Finding Great People: Which Methods Work Best?

Sourcing gets a lot of attention these days. High tech firms are looking for programmers and HTML experts and IT professionals of all stripes. Pharmaceuticals are looking for biochemists and medical doctors. Consumer firms seek marketers and product launch specialists. And every one of these people is hard to find and has multiple offers. Never before have these words been truer: finding people is easy. Finding the RIGHT people is difficult. And finding GREAT people takes a strategy. The only way a firm can develop a robust sourcing strategy is to look at the long term with the same vigor it looks at the short term. Successful companies focus on achieving current recruiting goals using all the traditional methods, as well as on developing longer-term strategies to build pools of candidates that can be tapped later. The tactical and more immediate methods include searching job boards, using the corporate web site, placing ads, offering lucrative employee referral programs, searching the web using robots or by flipping competitors web sites, and by the old methods of collecting resumes at job fairs and via the mail, electronic or snail. Lets look at some of these in depth: job boards are certainly a plentiful source of candidates. Some boards such as and CareerMosaic are very broad in scope and contain all kinds of skills and competencies. Others, like DICE and are more focused on high tech or IT professionals. Virtually every job type has a job board dedicated to it. Using these boards can lead to success, but it is increasingly difficult to sort through the volume. The prices to access them are rising and many of the people posted on the boards are not the very best. As a source of the best candidates I would rate most job boards as a “C”. Really good people are usually (not always) working and not actively seeking a new job. This makes it more important to develop ways to attract this so-called passive job seeker. Job boards aren’t the place to do that. Even worse for effectiveness are display or classified ads. For jobs in a particular locale and for positions where there are sufficient applicants, these ads can be cost effective. However, for professionals they are a waste of time – period. If you use print ads for professionals, focus the content on driving people to your web site. In fact, I recommend an aggressive campaign to get people to your web site, which is where you can offer them lots of information and get them really excited about your organization. This is what many firms are going to be doing on television during SuperBowl this coming January. Thirty-second spots are selling for $2 million and are completely gone! And every one of these ads will be focused on driving consumers to web sites. Your corporate web site should be the place where you focus a lot of time and money. It needs to be interactive, exciting and dynamic. I have written about corporate web sites recently and refer you to the archives for more depth. Suffice it to say that I think your own web site should be the most important part of your recruiting strategy. It rates an off-the-scale “A” in terms of effectiveness and cost. Employee referral programs rank second in my list of importance. Well structured referral programs can bring in quality candidates that are already “sold” to some degree on working for you and who already have a supporter in the person who recommended them. No matter what you pay the employee for the referral, it will end up being the cheapest recruiting you can do. It’s much cheaper than the 20-30% fees agencies charge, and it’s cheaper than the hours of time it takes to find and screen the unknown candidate. These programs rate an “A” for effectiveness and cost. Cisco gets almost half of its hires from employee referral programs. The average organization with a good referral program gets around 40% of its hires from them! Pretty impressive, very cheap, and an added benefit is that those hired from job referrals tend to stay longer than other hires. Recruiters who are skillful at mining the web using robots, search engines and techniques such as site flipping can find an impressive array of potential employees. Many of these will be working for competitors and will have skills compatible with your needs. Other ERE columnists cover the use of these tools and techniques on a weekly basis. I refer you to the many columns by Jennifer Hicks to develop skills and expertise in this. In the hands of experience, these techniques rate a “B” in my scale of importance. In the hands of a beginner this drops quickly to a “D”. I recommend firms with large hiring needs employ a skilled electronic sourcer, whom I call an e-sourcer, to feed potential candidates to recruiters with less Internet skill. Not every recruiter needs to be an expert on the Internet, although all of them should have some familiarity with it and know the basics of how to use it. Job fairs are minimally effective for most firms. A few targeted job fairs such as those put on by Westec are useful and can serve to market your firm as well as to locate good people. The keys to effective job fair participation include having a booth staffed with technically savvy people who can answer the questions techies often have, an interactive and exciting demo of the products you offer and of the company, and a clear marketing and branding image to attract people. I often speak of differentiation of your company from another. At job fairs this is particularly important. Why would anyone walking along stop at your booth? What would make them remember you a day or two later? Companies need a well thought out and implemented approach to job fairs. If you don’t have this, skip the whole thing. It will only create negative memories for candidates. Over time, to be really effective you will have to develop a long-term strategy for attracting people. These include developing internship and college recruiting programs, relationship building programs for working professionals, and talent development programs, internally and externally. Next week I will talk about the longer term strategic approach to sourcing.

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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, 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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