What Is Your Rocket


Photo by  SpaceX  on  Unsplash

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

Why do you stop to read a job ad?

Why do you apply to a job?

With respect to the first question, the answer may be the sizzle. The sizzle is the thing that catches your attention and compels you to want to learn more. The sizzle may or may not be a gimmick, but it is something that matters to you or else you would not have made any effort to learn more. While every job ad needs some sizzle, the reality is that it also needs substance. The balance of the two becomes critical when you are trying to attract top talent and compel them to engage in a conversation about an opportunity. There has to be something extremely compelling to the candidate to get their interest, and there must be something significant for them to want to learn more.

Let me tell you a story about a call I had last week regarding a potential search to highlight both of these elements...

A potential client reached out to me about hiring a new wastewater treatment plant manager for a corporate campus located in Upstate New York. The client owns and operates private utilities across the country focused mainly on power so this wastewater utility was a bit outside of their wheelhouse.

The client’s president, a man with fantastic leadership credentials, walked me through the search and provided me with a background on the company. He presented the facts clearly and explained what he was looking for in this hire. Here are the facts:

  1. The current incumbent would be retiring soon.

  2. The new hire will oversee a workforce with an average of 30+ years of experience.

  3. The operators of the plant wanted to unionize but have not succeeded.

  4. The plant was built in the 1960’s and hadn’t have a major retrofit or upgrade.

  5. The wastewater is industrial, flow can vary, and the influent BOD and COD can change significantly based upon upstream activities.

  6. The plant has had violations but was in compliance.

  7. The new hire had to have excellent leadership and communication skills.

  8. The new hire needs to have the highest level industrial wastewater treatment license.

  9. A hire with “runway” would be preferred, as many of the team members would be retiring soon.

Frankly, this search scared the hell out of me for the following reasons. This position oversaw an non-core asset. The existing team came to the company via acquisition and did not seem like they would be interested or excited to welcome a new leader. The plant itself sounded out of date, unique (not a good thing), and, again, part of a non-core asset. Lastly, the new hire needed to be an excellent leader with runway….i.e. the most in demand hire in a historically tight labor market.

This position seemed like hard, hard work without a compelling why. I struggled to see what would compel a strong candidate to consider this as their next great opportunity. Every search needs some sizzle, the thing that attracts top talent like a magnet, and substance.

I asked the president to think about how SpaceX attracts top talent. Building a rocket to send into space is difficult but it is also an incredible mission. This is why SpaceX has been able to attract top talent to do the hard work.

“What is your rocket?” I asked. How do we catch the attention of top talent and compel them to want to learn more?

In the case of this search, the utility provides service to one of the most iconic and historically important corporate campus in the United States. Everything, including the water, power, and waste solutions, were built to protect and support the company. By working at this site, a leader could get first hand experience understanding the history that went into building such a site and learn how management addressed the needs of the business through incredible engineering and site design. There are very few sites in the world where someone could get this education. This job would set them up well for working at other iconic corporate campuses.

Every search needs some sizzle and substance in order to be successful. If you are hiring, you have to figure out what that thing is and then relate it to the very core of the position you are looking to fill.

Organizations have a mission, and many have a vision, but these things need to be related directly to the individual positions within the company or they simply will not have a meaning. People want to do meaningful work, and hard work is not a bad thing, but if you can’t find the sizzle and substance in the role that connects it to a meaningful mission, good luck because you are in for a challenge.

Conversely, if you recognize that recruiting is marketing and you can tell a story that relates the why and the what, you will get the hires that you need!


Written byAustin Meyermann, Founder and President of Hunter Crown, LLC


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