Unreasonable Expectations Killed Talent Acquisition

The worst thing that ever happened in the history of Talent Acquisition was the phrase, “We only hire the best talent”.

In the 1980s, I suspect, or somewhere in the past, some lame CEO said this phrase.  Talent Acquisition has forever since been cursed to live up to this expectation.  You never will, for a number of reasons.

First, what the hell is “best talent”, really? You don’t truly know. No one does.  Do we mean the actual number one rated best talent? Or, do we mean just the best talent at the time we hire? Or, do we mean the best talent that will actually accept a job at our crappy company?!  I think the CEO believes it’s the actual number rated best talent, which means she is an idiot that has no concept of what she is talking about.

Second, do you even know who your own ‘best talent’ is in your organization?  Because to hire ‘best talent’ it will mean you need to hire people better than what you already have, which means you better know who the best is in your own barn!  Most of us struggle with this one as well, because we measure ‘best’ on a number of factors, which usually don’t align to what our executives feel is best.

Third, are you sure you even want ‘best talent’ in the first place?  Best talent can be a major pain in the ass! I’m willing to put up some of that best talent ass pain, but I don’t want an organization full of it.  I want to build a fantasy team at my organization. Folks who are great at certain roles, surrounded by other who are great at other roles, all knowing how their skills support each other, to make the whole better!  The last thing I need is a team with five Michael Jordans. There aren’t enough shots to keep that team happy!

We only hire the best talent is the single biggest line of B.S. that is said by executives of organizations and by TA leaders.  What they usually mean to say is:

“We only hire the best available talent at the time we have an opening, of those who actually applied to the job, and who are willing to accept the at market pay and benefits we offer!”

But, that message doesn’t look good on a career site!

If you’re in Talent Acquisition and you feel like you never measure up to your executive teams expectations, I would bet your executives probably think you only hire the best talent!  Don’t get down, the tide is turning.  Sharp TA leaders are already changing this narrative to bring some reality back to the conversation.



2 thoughts on “Unreasonable Expectations Killed Talent Acquisition

  1. Brilliant post. A mentor told me years ago, “you can’t tell how far a frog can jump by looking at its legs.” He shared that as we talked about the talent in our organization that rose to exceed expectations and those that had all the tools and chemistry but never quite hit the mark.

    My experience over the years has also taught me that best in one place is no guarantee for best in another. To your point, we see this all the time in sports trades as top talent is moved from team to team factoring out such realities as culture, coaches (managers) etc.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  2. I love the Michael Jordan analogy, Tim. Spot on. This is why (before the fall of the USSR) the Soviet hockey teams kicked our butts consistently when we threw team-after-team of all stars at them. Okay, we got one win in ’72.

    So important to understand what’s required for success to know what the “best” talent is for you. And what’s required includes how people will work within your structures and processes, with teammates, and their boss.

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