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The Recruiting Jedi Mind Trick

“These are not the droids you are looking for….” For the Star Wars aficionados out there, you will all remember this classic line from Star Wars when Ben Kenobi uses the Jedi mind trick on some unsuspecting Stormtroopers. For those not as familiar, the gist of what occurred is that Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker (the good guys) were stopped by Imperial Stormtroopers (the bad guys) as they were trying to get two droids (R2D2 and C3PO) to safety because they contained important information. The Stormtroopers were “on to” Ben and Luke until Ben used the Jedi mind trick to plant the thought into the Stormtroopers heads by “telling” them, that, “These are not the Droids you are looking for.” The Stormtroopers were “convinced” and let Ben and Luke go.

Ben_KenobiAs HR Pros and Recruiters, a big part of our job is us utilizing the recruiting Jedi mind trick to convince hiring managers that the desired candidate/person they want to hire is, in fact, “not the candidate that they are looking for.” The typical scenario we are faced with is a hiring manager that comes to HR/Recruiting with a specific need. They then provide a laundry list of knowledge, skills and abilities that a person coming into the position is required to have. Basically, they provide the recruiter a magical list of all the desirable attributes that they believe someone needs in order to hit the ground running.
This is where the recruiting Jedi mind trick comes into play. The likelihood of finding that software developer with 10+ years of experience in object oriented programming in C++ and Java, with a Bachelor of computer science from M.I.T. and who is willing to relocate to your firm in Tuktoyaktuk (look it up, it exists) are slim to none.

You need to be convincing the hiring manager they need to look for someone else. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you are looking for someone who is willing to make a lateral move and/or you can compete solely on dollars, than you are probably able to find a reasonable facsimile of this person. However, if you are like most companies, you need to compete on the basis of it being a career opportunity. Lou Adler really drives this point home in the numerous speaking engagements and training sessions he does. Lou drive home the point that you need to focus on the opportunity as a career move and focus on why someone would want to make this move to your company. Lou advocates that you don’t look for a set of skills and qualifications; you focus on what it is you need someone to be able to do in the position – i.e. what is the most important thing someone needs to be able to do in the role to be considered successful. Lou teaches his recruiting students to focus on what candidates need to be able to do…not what they need to have. Quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more!

This really hit home for me the other day when I had a conversation with a colleague in the industry about her recruiting challenges. She called me up wanting to chat about the difficulties she was having finding an Engineering Safety Manager to lead the safety function in her manufacturing environment. Due to the complexities of the role, it did require a professional engineering background and they wanted someone who has done this before in the same environment. The icing on the cake was that the plan was located in a very rural environment. They were having an extremely difficult time finding someone and the use of 3rd party search firms was not helpful either. She asked me if I thought that these types of candidates even existed.

I asked her who was performing the role now and she indicated, in fact, they had someone who was in the role temporarily but didn’t want to continue to do it based on the location. She said they were working out quite well but can’t be convinced to stay in the rural location and wanted to be back in the home office (city based). I asked her if prior to this person going into this role, they had any experience leading a safety function in a large manufacturing environment. When she told me no, I knew that the Jedi mind trick could be used.

I spoke to her at length about leveraging this knowledge with the hiring manager and working with him to identify what makes the incumbent’s performance so good, and then start your search based on that. In other words, if you know that you can train on safety knowledge, than you are really looking for someone with the analytical ability to identify and diagnose mechanical issues at the plant that can cause safety impacting concerns. You need someone who has displayed vision and foresight in a previous capacity and is looking to make their next career move and are willing to go to a rural location to do it. Bottom line – anyone doing this role now is not going to make a lateral move to a new company at a rural location to do the same thing.

This is the classic case of where the recruiting Jedi mind trick can work – you need to convince the hiring manager that the person that is currently an Engineering Safety Manager with the full set of skills and qualifications desired is, in fact, NOT the candidate they are looking for. What they really are looking for, is someone with transferable skills that can show you that what they have done in a previous/current role correlates to what you are looking for in your open position.

What about you? Do you think the recruiting Jedi mind trick can work for you? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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2 Responses

  1. Excellent article, Scott. I’m not just saying this as a big SW fan, but the principles are applicable in many other areas of HR when dealing with manager’s needs, wants and wishes.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Erika – I appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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