Know Your Talent Acquisition Enemy

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 7.27.38 PMThus it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement. — Sun Tzu

Ever since I was a lowly Rook squaring the gutters of the finest military college in the country, I’ve been a student of military strategy. It is actually easy to be a student of strategy, because there has been so much written and analyzed on the topic for centuries, and I have found that so much of what I’ve studied, learned, and practiced has real world business applications every day.

The quote above I find very applicable to my world of recruiting, and is a lesson I impress on those I mentor. This maxim, when put into action, can help transform good recruiters and good teams to great recruiters and teams.

Allow me to explain. 

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In 20 years, recruiting globally, both third party and corporate, I’ve seen a few things and been around the block a time or two. One of the things I’ve observed as a consistent opportunity to improve on is our knowledge of our competition  The teams that I’ve worked with — at first they often know all the FAB (Features, Advantages, Benefits — what is now called a value proposition) of their employers or clients. Backwards, forwards, inside, outside, they can tell a candidate all the great reasons why they should accept their position. That’s all well and good, but if you want to operate a level above, there are X things you can do immediately to up your game.

  1. Know your competition’s FAB, inside and out. (Competition is not limited to your specific industry; it may include any company that hires the same talent as you in or from the same market.) Not just the dollars they offer, but the benefits — including out of pocket costs, and the perquisites – particularly anything unique to them. This information can be easily gained by simply asking your current employees who have worked for your competitors, current candidates who have received offers, and from your own research on their career site. I am constantly amazed at the number of recruiters I come across who cannot tell me this info about their competitors, especially when it is so easy to get!
  2. Know your competition’s hiring process, from application through start. Here’s a great move to get started learning this: apply to positions on your competitors’ site. How easy is it? What information are they sharing? How do they treat their applicants? How and with what frequency do they communicate with their applicants? Understand how long the whole process will take, what the steps are. Is there anything unusual or specific to your competitions process (such as testing, group dinner, no drug test, etc.)? Remember, time is important in the market, but so is the advantage of not having an onerous process.
  3. Who does your competition hire? Do you have competitive intel? I consistently keep an eye out as to where our silver medalists go, as well as our crash and burns, as well as where are best and worst employees go when they transition. Where do your competitors; best employees go? (Hopefully to you!). Imagine how much more successful you would be in closing candidates when you can share with them that the other opportunity they are considering is a company that hires C players, or the team they are going too has had their best people picked off in the last six months?

There can be no strategy without intelligence. The better the intel, the better the strategy, and results.

Jim D'Amico is a globally recognized TA Leader, specializing in building best in class TA functions for global organizations. He is an in demand speaker, author, and mentor, with an intense passion for all things talent acquisition. Jim currently leads Global Talent Acquisition for Celanese, a Fortune 500 Chemical Innovation company based in Dallas, TX, and is a proud Board Member of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals.


12 Comments on “Know Your Talent Acquisition Enemy

  1. I like #1 and I recall asking this question on a very infrequent basis when i did staffing. “Why do you like the competition?” or “what do you think they do well?” Good market intel for sure!

    1. “Thus although you are capable, display incapability to them. When committed to employing your forces feign inactivity. When your objective is nearby, make it appear as if distant; when far away, create the illusion of being nearby.”
      It is a good corrolary to think about, employing a Red Herring defense…

  2. Jim you really want to have some fun we should discuss my theory of mediocrity as the most worthy goal for firms and individuals. Crazy on the surface, but surprisingly not as stupid as it sounds 😉

  3. Good stuff. I also enjoy Sun Tzu and other military strategists. It’s interesting because on first read Tzu can seem a bit intangible and hard to apply. But a lot of his writing “opens up” after careful consideration and becomes very practical, well grounded, and easy to implement. The quote you use at the beginning of your article is a perfect example of this and you do a great job of applying it to talent acquisition. Thanks.

    Doug Friedman
    LinkedIn Profile

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