The Five Most Important Recruiting Steps

A complete staffing process is complex and contains multiple steps with numerous variables. Each week my colleagues and I write about some of these steps and sub-steps, almost always offering illuminating suggestions and new ideas to improve the way you do what you do. But I think that somewhere in the articles and words we sometimes overcomplicate the process, and perhaps even obscure the key steps that make up 80-90% of what a successful staffing department does. Really great recruiting functions are constantly honing, improving, refining, and adjusting how each step is carried out. They get constant feedback from metrics that are gathered and then used for improvement. Greatness is usually the result of a dash of creativeness and a ton of evolutionary process improvement toward stretch goals. I have listed here what I think are the five key steps to a powerful recruiting process. 1. Have a talent philosophy and strategy. Know what your organization is all about and why it is seeking the people it seeks. Every organization should have a philosophy about its talent that is understood by all employees, that is explained to all candidates, and that guides the selection process. This is sort of like the mission statement of recruiting and employee selection. It defines who you want to hire, in general, and what basic attitudes and skills they should have. It sets the tone of employment and gives a candidate a sense of what working for your organization will be like. 2. Define needs clearly and set priorities. Working with managers and HR generalists, recruiters need to decide how many people your organization will need in a particular area in a certain period of time. Having a clear sense of internal need ó matched to an assessment of how many people are available and how difficult it will be to hire them ó is becoming an essential skill for recruiting organizations. Following the numbers has to come a method for prioritizing which positions are most critical and then assigning the most competent recruiters to the most critical positions. Whatever time is spent in planning and getting market data will help you focus your efforts and help you avoid wasting time trying to find people that are very scarce. With market knowledge, you can educate managers and perhaps help them modify job requirements so that it is more likely you will find a quality person quickly. 3. Focus on the front of the process more than the back. I define the front of the recruiting process as workforce planning and the development of a talent pool of interested and qualified candidates. The front is all about finding people who are interested in your organization, a particular position, or several positions, and who meet the minimum qualifications for both your organization’s culture and for the positions they are interested in. Communication with candidates is the key to success at this step, and the communication needs to vary in type of quality over time. Some of the communication may be through personal emails, chat rooms, or by introducing candidates to employees with similar backgrounds and interests who can further assess and persuade the candidates. In my experience this the most poorly done part of the recruiting process, as most recruiters are focused entirely on the resume and the interview. Even then, they frequently spend more time on administrative activities like scheduling, background checking, and so forth than they do on getting to know the candidate. 4. Use technology wisely and broadly. The only way busy recruiters can find time to focus on the front is to use technology to help them. Technology does not only mean applicant tracking systems, as many recruiters believe. There are at least four major piece of technology in recruiting:

  • The recruiting website, which should serve as a branding and marketing medium, a screening tool, and a communication assistant.
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  • The applicant tracking system, which keeps track of candidates, prepares reports, tracks metrics and key statistics, interfaces with the HRIS system, and helps with scheduling and other administrivia.
  • The assessment and screening software, which should be incorporated into the website and be seamless to the candidate
  • The communications suite, which helps the recruiter send emails, have live online conferences with candidates and hiring managers, broadcasts video events, web seminars or other events, and maintains the candidate talent pool.

5. Measure everything you do. Finally, to be effective you have to gather and report key numbers. You need to know how efficiently you are performing compared to external standards or benchmarks as well as to your own internal goals. These numbers will help you continuously improve your processes and lower costs and time. But you also need to gather and report measures of effectiveness. You need to know how much you are contributing to the organization’s success by the quality of the people you are bringing in. You need to know if hiring managers and candidates are satisfied with your performance and where you should be working to become more useful to the organization. If those who have direct responsibility for recruiting take a more integrated and collaborative approach and effectively coordinate all these steps, the benefits are huge. Candidates are impressed to see an organization that can effectively entice them, craft a compensation and benefit package that is attractive, coordinate and even lead a process of orientation and assimilation, and stay in touch through mechanisms such as career development. Management is impressed to see an organization that operates efficiently and can prove its efficiency both in speed and cost. They are also impressed to see that candidates with the right skills and level of experience are readily available and can be hired with minimum difficulty.

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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