Rebellious Recruitment? Use a 'Scare Them Away' Letter!

Written by in Practices
- 4 min read

As you know, we're in business to make work more fun. Ideally, we could help all companies around the world to do that. But not today. Today, I'll share a practice that's simply not for everyone. This one, as you'll see, is exclusively for the bold and brave. If you belong to that group, read on. If you don't, stop reading.

Recruitment gone wild

Companies spend crazy amounts of time and money recruiting talent. The "war on talent" is on many CEO's minds.

But finding the right people is hard. 93% of CEOs feel they need better ways to attract and retain the right talent. Other data says 38% of companies struggle to fill open positions.

This challenge is real.

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Scare them away

You might be hoping for a powerful idea to overcome that challenge—a secret weapon for the awkwardly-named 'war on talent'. But I'll have to disappoint you. Instead of suggesting a solution, I'll share a practice that will make the challenge even bigger...

You're welcome.

During my vacation I read a recent book on self-management, called "Moose Heads On The Table" by Karin Tenelius and Lisa Gill. The book shares stories of implementing self-management in smaller companies. In one, they discuss a practice called the 'scare-them-away' letter. Here's an excerpt from the book:

"Everyone became responsible for recruitment and onboarding. I wasn't even asked to meet the applicants but I trusted the team implicitly to know what skills and mindset were essential in order to thrive in the working environment we had created. The team became extremely picky about who they felt was a good fit.

We even wrote a 'scare them away' letter for those considering a job before they accepted our offer:

For you to consider before accepting our job offer:

In a small company organized the way we are, the traditional employer-employee relationship is replaced with a partnership. This means that:

  • You cannot expect the same service, support and infrastructure as you would in a large organization. This means the things you miss might need to be initiated and created by you.
  • You are regarded as someone who is really important in terms of how our company is doing, not just as someone who comes in and does their job.
  • You will have more responsibility for the whole picture, and you will also be able to have a greater impact than in a larger organization.
  • You will feel a bit more insecure than you might in a larger organization. How the company is doing financially has a more direct correlation to your employment.
  • The owners will work together with you but they will not manage the company - you and your colleagues will.
  • You will be required to contribute and take initiative. You will have to adapt to the fact that not everything will be in place, taken care of or running perfectly.
  • To work in this way open and straightforward communication is essential. This is a strong part of our culture.

All of us have different needs and desires in our workplaces where we spend a great deal of our lives. It is worth considering yours - what do you want from your future workplace? From experience we know that it takes more to work in a small business versus a larger one with its resources and established systems. We ask you to think about this and see if you are match with us.

Stop the charade

As I said before, this is probably not for all organizations. But, on some level, this feels extremely powerful. Sure, you might miss out on those who hesitate after reading such a letter. And that's great! You don't waste weeks or months figuring out that expectations were utterly misaligned and there's not a good fit.

So many companies put up a charade during recruitment in the hope of attracting new people. But sooner or later the company's true character will reveal itself, with all the associated consequences. So why not be radically honest from the very start?

It's not just the right thing to do, it also reduces disappointments down the line—for both employer and employee.

What do you think of the 'scare them away' letter? Is it something you'd like to implement in your team or organization? Let me know in the comments.

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