Who’s On Your List to Recruit?

Seth Godin's Blog

One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, recently posted an article on his blog related to hiring. He posed the question that when you have a need “Who's on your list?” Seth made the following point in an example where he referenced Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino working together:

Ask any successful director for a list of actors or cinematographers or screenwriters they'd like to work with and they can answer you, instantly. They're always keeping lists.

Over the last 25 years Brad and I have seen companies struggle when they have a need to hire a critical role. It takes a tremendous effort to find, engage, nurture, and attract top talent. This is the complete opposite of the traditional process of filling jobs.

In the top talent model of hiring, you would fish deeply in the right ponds for the best candidates using creative and current “methods” liked social media recruiting, one degree of separation, stakeholder referrals, and compelling marketing statements. In the niche or geography you’re recruiting, you’ll have “beat the bushes” and attracted a strong number of passive candidates currently employed and successful. These candidates stay with you for years and are major impact players.

In the filling jobs model of hiring, you would run an advertisement that really is not an advertisement, but rather a job description masquerading as a advertisement. You would then wait 2-3 weeks while every toxic, dysfunctional, average, mediocre, unemployed, non-performer responds to your ad. Since none of these candidates can remotely come close to achieving your expectations, you compromise and pick from the “best of the worst”, or as one of my clients not too long ago turned this phrase into the “cream of the crap”.  A large percentage of these candidates barely survive the 90 probation period, and typically are the group that leads to hiring being only 50% successful in most companies.

You’ll probably write me a comment back and say:

Barry – sometimes we hire good people from ads. I would content that advertising is a great low cost/low time investment approach to recruiting. Unfortunately, when you invest very little funds and very little time in trying to recruit top talent, your results are indicative of your investment. Sometimes, you do get lucky in finding a good candidate. Here’s my basic question: Are you willing to stake the success of your business on LUCK through advertising. STOP PUTTING ALL YOUR EGGS in the advertising basket to find good candidates.

I would like to suggest that a better approach to recruiting might be as Seth Godin recommends – have a list ready to go. Create a Just-in-Time hiring process in which you are constantly keeping lists of great candidates for the various roles on your team. All GREAT managers and executives do this. Of course, this requires most companies to change a few things in their expectations of managers and executives.

Those changes might include:

  • Holding managers and executives accountable for hiring top talent
  • Holding managers and executives accountable for hitting strong results
  • Teaching managers and executives how to network effectively for top talent – both on-line and off-line
  • Installing tracking tools to manage the candidate lists (act, goldmine, excel, salesforce.com, any expensive applicant tracking system)
  • Implementing a process for “drip-nurturing” to sustain “top-of-mind” awareness with the potential candidate.

Perhaps, my blog posting should be titled “Do You Have a Just-in-Time Hiring Process?

What method of hiring do you use in your company – “the modern find top talent approach” or the traditional “let’s run an ad to fill a job approach?”

Barry Deutsch

P.S. Listen to our FREE radio programs on finding and sourcing top talent through creative modern approaches that include both on-line and off-line tactics.

Barry Deutsch

About the Author

Barry Deutsch is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Barry is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  1. You are spot on Barry, the “run and ad and hire the best candidate” approach is not working. We are seeing companies work A LOT harder than that – using videos, and innovative advertising options and still not getting good candidates. It’s imperative that you have your “list” for each key position. As my Father used to say, “You’ve got to dig the well before you need the water.”

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