Using Benchmarking as a Recruiting Tool

The best recruiting tools are often the ones that most recruiters don’t use. Why? Because overused recruiting tools generally do not have much of an impact when you are recruiting the prized, currently employed top performers. These so-called passive candidates are smart and aware. Trying to get through to them is difficult, because both they and their companies put up barriers to make recruiting them difficult. Great recruiters realize that the only way to stay on top of the competition is to continually try out-of-the-box tools, use them for a while, and after others catch up, move on to new tools and strategies. In my experience, one of the most underused but incredibly effective recruiting tools is one called “benchmark recruiting.” Dell Computer once sent a team to visit Cisco for benchmarking purposes. A few weeks later, Cisco poached a key member of the benchmarking team. When Dell confronted Cisco with the issue, their response was simple: “Anyone you bring into our house…we consider fair game.” What Is Benchmark Recruiting? Any smart businessperson knows that if you have a major problem, one of the first steps toward solving it is to identify experts in that area that might already have found a solution. The key is that you can learn from others. Benchmarking is the name for the process of identifying the best practices that others firms have. Benchmark recruiting takes basic benchmarking one further step and utilizes it as a recruiting tool to find recruiting targets. Instead of stopping with identifying the best practices, benchmark recruiting continues on to identify those individuals that developed and implemented those best practices. These individuals are ideal recruiting targets because they have demonstrated not only their technical knowledge but also their ability to get good ideas implemented in a real company situation. This ability to solve problems and get programs implemented is what makes these benchmark individuals so valuable as recruits. What Is the Advantage of Benchmark Recruiting? Most top performers refuse to answer calls from recruiters. When they do answer the phone, they often have little time or interest in talking to recruiters. Benchmark recruiting allows you to avoid that stereotypical image of a recruiter, because you’re calling as a subject-matter expert ó not as a recruiter. Try a simple test. Call a major company as a recruiter and see how they respond. Then callback a week later as a benchmarking person. The responses are almost always different because companies generally welcome benchmarking efforts. This is partly due to the fact that when you are benchmarking, you are essentially complementing the person on the other end of the phone by asking about their best practices. In addition, you are also giving them an opportunity to learn about the best practices at your and other firms (top performers love to learn). From your own company’s perspective you’re getting three for one. In addition to identifying potential recruits, you are also using a process that allows you to build relationships with these target candidates. Lastly, you also gather best practice information. Work With Those Who Already Benchmark The first step in benchmark recruiting is to identify the individuals within your company who currently do benchmarking. Some organizations have entire teams devoted to benchmarking, while others do it on the more haphazard basis. Your job as a recruiter is to identify those individuals who routinely call or contract other firms. You’ll need to have them “go the next step,” which means have them get the names of the key individuals within the organization that were involved in the solution. You can either have them pass the names on to the recruiting department or you can ask them to do the initial recruiting themselves. The latter approach is generally more effective because you have “equals” talking to each other. Benchmark Even When You Don’t Need an Answer Unfortunately, the need for talent sometimes doesn’t directly correspond with the need for benchmarking information. So why wait until you truly have a need for benchmark information in order to use it as a recruiting tool? Instead of waiting, smart recruiters recruit under the guise of benchmarking. Benchmark recruiting is a proactive process of calling other firms under the premise that you are seeking benchmark information. Through this benchmarking process you build relationships and gather information about potential recruits. You should of course pass along the benchmark best practice information to key managers but the primary goal is to get individuals at other firms to talk to you. Recruit Those Who Benchmark You Spread the word within your company that you want to talk to anyone who calls your firm to benchmark. It’s important to target these individuals because the people that actively benchmark are generally those who are on the leading edge (so it’s important to identify them as potential recruits). If you don’t believe that those that actively benchmark are the best employees, look internally within your own organization and see if those that do external benchmarking are top performers. Invariably you’ll find that those that benchmark are rapid learners and top performers, which are the ideal targets for recruiting. Turn the People That Benchmark Into Referral Sources You can’t always recruit away the very best that you have identified through benchmarking, but in most cases you can use them as referral sources. The best know the very best; it’s just that simple. If you build a relationship with them, over time you will find that these benchmarking experts are generally willing to provide you with the names of others that they have benchmarked with. Let them know that your firm is always looking for good talent and show your appreciation whenever they share a name of someone at a competitor that is heavily involved in benchmarking and learning. Advantages Of Benchmark Recruiting

  • You get to talk to people who wouldn’t normally talk to you as a recruiter because they’re less suspicious during the benchmarking process.
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  • Because benchmarking is generally something that takes a period of time, you get to build relationships with these individuals.
  • The very best people are continually learning, and those are the ones that are involved in benchmarking.
  • Benchmark recruiting is relatively cheap, because your firm is probably doing benchmarking anyway. It takes little additional time to capture the names of the very best people at benchmark firms.
  • In addition to recruiting, you also get to learn best practices.
  • Benchmark recruiting can help you build a referral network.

Other Benchmark Recruiting Tips

  • Learn to “trade” best practices rather than just calling and requesting answers. Benchmarking improves dramatically when you both share best practices (even if they are not in the same subject areas).
  • Benchmark at trade and industry association conferences. Ask them to sponsor a benchmarking session and offer to moderate it.
  • Set up your own customized benchmarking network among the firms you wish to recruit from.
  • Teach your own managers and top performers how to benchmark so they can begin to gather names as well as information.
  • Ask managers who they benchmark with or learn from, and then add those names to your recruiting database.
  • Keep benchmark recruiting a secret… so that you can be the only one that takes advantage of its power!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

 

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