Once Upon a Time…

There is a story I heard many years ago when I first got started in the recruiting business. As I recall, it went something like this:

"A reporter asked Bill Gates to name who he thought was Microsoft’s biggest competitor. Rather than name Apple or Oracle or some other up-and-coming technology or software firm, he answered simply and quickly: “Goldman Sachs.” When the reporter inquired further, somewhat surprised with Gates’ answer, he explained that Microsoft will succeed or fail based on the quality of its people and that in order to thrive, Microsoft must position itself as the premier place for the best and brightest."

At the time, investment banking hadn’t yet lost some of the luster is has now as caused by the Great Recession, and most of the superstars from graduate schools either went to investment banking or technology. The moral of the story is that Gates recognized that the war for talent was the most critical factor in Microsoft’s success, and that any business looking to succeed, should put a premium on attracting, hiring and retaining top performers.

Does this anecdote have applications in today’s world? It most certainly does.

What this story demonstrates is the importance of making quality hires and illustrates the maxim that a “company’s most valuable asset, is it’s human capital.” This idea is well imbedded in business ideals and will typically get a lot of nods and agreement from middle-managers, small business owners and HR professionals. Some may even be able to rattle off certain “rules of thumb” like that turnover due to a bad hire will cost 150% of the position’s salary or that one of the top reasons why top performers leave a company is that they feel that they are not surrounded by other top performers.

Even though you’ll get a lot of agreement from business managers on the topic, very few actually take action that indicative that they truly believe that talent, human capital and making quality hires is the most important thing that they can do to ensure their company’s success. There may be several reasons for this, but one that you as a recruiter can impact is that they don’t have the context necessary to anchor the facts. You can give them the context with a story, such as the Bill Gates anecdote. As simple as it sounds, telling a story gives context and helps solidify the point in a way that facts and figures simply do not.

I am reminded that prior to getting into recruiting, I worked in the financial services area for a boutique firm that specialized in catering to the needs of high net-worth individuals for estate planning purposes. For our clients, the insurance policies and other products we offered made perfect sense and we had all of the tools needed to demonstrate to them in black-and-white numbers how they guaranteed to come out ahead by using our services. Despite all the number crunching and facts that we had access to as sales tools, the number one producer for our company used story-telling to close deals. He told a story about how Elvis Presley’s estate was ravaged by taxes upon his death due to a lack of planning. The story resonated with his clients and he was able to engage them in the process and gain their trust and buy-in much better than the salesman who used only the facts and figures.

When you’re talking to your clients about the importance of hiring top performers and the value you bring to helping them achieve that goal, don’t just assume you have their buy-in because you agreed on some arbitrary rule of thumb or that you “proved” your point with some statistics. Instead, remember Bill Gates and Elvis Presley and tell them a story.




Josh Hale, CAC, CSP has been active in the recruiting and staffing industry since 2004 focusing exclusively on high-end corporate accounting and finance placements. Over his career, he has held every position within a staffing firm, including “rainmaker,” recruiter and manager. Since 2008 he has been an Associate with the San Diego firm, General Ledger Resources, where he primarily focuses on project management and senior-level consulting engagements. He has a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego and spends his spare time working to improve his golf game.  He can be contacted at jhale@gl-resources.com.



Views: 249

Tags: Bill, Elvis, Gates, recruiting, story

Comment by stephenbooth.uk on June 11, 2012 at 8:15am

In my experience the problem iss less not making quality hires but rather makign quality hires then treating the person  like an interchangeable cog and not addressing their needs.  I've seen top performers brought in with promises of interesting work, good pay, advancement &c.  Then, 18 months later, that person is stuck doing drudge work and fighting overly beaurocratic systems.  Is it any wonder they move on and warn off their network from taking a job with that employer?

Comment by Eric Smith on June 11, 2012 at 9:12am

Excellet blog, Josh.

Comment by Josh Hale on June 11, 2012 at 10:52am

Thank you, Eric and good point/great insight Stephen.


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