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Don’t Recruit The Best People -- Attract Them

by John P. Strelecky -- International Best-selling Author of The Why Café

Smart leaders don’t recruit the best people, they attract them. Why do they do it? They do it because it makes their lives easier, and their companies more successful. How do they do it? They have a clearly defined corporate Purpose For Existing (PFE), they tell the world about it, they live it, and the best people come to them. They don’t recruit, they attract.

The success of this method is based on two principles. The first is a very basic tenant of life on the planet; “Like attracts Like”. It is the reason zebras run together on the African plains, similar looking fish travel in schools, and in any given crowd of people, each sub-group is composed of individuals with similar characteristics. A leader who has defined their company’s PFE is saying in essence “I am a zebra. If you too are a zebra, come out here on the plains and join me.”

The second principle is that the best and the brightest in the work-force seek more than just a paycheck from their job, they seek fulfillment of their own personal Purpose For Existing (PFE). On average, employees spend 70% of their waking hours Monday through Friday either at work, getting to work, or preparing for work. For the most part, their work is their life. The best and the brightest know this, and understand this. They want to make sure that while spending 70% of their life at work, they are in some way fulfilling their own PFE. They seek out companies where the organization’s PFE supports their own.

The concept of attracting vs. recruiting might not seem like an important topic in an era of economic uncertainty where companies are laying people off, or putting freezes on hiring. The U.S. has been in that situation now for almost three years. However, data from the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, and independent studies from professional staffing and Human Resource Management firms indicate a change is coming. Projections are for labor shortages starting this year in certain industries and increasing to approximately 6 million skilled workers in 2012. The repercussions of such a shortage won’t just be felt in lost opportunity costs as companies can’t get the necessary qualified talent to serve new customers. More painful and directly impactful will be the costs felt as employers try to fill open positions. According to Human Resource studies, total costs to replace a skilled managerial level employee can total as much as 150% of the departing person’s salary by the time recruiting, training, and productivity costs due to losses with current customers are factored in. With studies showing 55% of salaried people planning on moving as jobs become available, this cost could be substantial for individual companies.

In light of this looming future, the opportunity to attract versus recruit the best people, as well as the issue of maintaining the right employees, both become more relevant.

Leaders interested in creating an environment where they attract instead of recruit the best candidates should follow three key steps.

1. Clarify Your PFE
2. Tell the World What Your PFE Is
3. Fulfill Your PFE

Clarify Your PFE
What is your organization's Purpose For Existing (PFE)? Why was the organization formed? What unique function does it serve? Many organizations already have their PFE as a deeply imbedded part of their culture, and often it exists in some written form. It may seem obvious to you as a leader, or to your employees. Now is the time to either turn it into the written word if it isn’t yet, or make sure it is clearly articulated if it already exists in writing.

An example of a PFE that is clear, impactful, and to the point is that of Merck & Co., Inc. Merck is a global pharmaceutical products and services company that focuses heavily on research. Their PFE is stated in the following way “Our business is preserving and improving human life.” They back this up with the following sub statement. “All of our actions must be measured by our success in achieving this goal.”

Tell The World What Your PFE Is
When you have a clearly articulated version of your PFE, let the world know what it is. Put it on all your marketing materials, internal documents, web sites, and your communications with buyers, suppliers, customers, campus placement offices, and partners. Make sure that when people hear the name of your company, they automatically know what your PFE is. It is through these efforts that you are saying to the world “I am a zebra. If you too are a zebra, come join me”. Your PFE will have an impact on the people who interact with you. Those who have a personal PFE that is similar to your organization’s and who in fact can fulfill their PFE by helping your organization fulfill its PFE, will now be attracted to you. Think in terms of Merck. How attracted do you think someone is to Merck if their personal PFE is to improve human life?

Fulfill Your PFE
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” This is something for organizations to remember. To succeed in attracting, not recruiting the best people, an organization must live up to the PFE that it identifies and promotes to the world. Exhibiting actions incongruent with that PFE will quickly damage the company’s credibility and decrease their attraction. However, for organizations that live the PFE they create, every action they do makes the attraction that much stronger for potential candidates.

Organizations that follow these three steps will find themselves approaching hiring in an entirely new way. Creating awareness about the organization’s PFE and then interviewing people attracted to the company will become the norm, not recruiting. For organizations that are doing the three steps very successfully, having to work hard to recruit someone should be an indication that they are trying to get the wrong person. If someone clearly understands your organization’s PFE and your organization has done an effective job of fulfilling its PFE, but the person still needs to be convinced, then you don’t want them in your organization.

Make your life easier and make your company more successful. Don’t recruit the best people, attract them.

Copyright © 2006 John P. Strelecky

John P. Strelecky is the international best selling author of “The Why Café” (Da Capo Press; April 2006; $12.95US/$16.95CAN; 0-7382-1063-3) and a highly sought after inspirational speaker on; “How to Achieve Maximum Success with Minimal Effort.” His CD series of the same name has received rave reviews from listeners. A graduate of Northwestern University’s MBA program, John has served as a business strategist for numerous Fortune 500 companies. Through his book, CDs, articles, and appearances on television and radio, he has positively impacted the lives of millions of people. John can be reached through his website at, or by calling 407-342-4181.