Frog“I’ve interviewed tons of people, but nobody seems like a good fit for this job.”

“Well, you know it”s a numbers game! You have to talk to a whole bunch of people to find the good ones.”

There’s many places where we talk about the “numbers game” to be successful:

  • Sales prospecting
  • Finding employees
  • Dating
  • Finding a buyer for your house

Here’s the problem: It’s not exactly false, but it leads you into bad decisions.

The true numbers game is pure chance – rolling dice, for instance. You know that snake eyes should come up one time out of 36, on average. Coin flips will end up being about 50-50 between heads and tails.

But we’re talking about people here. It’s not pure chance.

Imagine that I need to go through 100 people to find 10 who might be worth interviewing, and I’ll hire one of them. If I think about it as a pure game of chance, I won’t invest very much in the outcome of each conversation. I’ll just talk to a whole bunch of people, hoping that the odds will eventually give me what I want. I won’t bother following up with each applicant, because … they were just one of the 99 who didn’t work out.

A lot of people prospect for customers and employees that way.

We’re talking about real people here, with hopes and feelings and needs and biases. Some people will be an ideal fit, much better than what the averages indicate. Other individuals will be a terrible match.

In this environment, you don’t want to just treat it as random chance. You want to stack the odds in your favor by attracting the best people. You want to pre-qualify prospects, ideally with little effort on your part.

For employees, one of your most powerful tools is to clearly articulate what your company’s about. Not just opening jobs for people who will do the work, but to give job-seekers a sense of who will thrive in your organization. And just as strongly, to convey who will NOT do well and will be dissatisfied.

This scares some hiring managers. “What happens if someone with the right skills never even contacts me?” Well, if they’re a poor cultural fit, they’ll probably leave pretty soon. Especially in an economy with low unemployment, good people always have the opportunity to move somewhere better.

Your task, then, is to create an environment where people are productive, get along with each other, and bring their A-game to work every day. Then gather your courage and tell people about it before they even submit a job application.

I heard a story about a company which holds a monthly webinar specifically for potential hires. What a fabulous idea!  It gives people a chance to interact with a real human, and for the company to present its story in a rich and compelling way. Interested folks can submit questions anonymously and get useful answers which everyone can benefit from.

Hopefully, then, the people who are a poor match never submit an application. And the ones who are potential gems engage more deeply, and tell their friends.

This totally stacks the odds in this company’s favor. When they bring in someone for an interview, there’s a much greater chance it’ll be a good match.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could stack the lottery in your favor too?

This column was first published in InnovatioNews.