s a job description masquerading as a job ad.
  • Second, top caliber job candidates couldn’t give a darn about what you want as an employer.

Top Talent is motivated by a different set of criteria than desperately getting a paycheck. They want to be in a role where they’ll learn something new, have an impact, and become something better for having been in that role.

Traditional Job Descriptions masquerading as a Job Ad miss the mark entirely. It’s like shooting arrows at a target and purposely trying to miss. If you can’t hit the bulls eye on why candidates would want to leave their existing job and come to work for you, finding and attracting candidates becomes a random activity focused on luck and hope.

When a top performer reads your job description as your attempt to recruit them, they immediately TURN-OFF! They think “I couldn’t give a hoot that XYZ Company wants 4 of this, and 8 of that, and 12-14 years of whatever. I just don’t care” The next step is that they take their hand and pull it down. You never even get to see these candidates since they are REPULSED” by your inability to capture their interest and passion.

When do you plan on putting a stop to the traditional and tribal hiring cycle of using job descriptions masquerading as ads, and begin to craft more attractive marketing-oriented statements of work to start managing your small business?

As you may know, in our executive search practice, and hiring manager training programs, we call this document a Compelling Marketing Statement, one that gets to the heart of our LIB Curve of Candidate Motivation. Check out some of our FREE examples of Compelling Marketing Statements by clicking here.

Also, make sure to read our previous blog article on the LIB Curve of Candidate Motivation by clicking here.

Once again, I ask the question:

When will you stop using outdated, tired, old, and inadequate recruiting techniques like posting a job description to attract good employees – when the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t work?

Here’s a better question:

Why do most companies keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for a better result when they know nothing will change or be better than the last time they attempted to use a job description as their advertisement?

I’d love to hear in the comments how you’ve used a more Compelling Marketing Statement instead of the traditional job description to attract great talent to your organization.

Hiring Mistake #7 – Fishing in Shallow Waters

Fishing for candidates floating near the surface


Most of the methods used to attract candidates bring forth candidates who are floating in the shallow end of the pond. They fall into what we call the “aggressive” candidate pond – those who typically have excessive turnover, are toxic, and cannot deliver the performance you desire. These are frequently NOT the best candidates (I think this is known as a classic understatement).

Over the last 25 years of leading hiring workshops and seminars, I hear in almost every presentation that finding enough good candidates is one of the greatest hiring frustrations of executives and managers. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the economy is going straight up, straight down, or sideways – it’s always tough to find good people. Filling seats is easy. Run an online advertisement on a job board (the most common tactic), get 300 responses – 298 of which you can’t figure out what keyword they clicked on to apply to your ad. 2 in the group looked good, but they went off the market in the blink of an eye. 3 weeks later you’re looking at everyone else’s retreads, rejects, and poor performers.


How to Get Depressed Over Finding Candidates

Depressing element #1: Most companies have a tendency to attract the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool. One of the key problems in hiring is that if all you are seeing is the bottom 1/3, then you are doomed to fail before you even start the hiring process. it doesn’t matter how great the job sounds, the stellar rep of your company, or your personal charisma in the interview – if all you’re seeing is the bottom 1/3, then that’s the group from which you’ll hire the next member of your team.

How you write your job ad and where you place it dictates who you get. When you run job advertisements geared to pull candidates who need jobs, that’s pretty much what you get – okay sometimes you get lucky and find a good one – but most of the time you get the bottom of the pile, the best of the worst, or as one of my clients called it the other day: the cream of the crap!

Depressing Element #2:  Not only do your job ads attract candidates floating near the surface of the pond – you then consider that to be the entire candidate pool from which you can make your choice. This group of candidates who land on your doorstep through traditional job advertising (read:  job descriptions masquerading as advertising) is at best 10-15% of the viable candidate pool. There’s a huge universe of potential candidates who are much better- and you’re letting them slip through your fingers by focusing on the wrong group – the aggressive candidate group seeking a new job.

You’re acting like the basketball coach of your local public high school – trapped in to taking whomever shows up that year. Unlike your local public high school, you have unlimited ability to attract better talent. Why do you keep pretending you’re the coach of a high school team adding people to your team just because they showed up?

Depressing Element #3: We start the entire hiring process by attracting the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pond. If that’s not bad enough, you compound this hiring mistake by turning off the very best performers. Top talent doesn’t care that you want someone with 2 years of X, and 4 years of Y, and knowledge of ABC systems. They want to know what’s in it for me? What am I going to learn, what impact will I have, and what will become for having been in this role. If you can’t answer those questions in specific detail, then top talent takes their hand and pulls it down. We want them to raise their hand. We want them to show excitement to learn about your very special opportunity.

When you tell the world about your job ad in the tone of a drill sergeant barking orders of what you deamnd, you REPEL, DISGUST, and TURN-OFF top talent. Top talent DOES NOT CARE what you want as an employer. 99.9% of all job ads fall into the category of either the entire job description or a modified version of the job description masquerading as a job ad. This is NOT a compelling description of an opportunity for a top performer. It’s basically a job description – and it’s worthless as a tool to attract great talent. Is it any wonder why most executives and managers are frustrated by the process of finding great employees?


Why Do You Keep Failing At Attracting Great Employees?

Why do we post job descriptions on job boards and let them masquerade as job ads? They’re boring, mundane, depressing, and lack anything top talent would be interested in exploring.

We do it because we’re programmed to do it. This is what the retired guy did 25 years ago, who trained my boss, who trained me. We call this tribal hiring. How many of the things that go on in your company are tribal – you have no idea why it’s done that way – yet that’s the way you’ve always done it. Like passive sheep, we follow blindly in the footsteps of our ancestors.

Why do we do this? Why do we fall victim to tribal hiring. Why are we using the same recruiting practices that have been in existence since Henry Ford started cranking out Model-Ts on the production line? Perhaps, that’s the subject for another blog post.

Was it Benjamin Franklin who said that doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results was the definition of insanity? Is your company the poster child for the Definition of Insanity when it comes to finding great employees?


Overcoming the Hiring Mistake of Fishing in Shallow Waters

First, if you want to attract better candidates, you’ve got to develop a Compelling Marketing Statement. A Compelling Marketing Statement is like the royal trumpeters announcing to the world something special. We take an entire chapter in our book,  “You’re NOT the Person I Hired”, and focus in on this one subject. As you probably know, the digital version is available for downloading FREE from our website. You can also find FREE examples of Compelling Marketing Statements on our website by clicking here.

Secondly, you’ve got to use the three primary best practices in hunting for the best talent. The best are NOT going to simply show up on your doorstep begging for a job. They’ve got multiple offers, decline to interview regularly, and are choosy when it comes to deciding when they’ll raise their hand to express interest in a job opening. To effectively find great talent, you’ve to go to where they are “hanging out”. No longer does a “build it and they will come” approach work in attracting great employees.

The three primary best practices that could yield great candidates include:

  • Raising the quantity and quality of employee, customer, client, vendor, and supplier referrals of great talent
  • Using a Compelling Marketing Statement as a job ad, placing it in front of where your target candidate will most likely see it
  • Moving from 6 degrees of separation to 1 degree of separation through effective networking, both off-line and on-line with social media

We’ve produced a ton of content related to finding great employees. Check out our videos, audio programs, and other content here on Vistage Village. Future blog posts will explore each of these best practices, including the writing of a Compelling Marketing Statement in more detail.

Share your story of falling victim to the hiring mistake of fishing in shallow waters, OR your story of how you overcame this very common hiring mistake.

If you would like to learn how to fish in deeper waters, download a free digital copy of our book, You’re NOT the Person I Hired, and read our most popular chapter, How to Attract the Bottom Third of the Candidate Pool.

Four Things Companies Do To Shoot Themselves In The Foot When Hiring – Part 2

I recently asked over one hundred CEOs and their key executives, “Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?” Not surprising that everyone replied “Yes.” Not simply important, but critical. So then I asked,”If it is critical, then how many of you spend time each month focusing on hiring, excluding when you are actively looking to fill a position?” Not surprising, only three people raised their hand.

WOW, something that is critical to the success of the organization, gets virtually zero time unless there is a current need. Is that the way most critical issues are handled in your company? No strategic planning. No thought or action discussed or taken until the problem arises? Only once the problem arises is it dealt with it. Until then it is that famous management strategy, “Out of sight, out of mind?” or “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

I believe this management style only happens with hiring. Most other critical issues are regularly discussed, on-going programs such as, cost reductions, product development, increasing sales or market share, customer service, improving operational efficiencies are all constantly discussed and often major components of the company's strategic plan. In fact, I have seen many strategic plans that all have great plans for growth. Yet few ever include a strategy for hiring the people needed to execute the plan as the company grows. Strategic hiring is rarely part of a strategic plan.

I believe companies that truly want to hire top talent and do it on a consistent basis must avoid these four major land mines when hiring:

1) Untrained Managers – Discussed in part 1.

2) Poorly Defined Job – Discussed in part 1.

3) Finding candidates – This is one of the biggest problems faced by companies. This happens as a result of number two. Most companies search for the least qualified to start with. Then they complain that all they are seeing is unqualified candidates.

The other issue causing this problem is that most companies start the hiring process too late. They wait until they absolutely need someone. Then they expect that when they are ready to hire someone, at that moment in time, top talent will also magically appear on the market, find them, and be so compelled after reading the minimum job description to update their resume, and respond. YEAH and a multimillion dollar customer will also magically call too.

Reactive hiring is a thing of the past. Hiring top talent requires proactive hiring. This means your hiring managers must be in the market engaging people all the time. They should be connecting with people on LinkedIn, involved in professional associations, and commit at least an hour or two a month to hiring. Few managers spend any time engaging potential candidates when they aren't actively hiring. In fact, many even discard resumes as they come in if they aren't hiring. Finding top talent doesn't take a lot of time each month, but it does take a consistent monthly effort of an hour or two.

4) Disrespecting the Candidates – Top talent, especially those candidates who are working and in no hurry to make a job change (referred to as passive candidates) will walk away from a manager or company if they aren't respected in the interviewing process.

Some common complaints that left candidates feeling disrespected include:

  • The hiring manager being late for the interview. Few managers would accept it if the candidate was late, so why should it be OK for the manager?
  • Lack of  preparation by the interviewer. Again, if the candidate came in unprepared would that be acceptable?
  • Taking calls during the interview.
  • Finally, telling the candidate that if they have any further questions to call them. Then ignoring the calls. If managers don't respect the candidate during the hiring process, it isn't going to get any better once they are hired.

The interview is a PR event. These candidates will make sure others know how they were treated. They may post it on a website or hear about a person they know is interviewing and ask them about their experience. Bad PR is never a good thing. This is an easy thing to fix. It only takes treating candidates the same way you would treat a customer.

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, You're NOT The Person I Hired. Just CLICK HERE  and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.