Fast Track Recruitment

The phrase “top talent” is meaningless bullshit

Posted by Mitch on 24th April 2019


I wish our industry would stop using the phrase “top talent” in their content marketing.

I think for most agencies, using it raises the expectation bar to a height that can’t be met.

It’s ironic because “top talent” isn’t what most companies are looking for – and if they are, that’s probably the reason their recruitment processes take 6 months to complete.

Yet the recruitment industry seems intent on laying a claim (and a dubious one at that) to a pain point that largely doesn’t exist.

The reality is, as everyone knows deep down, that talent is a moving target that means completely different things to different hiring managers depending on what day you talk to them. The most practical definition of the word is probably this:

“A person already doing the exact same job in a similar company and who as a result, is less likely to need to be assessed, trained or managed.”

And by “practical definition” I mean how the word is interpreted by time-poor line managers and the recruiters they email job specs to so they can copy and paste them into their email marketing and job ads. And so the hunt begins for multiple agencies to do enough activity to increase the odds on them bumping into a candidate who on paper looks perfect, but who, for some reason, is desperate to get out of their current company.

Perhaps a more enduring characteristic of talent in a hiring context is this:

A person who has some of the skills/knowledge needed, but that those small gaps in their experience mean they would bring more drive and ambition to the job than someone simply making a sideways move for an extra couple of grand.

My own anecdotal evidence from filling jobs for nearly 30 years, is that the candidates I’ve placed that have performed the best were those who had something to prove.

And here’s another irony.

Providing a service that can deliver candidates with something to prove is actually easier than finding candidates who are in jobs they don’t need to leave.

Whenever I see a recruitment agency banging on about “top talent”, I invariably see an agency that probably hasn’t given any serious thought to what their customers actually need or want.

I think a recruitment agency that markets itself around a concept such as “top talent” is essentially hitching its service delivery to an outcome they have very little control over – both in terms of how they’re going to identify, attract and measure it – and how each client will perceive it.

I don’t think the 3rd party recruitment sector needs any more reasons for them and their target customers to not understand each other.

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