Are You a Contender?

“Get me somebody – ANY-BODY – today!”

This is becoming the mantra of 2007 as a shrinking labor market has left businesses duking it out for top talent. According to a nationwide survey of employers by RightFish, a company that has developed an efficient, quality-driven hiring research and candidate sourcing tool, one in four hiring managers said it takes them two months or more to fill their open positions.

– One in three said it takes more than a week to bring in a potential candidate for an interview.
– Thirty-one percent said it takes more than a week to conduct background checks and send an offer.

The good news is that the market is ripe for recruiters. The war for top performers is placing a premium on talent services, and companies are relying more and more on recruiters to get the right people in the right seats. The bad news is that recruiters are facing the same talent shortage and need to leverage new strategies and resources to get the job done.

So, how do you harness avail-able talent before the competition does and capture more of the recruitment wallet?

Know thy enemy

Understanding who your competitors are and how they work can give you a great advantage in recruiting qualified workers. Use the Internet to build blueprints of your competitors. Through employer job postings and uploaded résumés of job seekers, online job boards furnish valuable information on your competitors’ targeted markets and strategies, designations and titles, approach to recruitment, relationships between internal groups, and more.

In addition to job boards, Internet search engines, social networking sites, blogs, and company websites offer a wealth of information when studying up on the competition as well as targeted candidates. Set up Google Alerts to keep track of competitor mergers, acquisitions, name changes, and expansions into new markets. Check out analyst reports and the newsrooms of competitor web-sites to determine current focus, next moves, and potential gaps in market coverage that could be serviced by you.

Know thy client

Knowing the enemy is helpful; knowing the client is critical. Understanding the client’s needs goes beyond the job opening. It’s an understanding of company culture and capturing candidates who not only can do the job, but also will thrive within that environment. So, do your home-work. For each client, list out the jobs they have open, the key attributes they’re looking for, the way they position their work experience, and the top three words they would use to describe their company culture.

Then take a look at your messaging. Assess: Are you truly highlighting the aspects of your client’s organization that would be appealing to today’s prospective employees? Does your recruitment message command excitement or an immediate nap? Are you pointing out the right perks? Are you painting a convincing picture of opportunity? Are you presenting an accurate and inviting portrayal of the work culture?

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Test different versions of the same job posting, email, phone outreach and see which ones garner the most attention and why. Supplement this information with insights from uploaded résumés and cover letters from job seekers. Make sure to enter your data in an applicant tracking system, so you can apply that intelligence to other clients as well.

Know thy audience

In my experience, one of the most effective ways to build a solid working relationship with potential candidates when you directly contact them is to be knowledgeable. Be sure to use the information you gathered during your research phase to increase your credibility. The more educated you are about the person’s current situation, the more you will be able to indicate that you are concerned about helping to improve his/her career and that you aren’t merely interested in finding an employee for your company or the company for which you are recruiting.

Moreover, when you contact potential candidates, be direct and truthful by telling them who you are and why you’re calling. Tell the candidate that the phone call is private and be sure to keep that promise.

Headhunting tactics aren’t much different from effective management tactics – you need to provide a direction and present the possibilities; but you must also be ready to ask questions, listen, and address any changes that need to be made not only to survive, but also to thrive in today’s competitive environment.

Richard Stack is president of RightFish, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc., Tribune Company, and The McClatchy Company. RightFish uses an integrated search and screening methodology to provide its clients with access to qualified candidates in various regions and industries for a flat fee. This includes the use of the RightFish candidate database, public and private domain searches, regional and industry-specific direct marketing programs, and direct candidate sourcing. RightFish focuses its searches primarily on sales, marketing, finance, and technology functions, with a specialty practice focused on university admissions. For more information on RightFish services, visit http://www.rightfish.com.

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