Crystal-Clear Focus

Corporate strategy has stressed the need for companies to focus on their core product or service and not to dilute their efforts. Many firms spend a lot of time figuring out exactly what their core competency is and how to nurture and grow it. Marketers narrow their messages to a selected audience and promote products via media aimed at that audience.

We live more and more in an age of personalized messaging, tailored products, and with a mentality of “do it your way.”

For some reason, recruiting has not yet figured this out. Recruiting strategies are broad and try to target everyone. What that really means is they target no one in particular.

For many recruiters, talent is synonymous with “anyone who says yes.” What I mean by talent are those employees whose contributions are vital to our ability to produce our product or deliver our service.

If we were to compare our firms to sports teams, I think we could understand talent better. When a sports manager speaks of talent, he is talking about those individuals on any team who make the points, block the other team, or who the fans and players identify as essential for success.

Corporate strategy and recruiting strategy have to be in alignment with each other. If your corporate strategy is to build a software product, then the focus has to be on programmers or whatever group of people will develop that product. Obvious? Of course, yet I see recruiting strategies that are way off base.

I think that it really is a matter of thinking like a marketer. Recruiters make their own work harder because they do not have a clear sense of whom they are recruiting.

Yet, I am frequently told that focusing on a particular type of employee is either too difficult or not fair.

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While it may feel unfair to rank positions as more or less valuable, this is the reality of the market. Some jobs pay more, some contribute more, and there ought to be a relationship between the two. Usually there is, but salary alone is not the best guide.

I suggest that you rigorously examine every position in your company and determine which are key and which are not so important. The only evaluation criteria should be how much the position contributes to the product or service and how much to the profitability of the firm. People with little or no direct contribution are, by definition, placed in a lower level than those that do.

And, yes, perhaps it is difficult to segment the potential candidate base initially, but in the end, it saves time and raises quality. Most good and useful results require some level of hard work.

Key Steps

Here are three steps to follow to align your recruiting with your corporate direction and need.

  1. Know who you need to target. An obvious but not easy first step is to make absolutely sure that you know what the corporate direction is and which people in your firm contribute the most to its success. Spend time with the line managers, hiring managers, and executive staff. Define the one or two professions that are vital. Perhaps you will come up with a list of several positions, but there will probably be commonalities that you can identify and use in your sourcing and messaging. If there are distinct differences, you will need a sourcing and marketing strategy for each that is unique. What is most critical, though, is to be certain of who you need to go after and then identify the messages that will appeal to them.
  2. Figure out your message. Ask what motivates this group of people. What makes them do the work they do and what are they seeking in an opportunity? You may have to identify and interview the people in these roles who already work for your organization to figure this out. And it may take several experiments to find messages that really do attract the right people. What I can assure you is that once you have done this you will find that you are attracting more people of a higher quality than you were before.
  3. Develop a targeted strategy to source and attract them. Find out where the kinds of people you are looking for work or play, and then go after them. Send targeted emails to your core potential candidates providing them reasons to think about working for your firm. Rewrite your career website and aim its message to the most important group of candidates. I think that the most successful career sites are those designed for college graduates. They tend to be focused and to list benefits for those graduates. Make phone calls to identified potential candidates, but have a scripted message containing the benefits of your organization and reasons to work there that are going to resonate well. Finally, go where they are. If these types of people are interested in sports, sponsor sports events. If they attend professional conferences, go to those conferences and pick up business cards and provide useful, but targeted, promotional material.

Targeted marketing is common in every area of sales. The lessons learned from your own corporate sales and marketing department can be applied to your recruiting efforts. It is a good idea to talk to them and even get them involved in redoing your careers site, your interviews guides, telephone scripts, and any other material you use for convincing candidates to come work with you.

Crystal-clear focus will give you confidence and candidates who are easy to place.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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