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The Anti-Sell - A Hiring Tool for the Long Game

JP Costales
Jan 11
 - In 

Finding great people is hard. Keeping them is even harder.

Long gone are the days where technology companies get 50 high quality engineers applying for 1 open role. Instead, great engineers have choices, and they know it.

The recruitment and hiring process is used as a glimpse into what life at your company would be like. It’s important to make a positive impression at each step. Top companies take their recruitment and hiring efforts seriously, and continually work to evolve and cultivate their processes to attract, identify and hire the best, most talented, and awesomest people.

Strategies and tactics for effective hiring processes vary, but they’re widely available on the internets and my colleagues have done a great job blogging about these in the past.

Companies these days do a great job of selling candidates on the ‘amazing’ vision, the 'world-class’ team, the 'game changing’ product, and the 'innovative’ culture, in order to make their role and company unique and stand out in the crowd. The perks in tech companies regularly make my non-tech friends shake their heads in disbelief. Free gourmet lunches, free drinks, lavish team trips overseas, huge training budgets, ping-pong tables, foosball tables, billiards tables, Xbox One, Virtual Reality rigs, PS4, PS5, PS99, baby unicorns!

TL;DR Their SELL is amazing, and engineers WANT to join their company.

So once engineers are brought onboard, why do they NOT work out sometimes? And why, sometimes, do they not work out so quickly? Well, there are a few reasons.

One reason, is that unicorns don’t exist. The realities of actually doing the job, somehow got lost in the SELL. So, what does one do to counter-act this worrying trend of failed hires? Well, we’ve found that…

The ANTI-SELL is a great tool to use as a long term hiring and retention strategy.

I’ve personally used the anti-sell with great success in previous roles when hiring, and we currently use this as part of our own recruitment process at Lookahead Search. It’s a great way to set the proper expectations, shine a light on the harsh realities of the role, and to walk through the nitty-gritty details of a job, with brutal honesty and radical candor.

So how does this thing work? Quite simply, once you’ve convinced somebody that your vision, team, product and culture are great, and that this role and company IS for them, you share with them some of the reasons why the role maybe ISN’T for them.

“Ah, so you WANT this job? Fantastic! Now, here are some reasons you DON’T want this job.”
“You wanted an agile environment, we’ve got more of a fragile environment right now.”
“You don’t like changing requirements? Our priorities / user stories change daily at times.”
“You need to follow best practices? We can’t always do that, as we’re delivering to a deadline.”
“You like wearing headphones, but our product people will interrupt, as they love a chat.”
“You wanted to work on greenfields builds, and we’ve got a ton of legacy to support.”
“You mentioned needing peace and quiet, though there’s a building being built beside us!”

But JP, what if we scare great engineers off? No matter how amazing an engineer, no matter how amazing the resume or the pedigree or the references, they can’t be great if they don’t stick around. If they don’t join because of your Anti-Sell, as far as I’m concerned, you just saved months of your life, and a lot of stress and headache, by not training and investing in somebody who wasn’t the right fit.

Finding great people is hard. Keeping them is even harder.

The Anti-Sell can be a great tool to add to your hiring and recruitment toolkit. Honesty is the best policy, and we’ve found it’s a great way to setup candidates, teams and companies for success in the long run, and play to win over the long game.

Sound interesting, but not quite convinced? I’d be happy to have a chat anytime :)

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