Why Momentum Matters for Successful Hiring

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Highly successful recruiting means harnessing the power of momentum.

Don’t believe me? Just ask any leading CEO about talent strategy (we recently did just that) and they’re likely to remark on the cyclical ebb and flow of the labor market, engaging your employees to propel referral activity, or even well-timed viral marketing as a great way to catch the eye of new talent.

This all has a natural tie to momentum: when a series of positive – or negative – events occur, a driving force is created to precipitate more of those events. However, this principle doesn’t just apply at an organizational level. It also has relevance to the daily life of any talent acquisition professional.

Have you ever felt like you’re just on fire? A tense offer negotiation goes your way, you reach a critical milestone on a project ahead of schedule, and receive auspicious feedback from a tough stakeholder, all in short order. Alternatively, have you ever felt like you just can’t catch a break? The proverbial “when it rains, it pours.”

I lead multidisciplinary teams recruiting across diverse industry verticals and speak to them often about capitalizing on the power of momentum. Sometimes, it’s met with a healthy dose of skepticism. To be fair, their response is at least somewhat warranted given the topic’s link to the self-help industry (12 Tips for an Instantly Happier & More Fulfilling Life, anyone?).

With that said, hear me out. While it was initially studied in the world of elite athletics, psychological momentum (PM) – the academic label for being “on fire” – has been found to have a profound impact on success and goal achievement across many aspects of personal and professional life. Professors Charles Dotson and Seppo Iso-Ahola of the University of Maryland pointed to this in a 2016 article, in which they stated: “better performers perceive and experience momentum of success more frequently, ride it as long as they can, and as a result, become more successful in the end.”

Whether you’re trying to win the World Cup or chasing a lofty sales goal, momentum does matter.

So, what do I mean when I say, “capitalizing on the power of momentum”? In the talent acquisition landscape, it boils down to two simple goals: 1.) capitalizing on the highs, and 2.) quickly turning around the lows.

Here are a few road-tested strategies to do just that:

  • When the wind is in your sails, keep sailing!: This is an easy one, yet powerful in both its simplicity and under-utilization. Have you ever been working on a deliverable and hit the sweet spot? Ideas are flowing freely, thoughts are clear, and things are just “clicking.” Wouldn’t you do anything you can to stay in the zone working on that deliverable for as long as possible? Too often, due to jam-packed schedules, rigid organizational hierarchy, and competing priorities, daily reality is more like jumping from one task or meeting to another, with little regard to how productive (or not) those tasks and meetings are. My colleague Noelle Paras recently highlighted how building a “fluid and fearless team” can be key to applying agile methodology in an HR context. Particularly if you are in a leadership role, don’t be afraid to flex your time to capitalize on momentum. “I’m working on a project and I’m really in the zone” is a perfectly acceptable reason to reschedule a non-critical meeting.
  • Call a time out: If things simply aren’t going your way, stop going for a moment. As difficult as it may be – deadlines and stakeholder pressure be damned – resetting your mental state can be a highly valuable activity. Individually, this might mean a short midday walk or a quick chat with a friend. For teams, perhaps a bonding activity to get everyone’s minds off of the stressful project that’s been consuming all of their time and mental energy.
  • Trust the process (to an extent): Restrain yourself from throwing out a process or recruitment strategy with proven success after a string of a few bad days. Even the most successful teams don’t win 100% of the time. With that said, be careful of sticking with something simply because “that’s always the way it’s always been done.” Change in the recruitment industry comes at a feverish pace; consequently, a propensity to continually question and challenge is always in order, even with proven processes.
  • When you’re stuck, just start: In the words of author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, “The hardest part is starting.” In no other time do these words ring truer than when you feel like you’ve lost all momentum. The physical and mental activity of starting – somewhere, anywhere – by definition creates momentum to propel progress forward.

Whether you’re vying for a World Cup title or simply trying to fill a niche tech stack job, remember: momentum matters. Whatever “winning” means for you in the talent acquisition landscape, understanding (and embracing) the impact of momentum is critical to success.

An object in motion tends to stay in motion. Keep it that way.


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