Talent + Leadership = Victory … With “The Talent War” Authors Mike Sarraille & George Randle

Whether on the the battlefield or in business, victory — consistent, repeated victory — is achieved by teams of talented people.

But what is “talent”? How do you define it? How do you identify it? How do you even begin to know how to look for it?

In this episode, you’ll hear my conversation with Mike Sarraille and George Randle, the co-authors of the upcoming book “The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent”.

Continue reading “Talent + Leadership = Victory … With “The Talent War” Authors Mike Sarraille & George Randle”

Your Job Search Questions… Answered

One thing that has become obvious in my time exploring the Recruiting & Hiring industry is how much of a disconnect there is between Job-Seekers and their potential Employers.

More often than not, this disconnect typically leads to a lot of distrust, blaming, finger-pointing, and more importantly: a LOT of confusion and a LOT of questions.

In this podcast episode I’ve decided to answer a handful of those questions I see frequently in one form or another, because clearly people aren’t getting answers yet.

Continue reading “Your Job Search Questions… Answered”

My Most Valuable Leadership Lesson Came From My Greatest Hiring Failure

One of the most confusing and confounding bad hires I ever made taught me my most important hiring AND leadership lesson.

I was a few months into my first executive role at a Startup here in Austin, and ensuring that we hired quality, talented Software Engineers was ultimately my responsibility. 

We’d just hired a mid-level software engineer who’d come over from a much larger tech company, and while they were clearly bright and technically capable, after a few weeks it seemed like this hire might not have been a good decision. 

Continue reading “My Most Valuable Leadership Lesson Came From My Greatest Hiring Failure”

The “Culture Fit” Fix

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Read the blog below, stream the podcast version, or watch the video here!

Is your unspoken definition of “culture fit” actually hurting your organization?

Is it possible that your current approach in assessing a candidate’s ability to fit in your organization is actually hindering your growth and preventing your success? Can you clearly speak to what it exactly means to be a ‘culture fit’ in your environment? 

Continue reading “The “Culture Fit” Fix”

3 Simple Techniques for Writing a Winning Job Description


(The following techniques are cited in my book Hack Your Hiring: The Tactical Playbook To Find, Evaluate, and Hire A+ Talent, which gives you 75 PROVEN Strategies, Techniques, and Best Practices to solve any Hiring problem you might have… anything from defining an open position, to attracting & screening Applicants, to beating out other competing offers and closing the Candidate of your dreams.)


When it comes time to hire a new position, one of the first challenges you face as a leader is also one of the toughest: How do you describe what you need in this role? The responsibilities, skills, expertise you’re looking for in your perfect candidate?

A lot of bigger corporations will literally purchase Job Descriptions from other companies. While this may be ok for them, for small-to-medium sized businesses, your needs probably are more unique & specific, so a generic off-the-shelf JD is probably not going to cut it.

Use these three simple & straightforward techniques to produce a clear Job Description guaranteed to attract the right people.

SOURCE STRENGTHS & SKILLS FROM COLLEAGUES

Reach out to current teammates who you’d consider an A-Player with experience in a position similar to your open role.

Ask each teammate plainly about

  • What Outputs and Outcomes he’s most proud of contributing to or creating
  • What Obstacles he’s faced in his career
  • What they believe contributed to his success in Overcoming those obstacles, from when he first started to his ability to grow and flourish in the role.

Every Job and every Candidate is going to be unique in some fashion. However, no Job is so unique that it’s without ample comparative examples. By compiling a list of obstacles, strengths, and skills from the experience of others you trust, you start building a sort of composite avatar of your ideal Candidate.

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GRADE EXPERTISE IN USEFUL TERMS

For each technical skill and intangible strength, grade the level of expertise using a method that clearly describes the ideal candidate’s level of competency & expertise.

Useful Frameworks to reference include:

The conventional method of conveying desired levels of expertise was born from the requirement of formal education (2-year / 4-year degree), and in most cases it has outlived its usefulness.

As an increasing percentage of the workforce becomes knowledge workers, the search for expertise hinges on the ability to find candidates who have actually grown and developed a level of expertise or mastery in various skills.

Unfortunately, spending years exercising a particular skill in no way guarantees that a worker increased her expertise in that skill.

Isn’t it true that someone who’s been driving a car for 10 years could still be a poor driver? Or that someone with a good teacher + some natural talent could be an excellent driver in her first few years behind the wheel?

Here’s a personal example: At the time I’m writing this, I am 37 years old. I have been using MS Excel and other spreadsheet software since the age of 10. The claim could be made, then, that I have 27 years of Excel experience, yet I will be the first person to admit that I am far from a Excel/Spreadsheet Expert.

Using a commonly-understand and explicit grading scale to describe levels of expertise is the best way to communicate — both internally and externally — what levels of proficiency are required to succeed in a particular role.

FORCE-RANK DESIRED SKILLS

In addition to more clearly defining desired levels of Expertise for a role, classify the importance of a candidate exhibiting each skill to the desired level of Expertise. This can be as simple as classifying a skill as “Must-Have” / “Should-Have” / “Nice-to-Have”, or you could use a more complex ordering mechanism.

There is no position on earth where every desired competency is equally critical to achieving success in the role. Yet, Job Descriptions nearly always provide a list of skills that appear to be of equal importance (and are usually all required).

This can deter many otherwise-qualified job-seekers, while also inviting applications from unqualified candidates who don’t have a clear sense of which areas truly require a level of expertise vs those where familiarity or basic competence are acceptable.

It’s also important to recognize that an Applicant’s expertise in a particular area is constantly changing and would continue to change if they came to work for you. The Résumé they submit is a mere snapshot of a moment in time. If there are skills where “Expert” would be nice but “Intermediate” is Critical, it’s important to call this out.

A Hiring Manager who struggles to fill urgent roles almost always struggles precisely because he’s not explicitly clear — with himself and with others — which skills and skill-levels are critical, important, desirable, or simply a nice bonus.

Where To Find Your Next Great Hire (Or Your Next Great Job) Part I

Whenever we identify a Hiring need in our organization, a bunch of questions naturally come to mind:

  • What’s our budget for this role
  • Will it be Full-Time or Part-Time?
  • Contract or FT Employee?
  • What are the responsibilities of the position?
  • What are skills we need in this job?
  • What type of person is ideal for the role?

Then there is the Question we almost never ask:

Continue reading “Where To Find Your Next Great Hire (Or Your Next Great Job) Part I”

Simple Employee Retention Strategies That Nobody Talks About

Employee Turnover has become an epidemic.

Every single year, Retention rates drop and Turnover seems to find a way to set a new record high.

Companies finally seem to be taking notice, too, and implementing so-called “Employee Retention measures” to reduce the costs and pain associated with high turnover. But are these tactics really effective?

Continue reading “Simple Employee Retention Strategies That Nobody Talks About”

Talent Scouts-as-a-Service?

I spend a lot of time thinking about the Hiring space, specifically as it relates to the problems & challenges faced by smaller employers.

One of my favorite “Thinking Time” questions is

“What are the gaps between my customers’ needs and the products & services that are available?”

(for more on Thinking Time, see the must-read book The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham)

Here are some of the key problems I observe in companies that are beyond that “scrappy bootstrapped” phase but without multiple consecutive years of impressive, steady growth.

  1. Sourcing good candidates is a huge issue, if not THE primary roadblock
  2. CoFounders, Executives, Hiring Managers are still primarily in DOING mode vs LEADING mode
  3. Recruiters, whether FT On-Staff or Contracted by a service, spend a lot of their time operating & coordinating. Sometimes your “Recruiter” is an HR Generalist-type, who doesn’t have that recruiting background
  4. These companies by-and-large balk at Agency Recruiter Fees
  5. Almost every single one of these companies spends their time reacting to sudden hiring needs and open roles… which introduces additional chaos and churn… which extends time-to-hire among other things

Here are Early stages of an idea to fill these gaps. I’m not implementing this idea, mind you, simply brainstorming.

In sports (and other industries), organizations have talent scouts whose primary responsibility is to identify, evaluate and start building relationships with players the team may be interested in, whether now OR in the short-to-medium term future. The relationships they build keep the players as “warm leads” so the team can stay prepared and doesn’t get caught with its pants down needing to fill a particular position all of a sudden.

(It’s also worth noting that many large corporations dedicate full-time employees to the purpose of scouting.)

What I’m picturing is this provided as a subscription service targeted at smaller, time- and resource-constrained organizations.

The “Talent Scout” spends a little time with company leadership on a recurring basis to identify positions and skillsets they may need in the near future. They then connect the talent they meet with the company, but on a casual, low-pressure basis (this is the other problem for in-demand talent: Recruiters & Headhunters *can* be pushy & relentless, a huge turnoff). The Talent gets to know the Company, and if turnover or growth leads to an open spot, it could be filled rather quickly by someone on this bench.

For argument’s sake, let’s say Monthly Cost to the Employer is around $5–10k (could tier it based on number & type of positions or something), lower than almost any 15–25% Recruiter Fees on a single hire. Risk to the Employer is paying for months when they have zero need for hiring (which, given high average turnover rates, seems fairly low risk)

Benefits include the ability to better anticipate future staffing needs, reducing reactive behavior, shortening time-to-hire, less time & energy spent sourcing (and most likely for less $$ than an Agency).

Admittedly, there are bound to be a hundred holes in this idea, as I haven’t vetted it beyond the concept stage. I also haven’t researched a ton of comps, so maybe it’s the least original idea ever.

But for those of you in small-to-medium businesses, especially those on a Hiring Team, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Drop me a comment and let me know: Does any of this sound like it would be valuable, time-saving, effort-saving in your organization?

5 Ways to Dramatically Upgrade Candidate Outreach

As a business leader, it’s probably obvious that the Field of Dreams adage “If you build it, they will come”, while one of the most recognizable movie lines of all time, is very much a dream. Having a valuable product or service is not enough without a way to get it in front of the people who would be interested in the value it provides.

The same holds true for the opportunities you offer as an employer. You could have the most outstanding company culture, offer unparalleled benefits or pay 3x the salary of your competition, but if the people who you want to hire don’t know about the role, the results you see in terms of engaged applicants are going to be underwhelming at best.

Sourcing great talent is one component in what I call the 5 Components of High Performance Hiring, and it’s one to which most Employers dedicate insufficient attention & resources.

Download your FREE 5 Components of High Performance Hiring Cheatsheet

No matter the job market conditions, direct outreach is a critical Sourcing sub-component. If you want to hire people who are bright, hungry self-starters, and can make an impact early on, you’re going to be looking for people who are already gainfully employed and either passive job-seekers or not even thinking about new opportunities.

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Implementing the following 5 Practices will dramatically upgrade the engagement you’ll see when you reach out directly to A+ Talent.
(Note: These practices & strategies are excerpts from my new book Hack Your Hiring: The Tactical Playbook to Find, Evaluate, and Hire A+ Talent, available now on Amazon.)

#1: Target Candidates Who Know a Colleague

When sourcing leads for recruiting outreach, target candidates who are connected on Facebook/LinkedIn/etc. to a current member of your staff.

In HIRED’s 2018 Employer Brand Survey, 45% of candidates said a primary reason they’ll engage with a company is if a friend or former colleague works there6t. So whether your colleagues put in the effort to provide referrals or not, it should not deter you from focusing your efforts on people they know and/or have worked with previously.

#2: Send Prospects a Free Gift

Empower Recruiters, Recruiting Researchers, & Recruiting Coordinators to send something of value to passive talent to get her engaged in the recruiting process. It can be something as simple as a link to an interesting article, video or product related to her discipline or area of expertise.

A-Players are already gun-shy when it comes to recruiting outreach, and it’s not surprising as to why. Most Managers and Recruiters initiate outreach the complete wrong way: By focusing on themselves. This “Look at me and my great opportunity” approach is a big turn-off to an uber-talented person who gets hassled about new opportunities on a weekly or even daily basis.

The gift you send does not need to be expensive or even have any material cost, as long as it provides value.

In addition to breaking the pattern of bad behavior and thus immediately getting her attention, you may trigger a concept known as The Reciprocity Principle. The Reciprocity Principle is a well-documented principle of persuasion. Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others when they receive a gift or service first to ensure the interaction is balanced.

#3: Send a Personalized Message

When initiating Outbound contact with a Prospect, reference specific details about her work history, current role or interests. Ask a targeted question about one of these areas that will entice her to reply.

Recruiters & Hiring Managers have a tendency to play the numbers game when it comes to candidate outreach, relying on templates and form letters for the bulk of their communication. In a candidate-driven market, the key to grabbing an A-Player’s attention is to make her feel special, like she’s not just another number. If you can convey to her that you did your homework and that you want to learn more about her unique experiences & interests, she’s far more likely to engage.

#4: Focus on HER Interests, Not Yours

When Sourcing passive candidates, spend the majority of the time asking about their current challenges and career goals, and then genuinely listening to their responses.

Everyone loves talking about their favorite subject: Themselves.

By asking simple, targeted questions about a job-seeker’s current & desired career conditions, you get them to open up and connect with you. Now that you’ve established a genuine connection, she’s more likely to become and stay engaged in your recruiting process.

NOTE: This is a great strategy for outbound sourcing, when candidates haven’t yet indicated interest in your or your opportunity. It can, however, also be useful with those who have already applied for the role.

#5: Share Salary Up Front

Whether it’s posted with your position description on job boards, or you keep it handy when having initial conversations with potential candidates, be transparent in letting them know what the salary range is for the role, as well as additional benefits the company offers (both material & intangible).

Compensation is consistently rated as one the top 3 reasons people decide to look for new opportunities. HIRED reports that 62% of candidates said a primary reason they’ll engage with a company is when they get the salary range up-front.

By sharing compensation details (salary, benefits, perks) early in the process, job-seekers will be able to decide if the salary range is aligned with their expectations.
Employers who go out of their way to obscure salary set themselves up for failure from the start, as they waste time evaluating candidates they can’t afford. And since platforms like Glassdoor allow current & former employees to submit their salary information that will then be shared publicly, why try to hide it?


I know from years of experience how frustrating it can be trying to fill open positions with awesome, talented people. My years as an executive — constantly dealing with the needs of a growing business and backfilling outgoing team members — served as an outstanding education.

Hopefully you’ll start to implement practices like the ones above and create real transformation in your hiring efforts. These practices are literally just the tip of the spear. You’ll get over 15x additional value when you pick up your copy of Hack Your Hiring on Amazon. Until then, Happy Hunting and Happy Hiring!