The Talent Crisis: How to Build an A-Team Talent Pipeline in the Post-Pandemic World

How to Build an A-Team

Even before the pandemic, many product teams have been struggling to deliver on their roadmap. They are often spread too thin, with too many simultaneous problems to solve, and many have burned out. 

Meanwhile, leaders have been struggling to fill their ranks with highly talented and motivated people. They’ve been wasting time interviewing bad candidates, and losing great people to high profile tech companies.

These last 18 months have been even more difficult, with teams dealing with the new challenges of working remotely. Morale and motivation have dropped significantly due to lack of camaraderie and close management.

Whether you know it or not, talent is your #1 problem right now. The COVID-19 lockdown has accelerated the Digitization of Everything. Every human interaction has gone online, so the demand for software engineers has exploded. With the transition to remote work, Big Tech has eaten up all the great talent.

69% of U.S. employers were struggling to fill positions in 2020, with tech positions being among the top 10 hardest roles to fill (McKinsey – link needed). Furthermore, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there will be a shortage of 1.2 million engineers in the United States by 2026.

Surveys show software engineers have the highest turnover rate of any sector at 13-23% per year. So you’re losing great people just as fast as you can hire them.

So the workforce is tired, facing new distractions from working from home, and now you’re competing with the global market for talent. Thankfully, there is a solution. I’m going to show you how to build a talent pipeline so you can attract, hire, and retain A-players that will take your company to the next level.

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What Makes an A-Player?

We all know that we want A-Players on our team. But what makes them stand out?

An A-Player is someone who:

  • Is in top 10% in their profession at their salary range
  • You would enthusiastically rehire
  • Drive growth and profitability
  • Has high integrity and delivers on commitments
  • Others enjoy working with

I surveyed a group of CTOs and found that the majority of their teams were not comprised of A-Players.

How to Build an A-Team

We all want to hire A-Players, but even highly successful companies are terrible at hiring them. Why is that?

Why We Suck at Hiring

Most companies are universally terrible at hiring. First, we stretch our teams too thin and wait too long to open new positions. This creates an artificial pressure to hire someone quickly, which leads to lowering the bar for quality.

Not only that, but we’re using old fashioned job boards that attract lots of lower quality applications. 

A-Players are almost always gainfully employed and well-paid. They aren’t hunting for jobs right now, they’re being hunted.

We also struggle with an immature hiring process. Too often, we:

  • Wait until we need to hire, then scramble to fill the position
  • Don’t want to pay recruiters, so there’s no one focusing on filling open positions
  • Don’t have clear values or skill requirements to consistently evaluate candidates
  • Make candidates jump through unnecessary hoops, so they take other offers
  • Are terrible at selling the company and the role, when they’ve likely got multiple offers
  • Settle for the “best of the batch”, not best in class
  • Take too long to give offers, so they go with another company

So, after we settle for the best of the batch, then drag our feet, they take another offer, and we’re stuck with the second or third on our list. Then, a few months later, we realize they were a bad hire, and we’re stuck with them. This is madness!

There is a better way.

How to Recruit an A-Team at Scale

I strongly recommend the book “Who” by Geoff Smart, which provides a practical manual for screening candidates. It’s foundational principle is:

“It’s better to lose an A-player than to hire a B-player.”

In practice, this means that you need a strong justification to move a candidate to the next stage of the hiring process. The default answer is always “No”.

You have to break the mindset of hiring to fill a position. Recruiting is an ongoing process.

During the growth stages, you need to spend half of your time on hiring and organizational development, but don’t take this burden entirely on your shoulders. It has to be a full-court press.

Everyone on your team has to be a recruiter. That means everyone should be engaging with their professional community. Train them to be ambassadors for your company, and have them refer people to you that they admire and would want to work with. This should be an ongoing activity, regardless of any open positions.

Moreover, you should provide generous referral bonuses. Pay your employees $10,000 if they find a great hire. This is still much cheaper than paying a recruiter fee and your employees will only bring in people that they want to work with.

You also have to go on the offensive. Go on LinkedIn Recruiter and find people with the right experience and skills. Send them an automated message that goes something like:

“Hey <Name>, I’m Eric, CEO of Full Cycle Product Development. We are a world-class executive coaching and product-led growth consulting firm for fast growing tech companies. I’m looking to hire an amazing product designer to join my team. I looked at your profile, and I think you might be a great fit. If you’re open to new opportunities, I’d love to chat with you!”

You can run this automation all the time, and constantly fill your rolodex with great talent. Then, when a position opens, it’s just a question of timing.

Finally, after you’ve filled your talent pipeline with A-Players, put them through a rigorous screening process, and brought them into your team, you and your team have to ask a critical question after 90 days. 

The 90 Day Question is: “Would I hire this person again today?”

This is the final filter. If for some reason, they didn’t meet your expectations, or they aren’t a good fit for the team, you’ve got to let them go. Don’t succumb to the sunk cost fallacy of hiring.


It may seem like a lot of work, but make no mistake, effective hiring is the #1 enabler or limiter to growth. If you are a product leader at a fast-growing tech company, we should connect. I coach CTOs and CPOs as they deal with growing pains, help them mature their teams and processes, and scale up highly effective product teams.

I have extensive expertise in engineering and product management, with a focus on bridging the gap between these two domains. We all know that talent is critical to success. And trust me, your company is making critical talent mistakes today.

Here are 3 Ways I can Help You Scale Your Business

  1. Get a free copy of my book, Build the Right Things, and learn how to discover and solve a BIG problem, save hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs, beat out your competition with a winning product strategy, and scale up quickly with data-driven product management.
  2. Apply to join my exclusive Product Leader Forum. In this group coaching forum, you will create strong relationships with other technology leaders, gather insight and guidance on your biggest challenges, create a clear and actionable plan to achieve your growth targets, and accountability partnership to make sure you’re successful.
  3. Setup a free coaching session with me to experience 1-on-1 Executive Coaching. I will help you create a vision for yourself and your business, break it down into achievable goals, and keep you accountable along the way.