HIRING … 7 Ways To TURN Turkeys into Eagles

Filed in HIRING ARTICLES by on October 2, 2017


With hectic schedules, meetings, people to see, places to go, etc., etc., it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of an obvious but important fact: hiring the right people will eventually contribute to the overall success of your municipality!

Of course, the opposite holds true as well … bad employees, or “turkeys”, have the potential of costing you thousands of dollars, not to mention creating a host of other complications.

“The single most important piece of the organizational performance puzzle, not to mention the one factor that will contribute to the personal success of each and every manager in your municipality, is human capital, or talent,” according to Bruce Malcolm, Managing Partner of Ravenhill Group – Canada’s Municipal Recruiting Specialist.

Malcolm says that, in Canada’s municipalities, only 25 per cent of hires are considered “eagles” or top performers, but municipal managers and political leaders can increase that number to 90 per cent by following his formula …

Here a few of his tips:


Malcolm suggests that municipal hiring authorities be as meticulous and calculating with new hires as they are with equipment and technology. “For a piece of equipment costing $500,000, we’re disciplined in calculating ROIs, doing comparative shopping and planning installation,” he says. Municipalities should enter the hiring process with the same caution.

To help municipalities measure their return on investment in employees, Ravenhill Group devised a HIRING MISTAKE CALCULATOR which you can view HERE

2. CREATE A REALLY COLOURFUL JOB DESCRIPTION. The job description, when used in a job posting on top-rated municipal job boards, like Logojo, will determine the type of applicants it attracts. Your hiring managers should invest the extra time to make the description as vivid as possible.


Don’t write a job description so vague that nobody – not the hiring manager, not the rest of the staff, and especially not potential candidates – gets it, and the successful candidate’s only hope is to try to figure out the job once they get it!

According to Malcolm, “Even though, as a matter of course, we ALWAYS meet with our client to clarify the details … we quite often get very vague initial job descriptions from hiring managers. If we don’t have the opportunity to vet such descriptions, municipalities will have major problems in doing their own search!”

3. Recruit from your networks and have “Influencers”. “The advantage of recruiting from your networks is that it is faster (pick up the phone, e-mail, use social media), better (because you know the people to be high performers) and cheaper than running ads,” says Malcolm.

Aside from having a network of eagles – make that -great people you’ve worked with in the past – Malcolm recommends having a separate network of people called “influencers”. He continues, “Early in my sales career, we nicknamed these helpful people our “board of directors”. Influencers are essentially the same thing – people who know their own top performers whom they may flag as candidates. We recommend that you (read “every manager”) build and maintain a list of eagles and 10 or more influencers – people who are not suitable for your municipality, but who know a lot of high-performers you might hire. This influencer group can include retirees who stay in touch with lots of talented people, vendors with an eye for talent, professional associates, and former peers.”


“Treat employees as if you’re recruiting them,” Malcolm suggests. If you want employees to speak positively about your municipality, they need to actually like working there. Although it’s often out of the recruiter’s hands, a good work environment and employee brand are critical to attracting passive candidates … and, by “passive”, we don’t mean lazy… theses are simply people who aren’t actively looking! These are the individuals not actively looking for jobs, but willing to consider opportunities that may arise.

It’s also important that current employees know when and for what the municipality is hiring. As Malcolm says, “The municipality’s network is far greater than the recruiter’s network.”

In addition, a great venue to get your employees engaged with prospective hires is within a talent community … so encourage them to go to their various professional and other association meetings – there could be some great prospects there.

“Let employees act as brand advocates – touting your municipal culture, and even referring their social connections into your municipality for your hiring consideration,” advises Malcolm.

5. AVOID GENERIC COMPETENCY QUESTIONS. Ravenhill Group Inc. considers the face-to-face interview to be the weakest step in the hiring process for most organizations. Here’s a typical competency question:

Max, can you give me an example of when you demonstrated a lot of passion for your work?’

Of course, anyone can come up with an example, real or imagined, and anyone can claim more passion than exists. That’s why generic competency interviews fail!

Malcolm knows of at least one recruiting firm that coaches candidates on how to successfully oversell themselves … stretching the truth during the interview process.

For this reason, he believes the key during the competency interview is to not give the candidate a chance to “put their best foot forward.” He suggests asking questions that require answers showing real initiative. For example:

“What actions would you take in the first few weeks, should you join our organization?”

6. HAVING THE CANDIDATE SET UP THE REFERENCE CALL IS THE RIGHT PRESCRIPTION This is done using what Malcolm refers to as the ‘AARC’ (anticipate a reference call), which involves asking the candidate to set up the reference call between the hiring manager and the previous employer or reference.

“This ‘threat of a reference check call’ scares turkeys away,” says Malcolm. “Turkeys generally can’t get their former bosses to talk to you, and they wouldn’t want them to, anyway! Decades of experience confirm that high performers do get their bosses to talk, and are happy to make the arrangement.” Malcolm advises hiring managers to remind candidates throughout every step of the hiring process that they will be the ones to set up the reference calls.


Finally, the greatest mistake all: holding onto a “turkey”! Again, your municipality is a reflection of who you hire. This means that if you make a bad hire, and you keep that person on, you are doing your municipality a disservice.

Some people keep under-qualified or even toxic employees out of loyalty, pity … or even a misguided view of public service. Some do it out of negligence. And sometimes they keep employees because they don’t have the time to terminate them and find someone to take their place (the worst reason of all).

If you know someone isn’t right for your municipality, you need to replace them – immediately! The longer you postpone the action, the more difficult it will become, and the little problems will turn into REALLY big ones in the process.

Making a bad hiring choice happens … but, what’s important is how you handle it.


Of course, if you need some help recruiting an “eagle”, just let us know! Finding quality people is what we, at Ravenhill Group Inc., do.


Bruce Malcolm

About the Author ()

Bruce's background includes 30+ years of human resource management experience covering all aspects of HR administration with a clear specialty in team building and recruiting. He created and developed the concept of “Ethical Head-Hunting™”. Bruce began his recruiting career in 1971 with Prudential Assurance.

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