Recruiting Redefined: The New Recruitment Models

Top-performing, passive job seekers have always been the holy grail of recruiting. But recruiting teams are not always structured to actively recruit top talent, often opting for more passive, reactionary recruiting means. So how are leading companies and recruiting organizations structuring themselves in the future to actively recruit top talent? How are they redefining job descriptions and responsibilities within their teams? The winds of change are already blowing. Recruiting Top Performers Recruiting passive job seekers is not a black-and-white issue and is often prone to overgeneralization. We all know that not everyone who is currently employed is a top performer, and not everyone who is unemployed is an underperformer. So let’s take the active or passive designations out of the picture, and just focus on top performers. We can say a few things about these top performers without hesitation:

  • They are most often not looking for work. If they are, they may have multiple offers to consider.
  • They are usually recognized and well taken care of by their current employers.
  • They will likely take some convincing to leave their current job for a new opportunity with your organization.
  • They will have a significant impact on your organization and your organization’s competitive positioning if you are able to recruit them.

I can also say the following with a fairly high degree of certainty: your management team wants you to focus on finding these top performers. New Recruiting Models If you went to the last couple of ER Expos, you saw Denny Clark of Wachovia Bank give an excellent presentation called, “Building a Sales Mentality in a Corporate Recruiting Function.” The willingness to try new things at Wachovia inspired me to ask more companies about how they are structuring themselves to answer management’s call to recruit more top performers. As my conversations progressed, I came to a few significant realizations. First, for all of the flak that recruiting teams get from industry experts and consultants like me, there really are a lot of very talented, intelligent, and skilled individuals in the recruiting field. Second, there are some definite, emerging trends in terms of how leading companies are setting up their recruiting teams. And third, there are lessons to be learned from others’ experience in implementing their new models. Below are two of the best examples, and at the end of this article I have summarized the trends I see starting to develop. The Microsoft Staffing Model Many of us around the country have always envied the continued strong emphasis that Microsoft puts on hiring the best and brightest software professionals. There is a huge emphasis on finding top performers who can immediately contribute at a high level and drive innovation. A couple of years ago, they began to adapt the recruiting process and structure to better support this emphasis. Nina Johal, a senior recruiting manager, discussed how the staffing team has been encouraged to think creatively and try different models over the years. The model they have implemented is built on the creation of specialized disciplines within the recruiting team. “Essentially, staffing has been split in half,” she says. “I manage a team of Candidate Generation Recruiters (CGRs), which is responsible for creating a candidate pipeline. Some of these CGRs are not assigned requisitions ó instead, they are aligned by function, and source talent for our core high-volume positions. Others interact with hiring managers and work on specific requisitions. Together, we are able to proactively create a talent pipeline that meets the needs of the business units, while also reacting to situational needs.” Their activities include everything from direct sourcing and resume database searches to industry event attendance and networking. The other team of recruiters, the Account Manager Recruiters (AMRs), creates workforce plans, manages hiring managers’ expectations throughout the hiring process, participates in in-person interviews, works through the offer details, and closes candidates on working for the company. “The AMRs and CGRs are very much peers,” says Johal. “They are equally important in the recruiting cycle.” Completing the Microsoft staffing model are the following vital components:

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  • Recruitment marketing. As Tom Koppel, a marketing account manager for Microsoft, points out, no longer is the primary recruitment marketing task about placing an in-column ad in the Sunday paper (although that occasionally does happen). Instead, Microsoft’s recruitment marketing efforts are focused on more productive pursuits, such as enticing candidates who may never have considered Microsoft as an employer (like finance candidates who think of them as just a technology company) or luring out-of-state candidates who might not have thought about making a move to the Pacific Northwest. I think you will see a lot more companies beginning to emulate this approach.
  • Business analysis. As more and more data becomes available to us through applicant tracking tools, it is getting harder to make sense of it all. Chris Barrick, Microsoft’s business analyst, helps them establish key recruiting metrics, measure goals and objectives, and regularly communicate progress to the recruiting team.

Finding the right people for the right jobs when recruiters had previously been used to recruiting “from cradle to grave” presented a significant challenge. Now that the model is in motion, however, the recruiting teams are incredibly passionate about their responsibilities. The new model has played well to individual recruiters’ strengths, allowing them to focus on what they do best. The Nike Staffing Model If you take the time to listen to your hiring managers and recruiters, you often find that they want the exact same things. Through a combination of one-on-one interviews with business partners and surveys of hiring managers and recruiters, Nike learned this firsthand. On one side, the business partners were asking for more proactive recruiting of top talent and a higher touch recruiting process. On the other, recruiters were asking to be freed of certain responsibilities to focus on those exact priorities. Nike is now in the process of making dramatic adjustments to how they recruit. Ironically, they knew nothing about what Microsoft was doing only 300 miles away, yet there are some startling similarities. The first part of the Nike staffing facelift was to alleviate some of the more administrative and training-oriented responsibilities the team was tasked with, after an analysis showed that entirely too much of their time was spent in this area. “Our recruiting team needed more focus; we needed to free them up to do what the business wanted them to do,” says Monique Matheson, Nike’s director of staffing. Net gain: recruiters can attend business meetings, become process experts, and not get bogged down in too much of the minutiae that can detract from their more pressing responsibilities. Direct sourcing has also taken center stage. Like Microsoft, Nike has assigned some of their best recruiters to help proactively identify “exceptional” talent and create talent pipelines. By moving towards this model, Nike hopes to raise the bar on their recruiting efforts as a whole. “For our model to succeed, it is essential that our talent acquisition specialists are not seen as order takers or administrative support. Direct sourcing is designed to be a challenging, exciting role within Nike’s staffing team, and we’ve assigned some of our very best people to the task,” Matheson says. Conclusions Completely independently, the two companies above have developed surprisingly similar models. From these and several other examples, the new recruitment models being developed point to the following trends:

  • Centralization over decentralization. Economies of scale are always a factor in centralization decisions. But another equally important factor is expertise and excellence. By centralizing the recruiting team, Richard Lishewski, formerly of PricewaterhouseCooper’s national consulting practice and now director of e-business staffing at Fannie Mae, said he was able to accomplish with 45 recruiters what had previously been the work of 350 recruiters at PWC. In the process, they greatly reduced their reliance on agencies and lowered their time to fill from more than 60 days to 30. “We were able to create home-grown recruitment expertise in very specific disciplines, such as SAP consulting and CRM. Centralization also allowed us to standardize and tighten our process and create a consistent hiring experience for candidates and hiring managers,” Lishewski says.
  • Closer alignment with business units. In companies with several different business units, creating dedicated recruiting teams that specifically support those business units helps them anticipate the needs of each business and find ways to develop talent pipelines that better match their future directions.
  • Specialization. Recruiting teams are asked to be marketers, salespeople, statisticians, analysts, networkers, event attendees, managers, and customer service representatives. In the search for top performers, companies are finding value in dividing up the responsibilities and focus of their recruiting teams into areas like direct sourcing, workforce planning, hiring process management, interviewing, recruitment marketing, and business analysis. Through this specialization, they are creating experts who excel in key tasks, raising the bar for how their recruiting teams support their business partners, and creating multiple, viable career paths within the recruiting industry.
  • The rise of direct sourcing and networking. In an ideal world, technology frees us to focus on the activities that add the most value to our organizations. The near ubiquity of applicant tracking tools and the lagging economy has left many recruiting teams with a choice: reduce headcount or find more productive ways to spend their time. As the Nike example illustrates, what you want to focus on and what the business needs most are often one and the same. Increasingly, this means a greater emphasis on identifying top talent through direct sourcing, event attendance, and networking.

While the examples I’ve given represent large-scale, well-resourced companies, I hope that they help you make positive changes to your own process and recruiting structure to make more of an impact within your organization. If you’ve set up an innovative model within your own organization, please start a discussion by posting a review for this article!

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (, a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


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