The Concept of Quality vs. Quantity

Most recruiters focus on the quantity of resumes they have in their databases. Applicant tracking systems are designed to capture, hold, categorize and distribute these resumes. They often list the number of resumes they can hold as a feature because that’s what their customers ? the recruiters — want. I guess the logic is that the more you have, the more likely you are to find the one perfect candidate. From a school of tuna, can?t we find a trout?

But… The chances that there will be a perfect candidate are slim. Resumes in most databases have come from all over the place — some from ads for specific positions, some from referrals, some (maybe even most) are unsolicited. Typically, the resumes have been in the database for weeks or months. Lord forbid we should erase or toss out that ?perfect? candidate. So, there is even less chance that IF there is one, that she will be available. And the resumes in that database have generally not been screened for much of anything. There may have been a filter for key words, but any candidate worth his or her salt has made sure the right words are there. So there is even less chance that there is a fit. So what do you have these databases for? I don’t have any idea because the vast majority of them are junk. Of course, the recruiters will insist that they have quality, too, but that concept is usually ill defined. When asked, they will often say that quality is a subjective thing — something that changes from manager to manager, company to company. So what do you do? How do you find the perfect candidate? What is a quality candidate for an undefined job? Here are a few ideas and tips for changing your paradigm. It will take some work to put in place a system that will generate quality, when needed, but that’s what will give you and your firm a competitive edge.

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  1. Define quality as a candidate who meets minimum job requirements, who is interested, who is available, and who has passed some sort of screening for fit.
  2. Set up mini databases that contain only these kinds of people for specific positions (e.g., C++ programmer, HR Benefit Manager, etc.) Be sure anyone can reference these databases, and strive for the unexpected connection.
  3. Do competitive intelligence to find out, in a geographic area, who’s who and who is considered good, great, and not worth the effort. Join clubs, professional organizations and social events where these people hang out. Go to conferences, listen to speakers, ASK EVERYBODY about who is great in a particular area. If you have several recruiters, divide them up and have each one take on a few categories. Focus on outreach, not on the administrivia of resume input, search and retrieval.
  4. Cull your database and cross-reference it against this competitive intelligence. Spend time and energy focusing on screening via phone, in person, or via the web to further qualify candidates.
  5. Focus on attracting the candidates who are currently employed, but might be interested. You do this in a variety of ways including having a top notch web site, a great PR effort, and an employee referral program that focuses on referring potentially great people who may not be interested right now. Consider a system like World.hire to attract passive candidates.
  6. Turn your recruiting web site into a portal of information for the types of people you have the most difficulty attracting. Give them a reason to come to your web site frequently. For example, offer white papers, free articles, free guest speakers, and chat rooms. Build relationships now, recruit later.
  7. Most importantly, make your goal an aggressive one but one that will pay you back in spades: Provide the hiring manager for any key position with a quality candidate (qualified, ready, willing, and a fit) within 24 hours. Do this and you will be the best-paid recruiter in town.

I will expand on several of these points in subsequent columns.

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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