Blog Post

Why It's Time to Kill the "Top Talent" Buzz Phrase

Crystal Miller

Guest Contributor

Somewhere down the line, some genius came up with the phrase "top talent" to describe the type of people they wanted to recruit and employ at their company. Maybe it was because "we're hiring" sounds boring, but more likely than not, it's because they wanted more than just one candidate. Instead, they wanted many and wanted it all to sound equal.

While I can appreciate that, I can't respect it. The good intentions of providing a "talented volume" for hiring managers does not make the following questions that people insert "top talent" into any less of a fail:

  • Do you know top talent?

  • We're hiring top talent — apply if you are and let your friends know! (This was from an actual social recruitment ad I saw on Facebook)

  • What top talent do you know that's looking for something more from work? (This was on LinkedIn)

  • We’re hiring TOP TALENT to work in our stores. Stop in today! (This was on the side of a trailer parked in front of a soon-to-be-opened sports retailer)

These are the WRONG questions to be asking and statements to be making. In fact, there's little "talent" in them.

What You're Really Saying

Asking those questions is akin to being the single person who asks their buddy to introduce them to everybody worth dating. If you say it to a potential recruit directly before they've actually gotten the job? It's akin to saying they alone might not be good enough for your company, so you're still looking for someone who might be better.

There's also the "duh" factor that just can't be ignored: who doesn't want to hire top talent? How many "we just want to hire so-so talent" or "people with mediocre potential welcome here" hiring campaigns do you see?

The phrase is so overused at this point that I can't scroll down my LinkedIn newsfeed without seeing it at least half a dozen times every time I log in. Which has led me to this conclusion: it's time to retire the phrase. It doesn't work well and we can do better in our recruitment marketing.

What You Really Mean in Your Recruitment Marketing

At this point, there's likely to be a few ruffled feathers and many recruiting and HR professionals scratching their heads wondering what they should be saying if "top talent" isn't it. Do we go back to the archaic "We're hiring, inquire within?" No. We do better. And we start by looking at the reasons companies often need to hire in the first place: they're either growing or they're replacing someone who's no longer there. According to Forbes, here are the reasons the "talent" (aka: the employees already working for you) give for walking out the door:

  • More than 40 percent don’t respect the person they report to.

  • More than 50 percent say they have different values than their employer.

  • More than 60 percent don’t feel their career goals are aligned with the plans their employers have for them.

  • More than 70 percent don’t feel appreciated or valued by their employer.

The Forbes article also says that 30 percent of employees believe that they will be working somewhere else within the next year. Maybe it's for the aforementioned reasons — or maybe it's that they don't feel challenged. Either way, it's within these fast facts that we find the solution: to attract new talent, focus on flipping the reasons they're willing to leave their current organization in the first place, then highlight how your organization may be better for them.

If you don't think you have a better place to work — there's no career path, your organization has a poor track record of valuing employees, the management isn't so great — then you're probably not going to be recruiting "top talent" unless you fib a bit about the benefits your organization has to which case, they'll be part of the 36 percent that start actively looking for a new job in the first 30 days. Instead, focus on creating a better talent management program before you hone in on your recruitment-marketing program.

Otherwise, check out this infographic on how to increase your talent at "getting talent" by understanding employees’ motivations to stay...or go (hopefully to your company!):

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