Skip to main content

Uniqueness Attracts Top Talent

This week on my Blog Talk Radio show, Talk Business With Howard (Wednesday, August 29th at 11 AM/ET), my guest is Mark Murphy, author of the book, Hiring For Attitude – A Revolutionary Approach To Recruiting Star Performers With Both Tremendous Skills And Superb Attitude. I recently reviewed the book on SmallBizTrends. Thank you, Mark, for writing this guest blog post and for being on the radio show. -Howard-

Mark Murphy - Leadership IQ - Hiring For AttitudeUniqueness Attracts Top Talent by Mark Murphy


It’s a valuable exercise to read your organization’s current job ads and ask:

“How many other companies could say the same thing?”


Think of it this way: Google and Apple are both highly successful companies, but the top talent that defines each organization’s success are quite different from each other.  The same could be said for Southwest Airlines and the Ritz-Carlton.  Equally, your organization’s high performers aren’t going to be the right fit for every organization.  But if your recruitment pitches sound like everyone else’s, where’s the incentive for the talent you do want to get up off their comfortable chairs in their current jobs (that sound just like the generic job you’re advertising for) and come to you?


I recently conducted a search for programmer jobs on a major job board and, after just a few ads, my eyes started glazing over.  These were big companies; household names, and nearly every one of them touted the same things: “work with dedicated passionate coworkers,”  “we offer tremendous opportunities for professional growth,” and a “here’s your chance to make a difference.”


The problem is that high performers aren’t just looking for a generic job in a company that sounds like all the rest.  They want to know what differentiates your culture from all the other organizations out there so they can determine if it’s a culture in which they want to work. One very effective way to “sell” your organization’s uniqueness is to use your recruiting messages to reveal your “Brown Shorts.”


What the heck are Brown Shorts? They’re the specific attitudes that make your organization different from everybody else.  It’s a strange name that pays homage to Southwest Airlines and its unique culture of fun, and it stems from a story I heard from a former Southwest executive.   During a round of hiring for new pilots (typically serious folks dressed formally in black suits and spit-shined polished shoes), the Southwest interviewer invited this serious bunch to get comfortable in a pair of Bermuda shorts (brown in our story) that were part of the airline’s summer uniform.


Most of the pilots perceived the invitation as ridiculous and immediately declined the offer.  And that’s what tipped off the Southwest interviewer that while these folks might be enormously skilled pilots, Top Gun instructor level even, they weren’t a fit for Southwest’s fun-loving culture.  Now, just because you put on the shorts it didn’t guarantee you the job, but it was a good indicator that you just might have the right attitude of fun to be a success at Southwest.


Your Brown Shorts probably won’t be brown, or shorts, or fun, but your organization does have certain attitudes and traits that set it apart from everyone else.  And the key characteristics that define your high and low performers will sound quite a bit different from the characteristics that define other companies’ high and low performers.  And it’s those Brown Shorts that you want to “sell” in your job ad, and not some bland and generic description that makes you sound like everyplace else.


For instance, imagine your Brown Shorts are that your high performers are collaborative; they help each other out without being asked, and without any expectation of recognition or reward.  You could write a generic ad that says “We have dedicated passionate coworkers…” and all the rest.  Or, you could write something that actually appeals to the high performers you want (and repels the low performers you don’t want).  Maybe something like: “Our employees actually work together and share credit.  In fact, glory hogs don’t last very long here.”


Now, I know some will resist this Brown Shorts language and say, “But anyone who is not collaborative will be put off by that description and won’t apply.”


To which I say, “Great!”  You don’t want people with the wrong attitude (the folks who don’t want to wear your Brown Shorts) applying in the first place.  And when the right high performers (the ones who are happy to wear your Brown Shorts) see how serious you are about building a culture full of other high performers just like them (while blocking out the low performers that make them miserable) they are absolutely going to be motivated to get up off that comfortable chair in their current job and come to you.


Mark Murphy is the founder and CEO of Leadership IQ

An expert in aligning goals and people to create healthy organizational change, Mark leads one of the world’s largest studies on goal-setting and leadership, and his groundbreaking research has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. Mark has appeared on CBS News Sunday Morning, ABC’s 20/20 and Fox Business News.

Author of the book, Hiring for Attitude, Mark has also written the bestseller, Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your People to Give It Their All and They’ll Give You Even More, as well as Hard Goals, The Deadly Sins of Employee Retention, and Generation Y and the New Rules of Management.

Some of his other well-known research studies include “Are SMART Goals Dumb?,” “Why CEO’s Get Fired,” “Why New Hires Fail” and “Don’t Expect Layoff Survivors to Be Grateful.”


Please join Mark and me on Talk Business With Howard radio. Click here to go to the show page on Blog Talk Radio to listen to the show.




Want More Success And More Profit In Your Business?
Sign Up For Free Business Tips And Strategies from Howard.

Your privacy is respected. Will never sell, rent, trade or share your email or information.