Dreaming? A Success Story About What Could Be, Part 1

Soren Smith had done the impossible! Her recruiting department was able to hire top-notch candidates almost at will, or so it seemed to her managers. They were more than pleased with the improvements in performance they saw in Soren’s department. They found that they usually had quality candidates to consider within a few hours of formally opening a requisition. At first, Soren’s managers didn’t notice the changes. But over the period of a few months it became increasingly apparent that whenever they saw a candidate he was a superb fit for the position ó and the organization. In fact, Tom Snyder, the hard-nosed director of operations, had even recognized Soren at a recent communication meeting with a rousing speech about how HR could actually deliver if they had more people like her on board. How did she do it? Though this isn’t a true story, what follows is the tale of how her success could actually have been achieved. Soren’s staff was small. She only had three recruiters and two support staff, and yet they handled all the requisitions for a company of 4,000 employees worldwide. Their cost per hire was steady and reasonable. They recruited internally for every position first and then went to the outside. Normally they filled about 20% of all requisitions with internal transfers or promotions; this was a key feature of Soren’s improvements. Employee morale was up by several percentage points according to the latest internal employee opinion survey. But not everyone was completely happy. Some of the recruiters who worked with Soren were not convinced that the new screening and assessment technology was as good as their own interviewing skills. They were not all as competent as they might be in building relationships with candidates. They even resented the fact that five of their fellow recruiters had been transferred to other positions in HR. Some hiring mangers missed interviewing a multitude of candidates and discovered that they enjoyed meeting a variety of people for a position. On the other hand, they appreciated the greater discipline that Soren had imposed on them in defining the competencies, skills, and expected outputs of each position. All in all, everyone agreed that the changes had been positive for both the organizations and the candidates. In fact, in chatting with candidates after the hiring process, the recruiters discovered that their improved website, instant feedback, and constant communication was very popular with candidates. Candidates said things like, “Every company ought to have a website like yours.” The “black hole” that resumes had once disappeared into was no longer. The website did not even ask candidates for a resume. Instead, it led each candidate through the process of building a profile gradually as they moved through the recruitment cycle. When Soren had joined Grest Company the recruiting function was typical of most organizations. There were six functional recruiters and two general recruiters along with three support people who scheduled interviews and helped with administrative chores. There was an applicant tracking system in place ó not that anyone used it much. Mainly it served as a repository for resumes and a way to create the reports required to meet government requirements. Most recruiters felt it was a time-consuming beast. They felt they could use the time better to interview candidates and screen resumes. The corporate web site was an ordinary one ó just a few boilerplate paragraphs about what a wonderful place Grest was and a box into which the candidate could paste his resume. Technology was a minor component in recruiting and the average recruiter spent most of the day on the phone or in one-on-one interviews with candidates. What time was left, if any, was spent in sourcing candidates, which often consisted of reviewing resumes, and administrative work ó primarily scheduling interviews and putting offers together. Soren had changed everything over the course of the past 18 months. Her very first act was to get started on creating a much better website. She sat down with the internal marketing folks who were amazed that she has asked them to help on an HR project. Together with some of these marketing experts, she laid out a campaign to improve candidate awareness of Grest Company. The first step was do some market research to find out what attracted candidates to the company ó and what concerns they had. After she had this data, she used it to write text that would be exciting to the candidates but also reflect the strengths of the company. With the marketing folks, she orchestrated an awareness-building campaign. It consisted of e-marketing messages to hundreds of people who had already sent in resumes but had never heard anything back, as well as a prominent repositioning of the link to the career’s page on the company’s home page. She took out some targeted radio advertisements aimed at the segment of people she hoped to attract to the company, and she worked with the PR department to get press releases and other announcements circulated to the press. This began a slow but useful buildup of general interest in the company and more hits to the home page. Within six months, Grest Company’s website was attracting thousands more hits than it had previously, and more than 70% of them were clicking on the career’s link. From there, Soren was capturing data on more than 80% of those people. This data, initially, was simply an email address and some basic background information, but it allowed her recruiters to send out email to specific types of people asking for more facts. By taking recruiters away from screening loads of resumes that were off-target, she could put them to work sending email and engaging in interactive communication with possible candidates. Soren also went on the search for an applicant tracking system ó or rather a candidate relationship management tool ó that would let her more efficiently communicate with potential candidates as well as screen them more thoroughly before they were sent to a recruiter. While this process took her another six months to complete, her immediate focus on getting recruiters to use email and ask candidates for more information had already put them well into the adoption curve. By the time they had decided on the system, they were versed in how to use it. In fact, they even changed the criteria while they were in the process of choosing a system. Rather than focusing on how well it scanned and searched for resumes and generated reports, they wanted to know what the candidate interface was like, how they could communicate with candidates, and how candidates could volunteer to be part of their talent pool. They also wanted a system that could screen candidates and eventually even conduct assessments of candidates’ abilities, cultural fit, and skills. This immediately eliminated a number of tools that were very popular. The focus on the front-end ó the candidate interface side ó was the key to their success. They were delighted when they started getting positive feedback from candidates. Candidates were pleased with the quick responses they got to their questions and with the ability to get a human to answer their emails. With these initial steps, Soren had put her department squarely on the path to success. In next week’s column, I’ll share where Soren led her department from here and discuss the initiative that garnered the most positive feedback of all from candidates: a new screening and assessment process.

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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 ERE.net, 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 kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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