I won’t cop out and say that you need a little bit of both. Certainly you require talent to achieve success, and few people succeed long term without hard work, but which contributes the most?
A recent study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that when rated by a group of 383 participants, entrepreneurs who demonstrated greater talent were more favored over those perceived as hard working but with less talent. A follow-up study showed that in order to be as appealing as those with natural talent, the hard workers would require 28 more IQ points and an additional four and one-half years of leadership experience.
People appear to value talent far more than hard work. This idea could not be more obvious in the sports world. Every year the NBA and NFL drafts are broadcast so fans can see if their team will land the most coveted talent which will turn around the ailing fortunes of their franchise. More often than not however, the talented young athlete which so dominated in college, flames out in the pros. ESPN recently released a list called “The Could Have Beens” in which sixty of their experts chose the top 25 athletes who failed to live up to their potential. Ever heard of Sam Bowie? He has the dubious misfortune of being the guy selected number two in the 1984 NBA draft ahead of Michael Jordan. Few remember him. Though many athletes on the ESPN list succumbed to career shortening injuries, many simply did not put in the hard work and effort. Despite this, year after year franchises gamble large paychecks on top talent for a quick fix, not realizing that players willing to put in the hard work are every bit as rewarding and often last longer.
“Grit” a book by Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that a combination of passion and perseverance (grit) contributes more to success than intelligence or inherent talent. She provides a number of examples such as “gritty” children who studied and competed more in spelling bees, performed better in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She also showed that West Point cadets who scored high on the grit scale were more able to endure the intensive seven week training program, Beast Barracks, through which they were put. Grit, in this instance, was a better predictor than SAT scores or athletic ability.
There are of course other contributors to success like a great coach or teacher Duckworth points out but effort is the key. She writes, “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
Michael Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He is 6’4” with a 6’7” reach. His knees are double-jointed and his feet can rotate 15 degrees more than average which allow his feet to act more like flippers. His body is built for speed in the water! However his success is obtained through effort. In peak training mode Phelps swims 50 miles a week. He trains 5-6 hours a day, six days a week!
If you focus 30-35 hours a week on improving any skill whether it is writing, playing the piano, or giving presentations, your chances of succeeding improve exponentially.
Last year the national average for filling an open position reached 29 days which was a record. Believing that recruiters are simply dragging their feet and waiting for a purple squirrel is a common assumption and true to some extent. To be fair though to recruiters and hiring managers, the number of measures that must be taken the moment a position becomes vacant needs to be considered.
- Advertise the position
- Identify acceptable candidates
- Conduct interviews
- Complete background and reference checks
- Extend an offer
- Wait for the candidate to accept the offer
When you consider all of this, 29 days doesn’t seem so long but it is! According to some statistics, top talent remains on the market for only 10 days! Additionally, during that 29 days, as the position remains open, productivity, revenue and morale drops among your employees. The solution seems simple. Speed up the hiring process! Weed out candidates with an ATS. Conduct more interviews in less time with video interviewing! Even with those measures in place, is ten days to fill a realistic goal?
Recruiting in the business world isn’t like recruiting in the sports or entertainment industry. My team has an open position at quarterback and Cam Newton is available? You’d better believe we are going after him! He’s a proven star! Carmello Anthony is a free agent and I need a forward? My VP of People Operations is calling up Carmello’s agent. My movie’s director just dropped out? Let’s see, is Scorsese Spielberg or Christopher Nolan available? No? What about Alejandro Inarritu? He’s been nominated twice in the last two years.
Within these fields top talent can easily be identified. Right from the start a short list of stars to fill the open position is formed. In the corporate world unless you are poaching executives at the “C” level from high profile companies such as Amazon, Apple or Google, most top talent is relatively unknown. You don’t know that you have a potential Steph Curry, Odell Beckham Jr., or Cate Blanchett applying for your open position. At least not from the start.
Though your job candidate’s resume may scream success up front, you certainly want more than a few days to determine the validity of their credentials. Assuming an organization is lucky enough to find their dream candidate within seven days of posting a job, recruiters are left with only three days to interview the candidate, verify references and negotiate an offer before the candidate accepts another. Careerbuilder released a survey a few years ago and the results showed that 41% of employers believed a bad hiring decision cost them upwards of $25,000 and 43% of them blamed their bad hires on a rushed hiring decision.
Organizations face a problem. Move too quickly during the hiring process and they risk hiring the wrong candidate. Move too slowly and they risk a great candidate getting away. Move slower still, 29 days slow, and they risk losing not only the good candidates but all of the rest. Hiring managers can ill afford to hold out and wait for a Steph Curry or an Adrian Peterson. As Dr. John Sullivan points out, “…it’s mostly luck if the most desirable candidates decide to enter the job market precisely when you coincidentally have a job opening.”
So can you hire a great candidate in ten days? Yes, but only if luck is on your side. Generally you shouldn’t try because your rushed hiring decision could produce a bad hire. However if you drag your feet too long waiting for the perfect candidate, your luck will turn to misfortune. That is if you believe losing revenue is unfortunate.
The argument continues over whether employers should hire for cultural fit or for skills. Many say skills because hiring for cultural fit inevitably gives way to discrimination. Others say hire for cultural fit because poor cultural fit leads to employee turnover and the high costs associated with it. Lately I see more and more articles pointing to the significance of hiring for cultural fit over talent. This recent sports story highlights how highly we value cohesion in the workplace. Read more
Can a man who is 6’2” run a company more effectively than a man who is only 5’8”? Does a physically fit man or even one with a deep voice command more respect and thereby have more ability to be a CEO? Should an exceptionally attractive woman receive more opportunities than her less attractive counterparts? Should you earn more money for every extra inch of height you have? Read more
Last week my blog post implied that an increase of available jobs would make finding talent more difficult for hiring managers, but would also spur them into making a hiring decision more quickly. In the past, you see, hiring managers were content to drag their feet believing that job candidates would wait a discourteous amount of time because few other jobs were available to them. Read more
According to recent surveys by Manpower group nearly 49% of U.S. organizations are struggling to find employees for their mission critical positions even though the unemployment rate continues to hover near 8%. The three most cited reasons are lack of applicants, the applicants’ demand for more money than is being offered and the lack of experience among the available applicants.
As an individual with executive search experience who has faced the challenges of trying to place qualified applicants with “picky” employers, I take exception to these reasons. Let’s examine each one more closely.
55% say there is a lack of applicants: The hardest to fill jobs are skilled trades (plumbers, carpenters, etc.), engineers and sales people. Admittedly I have never recruited for a plumber or carpenter but have conducted numerous searches for sales people and engineers. Personally I have not found a lack of candidates for these positions. Throw up a job posting and you are sure to get a few dozen applicants within the first few days. However I have found that strict hiring requirements developed by the hiring manager as they look for their “silver bullet” candidate often make placing a candidate more difficult. Requiring the candidate to be of a certain age, have every last qualification, live within a commutable distance, deny relocation assistance and not offer a wage commensurate with the position, certainly thins the herd of applicants. This brings me to the second most often cited reason.
54% say the candidate is looking for more pay than is being offered: Through all the searches on which I’ve worked, rarely do I find a candidate meeting all the job requirements and experience who is also willing to work for the offered salary and more often than not that candidate is eliminated for some other criteria. Now of course many candidates think highly of themselves and believe their salaries should match their ego but I truly find that hiring managers want seasoned professionals at junior prices. Why would a candidate making “x” go to work for someone and make “x-y”? The position is open. It is waiting to be filled. Why not at least match the candidate’s current salary? I will tell you why in a second but first reason number three.
44% say the candidates are not experienced enough: Honestly this may be true. If you do use job postings, you will find that at least 50% of the applicants don’t have the necessary qualifications. Today a discrepancy also exists between the college education required to perform certain jobs and the education students are actually obtaining. For instance philosophy and political science degrees are seldom required for mechanical engineering and software sales. Training to overcome knowledge gaps is rarely provided to capable applicants. Only 28% of the 40,000 worldwide employers in a recent survey said they are willing to provide such training.
So if filling open positions is so critical why are employers unwilling to offer more training or more flexibility with their offered salary? The reason is somewhat startling. Manpower’s 2012 survey revealed that 56% of companies believe their unfilled positions have little impact on customers and investors. This is a 56% increase from a year before!
So the majority of companies don’t feel their open positions even affect their business. If this is true then what incentive do they have to hire anyone for their open positions? If they have no incentive to fill their open positions then how can most of them chime in on the lack of available talent for these positions? Are their opinions on talent shortage not skewed by their lack of need? After all, if you don’t really perceive a need for something or someone then you are in the position to be selectively choosy about your decision. As a hiring manger you won’t feel the pressure of time to fill. In other words you are less willing to settle and so if companies are waiting only for the Marissa Mayers, Kobe Bryants and Steven Speilbergs to cross their doorstep then yes, a talent shortage does exist.
This takes us back around to the assumption that the theory of a talent shortage is a bit overhyped and really, truly a lack of motivated employers is the culprit.