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Unlocking Candidate Quality: How To Find, Hire, and Retain the Best Employees

"People are not your most important asset. The right people are."
Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

The skilled labor shortage has shifted the balance of power from employer to employee. As a result, hiring, recruiting, and retaining top members of the talent pool is now the next frontier for competitive advantage.

Companies, large and small, are pouring resources into their HR teams, honing their talent measurement capabilities and building the capacity to access that valuable top 10% of talent.

However, many companies still fall short when it comes to refining their onboarding and retention processes to match the rate at which skilled labor is increasing in value.

For example, 82% of companies don't believe they recruit the right people. And for those that do, only 7% believe they can retain them, according to a McKinsey report.

Key Areas Of Candidate Quality

Before we go on the hiring process, Who are these right people, what qualities define them. And how can one pick them out from a talent pool?

A key point to note is that the definition of a quality candidate varies significantly from one firm to another.

However, most top-quality candidates will possess some of these key qualities:

1. Soft Skills

A competent candidate should possess a range of soft skills necessary for their day-to-day operations at the firm.

A key candidate should possess most, if not all, of these soft skills. Above that, they should be able to show mastery and utility of the skills in day-to-day problems.

Some of the soft skills a candidate should possess include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Responsibility
  • Creativity
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Flexibility
  • Conflict resolution

2. Hard Skills

Hard skills refer to the things that the employee is specifically trained for. They are measures of the employee's proficiency in their specialty.

Unlike soft skills, hard skills are quantifiable and measurable. Some of the hard skills top-quality employees possess include:

  • Degrees and other academic certifications
  • Proven experience in other companies
  • Industry-specific certification
  • Notable projects from previous experiences

3. Positive References

Top-quality employees usually have exceptional reviews from their previous employers. The best of the best usually have reviews from top-level executives about the impact they made in their organizations.

4. Ethics

At a minimum, a high-performance employee is expected to be a decent human being. Their track record at previous employment avenues should reveal a clean track record.

They shouldn't be proud or narcissistic from their previous achievements. Subsequently, they shouldn't have cases of them cutting corners for individual or corporate gain.

5. Company Culture Fit

One subjective quality of a top-notch employee for your company is culture fit. Not all high-quality prospects will identify with your company’s values and beliefs.

Without fitting into the beliefs and philosophies of a company, an employee becomes counterproductive regardless of their potential. 

6. Productivity

It's not enough for a prospect to be among the best at what they do. Above that, they should be driven, motivated, and hardworking.

In the hiring process, it's crucial to look at the path and goals of prospective critical employees. Are they developing, at their prime, or just looking for something to keep them busy?

7. Philosophy and Outlook of the Future

Something that superior quality employees tend to have that others don't is a philosophy and outlook of the future.

High-quality hires have a set of beliefs and perspectives when coming into a company that motivates and drives them.

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Benefits Of Hiring the Best Employees

Hiring the best of the best employees in the labor market comes with several benefits for companies that seek and embrace them.

The impact A-level employees have on an organization spills beyond their role, motivating others and creating visible change that trickles down to the customer.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

"A small team of A players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players." 

For these reasons, top employees become part of a company's competitive advantage and a key to unlocking business potential.

The benefits of improving quality of hire include:

1. Productivity

Unknown to many, high performers have been shown to be 400% more productive than average employees.

This means that high achievers are not only more likely to help achieve company business goals but also do so at a faster rate and with less investment.

Their compensation aside, top achievers are self-motivated and driven, making them more productive than their average counterparts.

2. Job Satisfaction

High performers are more likely to be satisfied and less likely to leave. Their purpose and drive make it less likely for them to jump ship whenever things go sideways.

That said, top employees tend to have higher retention rates than average ones, making their overall cost of hiring and retention lower in the long term.

3. Competitive Advantage

Taking a high performer off the job market also means taking them away from your competitors. The innovation, productivity, decisiveness, and overall quality high achievers bring to the table distinguish a company from its competitors.

4. More Profitability

The culmination of all the small positives top employees bring to a company is often visible in its bottom line.

The increased productivity, motivation, and customer experience, on the backdrop of reducing turnover costs, make a company more profitable.

5. Build A Brand

Over an extended period, exceptional employees become part of a company's brand. Customers are quick to notice eloquent, resourceful, and effective employees in service delivery.

Once a business establishes itself as a solid brand with top-of-the-line service delivery, it can migrate from price to quality competition, further widening its margins.

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Hiring Top Talent Best Practices

"Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions, and a healthy dose of curiosity."
-Richard Branson

Winning the 21st-century war for talent takes more than the typical high salaries and compensation that companies have grown accustomed to. 

It means bringing your human resources and public relations department together to create a distinctive value proposition through an offer a prospect can't refuse.

The four foundations of acquiring top talent include having:

Inspirational Company

Seventy percent of millennials expect their employers to focus on societal or mission-driven problems. One of the foundations of acquiring great talent is making the talent believe they are joining for something greater than themselves.

Great Leadership

Top employees want to be part of a company with ethical, visionary, and transparent leaders who share their values and beliefs.

Exceptional Job Purpose

Top performers want to advance their careers in a job with meaning and purpose. According to statistics, mission-driven companies have 30% higher retention rates than their counterparts. 

Sadly, boredom, lack of engagement, and purpose remain significant causes of turnover.

Competitive Compensation

Exceptional performers don't settle for average compensation. A company should offer a perfect balance of monetary and non-monetary compensation to attract and retain top talent.

Actionable Steps to Improving Your Quality of Hire

A Deloitte report shows that 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer in 2021. On that premise, it's in the best interest of your company not to contribute to any of this 40%.

Subsequently, you should analyze and identify competency gaps and aim to bring the best talent out of this exodus to fill them.

Building on these for foundations, some of the best practices for recruiting onboarding and retaining top talent include:

1. Analyze Your Existing Top Performers

What constitutes a "top performer" varies from organization to organization. That said, the skills and proficiencies one requires to be a top performer in your organization will differ from the next.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The best approach a company can take is to build this persona from your existing top performers.

This way, you can discover what an "exceptional employee" means to you.

Find out what makes them unique, the skills they bring to the table, their perspectives, values, and beliefs. With these in mind, your company can then proceed to the talent pool with a specific candidate in mind.

2. Leverage Artificial Intelligence

Hiring algorithms outperform humans by at least 25%. On that premise, getting hold of the top talent requires more than human instincts.

To gain a competitive advantage in the labor marketplace over top talent, companies have to develop and leverage screening algorithms that rely on predictive modeling, analytics, and deep learning.

Hiring algorithms can help with:

  • Building job descriptions
  • Analysis, collection, and presentation of data 
  • Identifying potential candidates from sites such as LinkedIn
  • Eliminating biases in the recruiting process

Software such as Crosschq is an excellent place to start. It goes a long way in improving quality of hire by reducing redundancies and removing biases.

3. Leveraging Metrics for A Data-Driven Approach

Data has never been more crucial in the hiring process. Key hiring metrics such as the Cost Per Hire, Time to Fill, and Applicant Persistence Rate play a significant role in improving quality of hire and retention of quality talent.

  • Cost Per Hire

This refers to the total of all fees required to bring an employee into the company divided by the number of all employees.

This metric may help you realize that you're not spending enough on the hiring process. Similarly, you can use cost per hire to measure the proficiency of your onboarding team.

  • Time to Fill

This metric refers to the number of days from the time a company posts a job opening to the time an offer is accepted.

A longer Time to Fill, especially by high-value candidates, can signify the lack of desirability of a company's hiring process relative to its competitors.

  • Time to Proficiency

This metric refers to the length of time from the moment a candidate is onboarded into a company to the first time they start bringing in quality returns.

Time to proficiency gives a lot of insight and tells a lot about a company's hiring process. It gives insight into the quality of candidates, the training process, and the company culture.

  • Hiring Manager Satisfaction

This metric refers to the hiring manager's subjective opinion on the hiring and onboarding process.

Hiring Manager Satisfaction is one of the most crucial metrics as it brings in the perspective of the team and department the new hire will work in.


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4. Leveraging Modern Pre Hire Assessment Tools

Hiring assessment is changing from pedigree to skill-based. That said, the companies that are willing to adapt to these changes will be one step ahead when it comes to hiring top talent.

Legacy assessment metrics such as college degrees from Ivy League institutions are no longer the mark for high-value candidates in entry-level roles. 

Elon Musk, reiterating this view, committed to making degrees a non-requirement for work at Tesla.

Some of the assessment tools and nuances a hiring team can leverage while scouting high-value employees include:

  • Using assessment tools to test for the specific skills your firm needs
  • Conducting thorough reference checks, like with Crosschq 360
  • Assessing their deliverability in previous undertakings
  • Assessing their passion which can be seen in the visiting of seminars, workshops, and experiences

5. Making the Job in the Offer Distinct

Part of creating a job offer that can attract high-value employees in the talent pool is making the value proposition "distinctive."

In that regard, the job description shouldn't only be any job offer but one that relays a sense of purpose. The offer should assure the prospect of the autonomy and support they need to advance their careers.

Some of the things in a job proposition that make the offer distinct include:

  • Offering autonomy in decision making
  • Offering avenues for career advancement
  • Celebrate personal talents

6. Mapping Out a Career Path For Your Prospect

Top performers in the job market always have the future in mind. The key to convincing them to work at your organization is painting their career with you as a journey, not a destination.

In the job offer, you should relay that joining your organization is as much about the individual's career advancement as it is about the company's interest.

The value proposition in the job offer should offer a clear and visible path for the employee after they onboard into your organization.

Some of the ways of mapping a career path for a job prospect in a job proposition include:

  • Showing the candidate what they stand to learn
  • Showing them some of the special projects they will engage in
  • Mentioning any future promotion possibilities

7. Competitive Compensation

Compensation remains top of the list for what top members of the labor force look at before joining a company. 

There is no way around it. Any company that seeks to recruit and retain top talent will have to pay hefty amounts of compensation to get the talent.

In the words of Red Adair,

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.''

However, compensation refers to more than the amount the employee takes home. Several other factors come into play, including:

  • Salary differentiation—the difference between average employees and top employees pay
  • Salary progression—the differentiation in annual increases and bonuses
  • Bonuses added above the base pay
  • Stock options

8. Assess Soft Skills in the Hiring Process

Many hiring processes give too much attention to hard skills, hence casting a shadow on soft skills, which are equally as important.

According to a LinkedIn report, 89% of talent professionals reported that when a new hire doesn't work, it's mostly because they lack soft skills.

Some of the techniques for testing soft skills include:

  • Reading the new hire's body language
  • Running cognitive ability and leadership skills tests
  • Have candidates force rank on their soft skills, i.e., from a scale of 1 to 10
  • Have references force rank your candidate's soft skills, i.e., from weak to strong

9. Have Other A-Type Performers Conducting the Interview

It takes a top performer to know a top performer. One significant addition that you can make in your hiring and recruitment strategy is to have the top performers hold the interviews.

 A far-too-common mistake several companies make is putting the average members of their team in charge of interviews, forgetting why they are average in the first place.

Remember, your top employees are the best at decision making, rationality, objectivity, and discernment, among other soft and hard skills. 

For these reasons, your best performers are your best shot at identifying and even convincing other top performers in the job market to join your firm.

10. Offer Flexibility in Working Terms

Top employees should always have options. Otherwise, they start looking for them elsewhere. In addition to traditional compensation, a new wave of young millennial talent places a high value on non-monetary compensation.

Offering non-monetary compensation besides monetary compensation in a job offer creates "distinctiveness" in the proposition, which catches the attention of top workers.

Some of the mentions of flexibility in a job offer should include:

  • Freedom to work on some days
  • Continuous and ongoing recognition
  • Four-day work week
  • Percentage of their compensation going to a charity of their choice
  • Ability to relocate
  • Multiple options for career advancement
  • Exposing them to short-term experiences, e.g., short-term assignments

Crosschq is your go-to for hiring and recruitment solutions that put your HR department within reach of top talent:

  • Pre-hire employee reference checking: Screen & Source
  • Recruit: Amplify your talent pipeline by driving organic candidate referrals
  • New-hire Analytics: Help benchmark & predict quality of hire

To help you find, hire, and retain the best talent, contact Crosschq to set up a personalized demo.

Lucas Sonini

by Lucas Sonini

Contributing Writer

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