The Return of the Recruitment Fundamentals (Psst — they never left!)

The newest, shiniest recruitment tool is …. fundamentals. There, I said it. For some employers, fundamentals are the things we do while we try to get budget and buy-in for the cooler, more fun stuff. Certainly over the last 15 years especially, recruitment has been upended, then right-sided, then upended again, depending on the economy, the state of our businesses, sector growth, talent shortages and surpluses, recruitment solutions du jour, globalization, etc.

Amidst this ongoing constant of change, common themes remain that must be addressed. Fundamental challenges that employers faced before the most recent recession and the proliferation of purported “silver bullet” media options (read: social media), challenges that predate the Internet even < insert gasp> still and will always exist to varying degrees.

Fundamental challenges sometimes require fundamental solutions. They may not be the sexiest solutions or what everyone in our networking groups are talking (sorry, I meant micro-blogging) about, or even what most recruitment marketing firms are proposing, but their impact is far reaching and their value is lasting.

As many employers are evaluating their recruitment and retention challenges, more than ever before are looking inward first for fundamental solutions.

What “fundamentals” am I referring to? They include:

  • The honest and compelling articulation of your employee value proposition. No one can develop your EVP. It exists already. What we can do is define it then determine how to position it honestly and consistently.
  • The constant engagement and re-engagement of your employees. They are your most credible and visible employer brand touch points.
  • The nurturing of a relationship with the right candidate that is facilitated by your immersive and user-focused career website. Assimilate, assimilate, assimilate. Communicate in the manner that your target audience requires. Build for them.
  • A well-promoted and managed referral program.  There’s lots of excitement around referral programs recently as employers are able to tap into their employees’ online networks much more easily. Let’s make sure that program promotion, communication, and energy are equally maintained.
  • Using your existing assets before expending resources externally. That can mean leveraging your consumer/corporate web or social presence; piggybacking on corporate marketing; engaging your PR group to tell the recruitment story; actively maintained alumni outreach programs, etc. All of these little things will add up and reduce an employer’s reliance on paid recruitment tactics.

Believe me, I know that these items are not earth-shattering, but I couldn’t write about anything more important as it relates to an employer’s true recruitment success. I applaud the many employers who continue to work on optimizing these cornerstone fundamentals. This inside-out approach is never done.

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In order to illustrate the importance of an inside-out approach, let me call upon the oft-spoken-of but nary seen iceberg. I bet that many of you know that the vast majority of an iceberg, about 90%, is submerged, and you can only see about 10% of it above the surface. Now think about your company. Are your external recruitment activities (the visible 10%) fully supported, reinforced, and bolstered by your internal culture, value proposition, and employees (the 90%)? If you can’t answer “yes!” today, and many employers can’t for valid reasons, it’s something to be discussed and certainly prioritized. What would the visible 10% be without the 90% supporting, reinforcing, and bolstering it? It would be without foundation.

What further clouds the view is the genuine excitement around many of the cool, powerful new tools and tactics that employers have at their disposal. These items do warrant discussion and evaluation. But those discussions must be held in the context of the larger picture. Employers going back to the beginning, optimizing their foundational elements that must bear the heavy lifting required to achieve their objectives. The discussion then becomes how can we strike the right balance — optimizing the foundational elements and augmenting the foundation as appropriate with these new tools and technologies.

Regardless of market conditions, a thoughtful, balanced, inside-out approach will always be needed to recruit and retain top talent. Employers who solely rely on optimizing their foundational elements to recruit and retain the right talent will consistently outperform those employers who are applying the bulk of their focus to the “visible 10%.” In both scenarios, however, without the right balance being struck, not all objectives will be met. Determining the right balance and plan of action is critical.

Joe Zeinieh is based in Chicago and has been immersed in the recruitment and online space for the last 16 years. He is currently part of the client engagement team at TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications LLC and his expertise lies in candidate engagement, digital strategies and recruitment fundamentals. He can be found in the following places:;; @ZGeneration (Twitter).


12 Comments on “The Return of the Recruitment Fundamentals (Psst — they never left!)

  1. Joe – Nice post! The fundamentals you listed are definitely important and need to be figured out before you move on to any other recruitment marketing initiative such as social recruiting.

    I think the one thing you are missing, however, that all organizations need is some way to collect recruitment metrics for these fundamentals. Having these metrics will enable you to test and improve your EVP and make your Career Site that much better at engaging with the right candidates for your company. You need to start with what you think candidates will find compelling and measure to make sure you are right.

  2. You’re right Chris. Nice catch. Capturing relevant metrics and acting on the findings throughout. Further to your point about starting with what we think will resonate then improving based on metrics — if resources allow, talking to the target audiences and factoring in their motivators, requirements, etc. first and integrating those findings into the initial approach will ensure a much more resonant message/site/etc. right from the start that can be tweaked as needed once live based on metrics.

  3. Joe, I enjoyed reading your article. If an employer is not happy with their current conditions we need to be careful not to send them back to where they began if where they began is the reason they are not happy with they are. I like the iceberg example. When hiring employees hiring managers get to see the 10% above the surface yet as you point out the other 90% is very important. Perhaps we need a way to discover the shape and extent of the unseen aspects of job applicants?

  4. Thanks Brian. Let’s hope it also becomes a common practice.

    Bob – very good point re: sending back to the beginning when the beginning may be what got some employers are trying to remedy. Given that – maybe “beginning” goes back further to the time before any processes/approaches/plans/etc were implemented that have led to a less than positive recruitment and engagement reality today.

  5. Joe, you mean we’ll send them way back so that they can try to create another route to success? Learning from our own mistakes is a good idea but learning from the mistakes of others is even better.

  6. Here’s a differnt statement of the fundamentals:

    Manifesto for Agile Recruiting
    (This was “sampled” from the Agile SW Development Manifesto. -kh)

    We are uncovering better ways of hiring people by doing it and helping others do it.
    Through this work we have come to value:
    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    • Quick, quality hires over comprehensive documentation
    • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    • Responding to change over following a plan
    That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

    Principles behind the Agile Recruiting Manifesto
    We follow these principles:
    • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of quality hires.
    • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
    • Deliver quality hires frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
    • Internal customers and recruiters must work together daily throughout the project.
    • Build projects around motivated individuals.
    • Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
    • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a recruiting team is face-to-face conversation.
    • A quality hire which is on-time and within budget is the primary measure of progress.
    • Agile processes promote sustainable employee development.
    • The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
    • Continuous attention to professional excellence and first-class service enhances agility.
    • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work NOT done–is essential.
    • The best requirements, processes, and hires emerge from self-organizing teams.
    • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

    I challenge staffing organizations to adopt, implement, and maintain these policies and principles. Don’t know how? I’ll be happy to show you.


    Keith Halperin

  7. “The constant engagement and re-engagement of your employees. They are your most credible and visible employer brand touch points.”

    BRILLIANT stuff. Wish I wrote that!

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