Hiring “Rock Star” Talent is Not Always Best Practice

As a former recruiter, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews and filled dozens of open positions for large cap companies. My experience in the space has taught me many things about identifying the right talent, but there are three that matter most:

  1. The most expensive applicant is not always the most qualified one for the job.
  2. Being “overqualified” for a job on paper doesn’t mean a candidate will actually be able to do the work once he or she is in the role you’ve posted for (there are many different reasons for this that I’d like to get into another time).
  3. Hiring the “Rock Star” applicant (i.e. the ultra-experienced, high potential candidate with all the right skills who also just-so-happens to be a cultural fit) is not always the best business decision.

The last point is the one I want to talk about today.

We have a tendency as talent professionals to want to hire “Rock Stars”. We do this because of a strong desire to provide our businesses with the best talent, and it’s natural to assume “best talent” is strongly correlated with best experience/skills/potential for development/cultural fit/etc. Hiring great people also reflects well on us as recruiters, and when the people we source perform well in their jobs this (by extension) pays dividends for us over the course of our careers.

In practice, however, always hiring “great” talent when only “adequate” is needed can lead to turnover issues. This is because there are only so many promotions available and so much room in the budget for merit payouts. Put another way: If a company has more talent than it can reward for high performance (via either monetary incentives or promotions) then it won’t be able to retain all of that talent for very long. Intrinsic rewards are a valuable tool to engage employees, but – particularly when dealing with high performers – they only go so far.

This is why it’s important that hiring managers partner closely with HR to monitor bench strength and develop succession plans for key roles. The cost of replacing a departing employee can be extremely high, and the higher up in the organization one moves the more expensive it gets.

This is why “Continuity Players” – employees that are happy in their current role and not looking for additional progression – are critical linchpins in any organization. It’s important not to undervalue employees that are good at their jobs and content with where they are. Further, to this point it’s important to remember that not everyone can be a superstar (so hire accordingly).

“Rock Stars” need a place to shine – if your company doesn’t have one for them then it may be better to pass and hire someone else.

Please share your thoughts below.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Jsome1

Rory TrotterAbout the Author: Rory Trotter is an HR leader with Fortune 500 experience in compensation, talent management and labor relations. He is passionate about HR because he believes the best organizations are those that consistently find ways to attract top talent, nurture said talent’s strengths, and ensure sustained productivity and innovation via the use of initiatives that both recognize and reward high performance. You can connect with him via Twitter @RoryCTrotterJr and read more of his thoughts on human resources at rorytrotter.com.