Next Generation of Leaders: 5 Tips for Buying Talent
June 5, 2018

I recently wrote about building a talent pipeline and today I want to talk about buying top talent. I’m often asked “What is the right mix of internal vs. external talent?” I always suggest that the organization’s business strategy, culture and maturity play a role in determining the appropriate mix. I believe that having the majority of your leadership team come from within your organization will yield the best results. Carefully infusing new leaders into your organization at the appropriate level should also be a part of your overall talent approach. Only you and your leadership team can determine the appropriate ratio of internal to external talent.

As mentioned, I’m generally a proponent of building talent from within and there certainly are instances when buying talent is the best scenario. The most common situation is not having a needed capability internally. I’ve worked with technology clients who needed particular capabilities to grow their business and simply couldn’t find the talent buried in their organization. Some organizations may be looking for fresh ideas or outside perspectives. This is particularly effective if you are trying to change your culture. Looking externally for employees that have the right cultural fit can jump-start your efforts. If your organization is a growth phase, you may not have enough internal resources or don’t have time to wait for folks to develop. Consider United Technologies Corporation (UTC), they just don’t have the internal resources to support expected growth and are looking to buy talent to the tune of 30,000 employees.

5 Tips for Buying Talent

Focus on Cultural Fit

If you’ve ever attended any of my hiring workshops, you know that I harp on this. Too often hiring managers are focused on what I call “pedigree”. Awesome skills, education and experiences will only go so far. You need to ensure that “perfect” candidate will be suited to your culture. If not, you risk lowered productivity and quality, decreased satisfaction and the potential for a toxic environment.

Ensure Your Candidate Has Been There and Done It

When you are conducting an external search because you need a capability that doesn’t exist today in your organization, look for a candidate who has done it before. Use your behavioral interviewing skills to understand what the situation was, how the candidate approached it, the results and how they added value. If you’re looking for someone to head up a new function, be darn sure she/he did that previously.

Leadership Skills to Compliment

As you look at your leadership teams and pipeline, pledge to build a team that compliments one another. Everyone has strengths and you need visionaries, business process experts and executors on the team. I recently worked with an executive team that was primarily creatives and they were not able to deliver to their customers on time. Through our work, they determined that hiring a member with the ability to execute was a good business decision.

Go for Roughly Right vs. Perfect

I said this in my piece about building talent too. Often times hiring managers are looking for perfection; mainly because they feel time strapped and want someone who will be productive on their own immediately. This desire for the perfect candidate can elongate the time a role is vacant and backfire in the end. Determine your top two or three must haves and focus there along with cultural fit.

Get Creative to Attract Big Fish

Often times small organizations believe they will not be able to attract someone from a larger organization. To successfully attract this candidate, understanding the applicant’s motivation and your organization’s value proposition will be critical. Consider this: smaller organizations generally provide more autonomy and decision making, your location may dramatically improve a candidate’s commute to work or the opportunity may allow the candidate to learn some desired skills.

Too often organizations are scrambling for leaders because they haven’t placed value on building a leadership pipeline. As a business owner or HR leader, identifying your leadership succession strategy should be a prominent focus. Investing time in understanding the capabilities needed for today and tomorrow along with the skills of the talent in your organization, will pay dividends when you need your next group of leaders. A combination of building and buying leaders will set you up for success.

Leesa Schipani

Leesa Schipani


With 20+ years HR experience, her focus includes HR strategy, talent management, and customer & employee experience. Leesa has advanced HR certifications: SPHR, SHRM-SCP.


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