Can’t Find Great People? It Might be the Job

In my conversations with CEOs, they often bring up how hard it can be to fill certain job openings–even in the wake of the pandemic where more people find themselves unemployed. That’s especially true when it comes to hiring for a critically important position, like a top salesperson or engineer. These CEOs tell me that, because of the unique nature of their particular business, they simply can’t find the people who match up the requirements of the position.

Turns out these CEOs couldn’t be more wrong. The lesson for these leaders to learn is that the problem they face is one they created. It’s a problem of design rather than talent. If they keep waiting for extraordinary talent to walk in the door looking for a job, they’ll find themselves waiting forever.  There are only so many super men and women out there, so if your business is predicated on finding them, it is going to be tough to grow.

What I mean is that CEOs who claim they can’t find the perfect person for their position, it’s usually because they have designed the position wrong. If the last five people have failed in a job, it isn’t the people, it’s the job.  It’s like you’re more likely to win the lottery than find someone you can hire who matches up with the requirements you defined.

The good news is that if you find yourself struggling to hire impossible-to-find talent, there are two strategies you can consider in solving your problem.

1.     Add Support

Let’s say you’re looking to hire a superstar salesperson–someone who can sell without product literature, a pricy strategy or a product roadmap. But you’re struggling to find a match because none of the available talent can do everything you need them to do. Your opportunity is to add a layer of support where you can hire a good salesperson and turn them into an extraordinary one. You can also improve the product information and marketing materials to allow normally talent people to perform. Consider resources or support you can add to make the job easier to do. The more you build up scaffolding around the position, the more it opens up the potential pool of candidates capable of excelling in your position.

2.     Break Up the Job

Another strategy you can employ to fill a position is to actually break it up. For example, I had a conversation with a CEO who couldn’t find a fit for several senior engineering positions. He was looking for people who could handle a whole range of issues–from answering basic scheduling questions all the way up to solving complex technical issues. This CEO had struggled so much in filling these positions that he began a training program to grow them instead. The catch was that the education process took almost two years–which was limiting the company’s growth. 

With the help of my coaching, he decided that he actually needed to break down the job into multiple positions instead. It was actually much easier, and less expensive, to hire people to handle the Level 1 and even Level 2 issues that took up so much time. But it also made it much easier to find a perfect fit for the more senior Level 3 position–which was tailored to someone who would only work on the toughest issues.

So, if you find yourself struggling to find the perfect fit for your open position, it might be time to rethink the position itself. Consider looking at ways to make the job easier to fill by adding a layer of support to it, increasing the infrastructure around the job or perhaps even consider breaking the position into multiple roles to widen the pool of potential candidates who might be a fit. If you can employ one of these strategies, or even all of them, you’ll be able to unkink the talent hose that’s suffocating your organization and hindering your growth.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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