Are A-players available to you?

In a recent post, Auren Hoffman argues that, in this economy, hiring has become harder… and he is rather convincing at it:

That’s right … hiring in tough economic times can actually be much harder than when times are good.   In a downturn, the amount of resumes from C-Players massively increases while the amount of resumes from A-Players probably remains the same.

I generally agree with Auren’s premise and conclusions, though I believe it is important to recognize that most companies will never have access to the A-Player pool in the first place, and explained why in my comment.

… Second, about the analysis. The article rests on a fundamental assumption that ANY company has access to A-players or at least all the available A-players in a specific domain. That is simply not true. For example, let’s consider the subset of all A-player graduates from top colleges that are interested in Management Consulting. Now, a leading firm, such as McKinsey for example, is almost guaranteed that close to 100% of those A-players’ resumes will end up in its funnel. Sure they will be buried in tons of not so good candidates. For McKinsey is then only a matter of putting in place a good process. That is simply not true of Mom&Pop Consulting Group. In fact, M&PCG is almost guaranteed that none of the A-players will apply. The difference here is the buyer’s (i.e. the company’s) brand. Now, some will say, M&PCG should simply actively seek the A-players in the hidden market. Nice, but I doubt it to be economically feasible to go find out all the A-players. Even if that were possible, most A-players would have no interest in the company.

Every CEO likes to think about his/her company as the best place to work on earth. The hard truth, that every startup founder is all to happy to ignore, is that for the vast majority of companies, the pool of realistically “reachable” A-players is close to nil. No matter the market.

In other words, while it is obviously wise to do a thorough job at selecting employees, a manager will always compromise. “We only hire the best” is ALWAYS qualified. You only have a chance to hire the best person available to you at that moment, i.e. the best person that knows about you, is willing to work for you, is on the market for a job, etc. etc. And if someone is available to you, it does not mean he/she is available to me.

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3 thoughts on “Are A-players available to you?

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