Finding Talent Is Easy ? Do A Behavior Profile

One of the most common complaints that recruiters have is that it is hard to find top talent. If you are having a hard time finding people in any particular field, try using the following marketing tool (a customer behavior profile) as a start. What is a behavioral profile?

One of the basic laws of recruiting is that “A” players know other “A” players. A related law is that the “A” players that don’t work for you read, go to, and do the exact same things as your current employees. So if you want to find “A” players, first you need to know what “A” players read, go to, and watch… and then you just need to “go there” to find other “A” players. A behavioral profile is merely a list of the common behaviors (places they hang out, media they use, organizations they join, and events they attend) of top performers in your targeted jobs. By “profiling” the behaviors of your current top performers you can then use that information to identify the appropriate ways to find and build the interest of other “A” players. Steps in finding “A” players

  • Identify the top performers at your firm that are currently in the jobs you are attempting to fill.
  • Tell them how they can help build the team by disclosing (it can be anonymous) how we would “find them” if they were strangers to the firm and we were trying to identify them as potential applicants.
  • Start with a small focus group of top performers to get a general idea of the types of things they do, read, go to, etc. Use the answers to build a checklist of the common behaviors to put into your questionnaire.
  • Use that information to develop an e-mail questionnaire / checklist. Ask them about their activities and their frequency. Ask them to specify which ones are most likely to get their attention when they are looking for a job.
  • Test the questionnaire / checklist with a few top performers to see if it works and whether it makes logical sense to them.
  • Test the same questionnaire with low performers to see if there is a significant difference between the behaviors of top performers and bottom performers. If you do not find a significant difference in the behaviors between the two groups, expand the survey to include more employees.
  • Send out the e-mail questionnaire and offer a small reward for participating.
  • Analyze their results and use them to identify what events you should recruit at, what periodicals you should advertise in, etc.
  • Compare the results of your survey with any data you have from new hires / applicants on what source was the most effective in identifying and attracting them.
  • Use the combined data to modify your recruiting and name identification strategy.

What should you ask about? MEDIA

  • What papers (and your favorite sections) do you read? How often do you read the classifieds?
  • What magazines do you read for pleasure?
  • What professional publications and newsletters do you read? Would a job ad get your attention?
  • In what chat rooms, listservers, e-mail newsletters, and Web pages do you actively participate? In which ones, would a job announcement get your attention?
  • To which radio stations do you listen? TV shows?
  • To what kind of movies and concerts do you go? Where?


  • What professional conferences do you regularly attend? In what type of sessions, programs, parties and events do you frequently participate?
  • What self development or professional seminars do you attend?
  • What type of social, not for profit, or community events do you regularly attend? (Wine and beer festivals, home shows, sporting events) (optional)
  • Do you ever attend career building events or job fairs? If so, which ones? (optional)


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  • Of what professional organizations are you a member?
  • What social or community organizations do you join? (optional)
  • To which university or alumni associations do you belong?


  • Are there places where you would regularly see outdoor advertising?
  • Are there shopping areas where you would see a job opportunity ad?
  • Are there places where you eat, go for recreation or entertainment where a recruitment ad might catch your eye?
  • What recruitment source caused you to apply for a job at our firm? Your previous job? What element of the ad got your attention (or turned you off)?
  • You might consider doing a separate survey of recent college hires to help improve your college recruiting. Try the same for diversity hires.


Finding people is easier than you think. Just find out how you would find your current top performers and use the same or similar tools to find additional talent. Remember recruiting is just sales with a crummy budget so use the demographic and behavioral information you have on your current employees to understand where your have to go to find additional recruits. In addition, if you have a robust referral program, you might ask the participants in the survey to actively talk to and solicit other top talent while they attend both social and professional events that they have just told you about!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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