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Bifocal Recruiting

Authored by: Managing Partners Roger Pearman and Robert Eichinger

You need to wear bifocal lenses to do a good job at recruiting to benefit all stakeholders. Bifocals are for people who have issues with near sightedness or far sightedness.

Bifocals were invented by Benjamin Franklin, who solved his own vision problems by taking the lenses from both his reading glasses and distance glasses and cutting them in half. He then remade the cut lenses into a single pair of bifocals, with the distance lens on top, and the reading lens on the bottom.

People can have trouble with one or both conditions.  

What is Nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness occurs when nearby objects appear more clear than distant ones. When you’re nearsighted, you typically see close-up things in more detail. 

What is Farsightedness?

Farsightedness occurs when distant objects appear more clear than nearby ones. When you’re farsighted, you typically see better when focusing on things that are farther away.  

Bifocals can correct either or both of these conditions, allowing one to see things clearly that are both close and far away.  

Nearsighted Vision in Recruiting

Most recruiting is nearsighted. You work from a set of identified KSA requirements:

  • Knowledge – things the successful applicant would need to know to do the job well.
  • Skills – things the successful applicant would need to know how to do (e.g. pivot excel spreadsheets) to do the job well.   
  • Attributes – how the successful applicant would act and behave to fit into a team and an organization’s culture. 

The hiring manager wants a person who can hit the ground running.  They are less interested in remedial training and development or in any high maintenance employees that take up disproportionate supervisory time. They prefer someone who already has previously performed successfully in the same or similar job.  They prefer someone who likes doing the related tasks involved and will be happy doing it for a long time.

The task for the recruiters is straightforward.  Find candidates who match, fit or are aligned with the KSA requirements of the position while also fitting in the culture.  After recruiter screening, various people interview and do reference checks to confirm the fit appraisal.

The closer the fit, the better candidate they are.

Most recruiters are pretty good at nearsighted recruiting. They solve for the here and now, for today’s needs.

Farsighted Vision in Recruiting

Farsighted recruiting is harder and less frequently done well.

Farsighted meaning recruiting for the future. Hiring people at the beginning of their career who will end up in the top 2% jobs and be legacy performers. People with high aspirations and the willingness and capacity to grow and develop. There are fewer than needed candidates for top jobs than there are people who can do a good job today.

Recruiters for entry-level roles have a dual responsibility. They have to fill job requisitions for today, and tomorrow.  They have to focus on the now while peering into the future.

It’s the same matching, fit analysis and alignment that’s used in nearsighted recruiting, but for a somewhat different set of KSAs.

People who have strong prospects for growth and development (High Potentials) have at least some or all of these KSAs:

  1. Aspirations for the top and a need to create greatness.
  2. A fast learner; learns new tasks and jobs quickly.
  3. Comfortable leading and being a part of change.
  4. Lifelong learner; always curious.
  5. Seeks variety and diversity of exposures and experiences, goes broad more than deep.
  6. Comfortable with complexity, good at identifying patterns, finding the essence of a data set.
  7. Constantly works on self-awareness and self-regulation.
  8. Networks to get great things done.
  9. Motivated by VUCA-oriented challenges.
  10. Able to vision into the future.
  11. Takes the initiative, looks for creative and innovative approaches.
  12. Inclined toward optimism, has a growth “can do” mindset and has a broad perspective.

Their background would show the behaviors and actions of these KSAs in their life, schooling and early work experiences. They would have left material accomplishments behind. They make an impression.  

Be Prepared When Solving for Bench Strength

The lack of bench strength backing up the top jobs keeps CEOs awake at night. Boards are concerned. Regulators are concerned. Investors are concerned.

Before your mind goes to think these are all wonderful characteristics for anyone to have in addition to the specific KSAs for the job at hand, it’s more complex than that.

Candidates with strong prospects, who are High Potentials, who aspire to grow and develop into top of the house leaders carry some other characteristics:

1. They are not very patient. In fact, they are impatient with everything.  

2. They do not suffer fools wisely. They are not tolerant of incompetence and even less tolerant of a lack of full effort.  

3. They are not rules compliant.   

4. They get into political trouble. They do not pay much attention to organizational politics, especially when it doesn’t make sense to them.  They will say and do things that most others won’t.  

5. They are right before their time. Because of their special KSAs, many times they outperform their peers and many times even their bosses in problem solving, creativity and innovative ideas.  

6. They are selective. They prefer people who perform, are motivated, and who at least try.  They have little time for whiners and complainers.

7. They are quickly bored with repetitive anything. They have a relatively short span of attention.  They master (up to their own self-metered scale) things quickly, have little interest in mastering most things deeply, and want to move on to the next challenge ASAP.

8. They have high expectations and are willing to move to get them.  

9. They are not especially loyal to an organization and are career restless. They tend to be loyal to compelling visions, breakthrough strategies, trustful legacy leaders, successful organizations and to people they have hired and are mentoring. They are less loyal to companies, struggling leaders, lackluster strategies and results, and especially resistance to their ideas for improvement. They expect to move up rapidly and are not tolerant being passed over in favor of the wrong candidates for the wrong reasons. They do not respect seniority for its own sake without demonstrating competence and excellence.

10. They spend less time in jobs, are harder to manage, can create jealousy in other team members, and are always a retention risk.  But after a quick learning curve, they end their shorter tenure by outperforming most other team members and leave material creativity and innovation behind.

What Do We Do at Hiring Time?

Most line managers with open jobs would prefer a nearsighted hire. It’s not that they don’t endorse hiring people with a future, they just don’t have the time to deal with the dark side of the brighter hires.

A nearsighted hire might perform better in the beginning, but the far-sighted hire will outperform them in the longer run.

Not everyone needs to be a farsighted hire. In most organizations, there are functions aligned with the products and services rendered that are the source for future leaders. At PepsiCo, it was marketing, financial strategy and international.  At Walmart it was merchandising and logistics. For fast food it’s operations. Recruiting can concentrate farsighted considerations in those functions most likely to develop leaders.

Some bosses are better suited to managing talent. Some schools provide more talent per pupil. Some majors are better than others. Broad backgrounds can be better than deep.   

Some recruiting functions designate specific internal professionals to screen for prospects and potential. They are especially trained to interview for learning agility and other Drivers and Markers of High Potentials.

Both near- (today’s needs) and far- (the future needs for top leaders) sighted recruiting are aided by formal fit analysis. There are very specific KSAs to look for.   

Convincing line managers with openings to pass over a less qualified near fill for a more qualified far fill is the challenge. So the entire village of stakeholders has to understand and believe in the dual mission of bifocal recruiting. Top management has to be convinced and HR and TM have to sell it. Then, Talent Acquisition has to deliver.

The need is universal. The process is known. Execution is often weak.  

Success profiles for both near term and long term assessment are essential. Success profiles, interview impressions, pre-employment Fit Appraisals and background checks need to be formalized so a fit analysis can be performed.

You can’t grow and develop future legacy leaders without a strong bench of prospects. Put on your bifocals.

Fit Appraisal Graphic
Learn more about how our pre-employment Fit Appraisal can help you screen for both near term and long term fit!

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