No matter where you are in the world or what industry you’re in, no matter how big or small you are, and no matter what types of positions you’re trying to fill, everyone struggles with finding and hiring top talent. The solution for everyone is the same ó unless candidate supply far exceeds demand or you’re the employer of choice in your industry. But before I provide the solution, some background is in order. Over the past year, I’ve worked with hiring managers and recruiters in the U.S. and Europe in a variety of industries, helping them develop better hiring and sourcing programs for all types of jobs. The industries ranged from auto dealers, banks, and hospitals to consulting firms, high-tech manufacturing, and no-tech consumer products. The jobs themselves ranged from part-time college marketing reps and camp counselors to top-tier design engineers and senior executives. In every case, the problems were the same and the solutions were obvious. The following ten initiatives will help solve the problem. They’re not new. You probably know them already. Implementing them, though, is the hard part. So rank yourself on a scale of 0-10 on each of these ten programs. In this case, a 10 means you’re doing it and it works flawlessly; a 5 means you’ve started; and give yourself a zero if you make some excuse as to why you don’t need to do it or you don’t know what it means. If you don’t score at least 50 points, get to work. Stop looking for the silver bullet. Combine three traits ó hard work, great management, and thorough execution ó with the following ten programs and your hiring problems will be solved by this time next year. (Hint: Start looking for these same three traits in all of the new people you hire, too.) The Ten Most Important Recruiting Initiatives
- Make your hiring processes potential employee friendly. If you make it too difficult for good people to find and apply for your jobs, they won’t. So if candidate supply is less than demand or you’re not an employer of choice, make sure your “find and apply” process is designed with a top person who might be looking in mind. Start Googling or HotJobing with keywords, job titles, and locations. Be generic with your keywords. If your position doesn’t show up in the first dozen, copy the same techniques of those that do show up. Then evaluate your ad titles and job descriptions. If they’re not enticing and compelling, few candidates will consider them. Describe opportunities; don’t list requirements. Then make sure potential candidates do not have to complete an application.
- Break the wall between recruiters and hiring managers. Start by getting recruiters, hiring managers, and other interviewers to clarify job expectations before you begin looking for candidates. These are the four or five critical performance objectives a top person in the job would need to accomplish to be considered a top person. Now make these projects and tasks so compelling that a top person would be excited to evaluate your opportunity. If your online job descriptions are not compelling, rewrite them. If you’re sending in too many candidates or suffer from “moving job spec” syndrome, the likely cause is generic job descriptions that lack excitement.
- Use technology to increase recruiter productivity. Has your investment in technology either improved the quality of candidates hired or enabled your recruiters to handle more assignments? Most companies are questioning the ROI of their technology efforts on these two measures. Where do you stand now compared to five years ago? Start by making sure your search engine can separate the best candidates from the worst. Then make sure every single recruiter knows how to do this. This change alone will increase team productivity 20-30%. You’ll probably find some great candidates, too.
- Implement workforce planning. If you’re not now starting to look for candidates for Q1 2006, you’re already behind. If you’re not now aggressively looking for candidates for Q4 2005 you’ll never make it with your existing team and budget. If you’re now looking for candidates for Q3 2005 or are still looking for candidates for requisitions opened in Q2 2005, you’re in deep trouble. A rolling workforce plan is the primary tool that all recruiting departments need to have. It’s equivalent to the production plan, the sales forecast, and the budget all rolled into one. It needs to be updated every quarter to give you a rolling estimate of your company’s hiring needs over the next 12 months. Unless your hiring needs never change, you can’t plan ahead effectively without one.
- Get more recruiters. Every company wants to convert its corporate recruiting department into the equivalent of a hot outside search firm. They believe this will allow them to hire those elusive passive candidates. But outside recruiters don’t handle nearly as many reqs as corporate recruiters, so unless you alleviate this problem you’ll never get there. On the other hand, I wouldn’t add recruiters until you’ve implemented initiatives #1-4 above.
- Get your recruiters off the PC and onto the phone. If candidate supply is less than demand and you’re not an employer of choice, do not hire another recruiter who isn’t comfortable calling strangers on the phone. The best people need to be called and convinced. So if you or your recruiting team think they can find enough good people using technology (job boards, tracking systems, Internet tools), you’re pushing on a rope. If you’re now making excuses, read #5 again, and then implement #1-4.
- Focus on referrals, referrals, and more referrals. Your current employees know all the great people you’ll ever need to hire; the problem is they won’t give you their names without a fight. You need to personally ask them (take a fellow employee to lunch every day) to tell you the names of every great person they’ve ever worked with or heard of at their prior company. Then recruiters need to cold call these great people and recruit them ó and get at least three more names of other great people. With this type of self-generating, proactive employee referral program, you’ll have more than enough candidates in a few days for any assignment. With a workforce plan in place, you’ll know where to target your recruiting team’s efforts so you don’t have to do this all at once.
- Focus your technology efforts to build and nurture your pipelines. You’re going to get lots of great leads from the proactive referral program suggested above. Nurture this asset. In marketing parlance, it’s called “drip marketing.” Send out regular emails, invite members of your talent pool to private webinars, and provide them with their own private website. Think of ten other ideas and implement five of them. Design your technology to do the heavy lifting, automating all of these activities. Then, two to three months before you need some candidates identified in your workforce plan, turn on the heat. Start calling, create a buzz, make the jobs compelling, and then get more referrals. Before you know it, hiring top talent will be a systematic business process.
- Train your hiring managers to be better interviewers. Most managers are really pretty bad at this, so what’s the point of improving your recruiting processes if you’re hiring team isn’t going to notice? To eliminate this problem, have each one read my one-question interview article in combination with the performance profile created in #2 above, and before you know it you won’t be losing good candidates due to bad interviewing. (Why don’t you try it before making excuses about why it won’t work?)
- Don’t take no for answer. This is probably not an initiative, but it is a fundamental principle you and your recruiting team need to adopt. Very few great candidates sail through the hiring process without some type of direct recruiter involvement. Overcoming concerns, handling negotiations, and explaining the job and growth opportunities are all part the process of recruiting top talent. Great candidates and hiring managers alike often say “no” somewhere along the way. Great recruiters recognize this as a request for more information, especially when the person doesn’t have enough information to make a valid decision or has the wrong information. Not taking no for an answer is the first step recruiters need to learn to get to yes.
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There are probably other initiatives that could have made the list, but hopefully the above made you ponder and evaluate your existing recruiting processes. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to comment upon or edit the list, or if you want to be part of my September 2005 free online interactive webinar. During this freewheeling session, I’m going to ask participants to describe how they’ve started implementing these programs. Bottom line, though: Getting started is more important than attending the webinar.