How Do You Find, Hire and Retain Top Talent?

Feb 25, 2015 | Executive Corner

By Susan Foley, VP Sales Training

recruiting top talentFinding and hiring top talent – the right people – are two of the most critical processes for any company, from start-up to established. The challenge to find someone with the right personality and willingness and ability to lead, work as a member of a team, and demonstrate proficiencies the job requires (and more), make the responsibility of vetting candidates an undertaking that no one should take lightly.

Having spent the past few weeks sifting through piles of qualifying resumes sent to me as a result of a posting on and several other sites, this responsibility of finding and retaining the best talent is even more at the top of my mind. As VP of Sales Training, I am responsible for recruiting entire sales teams for clients and additional sales consultants for Love & Company’s growing team, simultaneously. While the recruits all need to demonstrate the talents, experience levels and qualifications we need, how they are evaluated and chosen, will differ. So, how do you tell by a piece of paper or a brief phone call that you have a viable candidate in front of you?

While clients have long sought Love & Company’s expertise on hiring the right sales team, we continually expand our knowledge base. At the LeadingAge Annual Meeting in Nashville this past October, I was fortunate to learn more on the topic. Tim Mallard, of Greystone Communities, and Lisa Welshons, division President of Merit Senior Living, reviewed some startling statistics about how one wrong hire can have long-term, deep effects on an organization. That means using only your intuition to hire can potentially place the entire organization at risk. They said hiring requires an approach much like a business plan defines a company.

These are the key basics they shared during their presentation:

  1. Define your strategy and make sure everyone who is affected knows, understands and buys in. You can’t hire in a bubble; you have to project how the person in this position is going to interact and be successful on many levels and with many different people. Whether you’re interviewing for a housekeeper or a director of sales, knowing who and what you are looking for first will save you time later.
  2. Define the job and its inherent behaviors. (It helps to manage expectations and makes the process more effective and efficient.) Examples: A concierge needs to be friendly. A chef needs to be flexible and creative. A salesperson should be confident, empathetic and goal-oriented.
  3. If you don’t find the right person, don’t settle. Wait until you have the right person for the job. Expediency doesn’t equate success. You may just run faster to a roadblock.
  4. Identify your best employees and use their attributes to define your ideal next employee. Ask your current staff why they chose your organization, what they like, what they think should be changed—and listen! The people with “feet on the street” often know more about how the organization functions. And, as we all know, referrals count. Ask your best employees to help you find more people like them. I have often found excellent candidates by asking other candidates I am interviewing for names of people whom they respect.
  5. If you don’t hire the right people, you’ll have turnover (they leave or you fire them). According to Tim and Lisa, 80% of turnover is due to hiring mistakes. Costs for mistakes make a huge impact on the bottom line.
  6. Create standards to rate new hire candidates. For example, at Love & Company we have a proprietary system to conduct personality and problem-solving testing for all employee and client hires including measures such as the DiSC Profile and the Wonderlic test. We define the attributes we want each position’s candidate to demonstrate in advance and we don’t compromise on setting and meeting high standards. A functional benefit of our selective process is having built a detailed profile of what a successful sales director and sales counselor look like.
  7. The more effort you put into reviewing, interviewing and testing will result in a more successful candidate.

Once you have hired the best candidates, keeping them is as important as finding them. This is the basis of senior living sales, too: find the right prospect and keep them engaged so they don’t go anywhere else. Money is not always the biggest motivator. As Daniel Pink, on his Ted Talk The Puzzle of Motivation, reveals monetary incentives, although welcome, don’t necessarily motivate people to succeed or be more productive. Take the time to find out how your team responds to the challenges of the position and help them define the work product that helps them achieve the rewards that are most significant to them. Challenge, job satisfaction, good direction, growth and opportunity often define the long-term success of a satisfied employee. (Surprisingly, money is not typically at the top of the list when employees are surveyed.)

So, in my goal to find the key to identifying and hiring good (the right) people, I’ve re-learned what I’ve known all along: there are no shortcuts. Your gut is still an important measuring tool, but back it up with the facts. Use a defined approach and have an agreed upon understanding among your entire management and staff that the best is worth waiting for. Don’t be surprised when that approach finds itself infiltrating into all of the other components of your organization, too.

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