The Art and Science of Talent Acquisition

A few years ago the, BBC aired a series called How to Build a Planet. Hosted by Top Gear host, Richard Hammond, it showed step-by-step how the world was put together — featuring questionable special effects, cheeky British humor, and a side of physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. I loved watching the CGI effects illustrate the way lava cools to become land, or how the moon keeps the Earth from wobbling in a gravitational dance. Each episode showed an increasingly complex and intricate interplay of forces that was continuously growing and evolving. It also showed that there is art to this science.

In 2017, talent acquisition feels similar to watching How to Build a Planet, minus Richard’s narration and charming British accent. Talent acquisition has become a science and art — with vision being a requirement to mold the evolving science that drives our recruiting efforts.

For decades, companies valued attracting and recruiting new talent as the primary avenue for change. While interviewing multiple CHROs this year on talent, I was struck by the observation of one, who said: “Great talent is a waste if there is a lack of culture fit. We spend too much time finding great talent, only to onboard them and turn them over to managers who are undeveloped leaders and unable to bring out the best in their teams.” Like the holistic interplay of steps required to build a planet, focus on the entire lifecycle of talent to create change.

HR leaders also spoke about the need for TA leaders to flex in new ways. I continue to see TA leaders needing to evolve themselves as experts in many areas beyond attracting, recruiting, and bringing talent to their organizations. TA leaders need to be advocates for the entire lifecycle of talent. Our research at i4cp has shown that high-performing organizations are almost 6.5x more likely to discuss commitment to ongoing development in pre-hire interviews. Also, recruiters who have depth of understanding in all aspects of talent management are much better equipped to build internal and external pipelines of talent with succession in mind.

Being experts about and advocates for their companies is required. Though it seems simplistic, we must ask these questions: Do recruiters understand how the business makes money, and can they read the financials, income statements, and walk candidates for roles in public companies through a 10-K SEC filing?

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From a scientific point of view, can recruiters have meaningful conversations with the people analytics leaders in organizations to understand the insights they share about the talent that is successful in the business? Are they contributing to the discussion about what’s being measured to assess quality of hire?

Finally, the art of recruiting requires honing the skill of successful storytelling. Recruiters are now culture ambassadors who must truly understand and communicate the cultural values of an organization and its purpose to attract the right candidates who share the same beliefs.

As the talent acquisition profession responds to seismic changes in the recruiting landscape, we must be ready for what’s ahead. Our ongoing research at i4cp on this topic asks this question: in light of technological advances and changing global political environments, what skills will TA professionals need to evolve to become strategic leaders, and how will we get there from here? Please consider participating in our survey — we’d love to hear from you.

Cher Murphy is i4cp’s Chief Talent Officer and the chair of the Talent Acquisition Board. Murphy began her search career at Heidrick & Struggles. Prior to joining i4cp, she was a founding member of two boutique search firms that focus solely on retained human resources engagements. She earned a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Houston and an M.S. in Organizational Development at Pepperdine University. She combines Applied Anthropology and Sci-Fi in her personal approach to talent acquisition.

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1 Comment on “The Art and Science of Talent Acquisition

  1. Great article, Cher! The expectations bar keeps getting raised on recruiters–finding people has never been easier, but as you point out, the brand ambassador part of the role has gotten elevated. Thank you for beautifully articulating the art and science of recruiting, Cher!

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