Archives For Leora Baumgarten

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I write and talk a lot about all the ways recruiting can go wrong. When we understand why or how recruiting is going wrong, we are more willing to take action.  And action implies change. Until today I hadn’t considered that you want to hire the right person –  and making a change probably wasn’t on your radar at all – even if you’re having trouble hiring and you reached out for assistance.

Today I read the first chapter of the book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. As I read the first chapter I had a realization about our customers – about you.  And I had a realization about us – the people at NewHire.

Here is the quote from page 10 that really got me thinking: “…adult behavioral change [is] hard. If you want to be a better partner at home or a better manager at work, you not only have to change your ways, you have to get some buy-in from your partner or co-workers. Everyone around you has to recognize that you’re changing. Relying on other people increases the degree of difficulty exponentially.”

Getting buy-in from partners and coworkers is important in making changes. Recognizing the change is needed, requested or is happening is important too. AND adding more people makes it more difficult. Wow. This is good stuff. But what does it have to do with you and me and recruiting?

When recruiting isn’t yielding the expected (or desired) result and you engage with an outside service, like NewHire, to solve the problem, you were probably not thinking about changing. You were thinking about solving a hiring problem. But sometimes solving a problem comes with a healthy does of change.

Here are four behaviors we will be asking you to change as you recruit with us:

1. We will ask you to change HOW you evaluate talent, both the criteria and the tools.

Plan to experience some discomfort as we coach you through this change. The feelings we have when we start doing things differently is kind of like feeling an itch we can’t quite reach. Sometimes that’s really frustrating and makes us angry. Be open minded and try the new way.

Practice thinking out of the box about talent when we review candidates together. Remember that we are on your team! We share the same goal – to hire efficiently and effectively every time.

2. Respond quickly and honestly when we ask for your feedback. We depend on your timely, realistic input. (And we know you depend on ours too.)

We are glad when you like our work. We are also glad when the interview goes well. And we’re as disappointed as you are to hear that an interview didn’t go so well.

We want to hear from you if the news is good AND if the news you’re sharing isn’t so good. We promise to share good new and not-so-good news too.

When it comes time to share feedback about candidates and interviews we want detailed  information – so we know what to do next on your behalf. When we ask you for feedback about the candidate interview, we are trying to answer these key questions: Should we schedule a second interview for this person? Or should we modify the type of candidate we recommend next? Tell us!

Be realistic in your evaluation. None of the candidates (or staff at NewHire) have superhuman powers, be realistic in your expectations.  Be specific with your feedback in three key areas: the candidate’s skills, experience, and demonstrated work behaviors. Don’t be shy to deliver bad news (or better yet – good news) quickly. It will speed up the entire process if we know right away.

If you need something from us, and you haven’t heard yet, please please let us know. Remember we are on the same team and we share the same goal – to hire efficiently and effectively every time.

3. Don’t freak out when we Fail Fast.

Fail Fast in an idea that comes from Kanban, lean engineering / manufacturing  and inquiry based science. It is be a misleading term for a positive outcome. Let me repeat that: Failing Fast is a positive outcome.

Of course the goal isn’t to fail, the goal is to learn from the failure. The faster we get you to interview candidates who are not-quite-right, the faster we can make adjustments and get to the people who are just-right. We are tough and want to know what you thought (see #2 above), which will help us move the needle together on your recruiting.

When you feel like we’ve failed you might find that you have an emotional response – like anger or frustration. It’s ok and it’s normal. Remember that we are failing fast – not failing flat on our faces. We want to fail fast and we want get your feedback on that failure – so we can make the appropriate adjustments that will lead to success. And that leads me to the last and most important behavior change we will ask of you.

4. Collaborate with us. You’re the inside expert and we are the recruiting experts. Together we can be awesome.

Building trust is a two way street. We work hard to keep you up to date. But we don’t want to overwhelm you either. We can’t read your mind, but we can read your email. Engage with us by asking questions and sharing your preferences.

We want you to understand the Why, the How and the When of our tried and true 6 step hiring process. If you don’t understand or don’t remember or just want clarification – let us know. Be open minded about trying something a little bit different and new.

We want to move your recruiting project forward quickly, but not at the expense of the end goal.  We believe that every job deserves the right person, and we are working hard to get the person to you!

As readers enjoy the tail-end of summer, we hope you enjoy this popular blog from Leora reposted from a few years back.

The other day my mom sent me an email that didn’t include a family photo. Instead she asked this question:

What is the difference between phone interview (also called “phone screening”) questions and interview questions?

Here is the email I sent to her:

“Hi Mom:

It’s so cool that you asked! Here is how I think about it. The goal of the phone interview is to identify a few people who you would like to invite for a face-to-face interview. The goal of the face-to-face interview is to identify one or two candidates you’d like to hire. The different goals should drive the kinds of questions you ask in each setting.

About 10% of the total candidate pool (all the people who apply) will meet your minimum qualifications. Use the phone interview to identify the best available talent from that 10%. Don’t expect to learn everything about every candidate, but, find out enough information to decide whether or not to invite them for a face-to-face interview.”

This is a question we hear often at NewHire and here is how to handle phone and in-person interviewing process:

  • Start by emailing an invitation to schedule a phone appointment. You might not realize it but this is already part of the interview. Your goal is to confirm that the candidate can follow up professionally. It may sound silly, but setting and keeping appointments is a work skill for lots of job titles.
  • Limit your phone conversation to 30 minutes. I like to start by asking about the most recent position and the duties and responsibilities. Find out why they are looking for a new job. Confirm that they can speak appropriately and professionally. Listen for negative language about past employers, duties, or coworkers. Listen for language that suggests the candidate felt a sense of commitment and belonging in their last job. Using words like “us” and “we” instead of “they” is one way a candidate might express this sense of belonging and ownership.  End the phone interview with clear information about follow-up and decision making schedule.
  • Use face-to-face interviews to decide whether or not the candidate should be hired. Confirm that they have the right set of soft skills, the right experience and the right work behaviors and attitudes to be successful in the job. Learn about their work history (ask about every job they’ve had), education, hobbies, and volunteer work. Decide if they will be an asset to the organization. Ask tough technical questions. Don’t be afraid of silence in the interview; give the candidate time to answer.
  • Expect to spend at least an hour with the candidate. Use the opportunity to gather a variety of information to make a smart hiring choice for your organization. Find out if you like the person and would enjoy having them as a team member.

Most importantly, be patient. Hiring takes time and effort. Look for the right person. Happy interviewing!


A solid interview plan is one crucial step in hiring. Sometimes even with the best planning, interviews can cause hiring headaches! Sure, we worry about and guard against the big issues – like someone asking illegal questions. And sure, we are disappointed by poor interviews with candidates who seemed well qualified on paper. I want to share another scenario that can cause internal conflict: derailing, delaying or scuttling a hire entirely.

Consider this story, maybe it sounds familiar? After a full day of interviews, conducted by three teams, it’s time for us to compare notes and decide whether or not to hire the candidate. As the debriefing conversation proceeds it seems like we didn’t interview the same person! Each person presents a unique perspective on the candidate, and has a different take on their ability to bring value to the company as a new employee. Wait, wait, how can that be? I’m quite sure we all met with the same applicant.

My recent visit to The Heard Museum in Phoenix AZ provided me with a new understanding of this challenging phenomena. The special exhibit featuring works of the famous artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (on exhibit through August 20, 2017) seems like a surprising place to find inspiration for understanding the challenges of interviews.

Check out these paintings (click for a full-size image). Three portraits, three artists, one model. The woman in each (think of her as the candidate you just interviewed) is Natasha Gelman. She and her husband Jacques were famous collectors of 20th century art. The Gelman’s were also friends with Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo.

Natasha Gelman by Diego Rivera

Natasha Gelman, by Diego Rivera, 1942

Natasha Gelman by Frida Kahlo

Natasha Gelman, by Frida Kahlo, 1943






Natasha Gelman by Ángel Zárraga

Natasha Gelman by Ángel Zárraga










Wow. It doesn’t take a an art critic or rocket scientist to see that there is something going on here. Three interviews, three perspectives, three opinions, and no consensus.

If we asked each  artist (interviewer) for their input on hiring this candidate you would NOT be surprised if they were unable to come to consensus. Each artist (interviewer) clearly has a unique point of view.  Maybe they aren’t even interviewing her with the same job description in mind!

Diego is portraying a gorgeous woman in a most flattering light – perhaps influenced by his benefactor, Natasha’s husband, who commissioned the work. In contrast, Frida’s portrait makes Natasha seem severe, distant, demanding and a bit sad. (Could Frida be expressing her own worries about all that time Diego and Natasha have been spending together?). And Ángel Zárraga’s Natasha, seems to be waiting, lacking motivation or self-determination. In the Zárraga portrait Natasha appears almost cherubic. It is impossible to tell if his description of Natasha is a reflection of his lesser artistic skill or his impression of the woman.

Are these portraits the result of personal perspective or is this implicit (unconscious) bias* at work? Or maybe both? When we are talking about a work of art, we typically expect to see the subject through the artist’s eyes, bias and all.  But when we are interviewing, and a candidate’s career, and the company’s ability to thrive, all hang in the balance, we might be more concerned about being inappropriately influenced by one interviewer’s point of view, or bias, whether it is implicit or explicit.

When it comes to hiring, we start worrying that implicit bias might lead us astray, causing us to miss an opportunity for a great hire. It can also lead to bitter arguments and political wrangling among team members about the appropriateness of one candidate over another. However, when we are talking about art we might call this bias artistic license, and enjoy the result.

We can protect ourselves and our company from hiring mistakes caused by bias during interviews by collecting and considering a variety of non-subjective information about the candidate. It is imperative to get a multi-faceted picture of the candidate, before we make a hiring decision. Effective hiring starts long before the interview and requires a thoughtful, well executed, multi-step process.

It’s safe to say that we’ve learned about interviewing from two famous artist Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo!

Notes and Links:

  1. *Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
  2. For more reading on implicit or unconscious bias:
  3. Frida Kahlo web site
  4. Diego Rivera web site
  5. Ángel Zárraga on Wikipedia


I recently sold my home of almost 25 years. It was a heart wrenching, game changing, long time coming event. It also gave me a new perspective on recruiting.  I know that sounds nerdy, but it’s true (it’s also probably why my house has an eclectic, even eccentric, look. Maybe I should be thinking about decorating instead?). Recruiting & hiring a new employee and selling a home have so many similarities – and some HUGE differences.

Recruiting & hiring and selling house

Image credit: Mark Moz

Both recruiting and selling a home are lengthy, multi-step processes that have an uncertain outcome. The impact of this uncertainty should not be underestimated. The uncertain outcome can cause surprising and sometimes disruptive emotions at various stages of the process – from elation and excitement to disappointment and despair – the emotional journey can be a bit of a roller coaster. We might even delay project launch or needlessly draw out some aspects of the project as a result of that roller coaster ride. Additionally, the need for high cost outside expertise can seem like a roadblock. But where there is great risk there is often opportunity for great return. I invite you to come with me on this journey. Continue Reading…


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Congratulations, it’s time to interview your top candidates! You’ve been working diligently through the steps of the recruiting process and you’ve narrowed the field to a few top candidates. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and conduct interviews. “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”  Everything and nothing! What better way to explore this emotional time in the recruiting process than quoting this iconic song?

“You must understand That the touch of your hand Makes my pulse react”

From the first handshake and introductions to the final thank you’s; it’s common that both the interviewer and the interviewee’s pulse will react. We are all human and our heart rate and blood pressure are likely to rise in any stressful situation. Interviews are no exception.

One way to manage the stress is preparation. Have a game plan. Know what the goal of the interview is, and have a prepared set of questions that you will use to achieve that goal. Before the interview, study up on the candidate too. Review everything you already know about them; re-read their application, resume, results from tests or assessments, and their LinkedIn profile.  Make a list of candidate specific questions that you want to ask in addition to the ones you have already prepared.

“You must try to ignore that it means more than that …”

The overall goal of interviews is to gather additional information to aid in making a selection decision. You are likely also trying to get to know the candidate to find out if they will be an asset to the team and pleasant to work with. Every aspect of the conversation is important, from the candidate’s initial contact with security or reception personnel at the front door to body language and communication style during the interview.

There are a number of possible specific goals for the interview. Your specific goal for the interview may depend on the job title you are filling. The specific goal of the interview will impact its structure and content.

For example you might be assessing technical knowledge, and ask the candidate to perform technical tasks to demonstrate knowledge. Or,you might ask the candidate to solve a coding problem on a whiteboard, assembling a product from instructions, or producing a writing sample.  Alternatively, you might be exploring specific soft-skills including personal motivations or work behaviors like the ability to manage multiple simultaneous projects and teams. You might probe for this behavior by asking the candidate to reflect on how they would respond to a situation you present.  Another goal of the interview is to verify details of past work experience as a way of exploring personal integrity issues, past accomplishments and experience  appropriate to this opportunity.

“It may seem to you that I’m acting confused”

Sometimes candidates find details of the opportunity confusing and want additional clarification. It’s important to allow enough time in the interview to give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions too. Listen carefully to the questions the candidate asks. These questions are important and  might give you insight into their past challenges or about employment issues important to them. In the best case the candidate might express an eye-opening concern that indicates to you that they have gone the extra mile in preparing and thinking about the company and the opportunity.

Remember that in a one or two hour interview you won’t be able to learn everything about the candidate, so use your time to find out about factors you know to be important for on-the-job success.

“I`ve been thinking of a new direction but I have to say I`ve been thinking about my own protection”

When you’re hiring be aware that you are considering a new direction –  in the form of a new person who will be joining the company. Everyone involved, the candidate and the employer is also thinking about their own interests and about protecting themselves.

You, representing the employer, want to avoid a variety of possible negative outcomes. Those include possible liability and the costs of a mis-hire. Additionally, you want to get the right person in the job. Typically, the candidate wants to be sure the new position includes the opportunity to learn more, earn more and do more. The candidate also doesn’t want to quit his or her current job, only to discover that they don’t get along with the manager. Neither the employer nor the candidate wants to discover down the road that the new opportunity is a poor fit. Everyone involved is assessing risk and acting to protect themselves. After all…”Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

By TimDuncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By TimDuncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“Oh what’s love got to do, got to do with it?”

It’s easy to fall in love with a candidate during an interview when you discover that you share similarities Perhaps you graduated from the same college or know people in common. Other similarities might be more obscure – like discovering a shared hobby or interest. But love is not necessarily the only emotion to focus on during an interview. It’s possible to really love a candidate during the interview, and realize that despite the feeling of personal affinity, they are a poor match for the job.

There are times when you might find that candidates you are interviewing are dissimilar from you. For example when a founder or CEO who is focused on sales, interviews candidates for a key accounting position, that founder, an extrovert with a customer-focused sense of urgency, might be put off by the reserved, methodical and detail orientation that a well qualified CFO or Accounting Manager exhibits during the interview. If you’ve been in this type of situation you know that these types of differences might prevent you from feeling personal affinity and you might not fall in love with ANY of the candidates, even though one or two might be well a great asset to your company.

In this case, on-the-job success is more likely with a candidate who exhibits certain types of behaviors which are different from the CEO. This is a case where the interviewer might NOT feel personal affinity or love for the best qualified candidate. You might find yourself in a position where you have to overcome a feeling of lack-of-love in order to make a solid hire.  Remember what Tina said…” What`s love but a second-hand emotion?”

Tina Turner taught us a lot about love and a lot about interviewing. Here a few key take-aways:

  1. You might feel nervous – but preparation will carry you a long way

  2. Know what the specific goal of the interview is – are you assessing technical knowledge, social skills, or work behaviors, or a combination of all three?

  3. Make sure that there is time to address the candidate’s questions – you can learn a lot by listening to the candidate’s concerns

  4. Every job deserves the right person – and you, the interviewer, might not feel personal affinity with that best candidate, especially if you are hiring them to do a job very different from your own.

Assessing CandidatesThe goal of any recruiting process is to select a candidate who is likely to be effective on the job and contribute to the company’s overall success. While that sounds easy, if you are an owner of a small or mid-sized company, an HR professional, or a manager, and are responsible for recruiting and hiring, it’s likely you’ve experienced stress as you move through the recruiting process. Chances are good that there are several steps you take to learn about the candidate and predict their future success. One of the tools that many companies, recruiters, and HR professionals use are assessments.

There are several types of assessments available in the marketplace. Assessments fall into three general categories:

  1. Skills assessments – the goal of these tests is to uncover whether or not the candidate has the skills to perform the duties required for the job. Skills can range from typing or data entry speed, to knowledge of programming languages, sales skills, or other technical skills like welding or operating various equipment.

  2. Cognitive abilities tests – the goal of this test is to uncover the candidate’s ability to learn, apply logic, and to assess reading comprehension, math skills, and general knowledge.

  3. Personality  assessments (including behaviors, motivators, values or integrity etc.) – the goal of these types of assessments is to learn about how the candidate will interact to others, respond to stressful situations and determine if a candidate will fit in with the culture of the work place and the demands of the job.

You probably use other tools to learn about candidates. These include candidate screeners and interviews. Candidate screeners are often part of the initial application process. Depending on the system used, a screener might include questions about skills, work experience, salary, and even work behaviors like travel and work schedule. Interviews, when done well, can shed light on the personality, values and skills displayed by the candidate.

It’s important to use assessments in a way that will improve the likelihood of selecting a candidate who will succeed on the job. A recent article in Entrepreneur put it best by saying, “A behavioral assessment is only helpful if you understand what behaviors would be successful in that particular job.” If you don’t know what behaviors will lead to success, implementing this type of assessment won’t help achieve the goal.

There are three powerful ways to use assessments:

  1. Use an assessment that will illuminate characteristics or proficiency you would like to know about the candidate. If on-the-job success is dependent on a specific skill set, choose an assessment for those skills.

  2. Use a high quality assessment. Most high quality assessments are validated. Validation means that research tools were used to gather data to demonstrate that the assessment measures what it claims to measure, that cultural bias is not a factor in the results, and that the results are reproducible. Also consider cautionary information expressing ways that the test should not be used.

  3. Use the assessment results as one factor in the decision making process. It is easy to imagine that excellence in a single skill or behavior might carry a candidate to success. Serious shortcomings in other areas can be devastating for on the job performance.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, which discussed academic research on this topic, the assessments which correlate best with employment success includes multiple measures, “cognitive ability, personality and interests.” For example if data entry speed or typing speed is important, candidates should be asked to take a typing test. And if customer service attitude is important choose a behaviors and motivators assessment that uncovers how a candidate will respond to others. If the job requires logical thinking and an ability to learn new information quickly, try a cognitive abilities assessment. Gathering a variety of information that is important for success will help prevent bad hires.

During the recruiting process take steps to find out as much as you can about the candidate’s skills, experience and behaviors to predict their future success. Use a combination of information to make a smart hiring decision and to mitigate the risk. Choosing an assessment that’s right for the job, could mean that you are using a skills assessment, a cognitive assessment or a personality assessment, depending on job requirements. Use a combination of assessments including screeners and interviews. Sounds easy, right? But remember that it’s also important not to alienate candidates by prolonging the pre-employment process or by asking them to take so many tests that the feel like a guinea pig instead of a valuable prospective employee.

The finish line is in sight. You clicked send, and the employment offer is now in the hands, or at least the inbox of your future employee. You let out a sigh of relief. You and your team have been at it for months, and you have finally found the ideal candidate for a key hire. I bet you feel eager and excited to move along and get this person onboard. I know that’s how I feel when I get to this part of the recruiting process.

But your heart sinks when you read the candidate’s reply asking for a time to chat about the details of your offer. The finish line seems to be getting further away.  Don’t panic! Here are a few key things to wrap your head around as you launch into the final stretch of the recruiting process.


It’s normal.

Salary negotiations are a normal part of business, just like contract negotiations. A quick Google search on salary negotiation yields nearly 3 million results. Most of the blogs and articles I looked at are geared towards coaching candidates, which suggests that neither you nor I should be surprised when a candidate negotiates salary or benefits.

Take heart, especially if negotiating is part of the job expectations (work behaviors) for the position you’re hiring for.  If negotiating is a job skill you’re expecting (for example sales reps, purchasing managers, or project managers) then you might actually be pleased to see the skills in action. Soon enough the candidate may be an employee using these same strategies on your company’s behalf.

Don’t go in blind.

Craft a strategy and a negotiation plan. Employer’s negotiating strategy can be strongly impacted by the job title and experience level needed.  Every position does NOT carry equal opportunity for negotiation. Consequently, candidates applying for entry level positions, or positions where a larger pool of qualified talent is available, are likely to find negotiations less fruitful. While candidates with high level technical skills or advanced experience or education may find that they have more leverage.

If you expect the candidate to negotiate, have an understanding of your budget and know when you are willing to walk away.  Consider what parts of the compensation package you are able to negotiate.  Total compensation is more than just the employee’s salary, consequently it is advisable for the employer to uncover what the candidate may value and won’t increase the base pay but will build good will and reward top talent for a job well done.

Here are a few ideas for negotiation:

  • vacation days – especially around public holidays
  • work from home options
  • available perks
  • bonuses on success
  • paid training
  • travel
  • mentoring opportunities
  • time to volunteer

Build rapport.

During an employment negotiation you are building a working relationship and laying the foundation and tone for the future. Both parties should behave professionally. Look for common ground that will satisfy the candidate and not break the bank.  Look for win-win opportunities. Consider the risk and cost of losing this candidate and having to go back to square one with recruiting.

Other influences.

The state of the economy, in particular the employment market, may impact the negotiation. A recent report from the Wall Street Journal confirms that the job market is heating up. Non-farm payrolls are on the rise, and unemployment is falling. Additionally, the aggregate weekly hours of all employees is as high as we’ve seen in a decade. While wages are not yet reported to be on the rise, there is considerable pressure suggesting that may change. It’s not 2009 any more and there is competition for top talent.

Candidates are well informed, and knowledge is power. Candidates use a variety of resources to know what constitutes a competitive wage and benefits package in their industry and geography. Candidates also have access to online employer reviews and may use social media to network to current or past employees. The online resources available to candidates have increased substantially and this knowledge can empower candidates when they negotiate.

Remember that every job deserves the right person and part of the process of getting the right person might well include a salary negotiation. This negotiation is a dialogue between two people intending to reach a mutually beneficial employment outcome.

Your company needs to make a key hire. Your senior management says they want the perfect candidate for this role, and you are in charge of getting that candidate in the door for an interview. Now what?

A quick Google search for the phrase “is there a perfect candidate for the job” turned up several blogs, an article in the Harvard Business Review and a video from Monster, (and those are just the highlights). The resounding answer provided by these various sources, not surprisingly, was, “No! There is no such a thing as the perfect candidate,” and, “No! Don’t try to hire the perfect person.”

The way I see it, employees (and prospective employees) cannot be pre-ordered to spec and assembled from a skills and experience toolkit. People typically come complete — with a combination of talents and flaws. Regardless, we are still charged with hiring, and we want to get it right. We need to dig a little deeper to resolve the challenge of finding the perfect candidate.

Is there such a thing as the perfect candidate?

What does the President, CEO or Owner really mean when they say, “Just find me the perfect candidate”?

Does the C-suite expect that there is actually A PERFECT person for the job? Probably not. Senior management is savvy and likely realizes that the perfect person probably doesn’t exist. So what are they getting at?

Here are a few possibilities:

  • Senior management wants to be presented with the best-qualified candidates and no one else.  Additionally, the CEO or President expects that someone else will handle the majority of the work need to find the best candidates.

  • Senior management wants someone better than the current employee. In this case, the recruiter or HR professional must seek to understand what exactly “better” means to the key decision makers.

  • Senior management doesn’t want to have to train the new employee. They need someone who can “hit the ground running.” The CEO is expressing an expectation that the new person will already have all of the skills, experience and work behaviors outlined in the job description.

Understanding the intent of senior management’s request for the perfect hire is the key to managing a successful recruiting process.

How can this challenge be handled to achieve the best outcome?

Typically, before a company hires, they have done some advanced planning – what my mom calls “leg work”. During this preparation phase, many of the issues that are raised here can be addressed. The goal of this process is to define the ideal or perfect candidate and to have a plan for attracting and identifying that person.

Making time to prepare, asking hard questions and exploring the duties, authorities, experience and behaviors needed for on-the-job success is worth the effort.  Of course, we should set the bar high, but the reality is, well, reality. Part of our preparation should include a reality check. When it comes to selecting real people, we might have to preference some of the items on our ideal list in order to hire the best available talent.

Consequently, when preparing to recruit, we need to clearly specify which items on the ideal list are the MOST important. When we meet a great candidate, we don’t end up holding out for an imaginary perfect person. Additionally, it is important to consider the consequence of looking for, or trying to hire a candidate who has competency in every area, but who lacks excellence in the primary area.   A candidate with broad competencies, who lacks specific excellence, is unlikely to be perfect.

Successful recruiting depends on our initial ability to define the ideal talent. Successful recruiting is equally dependent on our ability to transition to a world that is populated by real people, complete with strengths and weaknesses.  After all, I don’t want my company’s success to be based on the assumption that I can hire the women with the bullet proof bracelets, an invisible fighter jet and a magic lasso.  What about you?


  1. “Does the perfect candidate exist?”

  2. “Hiring Managers: don’t try to find the perfect employee”.

  3. The Harvard Business Review – “Don’t Hire the Perfect Candidate”

confidential job listing

There are good reasons that employers might want or need to have a confidential job listing and conduct a confidential search. Here are some common reasons we hear from employers:

  • We need to let the person who is currently in this role go, but can’t do it until we have a replacement in place.
  • We don’t want to get calls or emails from every applicant who applies – keep our name off the ad!
  • We don’t want our competition to know we’re hiring.
  • We don’t want other employees to know the salary range or other details about this position

As an owner and employer I empathize with all these concerns and feel they are reasonable. But (you knew it was coming, right?), there are a few important reasons to think long and hard about the decision to execute a confidential recruiting process. Posting a confidential job listing or ad can have several unintended consequences which need to be considered before the final decision is made.

You may not be able to win the war for the best available talent if the ad is confidential. Loosing a few candidates wasn’t much of a concern just a few short years ago, when very few companies were hiring. But today, competition for candidates is heating up. A confidential job listing can hurt your ability to attract top talent.

Candidates are sophisticated consumers and will do research on the employer, looking at employee reviews and LinkedIn before they invest time in the application process. If the candidate can’t verify what they see in the ad, they may not invest their time and effort to apply. You could get a much lower candidate response rate with a confidential ad and recruiting process.

In order to maintain confidentiality, the ad is likely to be less specific and won’t include identifying information like key products, key markets, projects or attractive details about your work-place and culture. Omitting this information may make the ad less attractive to the top tier of candidates.

You will also miss out on valuable free advertising. (the largest and currently most important job board) doesn’t allow organic ads (free) for confidential jobs. You can advertise on Indeed, but you’ll have to pay for it. Additionally, you won’t be able to post the job on your own website, losing important free access to prospective candidates.

Remember that secrets are hard to keep, even when you run an ad that is stripped of most identifying information. In today’s interconnected, hyper-communicating, social-media-minded, technology-driven, nothing-is-private world, the employer might not remain private; especially if the person you want to replace sees the ad.

We’ve seen it happen! The employee sees their own job advertised and marches into the boss’s office in a huff. “Why are you advertising my job? Am I getting fired?” They demand information, they are mad. The conversation can be difficult, poorly timed and extremely disruptive.

How did this employee even find out? Typically, if you, the employer, are unhappy with this employee’s job performance, they are unhappy too. Unhappy employees are on the job market. Job seekers often set up automated alerts. Notifications of open jobs arrive daily in their inbox, and they recognize their own job, even if you’ve stripped out most of the company specific information.

If you are planning to recruit confidentially and let someone go once the new person is on board, I’d like to suggest an alternative approach. Have the hard conversation BEFORE you start recruiting. This strategy puts you in the driver’s seat, controlling the timing and tone of the conversation. You are more likely to have a better outcome, a better, more amicable separation and likely a smoother transition. Additionally, now you can include company specific information in the ad, improving the likelihood of attracting top talent.

If you’ve thought long and hard, weighing the risks and benefits of launching a confidential search, and you’re willing to take the risks, move forward with the confidential recruiting and post the confidential ad. But if you’re having second thoughts, maybe it’s time to explore an alternative approach.