Great talent is like a boomerang…

Recently I had an eye-opening discussion with a CEO who couldn’t wait to tell me all about his latest hire. After two failed attempts at recruitment he’d finally secured a key sales appointment. The conversation went something like this:-

CEO - “You know what Ian, the final shortlist was terrific. We interviewed three people and we could easily have appointed any one of them.”

Me – “I’m really pleased for you. I know it has been an uphill struggle to find even one suitable candidate so finally being spoilt for choice is amazing.”

CEO – “I know. I’m glad that’s out of the way because these people are always so hard to recruit.”

Me – “So you recruit these people regularly?”

CEO – “Yes, at the rate we are growing we are adding a new role every 12-18 months.”

Me – “So what have you done with the two silver medal candidates?”

CEO – “The what?”

Me – “Those two runners up who you could have appointed. If talent is so scarce I assume you’re keeping them warm for the next round of hiring?”


CEO - “I’ll ask our HR Manager”.

You probably don’t have to make a huge leap to guess what happened next. A slick process had ensured reject letters had gone out as soon as the first choice candidate had sent back their acceptance.

The problem was that the “standard reject letter” was short, to the point and gave no hint that the candidate would be welcome to apply again. Even though these were scarce, quality candidates who’d been narrowly pipped on the day.

I wonder how many other businesses do the same thing. A triumph of efficiency over effectiveness. In the process missing the opportunity to build a future talent pipeline simply because the recruitment process doesn’t recognise that being unsuccessful on one specific occasion and being unsuitable in the long run are two very different things…

You can take that hiring principle right back to the original applicants. Good potential employees and good applicants can be two different things. Good applicants are often “seasoned campaigners”, have a great CV and know the fundamental rules of applications and interviews. They play the game well – and can easily out-fox poor interviewers. After all, interviews are a pretty poor predictor of on-job performance anyway.

By contrast many good potential employees fail to get noticed as they don’t know how to play the game. They have a poorly written and badly constructed CV. They have never had any training in interview preparation or technique. They could be bursting with talent but you just can’t tell from two pages of A4. Sending them away with a computer generated “Dear John” email, won’t help them be a better applicant next time around. Access to some decent career advice just might.

Great talent is like a boomerang and you want it to keep coming back. You do that by delivering a great candidate experience. One that means intelligent opportunities to uncover and hire great talent aren’t missed.

The CEO of the business I visited rescued the situation by personally phoning the two rejected candidates the same day. In 15 minutes both were committed to “keep in touch”. He asked his PA to schedule lunch with them both in six months’ time. In a year or so the bill for two £50 lunches will potentially save a £12K placement fee and huge amounts of management time. Now that’s what I call added value.

Our own recruitment business is taking the boomerang principle to heart by offering initially unsuccessful candidates access to an on-line career toolkit that could make them better applicants next time around. That’s our way of saying thank you.