Riding out tonight to case the promised land

Bruce Springsteen: an American icon, a lyrical genius, the pride of New Jersey, an insightful thinker into the art of hiring the best talent for your organization.

Wait. What was that last one?

Bear with us for a second. We have a story to tell you.

Earlier this month, we had occasion to sit for coffee with a longtime client. This client -- a kind person, truly, and possessed of great emotional intelligence -- mentioned to us that she and her company were looking to hire for a particular position. The position had been open for almost ten months. She'd seen more than 125 resumes. She'd not moved forward with a single candidate. It was simply impossible to find the right person for the role.

And we said: "You're throwing roses in the rain."

For a moment, the only sound was the hiss of the espresso machine and the laughter of a group of high school girls, sitting together at a table across the cafe.

"What?" She'd cocked her head slightly sideways. "I'm doing what?"

"You're not a Springsteen fan." It was a statement, not a question.

"Not hugely."

"It's a line from 'Thunder Road.' The narrator's singing to a girl named Mary -- he's trying to get her to leave her old life behind and come away with him. She's hesitant, though; she's not sure he's the right one for her...so he has to convince her."

Confusing a client is never good for business, so, with puzzlement evident in her eyes, it was time to quote The Boss:

You can hide beneath your covers and study your pain,

Make crosses for your lovers, throw roses in the rain,

Waste your summer praying in vain

For a savior to rise from these streets

"What he knows," we said, "and what he wants Mary to understand, is that he may not be the 'right' one. He may not be. But that's because there's no such thing as the 'right' one. Waiting for a savior to rise from the streets means you spend your summer wasting the days...praying in vain...watching roses wither on wet grass. You never move forward. You stay right where you are, hoping and waiting, forever."

In her eyes, the puzzlement had dissolved. She sipped her coffee. The girls across the cafe huddled together, their voices soft and warm.

That's the story. It's a true one.

And now that's it's over, ask yourself: what is my organization's hiring policy communicating to potential employees? What am I communicating if I have positions posted for six months or longer? What am I communicating by being unwilling -- or unable -- to fill a position in a timely manner? What am I communicating by telling dozens of people "no" -- but not telling one person "yes"? What is it all communicating about my organization?

Bear in mind that your potential hires are, universally, men and women who are intrigued by your organization and your mission. They are allies waiting to happen -- whether "allies" means potential donors or potential customers or merely potential brand ambassadors is dependent on the nature of your organization, but they are all allies nonetheless. Their treatment in the hiring process, even if you choose not to hire them, will make a difference in what they tell others about your organization, which of course makes a difference to your organization's public perception -- and your organization's public perception makes a difference, ultimately, to your bottom line.

Summers are for relaxing -- not for wasting. The right person is very rarely the "right" person, so take the opportunity to focus on what's in front of you, on the present and the passionate and not on the dreamed-of and hoped-for, and listen to the engine turn over as you head out, together, down the road.