July 22, 2017

Of course we hire the best and the brightest!

Check out this job advertisement:

At Acme drainage system, we are building on our success by finding only the finest people and helping them achieve their full potential. The ideal candidate will be inspired to learn and grow, not to settle for good enough but demand excellence both of themselves and others. This is a fast paced position that requires multi-tasking, so the candidate must be a self-starter and critical thinker who takes pride in their work. We owe it to our employees to hire only the best and the brightest, the rock stars in our industry.

superman or superwoman now work here
We hire the rock stars of the industry!


Do you want to work at Acme drainage? It sounds awesome! Do all of these characteristics reflect your work ethic? Of course! This advertisement really appeals to the ego of the job seeker, doesn't it?  But is this ad for real?

All companies can’t possibly hire the best and brightest. It’s a statistical impossibility. According to a recent Gallup poll, roughly 30% of the American workforce is engaged. The other 70% are either the disengaged, who approach their work as just a job, or actively disengaged, who have enough of a moral deficit to pull everyone else down. A lot of places are hiring or creating workers that are disengaged. Imagine the impact if that rock star who is known and respected in the industry becomes actively disengaged while at your company. Internal moral can be crushed as well as your reputation in the industry!

The question is, does Acme drainage really the structure and drive to support the best and the brightest? Let’s analyze the job description.

The rock stars are “inspired to learn and grow”. Does your company have the long-term support to keep these rock stars engaged five or more years down the road or do you need, the kind of people who aren’t discouraged when asked to modify the pricing report for the hundredth time this year? A rock star’s drive to “not to settle for good enough” may lead to a hasty resignation. Remember, he or she “must be a self-starter and critical thinker who takes pride in their work”. If the real corporate fit is not right, this ‘A player’ should have no problem finding work at the many other companies who claim to only hire the best and brightest.

Is your company willing to accept someone who “demands excellence both of themselves and others”? Will this trait be seen as arrogance or rudeness when the rock star tells people that they aren’t doing a very good job?

Is “fast paced position that requires multi-tasking” a code phrase for a high pressured chaotic environment? Will Acme drainage simply expect the person to do a lot of work without much direction? The American Psychological Association proves that multi tasking is actually detrimental to productivity so do you really want a multi tasker?

Will this rock star be as proud to say “I work at Acme Drainage” as they would be to say “I work at Amazon, Microsoft, Google or Facebook”? In addition, are you willing to pay well above market rate to get these kind of ‘A players’?

Rock stars aren’t all about productivity and work throughput. They come with baggage, needs, and negative consequences. Maybe you owe it to your employees to hire competent people who fit your culture; people who can get along. Advertising that you “hire only the best and the brightest” may actually discourage people with the right cultural fit from applying.

It’s OK to hire the ‘B players’. Take a good long look in the mirror and think about what you really need before you recruit people.