It’s Time to Build a Strong Foundation of Core Fundamentals for Recruiting

I’m a big proponent of innovation in the talent acquisition space. When it comes to innovative talent-acquisition technology, I’ve been an early adopter, an implementer, a beta-tester, a power-user, and a trainer throughout my 23+ years in the profession. I’ve seen new TA technology implemented successfully with case studies to tout the impact that technology had on the success of the organization.

But I’ve seen even more TA technology implementation failures, having often very little to do with the technology itself, but more often more due to misalignment between the tool’s features and the clients needs, poor implementation efforts, and weak adoption by end users. I’ve also seen innovation fail because too often we look to innovation to solve our problems.

So as important as innovation in talent acquisition is, mastering the core fundamentals of our profession is even more important.

This concept was introduced to me a dozen or so years ago at a Spring ERE conference, when former Cisco Recruiting Leader Michael McNeal introduced the term “Fast Bad” — meaning when you automate bad process, you get “Fast Bad.” Fast Bad is no better than Slow Bad, and sometimes even worse.

That gave me a viewpoint that has stuck with me ever since: that when we leap past mastering core fundamentals of good talent acquisition (process, strategy, tactics, skills), and look to innovative tools or tactics to solve our problems or to make our work easier, we rarely end up with sustainable, successful results.

Take for example employee referrals. There are core fundamentals behind what it takes to build and manage a successful referral program (Dr. John Sullivan has written about those numerous times over the years here on, and rarely do those fundamentals have anything to do with tools or technology.

Yet when I get the question “what are the best (or most innovative) employee referral tools on the market today,” I’m typically responding with questions about how their employee referral program is structured today. What are they doing to promote the program internally? What are they doing to educate their employees as to why their referrals are so critical? What are they doing to proactively solicit referrals? Are their rewards incentivizing the right behaviors?

Unfortunately, I typically end up with blank stares. What they wanted from me was an innovative technology that could make getting good referrals easier, but without the hard work of building and administering a good, core fundamental referral program.

So, what are the core fundamentals for talent-acquisition professionals?

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That’s part of the problem we have as a profession.

The core fundamentals simply haven’t been defined with any sort of academic or peer-validated rigor … yet. The Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals was established recently to address this specific void in our profession, the lack of a body of knowledge and the lack of common standards. In building a body of knowledge and in defining educational standards for the profession, we will need to start with what are the core fundamentals that all talent-acquisition professionals should be mastering from Day 1 in their careers.

A diverse working committee of ATAP members was recently launched to start work on identifying what these core fundamentals are, why they are critical to short-and-long term success in the profession, how we would evaluate and measure mastery of those fundamentals, and more.

At the Fall ERE Conference in Minneapolis, we will be conducting a working session where the work of this committee will be presented for review, discussion, and debate to include any ERE attendee who would like to participate. This peer-review activity will be a critical step in establishing a set of core fundamentals that will then drive further work to develop a deeper body of knowledge and standards on specific core fundamental topics.

If you will be at ERE this fall, we encourage you to join us for what should be an informative, highly interactive session. Throughout the conference, you will be exposed to a wide range of innovative tools and techniques, but you’ll also have the opportunity to define the core fundamentals that we must all master to truly raise the bar for our profession.

Ben Gotkin is the executive director of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (established in 2016) and principal consultant at Recruiting Toolbox. He draws from over 24 years of recruiting experience in a variety of tactical and strategic leadership roles at organizations including Recruiting Toolbox, Marriott International, RSM, The MITRE Corporation, Intelsat, and BAE Systems.  

As a consultant/trainer and in his practitioner roles, his expertise has ranged on topics including recruitment strategies and processes, sourcing, interviewing & selection techniques, recruitment technology, program management, college recruiting, employment branding, and more. He was the founder and a past-president of the Washington, D.C.-based recruiter community, recruitDC. He has also served on The Candidate Experience Awards Council, was a board member of WTPF (a Washington, D.C.-based HR organization), and was an Expert Advisor with the Human Capital Institute. He has been the author of several recruiting blogs, has written and been quoted in articles for numerous recruiting-focused websites and major national publications, and has been a featured speaker and panelist at the ERE Expo, Talent42, Recruiting Trends Conference, SRSC, SourceCon, Social Recruiting Summit, and WTPF. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.


3 Comments on “It’s Time to Build a Strong Foundation of Core Fundamentals for Recruiting

  1. Thanks, Ben. If organizations REALLY wanted to improve things, instead of spending thousands of dollars going to conventions and being told essentially what they want to hear and going back to their organizations hoping they’ll get caught pretending to do something meaningful, they should have after- hours *sit downs with the people who actually do the recruiting/sourcing/scheduling/etc., ask them what they need to to improve their work, and implement these suggestions. After a few weeks on the job, a “newbie” employee knows more about how to improve their own work than any self-proclaimed recruiting thought leaders ever will. Please pass that last bit on to your Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals colleagues.


    *with good food and drink provided

  2. Kind of curious as to how “fundamentals” are defined here. You didn’t say it explicitly, but if I interpret your article correctly, it seems like Recruiting should define the fundamental processes (and tasks that compose those processes) for organizations. Once those processes are defined, then we as an industry can then determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to complete those tasks with speed and quality.

    Yeah, I know I just described “task analysis,” a concept that has been around for over a century. But the fact that a simple (and psychometrically valid) task analysis hasn’t really been performed on the recruiting function is long overdue.I just urge ATAP to dig deeper, though; a SMB recruiter’s skills may vary from a large enterprise from a contingency recruiter mainly because the processes should differ between those organization types. Still, it’s good to see that progress can be made on this. Recognizing a problem is the first step to solving it!

    1. Ben K: Recognizing a problem is the first step to solving it!
      “*If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

      *Or if the solution would upset too many powerful people.

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