12 Elements of a Comprehensive Recruiting Strategy

In Part 1 of this three-part article aeries, I defined recruiting strategy and the benefits of having one. Here in Part 2, I highlight the 12 essential elements of a comprehensive recruiting strategy. 1. What are your primary goals? (Why hire?) The first element of recruiting strategy is to determine “why” you are hiring outside people. First, you must determine your firm’s business goals and then what recruiting can do to contribute to each of them. Some of the more common business reasons for hiring include:

  • Replacements for turnover
  • Current or future business expansion
  • Upsizing the caliber of talent because top talent has become available
  • Limiting the talent available in the market in order to hurt a competitor’s ability to staff adequately
  • Learning from other firms
  • Increasing the capability of your firm by adding new skill sets

Which of these focus areas you select is important because each requires that you direct your recruiting efforts in a different way. For example, if you are hiring for geographic expansion, you will need to implement a strategy that allows you to enter new geographic regions — as opposed to hiring to hurt, where you need to focus on hiring away key talent directly from competitors. 2. Prioritization of jobs No recruiting function has enough resources to fill every position immediately with the top quality hire. As a result, your recruiting strategy needs to include a prioritization element. Priority can be assigned in the following ways:

  • Hire all jobs equally with the same priority
  • Focus on key strategic business units
  • Focus on key jobs
  • Focus on key or powerful managers

3. Performance level to target Recruiting top performers requires a different strategy and set of tools than recruiting average performers. As a result, you must first determine what level of performance you are primarily targeting before you determine the other elements of your recruiting strategy. Performance targets include:

  • “Butts in chairs” (hire the cheapest candidates with adequate skills in all jobs)
  • Focus on average performers in all jobs
  • Focus on top performers in all jobs
  • Focus on top performers just in key jobs

4. Experience level to target Some employment strategies require you to take the long-term approach and develop your own talent, while other approaches target bringing in experienced talent for immediate help or to bring in new skills. Experience target ranges include:

  • Inexperienced talent that can be trained
  • Temporary and contract labor that can be converted
  • Hire at the bottom and promote within
  • Undergraduate college hires (interns, Internet and on-campus hires)
  • Postgraduate hires
  • Experienced hires

5. Category of candidate to target Whether you target active or passive candidates has a tremendous impact on both the quality of hire and the difficulty of getting an acceptance. Active candidates (the easiest candidates to attract):

  • Unemployed candidates
  • Currently employed but frustrated in their current job

Passive candidates (These are individuals who are currently employed and not actively seeking employment. They represent over 80% of potential candidates, but they are the hardest to attract.):

  • Focus on currently employed average or above average performers
  • Focus on currently employed top performers

Diverse candidates:

  • Diverse candidates defined by using EEOC standards
  • Diverse “thinkers” using a global standard

Magnet hires (Target magnet hires who are well-known individuals who, because of their notoriety, by themselves help to attract others.):

  • Magnet hires from within the industry
  • Magnet hires from outside the industry

6. When to begin searching for candidates Most firms begin a search once a requisition has been created. But there are a multitude of approaches available:

  • Begin recruiting when an opening occurs
  • Continuous search (evergreen jobs where there is a constant need)
  • Begin before an opening occurs (pre-need hiring can be done to build a talent pool or to build a relationship over time, in order to increase applications and offer acceptance rates from employed individuals and top performer candidates)

7. Where to look for candidates There are three sub-categories within the “where” element. They include: Internal versus external:

  • Focus on all internal candidates (laterals or promotions)
  • Settle on a fixed ratio of internal to external hires
  • Hire primarily from college campuses
  • Hire primarily from external sources

Inside or outside the industry:

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  • Target within the industry only
  • A fixed proportion outside the industry

Geographic focus:

  • Local commuting area only
  • Within the region
  • Within the U.S.
  • A truly global search

8. Who does the recruiting? There are two sub-categories under this element. They include: Internally, who is responsible for recruiting?

  • Generalists do most recruiting.
  • Primarily internal recruiters working in HR
  • Separate sourcing and recruiting efforts within a centralized recruiting function
  • A mix of corporate and contract recruiters that work internally
  • Line managers do most recruiting.
  • Employees contribute significantly to recruiting through a heavy emphasis on employee referrals.

Utilizing external recruiters:

  • Utilize external recruiting agencies mostly at the very top or bottom jobs
  • Third-party recruiters are utilized only for hard-to-fill or key jobs
  • Primarily utilize external recruiting agencies
  • Outsource the entire recruiting function

9. Primary sourcing tools Identifying candidates and convincing them to apply is essential to great recruiting. Some of the possible sourcing focus areas include:

  • Traditional media (newspapers, walk-ins)
  • Sourcing using events (job fairs and industry events)
  • Traditional Internet sourcing (large and niche job boards)
  • Nontraditional Internet sourcing (Google-type name search for passives; chat rooms)
  • Employment branding (a long-term sourcing strategy to build a steady long-term supply of candidates)
  • Acquiring intact teams and a large amount of talent through mergers and acquisitions (buy firms for talent)

10. What skills should you prioritize when selecting candidates? When selecting the most appropriate candidates from the candidate pool organizations can use a variety of approaches. Those target skills or competencies could include:

  • Hiring brains or intelligence
  • Selecting based primarily on personality
  • Selecting based on the technical skills required for this job
  • Selecting based on skills (technical and people) required for this and “the next” job
  • Selecting primarily based on pre-identified, company-wide competency needs (present and future)
  • Selecting primarily based on the candidate’s experience (industry or job)
  • Selecting primarily based on the candidate’s contacts and network
  • Selecting the “best athlete” available at the time (hire and then find the best job for them)
  • Selecting primarily based on cultural fit

11. How to assess candidates An essential part of any recruiting strategy is the process you will utilize to assess the candidates. Common choices include:

  • Interviews
  • Personality tests
  • Skills tests
  • References (business, personal or educational)
  • Grades or academic performance (primarily for college hires)
  • Drug screening
  • Job simulations
  • On-the-job assessment (primarily for temp-to-permanent conversions)
  • Hire more than you need and intentionally “wash out” the poor performers

12. Primary sales approach Candidates can be “sold” on a job and company based on a variety of strategies. They often include:

  • Compensation
  • Opportunities for promotion
  • Benefits
  • A great team and manager
  • An excellent culture and values
  • Bonus and stock option opportunities
  • Challenge, growth, and learning opportunities
  • The firm’s employment brand and image

Next week in Part 3, I’ll review the steps you can take to develop an effective recruiting strategy.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



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