Don’t hire the best applicants, hire the best employees

October 17, 2016 -  By

Before I make a presentation, I survey the attendees to find out their challenges when it comes to recruiting, interviewing, selecting and retaining employees. This year, the three biggest challenges reported across all industries are:

  1. Not enough qualified applicants;
  2. The ability to identify the applicants with the highest potential of becoming stars; and
  3. Keeping stars motivated and engaged.

When asked about the best sources of job applicants respondents gave the following answers. They could select more than one option.


It’s interesting to note referrals are by far the best source of job applicants across all industries and have been for the past 20 years.

If your challenge is a lack of qualified applicants, it can be remedied by creating an employee referral reward program. If you already have a program and it’s not yielding the results you need, it’s probably because you defer the employee’s reward until the new hire has been on the job 90 days.

You’ll get far more bang for your buck if, on the new hire’s first day, you gather everyone for introductions and say: “This is our new co-worker Jake, and I know he’s going to be a real asset to our team because he was referred by Michelle. Michelle, thank you. Here’s your new employee referral reward.”

If you balk at this approach, consider the fact that you don’t pay a job board, recruiter or newspaper only after your new hire has a certain tenure; you pay them up front in spite of the fact that new hires from these sources are not as likely to work out well as those referred by your staff.

It’s also of interest that, in most industries, re-recruiting former employees is a highly effective strategy, but only 8 percent of the respondents reported using it. If you don’t make this a practice, at least try it.

When it comes to job board postings, here are a few tips to ensure the best results:

  1. Make sure the headline grabs the reader’s attention.
  2. Sell the sizzle first (why yours is a great place to work).
  3. Specify your requirement in terms of CAPS (capacities—physical and intellectual; attitudes; personality traits; and skills), but make it a rule to hire for attitude and train for skills whenever possible.
  4. If “high attention to detail” is required, put something in the post that tells you if the applicant possesses this trait, i.e., “Respond with ‘A9987’ and your full given name in the subject line.”

When we asked the open-ended question, “What’s the No. 1 reason a star employee would want to work for you and/or your organization?” the reason cited most frequently was some version of “our culture.” What’s important here is to ensure you clearly define and communicate your culture.

For instance, it might be any of the following:

  • nurturing (often expressed as “we care”);
  • fun;
  • work/life balance;
  • growth opportunities;
  • community involvement; or
  • laid back.

Once you’ve defined your culture, use the description in your recruitment ads to attract the kinds of people who would thrive in it: “Looking for growth opportunities AND work/life balance?”

When it comes to what’s being done to keep good and great employees from leaving, the most frequently cited preventive measures were: open communications (72 percent), flexible hours/time off (59 percent) and performance bonuses (56 percent). Despite the fact employees most often cite a lack of recognition as a major job frustration, only 28 percent of the respondents use recognition as a component of their employee retention effort.

When it comes to employee recruitment and selection, the best way to find star employees is to be a great place for people to work and then to let it be known. And the best way to keep your stars on board is a culture that supports their needs; healthy doses of recognition and appreciation; and the regular use of employee retention “stay interviews” to foster a strong positive relationship between employees and their managers.

This article is tagged with , and posted in Business, October 2016

About the Author:

Mel Kleiman is the author is the founder of Humetrics. He helps companies build high-quality, frontline, hourly workforces. Reach him at

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