Does Your Company Really Have What It Takes to Hire Top Talent?

Here in this article I’m going to give you a chance to take a unique evaluation of your company’s hiring effectiveness. In 15 minutes, you’ll find out how your recruiting department compares to the best in the country — and what you need to do to get into the upper echelon. Three interesting articles came out in the national media recently, all relating to the importance of hiring top talent and the inherent weaknesses in most companies. If you’re in the recruiting business, you should read them all:

  • Why We Hate HR, in Fast Company’s August 2005 edition.
  • Why Microsoft is Losing Some Key Talent, the cover story in the September 26, 2005, edition of Business Week
  • Star Search: How to Recruit, Train, and Hold on to Great People. What Works, What Doesn’t, the cover story in the October 10, 2005, of Business Week

None of the articles were positive. The key themes among all the articles:

  • HR isn’t strategic.
  • HR doesn’t deliver results.
  • Few companies have a culture of talent.
  • To create a culture of talent, hiring managers need to be totally committed.

Don’t take this sitting down; there is something you can do about it. It starts by figuring out how bad or good you really are, then building a plan to get better, and then implementing the plan. Actually, the implementing part is the hardest of all, but implementing without a plan is what the articles all contend HR/recruiting does ó and why it gets such poor results.

Evaluating Your “Hiring Top Talent” Strategy

Before you get started on the assessment below, first rank your company’s overall hiring and recruiting process on a 1-5 scale (a 1 being very poor and a 5 being outstanding). After you are done with the following evaluation, compare the two rankings. The difference between where you actually are and where you think you are is really the most interesting part of this evaluation. Recognizing that you need to improve is usually the hardest step to take. It’s also the first. Following is a short version of my 10-factor hiring top talent criteria. Rank your company on the ten factors shown below on the 1-5 scale as indicated. [If you send me your score, ( you’ll be invited to a free conference call I’ll be holding on this topic next month. During the call, I’ll show you how to convert your ranking on each of the 10 factors into a strategic game plan. If you follow this game plan, I suspect your company will be discussed in a Fast Company 2006 article called Why We Love the Recruiting Department. Now’s your chance to get included.]

Factor 1. A recruiting department that consistently delivers enough top candidates on time and within budget.

  1. No way. No processes in place, inconsistent results.
  2. Meets basic needs. The department works hard to meet needs. It takes too long to find candidates.
  3. Pretty good. Most positions are filled on time. All candidates are above average, and some are very strong.
  4. All important positions are filled on time with strong candidates.
  5. Consistently delivers top candidates for all positions.

Your response: ______.

Factor 2. A culture of hiring top talent exists that permeates the entire company.

  1. Hiring top talent is an afterthought. Managers aren’t committed. Senior executives are uninvolved, and leadership is lacking at all levels.
  2. Senior executives and managers provide lip-service but not enough resources.
  3. Senior executives and managers are committed to hiring top people and provide all needed resources and time.
  4. The whole company is moving towards a culture of hiring the best. Progress is evident.
  5. A culture of hiring the best exists, and it is in a constant state of improvement.

Your response: ______.

Factor 3. Strong recruiting team that can use technology, recruit top people, and work well with managers.

  1. No process. Recruiters left to own devices. Results sporadic.
  2. Some good, some weak. Process is uneven.
  3. 50/50. Some recruiters are really good, and they achieve consistent results using a solid and consistent sourcing and recruiting process.
  4. At least two-thirds of the recruiting team is strong, and these recruiters work well with their hiring managers.
  5. An outstanding team that can compete head-to-head with top external search firms.

Your response: ______.

Factor 4. Great career website that maximizes the number of top candidates.

  1. Weak career website. It’s hard to find jobs. Candidates find it cumbersome.
  2. Flawed. Traditional. Nothing compelling. Not designed well.
  3. Does the job. Some interesting features to attract and keep the best.
  4. Well-designed to meet needs of top candidates, and it works!
  5. An award-winning, marketing-driven website. It’s compelling. It’s fun. It induces people to want to work at the company.

Your response: ______.

Factor 5. Strong technology infrastructure that enables efficiency.

  1. Ineffective. Cumbersome, or not existent. Low user adoption. A distraction.
  2. Basics only. Helps a little. Keeps track of data only. Hard to use.
  3. Effectively tracks and processes the information necessary.
  4. High adoption rates. Enables efficiency. A definite asset. Few complaints.
  5. Great systems. Recruiters are better as a result of the technology.

Your response: ______.

Factor 6. Committed hiring manager team that knows how to interview and recruit the best.

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  1. Most hiring managers incompetent to assess competency, and couldn’t recruit the best anyway.
  2. Inconsistent. Some managers are good. Few are committed to hiring the best. Consensus is hard to reach.
  3. About 50% do it well. They invest time, are willing to learn, and work with recruiters.
  4. Rapid improvement underway. Managers recognize their important role in recruiting top people.
  5. We have arrived. Managers recognize the importance in hiring top people, and they invest the time needed to make it happen.

Your response: ______.

Factor 7. Effective use of multiple high volume sourcing channels to attract the best active candidates.

  1. Random approach to sourcing taken. Results are spotty; inconsistent techniques used.
  2. Every now and then we get a few good people using boards and resume databases. Little time has been invested to make these channels work better.
  3. These are useful channels that can be counted upon to deliver a few good people for most positions. Some work has been done to improve their effectiveness.
  4. Consistently yields pool of stronger candidates. Web analytics in place and used.
  5. Great asset. We closely track performance of each channel and improve it to maximize results.

Your response: ______.

Factor 8. Recruiters who can find, attract and hire top passive candidates.

  1. Completely ineffective. We are not very good at finding, recruiting and hiring top passive candidates.
  2. More luck than skill. A few passive candidates found, but inconsistent.
  3. Some recruiters are very good, but not sufficient to handle all company needs.
  4. We can always deliver a few top passive candidates for most critical positions. Some recruiters are great on the phone.
  5. We have a great passive candidate recruiting team. Managers have openly recognized the team’s quality and performance in this area.

Your response: ______.

Factor 9. Recruiters who can coach and influence hiring managers throughout process.

  1. Team has no impact with managers. Adversarial relationship.
  2. Managers tolerate the recruiting department. Recruiters are seen as admin or traditional HR.
  3. Recruiters are seen as important to the process, and they have some influence at each stage.
  4. Recruiters are true partners in the process. They are involved in all phases and are considered a trusted and valuable resource.
  5. Recruiters are seen as experts in assessing talent, and their advice is both sought and respected.

Your response: ______.

Factor 10. Organization, planning, and managing recruiting resources to deliver consistent results.

  1. There is no real structure to the department. Overall, the process is inefficient.
  2. The organization is pretty loose. Little planning and no metrics to track overall results and individual recruiter effectiveness.
  3. The team is well-organized. Plans are in place and basic metrics are used to track performance.
  4. A clean and well-managed organization is in place. Workforce planning is a formal part of the process. Strong reporting and process control metrics are used.
  5. Extremely well-organized and thoroughly trained team in place. The use of forward-looking metrics identifies problems before they occur. We are addicted to workforce planning.

Your response: ______. Now calculate the total of all your responses. Your score: ______. So, how well did your recruiting department do on this hiring top talent audit? This might not be a perfect audit, but it does address the big issues. It’s not as relevant if your company is an employer of choice. Regardless, add up your score and rank yourself against the following standards:

  • 5-15: Major overhaul required, immediately. Your company is missing out on hiring the best. The good news — you don’t need to do much to see instant improvement.
  • 16-25: Falling short in critical areas. You need to invest time in improving your recruiting processes, not just filling requisitions. This will get you in the game quickly.
  • 26-35: Meets basic needs. Don’t stop. You’ve got the basics in place; now’s a great time to make the leap to stardom.
  • 36-45: Core strength. Congratulations. But don’t rest on your laurels. Things change. Find out what they are and keep on improving.
  • 46-50: Strategic asset. I look forward to reading about you. Thanks for being an industry leader.

Regardless of how you scored, the key is to implement a series of prioritized improvement programs. Address the big problems first. This will allow you to move up a notch or two reasonably quickly. It might require creating some special cross-functional teams and adding extra resources to handle some of the big projects. However, you can’t stop there. Things change every day. This means you need to implement on-going continuous improvement programs. This way, you’ll stay on the leading-edge of what’s happening in the world of recruiting. Getting started is the hardest part. Why not begin today? Start by sending me an email ( with your score and what you plan to do first.

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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