High Volume Hiring
4 min read
June 22, 2022

Rethinking the concept of “top talent.”

How do you make hiring “top talent” more than just a deck you presented to the executive team to appease them? How do you know if you are actually doing it right?

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Raise your hand if you have ever worked with an executive that has made a variation of this statement:

“We only hire top talent!”

Just once I would love to hear a CEO be genuinely honest about what they really do:

“We only hire the top talent … that has actually applied to our open job at the moment we had the job open who was also willing to accept our average salary, average benefits, average culture, and average work location.”

That’s the reality. That’s what 99% of organizations actually do.

In fact, you could even be hiring the worst talent in your market.

You, almost certainly, are not hiring the best talent in your market. In fact, you could even be hiring the worst talent in your market — but because it’s the best of the worst that you’ve seen that day, you can fall into the trap of convincing yourself it’s the “top talent”. If you’re lucky, maybe lightning strikes and you stumble into a great hire: the actual top talent in your market. If you’re lucky.

I find most executives hate using “luck” as a strategy for any part of their business, though.

How to hire “top talent” for your company?

That becomes the full-blown talent acquisition strategy that we hope we are working on and developing; at least that’s what our executive team believes they hired us for! They didn’t hire us to periodically grab some warm bodies from the market and then assign those random bodies with some skills, a tag of being the best of the best. The ways I typically look to hire the top talent is:

  • Do your research on what a "top" candidate would look like
  • Examine performance needed to succeed in the role
  • Ensure the candidate is a good long-term fit

Recruiting top talent is a lot like buying the best car. You have to do research. You have to find out what factors are the most important for you. Your idea of a “top” car might be completely different from someone else’s top car, or mine. And that has a huge impact on the process. When I look for a car, the most important feature I need is dependability. When I turn the key, I want that thing to turn on — every time, without fail! I don’t want to be stuck on the side of a highway waiting for a tow truck.

The second factor I look at is performance. Does it have the type of engine I need for that vehicle? I will then look at functionality. Do I need to carry a bunch of stuff or a bunch of people, or just myself? What level of comfort do I need? And finally, interior features like leather seats, a great sound system, etc. Honestly, the last thing I’m concerned about is the color or what it looks like.

The problem is that so many people will only look at the color and design. Is it pretty? Does it come in silver? They don’t really care if it’s a good fit for their needs or if it will break down in a couple of years and leave them looking for a replacement.

See where I’m going with this?

The process for finding and hiring talent is shockingly similar — and that’s why the “we only hire top talent” statements made by CEOs are so false.

If an organization truly wants to hire the best talent in a market or industry they must first define what “top talent” is to them. Once you have that, your sourcers and recruiters can go out and actually find that specifically. Posting a job and praying the best talent will apply to your job is why so many talent acquisition functions fail in the eyes of their executive team. There is a misalignment between what your executives believe they are asking for and what is being delivered.

Once we know what we want, talent acquisition and our recruiting software can build the plan, process, and strategy on how to best go about finding that specific talent. That isn’t easy. It’s way easier to just post a job and sell our executives on the concept that those who applied are in fact the best talent. Actually discovering who is the best talent, then finding them, then talking them into working for you is very hard. It takes a lot of time, resources, and an organizational culture of recruitment. But this is where the magic happens. This is how world class organizations are born.

I challenge you to send this to your C-suite team and ask them the question: are we actually hiring top talent?

The next part in the series on rethinking the “candidate breakup” is here.

If you missed the first part, rethinking the recruiter experience is here.

Written by
Tim Sackett
CEO of, Senior Faculty Member of the Josh Bersin Academy
Tim Sackett
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