Periodic Potpourri: The First Set of?Results

In a medley of graphs and words, this week’s article and next week’s will paint your own self-portrait of the state of recruiting, April 2002, based on the survey we conducted last week. I want to thank the more than 230 of you who responded to last week’s survey on recruiting trends. It was an outstanding response and will be fuel for a number of in-depth columns this summer. Those who responded represented a cross-section of the recruiting world. About 60% of you are from corporations and 27% from the third-party/agency world. This gives a cross-section of results and will give us a more complete picture of what’s happening. By taking the pulse of our world from time to time, we can get a sense of how things are going and whether or not our issues are tied to our own actions or to the economy in general. From the results it would seems that things have not changed much since last autumn. The size of recruiting functions has stayed fairly constant after the initial downsizing that occurred last year. Fewer than 18% of you are reporting an increase in staff size, while almost half (49%) report no change. Yet expectations remain high. Over half of you expect that the number of professional hires will increase over the next year. Clearly sourcing remains an issue ó a critical one for most of you ó with over 70% agreeing that it is the most critical HR issue your company faces over the next year. Sourcing remains a troubled area, in my mind, as we are very reliant on two primary sources for candidates: employee referrals and job boards. The employee referral “craze” has been exciting: fruitful for many, and yet not without problems. Referral programs are not very good at bringing in more diversity and they tend to perpetuate the current thinking in the organization. If your firm is engaged in change, or struggling to overcome market sluggishness and a lack of innovative products, employee referral programs may work against you. And I think it will begin to get harder and harder to keep up the pace of these referrals that characterized the past few years. We have exhausted the referral banks of many employees and are recycling people with less discrimination than we had a few years ago. When anything gets popular, quality goes down. Pretty soon, a reverse cycle starts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see articles about how poorly referral programs are working within the next few months; yet 38% of you are reliant on them as a prime candidate source, followed by job boards. Job boards are deceiving. It often appears that they are cost effective, and they are frequently cited as a cost effective way to locate new candidates. Yet, when you figure in the time and energy that goes into posting, sorting, screening, and qualifying the wide range of responders, it may be false economy. I don’t think we in recruiting or HR do very good math or very complete cost/benefit analysis. In diversity recruiting, you are more likely to use a professional association (17%) or networking (19%) as a source, but you are still very reliant on the job boards (20%). When I couple this with the surprising result that only 4% ó yes, that right, 4% ó of you have a research function, I see trouble on the horizon. In this survey, we defined a research function as a person or persons dedicated fully or partially to competitive analysis of other firms’ employees, pre-sourcing potential candidates, developing new candidate sources, and building lists of people whom your firm might be interested in at some point. As future columns will emphasize, I think research is the only way you will remain competitive in finding the “A” players everyone seems to want. So the typical recruiting function, as painted by the survey, is a centralized function with an average of six to ten requisitions per recruiter. And while 34% of you say this is a major decrease from one year ago, expectations of increased workloads are high. Research functions are almost non-existent, and sourcing remains confined to one or two well-trodden areas that may be less effective than they seem. Next week we will take a look at how you responded to issues around customer service and how you measure and report what you do. I promise to reveal even more interesting information!

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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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