Breaking Down Talent Barriers

Having trouble finding the right talent for your positions? Getting bombarded with the wrong types of candidates? I’ve consulted and worked with a number of clients over the past 10 years, and in that time have seen many good recruiting practices and programs, as well as my fair share of bad strategies and processes. I’ve come up with a short list of the most common barriers I’ve witnessed to recruit top talent. While this isn’t a complete list, these are the top few that most will be able to relate to.

Use of Social Media

Recruiting teams need access to all the popular online destinations, such as Twitter and Facebook. Give them the ability to comment, blog, share, and have real conversations with potential talent on the web. They’re grown-ups, aren’t they? You hired them because you trust they will represent your company well. Put a social media policy in place and get moving. Once up and running on social networks and in the blogosphere, learn to have more than just an account. Build a real presence. Build community. Build excitement and buzz that spreads and attracts talent. AT&T and Starbucks are examples of two companies using social media the right way to attract high-caliber talent. Check out Trust Agents and The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web to get a better picture of using social media the right way.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

Gone are the days of the post-and-pray mentalities for recruiting departments, dumping budgets into job boards and search firms. That is push marketing: pushing out job orders. Here now are thousands upon thousands of free resources, sites, and online communities at your disposal. Use them! Recruiters can go beyond job postings and place tailored PowerPoints on Slideshare, insightful pictures on Flickr, descriptive videos on YouTube, and select whitepapers on Scribd and Docstoc. Spread your content in key places online and make sure to provide good titles, tags, and keywords to be found. This is pull marketing, and will bring more traffic to your career site and ultimately produce a better applicant pool to work with.

Lack of a Sourcing Function

Recruiters are overworked today with paperwork, processes, and compliance laws, not to mention the fact that they need to find and source quality candidates for their positions. It’s nearly impossible without having a sourcing team or resources internally or externally. Outsourcing is an option. Training and shifting internal talent is an option too. Hewitt Associates is an example of a company that understands the importance of the sourcing function. It breaks its talent acquisition team into specific tasks, with dedicated sourcers being used on and offshore, finding and submitting talent to recruiters. Sourcers today need to be well-versed in the latest trends in social media and mobile recruiting, as well as a high proficiency in advanced Internet search techniques with Google. This will ensure the sourcing function covers good ground to find qualified talent.

The Application Process

Don’t make job seekers jump through hoops to apply to your positions. Some companies have more than 10 steps amounting to over 20 minutes to fill out. This is too long! Simplify the application process. Fewer steps equal more candidates, guaranteed! The best application processes require uploading your resume, verifying your information parsed by the ATS, and hitting the submit button. Done! Better yet: how about giving your email address and bypassing everything. For most, this just isn’t reality though. Recruiters need data to be successful, and an ATS helps to get this data in the form of extensive profiles and questionnaires. Recruiters also need to be more accessible, more visible during the application process. Think about providing a live person via instant message or video chat on your career site, or a dedicated job applicant support phone line to guide confused candidates and do light screening. Other options such as company Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn groups, and YouTube channels that tie-in are a must.

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Job Descriptions

Most employment ads online either have too little information or way too much. The information that is available usually has too much corporate-speak mumbo-jumbo and uses company acronyms and internal program names. Ads like these can be confusing and misleading. Sit down with the hiring manager and get all the facts out on the table. Uncover every detail possible. Develop a job description that really sells the job! Make it relevant to the job seeker. Make it interesting. Show some excitement. Talk like a real person. Tell people what the job will really do and the importance it plays with your company or client. Strike a good balance of information with an enticing sales pitch. Make me want to apply!

Many more talent barriers exist today. I’m interested to hear about the makeup of your recruiting team, how you find talent today, and what unique challenges you face.

Geoff Peterson is the Managing Principal for General Lead, a national provider of talent delivery, advanced sourcing services, and custom recruitment training. He has over ten years' full life-cycle recruiting, Internet sourcing, and research experience nationwide, having fulfilled successful engagements with small organizations and Fortune 500 companies alike. Geoff brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table including Technical Recruiting, Executive Recruiting, Internet Sourcing, Name Generation, Competitive Intelligence, Internet Research, Job Search Strategy and Recruitment Marketing.


6 Comments on “Breaking Down Talent Barriers

  1. Great post, Geoff! Totally agree with you, especially on the last two points

    First, being a recent job seeker, some companies application processes can be downright painful with the information they ask for. It’s one thing to ask for more information beyond one’s resume but another to ask for the candidate to provide information that is already included in the resume they uploaded. Cutting down the steps into a quick submittal process would do wonders for applicant numbers.

    Second, I agree job descriptions are a great way to differentiate your position from competitors. Sure you need to include the necessary information but also as you said “Talk like a Real Person”. Most candidates want to work in a great working environment with real people so give them a feel for your company culture in the description.


    Chris Brablc

  2. Nice article Geoff…enjoyed reading this. I have spoken to several recruiters this week going through interview processes with large, brand name companies. They have had poor experiences with the engagement piece. Companies need to commit, fund and learn how to better connect and stay connected with applicants. A combination of social network tech and human touch is needed. This is a barrier that I see consistently. It is a difficult issue to address with the number of applicants on the market today. Still, it does not excuse us from trying to look at this as an industry and make improvements to the candidate experience. There are several companies that I will now not be spending my money with because of how they have treated recruiter applicants this week.

  3. Thank you for an interesting article, Geoff.

    Use of Social Media & Push vs. Pull:
    Make it part of the company culture that employees will continually refer employable candidates and will be rewarded with thousands of dollars a piece for doing so. Let THEM do the “socing” and “pulling”, and you’ve multiplied your recruiting efforts many fold.

    Lack of a sourcing function:
    Hire a decent $10-$11/hr virtual phone/internet sourcer or 5. If you need a lot of the undefinable “purple squirrel searches” make sure you pay this sourcer $100k+/yr.

    The application process:
    While I loathe lengthy and cumbersome application processes for myself, if you set up the expectation that all hires will either be referred or sourced, then it doesn’t really matter how crappy your application process is if nobody gets hired through it. On the other hand, if you actually want to treat people decently and have them know that they’ll have a professional, easy, and possibly pleasant application process that might get you/your company brownie points, you could hire a $2.00/hr virtual assistant to phone contact each and every candidates to make sure that their experience is just that.

    Job descriptions:
    They need to be comprehensible to the people that are referred and sourced. “Talk like a real person”?
    To misquote Tom Stoppard:
    “We’re recruiters–we’re the opposite of people.”

    “Companies need to commit, fund and learn how to better connect and stay connected with applicants.”
    IMHO, that would require at least two things from companies:
    1) They can afford $2.00/hr to hire the virtual assistant mentioned above.
    2) They care about the typical applicant’s experience.

    I think 1) is a “go”, but I’m pretty dubious about 2).
    Just look at your friends’ recent experiences.
    (Send ’em to



  4. Another site that can help companies in using a pull marketing strategy is is a new, innovative tool available to organizations that recruit college graduates and early career professionals. Rather than posting a job companies create career category profiles.’s unique, precision matching system identifies talent that perfectly matches a profile so that a company accumulates a talent pool that can be drawn on at anytime. It streamlines the recruiting process saving companies time and money.

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