Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Kris Dunne for an interview to talk about all things Talent Acquisition. Kris is a fantastic interviewer and asked some great questions during our interview. His rapid fire questions included one movie that reminds me of Talent Acquisition. My favorite movie that describes a successful recruiting is (drum roll) The Greatest Showman.
Listen how Kris and I unpack this on his podcast:
Create your own show
The Greatest Showman opens with an amazing number celebrating the circus life. The lights, choreography, and lyrics suck you in during the opening scene. The vivid colors and cinematography creates an almost euphoric foreshadowing as the scene fades to show the young PT Barnum staring into a shop window as the harsh reality sets in. While reality has a tendency to crush many who dream of a more grand life, characters like PT Barnum inspire us to question what could be?
Unlike the main character in The Greatest Showman, many Recruiting Leaders still try to conform to norms within the industry. They have grand ideas of how recruiting but are beaten down by bureaucratic processes, fixed mindset leadership or overwhelming challenges within their organization. I know firsthand how challenging it can be to transform a recruiting organization and follow your dreams. It’s an exhausting task to not only fight the internal battle of going into uncharted waters to try something new but to also keep your team motivated when success is met with challenge at every turn.
One of the most inspiring themes in The Greatest Showman is the main characters obsession with creating something new. He seems almost invigorated by the doubt shown by both his recruits and society as he incrementally creates the greatest show the world had seen. Rather than allowing challenges to shut him down, he finds new ways to compete by creating his own rules and reality. He doesn’t try to fit into the norms of the industry or comply with group thought. PT goes and creates his own playing field and inspires his audience to meet him on his terms.
Any successful recruiting leader usually has an instinct on how to make their organization successful. I’d challenge every recruiter, whether leading a team or not, to use PT Barnum as inspiration to create new worlds that will attract the talent needed and to leverage the challenges as motivation to press on. You never know what is in store when you chase your dreams.
Diversity is key to any success
I could write one hundred pages about how The Greatest Showman speaks to the importance of diversity. One of the songs from the film, “This is Me”, has become a rallying cry for underrepresented groups to embrace the beauty of their uniqueness and rise up to celebrate it. The corporate world has finally begun to focus on the diversity of organizations and a lot of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the recruiting industry.
The beauty of the film’s focus on diversity is that each member of the show has been cast out or shunned by society for most of their lives. When PT Barnum begins his recruiting efforts, many of the “to-be” cast members show trepidation in his interest in their unique skills. Organizations should remember that while diversity may be a huge focus now, we still have to be empathetic to the pain and fear many feel in the underrepresented groups we recruit. We have to not only say that we have open and inclusive organizations but also follow through once new hires join to ensure they feel safe and celebrated.
There’s also the theme that diversity recruits diversity. PT Barnum starts with a few candidates who take the first step in joining his circus but as they begin to feel safe and accepted, they help him attract more. If your organization is not reflective of the groups you want to attract, start there and develop internal allies to help you in your efforts. Create internal diversity champions to be a part of developing your diversity strategy to ensure you are cognizant of their point of view and interests. Include them when you go to market to recruit to help tell your company’s story in a light that will speak to the audience you hope to attract. This is one of the most basic tenants of DEI recruiting that is overlooked by organizations I speak with.
Start with the why, not the what
As PT began expanding his vision for the circus, he knew he needed a partner to help him reach new markets. The scene when PT recruits his future business partner, Phillip Carlyle, is an example of how to sell a brand to talent that may be outside of your reach.
Phillip was the son of upper society and a successful playwright of his time. He had the world at his fingertips and never worried about how he was to make ends meet. When PT begins his attempt to recruit him, he couldn’t compete on salary or benefits (using today’s terms). He chose to motivate Phillip with a dream of doing something different, creating his own destiny rather than focusing on a “potential equity” payout that may never happen.
Many recruiters tend to shut down when they run into salary compression in the market. I learned early in my career as a sales representative and lender that competing on price is only a short term win but if you want a lifelong client sell them on something they value that you can provide. That may be your organization’s commitment to sustainability or community involvement. It could be that your organization pays for tuition for degrees in the field that could be valuable to someone making more at another firm but paying out of pocket for educational expenses.
When I recruit candidates, I always start with the organization’s story and our value proposition to both our clients and employees. If I speak with someone for twenty minutes, I usually only spend the last five on the actual job itself. I want to find that one thing that motivates the candidate intrinsically and align it with our organization. Most candidates who latch on to my firm’s why and how, the “what” (Salary) usually takes a lesser precedence in the process.
While I agree, we don’t work for fun but to meet our basic needs, I want to challenge you to follow PT’s recruiting style. It’ll allow you to reach candidates you never thought were in your reach. If you want some motivation, watch the scene below and let the song be your anthem as you GO BIG in your new recruiting strategy.
If you haven’t watched The Greatest Showman, you definitely need to add it to your playlist. For those of you who have enjoyed the film, I challenge you to go back and watch it to garner your own lessons. It’s a fantastic playbook on how to build a successful recruiting organization and strategy.
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