Are You Playing the Hiring Game to Win?

A few months ago I made the case in an ERE article (Hiring the Best is a Team Sport) that corporate recruiting departments should not be organized to compete with third-party recruiters.

Aside from performance-based compensation, there are a few obvious reasons supporting this philosophy:

  • Corporate recruiters have too many requisitions to handle. Filling these reqs then becomes a numbers game of sending as many resumes as possible to their hiring managers in the hopes that a few stick.
  • The best third-party recruiters can easily make $125,000 or more by maximizing the number of placements made. To achieve, they can cherry-pick the best assignments or push their best candidates to multiple clients (the most placeable candidate model). Corporate recruiters can’t walk away from the bad assignments.
  • The best third-party recruiters are heavily networked into niche fields. The best candidates also know these recruiters are representing multiple companies. For this reason alone corporate recruiters aren’t as appealing to top candidates.

Collectively, this suggests that corporate recruiting departments should be organized to play a different game.

Last month I made the case (The Disruptors: Fundamental Changes in Technology You Need to Put on Your Radar Screen) that technology innovation is coming at a pace faster than recruiting managers can fully absorb or appreciate.

Much of this technology is enabling jobs to be pushed directly to candidates and candidates to be pushed directly to hiring managers. This process, known as disintermediation, yields profound increases in productivity.

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In this article, I will link the two ideas together, making the case that corporate recruiting departments can beat outside search firms on quality, time, and cost for most searches, but not by mimicking their business model.

Instead, it will be through the optimization of technology in combination with a complete top-to-bottom reorganization. (Note: Because of the importance of this topic we’ll be hosting a free conference call in December to discuss these ideas in more depth. Email if you want to be involved.)

Here are some of the ground rules in the new playbook:

  1. Reduce the number of sourcing channels used, but be great at each one. The corporate career website must be the hub for this, combined with an extremely progressive and proactive employee referral program. Great advertising that’s compelling and that can be found are the keys to wining the hiring game. Everybody is now looking, even passive candidates. To take advantage of this you need a great career website, jobs that can be found using a one-line search box (no pull-down menus), and compelling job descriptions that are irresistible to top performers. Upon an examination of the career sites on Microsoft, IBM, and Deloitte, it was evident that each had major shortcomings. Toll Brothers offers a good example of how to build a career website. (Email for more details.) If you want to maximize your employee referral program, make sure your recruiting team is contacting every employee and asking them to identify the best people they’ve worked with at each prior company. Then contact, recruit, and network with these people. Done well, these programs alone should meet 50% to 60% of your hiring needs with top performers.
  2. Implement consumer marketing “best practices” to rewrite, position, and push your advertising. The core of this is eliminating the posting of traditional job descriptions and replacing them with compelling career-oriented advertising. provides a service that determines which boards get the best results by position. and offer new search-engine optimization techniques to make sure your ads can be found directly from search engines. Aggregators like and allow candidates to search multiple boards. These are important tools you need to use to make sure that your ads can be found based on how top people look for jobs.
  3. Use advanced CRM marketing techniques to extract maximum value from your resume database. Treat every resume in your database as a potential candidate or a lead to a potential candidate. You should be able to meet at least 10% to 15% of your hiring needs by effectively nurturing your resume database. This means developing a customized out-bound marketing effort that entices every person in your resume database to stay in touch with your company. If you’re not getting at least one-third of these emails read (hopefully you’re tracking this metric) you’ll need to hire someone with a marketing background to write them.
  4. Create a sourcing function that allows for deep networking. The best way to get the names of top passive candidates is through personal contact and by being recognized as an industry expert. Sourcers must narrow their fields of expertise and be great on the phone connecting with everyone important in their area. Target this effort to meet 15% to 20% of your hiring needs.,, and are great tools to get started here.
  5. Every person in the recruiting department must be a technology fanatic. People who work in a corporate recruiting environment must thrive on using technology. Technology does work in the hands of super users. Even search-engine technology that can instantly push the best to the top of the list is under-utilized. Unfortunately, too many corporate recruiters consider their work an art NOT a science OR are (old-fashioned AND stuck in their ways.) To be effective today corporate recruiters must at least know how to (write macros AND optimize menus).
  6. Implement workforce planning. A corporate recruiting department will never be able to compete with an external firm in a reactive mode unless it has a deep network of available candidates. That’s why a forecast of hiring needs by position is a prerequisite when building the new corporate recruiting model. Tie this forecast into your company’s annual operating plan and update it quarterly, always looking at least 12 months out. This step alone will begin the transformation of corporate recruiting into a more predictable business process.
  7. Establish process-control metrics. Historical metrics tell you what happened. Process-control metrics tell you what is happening. There are at least 10 things that must be tracked daily and weekly in order to effectively manage a corporate recruiting department. Some of these metrics include daily incoming candidate quality by sourcing channel, weekly recruiter productivity, order fill rates, candidate opt-out rates by stage, ad effectiveness, and hiring manager response rates.
  8. Hiring managers must take on a much bigger role in hiring. Pre-Internet, hiring managers were more responsible for the quality of the people they hired. When HR absorbed more of this role to save money on search fees, they took line managers partially off the hook. This must be reversed. Technology is getting easier to use, enabling managers to maintain direct contact with top active and passive candidates. is a good example of an applicant-tracking system that was architecturally designed to meet managers’ needs. It also has a built-in workforce planning tool. Hiring managers must be given much more responsibility for hiring, including when to use external recruiters. They also must be evaluated regularly on how well they perform.
  9. Create an internal executive search team for critical positions. There are critical, confidential, or tough-to-fill searches that do require an intense and dedicated full-scale effort to be successfully filled. A small, professional, and highly trained team of recruiters needs to be available to perform this function. This might be one area where outsourcing is appropriate.
  10. Treat your third-party recruiters as partners, not vendors. Technology should not blockade outside recruiters from working closely with hiring managers in completing searches. Recruiters who talk with top candidates must understand real job needs, not only qualifications and skills. In addition, recruiters should articulate the case that your company is offering a compelling career opportunity. This cannot be done by preventing them from talking directly with their true clients.

Hiring top talent is not the same game anymore. There are now new rules and new roles for hiring managers, recruiters, and everyone else involved in the hiring process. Unfortunately, too many companies are weak users of technology and many are still modeling external search firms. Playing the game this way will guarantee a losing season.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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