You’re building a team for the most innovative, interesting company in the industry, yet attracting new talent is harder than recruiting a penguin in the desert. You call and call, text and text, and wonder: Why aren’t candidates banging down your door to work with you?
It’s because recruits don’t care about your company. They care about your leadership.
Here’s why leadership matters in recruiting.
You’re right in thinking that recruits want to work for great teams, but success doesn’t come from Pizza Fridays and cool office tech. It comes from having a strong leader. As Lee Colan reports in Inc.:
In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, good results aren’t good enough. To win, you need to produce extraordinary results. Extraordinary results come from extraordinarily performing teams. And where there is an extraordinary team, you can bet there is an inspiring leader.
Talent is turned on by strong, clear, values-based leadership, which is what I call Attractive Leadership. And they’re turned off by weak leaders, of course. But—surprise!—they’re also turned off by leaders whose position is unknown. In a study published in The Leadership Quarterly, job seekers at a career fair were more likely to apply for a job at a company with an ethical CEO, compared to a company with a CEO whose ethicality was not known.
Even better, employees are more likely to recommend your team to new talent if they’re happy with the leadership, and employee referrals provide the highest quality candidates.
Leaders are like royalty.
There’s a historical basis to all this. In olden times, kingdoms provided protection to their subjects, and in return those subjects provided services or paid taxes. Subjects weren’t interested in how many foosball tables a kingdom had; they were interested in how strong its king or queen was, because they relied on this leader to keep them, you know, alive.
A lot of things have changed since then, but human nature hasn’t.
Today, a leader may not wear a crown (though some of them may want to), but the situation is the same. The kings and queens of old are now area managers, market managers, regional managers, company presidents, and CEOs. Employees need to know they can trust these leaders, and that these leaders will provide and protect.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to go out and stock up on arrows and maces so you can prove to recruits that you’re a powerful monarch. Today, strong leadership is all about values and vision. If you hold positive, powerful beliefs, plans, and principles—and can articulate these to recruits, which we’ll show you how to do in this article—it tells recruits that no matter what comes your team’s way, everything will turn out all right.
“But what about our products/perks/company culture?”
You’re probably wondering if you can get around the whole “strong leadership” thing by offering better technology, support, or culture than your competitors; for example, you use a better CRM than Company A, or you offer a few two days’ more PTO than company B. This is called an opportunity improvement offer.
Opportunity improvement offers may attract recruits…but only until an employer comes along that is a tiny bit better than you in those areas. Maybe they have an even better CRM, or they offer four more days of PTO. You race to the bottom while your talent races to the top.
What you want is a new opportunity offer. This is not an employer that has something different, but an employer that is something different.
The first mover in an industry is a new opportunity. Google is a new opportunity. Amazon is a new opportunity. These types of businesses attract droves of recruits just by being the first to market with their product or service.
But what if you, like just about every company out there, are not a first mover like Google or Amazon?
Here’s the big reveal, which brings us back to the topic of this article: You can become a new opportunity by being a strong leader. When you present your vision and values, that becomes the new opportunity.
Everyone’s vision and values are different, so no one can scoop you on yours; you’re automatically the first mover in that arena. And if a competitor does suddenly turn up with the same vision and values as you, everyone will know they’re just a sad duplicate.
Tell your leadership story to attract the best talent.
When you sit someone down for a meeting or interview, your first instinct may be to show off your technology or your numbers. Don’t do it.
You want to tell a story, and bragging about your successes is like showing them the highlights reel. Instead, your story should have a beginning, middle, and end: How the company started and why, your struggles as a team and a team leader, how you overcame challenges along the way, and where you are now.
If you’re having trouble figuring out your Attractive Leadership story, consider:
● Why do you do what you do?
● What are your goals?
● How do you plan to reach them?
● What would you never do to boost your numbers?
● What’s your stance on success, failure, teamwork?
(Want to see my story as an example? Here it is.)
When you have a story you love and believe in, talent will love and believe in it too.
Attractive Leadership is the key to building winning teams. Get clear on your vision and values, and you’ll beat out all those competitors who are relying on opportunity improvement offers to attract talent.
Recruits don’t care about your company, but they will jump to work with a strong leader like you. Show them what you got.