I have run advertising agencies, a car wash business, a furniture refinishing company, and a Hollywood production house. I have hired and fired well over 500 people in the last 25 years. That number might even be closer to 1000.
Over the course of my years of relentlessly trying to find the best talent for the various fields I have worked in, I have uncovered three amazing secrets for finding great candidates consistently and repeatably.
But it didn’t start that way.
I used to hire on analytics alone, and I constantly found myself wondering why what looked good on paper did not work out in real life. I hired what should have been great fits, but often they weren’t. I hired on recommendations from others. I hired my friends. Goodness forbid, I even hired my relatives. (Not a good idea — trust me.) I hired on data, on cold, hard facts. I hired people with less than stellar resumes, and I hired people with amazing resumes. I relied, over and over again, on analytics to guide me to the promised land. Time and time again, I was met with failure.
I could not crack the recruitment code. What was going on? I was doing everything right. Analytically, it all looked like a bunch of great ideas. Why wasn’t I finding great people?
Some years ago, I decided to try something new. I started to hire according to what I call “The Creator Mindset,” a creative way to look at the recruiting process. This method did not replace the analytical approach. Rather, it supplemented analytics, thereby allowing me to use more than half of my thinking power to make hiring decisions.
This creative technique worked for me — and as it turns out, it can work for everyone. When we think analytically only (like I did for years), we cannot begin to tap the full range of our potential. That requires thinking with both our creative and analytical capacities. If we stick strictly with analytics, we will continually be disappointed by the quality of our appointments.
So, how do you start applying creative thinking to your recruiting? The following are three techniques I’ve used to help me break out of recruiting analytically. Maybe they can help you, too.
1. Go Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines
When looking creatively at recruiting, you have to start looking for talent in places others are not looking. Personally, I found a great pool of talent — consistently and repeatedly — by looking at veterans of the United States Military.
Folks who are out of the military and ready to return to civilian life have some amazing skills, developed through years and years of unique training, that can work wonders when transferred to the private sector. Unfortunately, many employers fail to see the full potential of military vets. We shy away from these candidates because they may not seem like obvious fits on paper, but they can often be perfect fits in a variety of fields, from manufacturing to medicine.
Look for military veteran hires and you will uncover one of the greatest untapped sources of wealth in recruiting.
2. Don’t Settle for a Linear Pattern of Experience
Creatively assessing a candidate means looking beyond their industry-specific experience. History is filled with candidates who do wonderful things in fields where they have no prior experience. Take Abraham Lincoln, who lost two Senate races before becoming an iconic president, or Dan Akerson, an outsider from the telecom business who ran GM profitably while others in automotive were losing money.
When recruiting, look for deeper context and broader expertise instead of just industry-specific experience. Some of my best hires ever had never worked a day in the industry they were hired into! This is where fresh ideas come from and where practices and processes popular in other fields can be applied to your industry with innovative results.
3. Soft Skills Are Most Important
When you view a candidate creatively, you allow yourself to find things that are not in their resume — and it turns out that those things are the most important.
I’m talking about things like soft skills, which literally make the difference between a good hire and an extraordinary one. Soft skills are tricky to pinpoint, but if you are able to implement creativity in your search, you can make discovering those skills much easier.
Send a text, do a video call, engage in a bit of small talk to uncover the type of soft skills a given candidate has. Don’t worry about an interview or conversation going off the rails and out of control. The places that conversation might take you contain unexpected richness when viewed creatively! Here, you will find your candidate’s empathy, courage, hunger, resilience, grit, understanding, capacity to learn, capacity to grow, and so many other amazing things if you just roll with it.
When we stop looking at recruiting with an analytical-only mindset, we begin to accept a different way of thinking. In that different way of thinking is limitless potential, which is as unique as your own DNA.
Because we were all born creative, the way that you implement your creative tools becomes your very own market advantage as a recruiter. No two people are the same in the eyes of The Creator Mindset. Therefore, no implementation of creativity is ever replicated by anyone else. That’s why now is the time to awaken your unique creative potential.
Nir Bashan is the founder and CEO of The Creator Mindset LLC and the author of The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability (McGraw-Hill; August 2020).