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How to recruit in bad times to prepare for better times

Trevor Sutton, Moon Dreams 9, Flowers Gallery

In Harvard Business Review, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Boris Groysberg, and Nitin Nohria offer a guide to recruiting in both good and bad times.

The authors point out that a recession offers an unexpected opportunity to bring in top-level talent that will help drive growth in better times. However, the majority of companies fail to capitalise on this because of "scattershot" recruitment practices.

To resolve this, a six-point plan is suggested:

  • Review your high-level leadership needs every two or three needs. Ask yourself how many people will be needed and in which positions in the next few years, what the organisation will look like and what should be in the leadership pipeline in order to find and develop the leaders of tomorrow.
  • Detail the competencies needed for each leadership position you've identified. What capabilities will be required for the job? Are there any team-based political dynamics that the applicant will have to manage? What resources will the company need to provide?
  • When looking for candidates, cast your net wide. Ask for suggestions from board members, suppliers, customers and trusted insiders.
  • Evaluate the candidate from a broad section of references and conduct "behavioral event interviews", asking them to describe their experiences in similar situations to those they'll face in your company.
  • Once you have decided on the candidate you want, you have to secure their acceptance of the job, so show your interest in them and share your passion about the company and their role.
  • Check on the new recruit regularly during their first few months and assign them a mentor. Make sure they are getting enough support and ask what other types of support they would find useful.

The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad
Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Boris Groysberg and Nitin Nohria
Harvard Business Review