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Talent Talk: What the Olympics Can Teach You About Best Hiring Practices

First and foremost, do what it takes to hire the best. A winning strategy for the Olympics begins with having the best athletes. There are 206 nations competing in Tokyo, and every one of them did everything they could to identify who were the best swimmers, wrestlers, and gymnasts for their team. Yet in the corporate world, we are often content with making a list of qualifications, then finding someone who matches most of what is on that list. Finding top performers is even more important in business than in the Olympics, because in business they have many options, not just one national team. The most expensive mistake you can make as a business leader is to miss out on rock stars because they need 10 to 15% more in pay than what someone has arbitrarily decided.

Second, emphasize performance over credentials. If you were coaching the US weightlifting team, would you rather have someone who went to the best school for weightlifting, or the person who has lifted the most weight? Pretty easy answer, right? Then why do we not insist on drilling down on accomplishments, both with prospective candidates and current employees? Consider having a part of the interview process mimic what the job will entail. That will tell you more than a resume with perfect grammar and spacing. Average performers will have an array of excuses why that doesn’t make sense, but the top performers will relish the opportunity to “show off” a little, and will appreciate that your company does that because it means you hire the best. Top performers want to work with other top performers.

Third, consider what the true metrics for success are in any position. Often job descriptions haven’t changed since before the internet existed. Having excellent communication skills, working both independently and as part of a team, and being able to lift 25 pounds might need to be on the description, but they do not address the keys for success in that role. I can sit or stand for long periods of time, but I would not be very good at water polo. Read your job descriptions and ask yourself: Could someone meet everything on here, and still not be a top performer? I have seen sales manager job descriptions that fail to mention that it is a requirement of the job to sell something.

About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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