These Five Seth Godin Insights Will Help You Recruit Better

October 14, 2016 at 10:21 AM by William Clarke

SethGodinPostPhoto.pngRecruiting is a tough job and hiring is a front line business function. You’re the first point of contact for a lot of people, which means recruiting has a lot more in common with sales and marketing than it does with other HR functions.

It’s nothing new that recruiters need to think like marketers, and thinking outside the traditional recruiting box is one way to make that a reality. That’s where Seth Godin turns into a handy fount of recruiting wisdom.

Seth is best known as a marketer, speaker, investor and business thought leader, but he’s also one heck of a thinker about driving action, which at its core, is what much of recruiting boils down to.

Many of Seth’s insights focus on the nature of effective decision making, good marketing, and how to do your work better and smarter. Here are five insights that will help you recruit even better than you already do.

1: If you want to persuade candidates, put yourself in their shoes.

Convincing people to take specific actions is hard. Here’s Seth on why persuasion is so difficult and how to do it the right way.

“To many people, it feels manipulative or insincere or even morally wrong to momentarily take the other person's point of view when trying to advance an argument that we already believe in. And that's one reason why so many people claim to not like engaging in marketing. Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that's true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It's about what we, the listener, believe.”

Always, always think about your candidate’s needs. Whether you’re prepping for a phone screen or an in-person or just about to send out an initial email, consider what information they need to make a rational, informed decision. Give them legitimate reasons to do what you’re asking them to do by thinking about things from their perspective. To do otherwise is to set yourself up for failure.

2: Find people who make your organization better, not people who reinforce the status quo.

It’s easy to recruit people more or less like you who will maintain the status quo. If you really want to improve your organization, recruit people who will challenge you and drive your team to be better. Seth calls this “Raising the average”.

"Most organizations seek to hire, 'people like us.' The rationale is that someone too good might not take the job, might get frustrated, might be easily lured away. A few aim for, 'so good she scares me.' A few aim for, 'it'll raise our game.'

This takes guts.

It takes guts for an employee or a group member to aggressively try to persuade people more passionate, more skilled or smarter to join in, because by raising the average, they also expose themselves to the fact that they're not as good as they used to be (relatively)."

We talk about the 10x hires all the time, but the reality is that most hires offer more incremental but no less important benefits. The realistic benefits of hiring the right people are that you create more effective, concordant teams of people who together can achieve more.

3: The best candidates learn from their mistakes, not pretend they’re perfect.

Especially in the early stages of the recruiting funnel, it’s easy to fall in love with candidates who seem perfect on paper while overlooking other warning signs. The thing is, you’re not looking for the perfect candidate, you’re looking for people with the skill sets, capacity and drive for growth to succeed. The better you are at identifying those people, based on characteristics specific to your team and organization, the more effective you’ll recruit. Here’s Seth on the myth of perfection.

“There are problems (with perfection).

First, it doesn't scale. When an indomitable brand or figure encounters an obstacle that can't be overcome, suddenly, the promise is hard to keep. And if the indomitable begins to succeed, he gets hungrier for the next conquest, making this failure inevitable.

Second, it's a bad strategy. In the long run, resilience always outperforms sheer strength." 

Perfection is impossible. Worse, it leads to ineffective business strategies and can hamper your efforts to hire for diversity. Hiccups and hurdles are part of life and work. Find the people best positioned to overcome them, not the ones who pretend they don’t exist.  

4: Genuine passion is a valuable and rare trait. Find candidates who either love what they do or are incredibly driven to succeed.

Passion is a proven force multiplier when it comes to productivity. Passionate employees go above and beyond to exceed their obligations. They don’t do work that is just good enough, they work their socks off to create great work. Here’s Seth on the incredible value that passionate people create.

The passionate worker doesn't show up because she's afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it's a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation... because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it's a lot more fun than watching TV.”

People can be trained. They can be ramped up into roles, but people can’t learn passion. You can’t train for it. People either have it or they don’t. It’s an intangible that recruiters should always be looking for. Whether candidates wind up staying for one year or six, they’ll likely be highly engaged and effective for the duration. Find them, hire them, and retain them.

5: Don’t underestimate the value of intangibles.

It's tempting to overvalue hard skills and undervalue soft skills. Hard skills are difficult to find which makes it easy to overrated them relative to soft skills, especially for the most technical roles. But soft skills like the ability to lead, think strategically, teach others and provide effective feedback are often more essential to a new hire’s success than their technical skillset. Sure, tech skills can be invaluable, but a toxic personality can cancel everything out no matter how brilliant a new hire might be. 

Here’s Seth on some of the most important intangibles:

"You'd be amazed at how much people value enthusiasm. Genuine, transparent enthusiasm about the project they're working on.

Don't forget speed. If you are overwhelmingly faster than the alternatives, what's that worth? For some people, more than you can imagine.

Focus and personal service are obvious (but priceless) intangibles.

Generosity is remembered for a long time. People remember what you did for them when you didn't have to do a thing, when you weren't looking for new business, when it was expensive or costly for you to do it.

Error correction. How do you respond when you make an error?

The last one is probably the biggest. Hope. Do you offer hope for something really big in the future? Maybe just around the corner, but perhaps in the long run... What does it look and feel like? Are you drawing a vivid picture?"

Imagine trying to succeed without any of the above intangible skills, or even just without one of them? Seems absurd, right? More than their fundamental importance to achieving success, intangibles also define how your organization goes about its business, how people work together, and why you do what you do in the first place. Technical skills are important, but they don’t create teamwork or create value on their own. Ten of the best trained engineers in the world won’t accomplish very much without the strategic direction to know where they’re going and why they’re going there.

If a candidate asked you where your organization is headed and why, would you have a good answer?

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