8 Strategies for Winning the Upcoming 2011-2012 Super Bowl for Talent

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Apr 15, 2011

As the economic outlook improves, companies will need to rethink their hiring strategies in order to maintain their current quality of hire, as well as fill an increasing number of open positions. Much of this will require an increased emphasis on passive candidate recruiting, and less on active candidate sourcing.

In a survey conducted in collaboration with LinkedIn in late 2010, we discovered that 22 percent of the fully-employed workforce was absolutely not looking. Another 44 percent were open to considering something if contacted by a recruiter. Sixteen percent were discreetly looking, networking only with former associates. Only eight percent were actively looking, with the remaining 10 percent casually looking using search engines and job aggregators a few times a week, at most.

Surprisingly, most companies, even those using social media and Web 2.0 techniques, are only reaching the 16 percent who are considered active. This leaves 82 percent relatively untouched. This will have to change if companies want to maintain their competitive edge in a growing economy.

Over the course of the past 10 years I’ve identified eight core strategies for hiring top talent.

Some of these will help companies make this shift towards passive candidate recruiting. In some cases they represent all you’ll need to do. Regardless, understanding your company’s underlying recruiting and hiring strategy, whether by default or choice, will determine its fate in the upcoming quest for the best talent.

The Eight Core Strategies for Winning the Recruiting Game

  1. Have a big brass brand. AKA: attract more top people than you need, so if you make a mistake it won’t matter. This actually works very well, until the brass stops shining, or you lose your market dominance. Consider Google as an example of a slightly tarnished brand. Now it needs to recruit top people, not just screen them.
  2. Be first. Early adopters have an edge since there are always countless good sourcing ideas being developed. Each new technology, however, has a limited life span and it becomes less effective as everyone starts using it and diminishing returns set in. That’s why new techniques constantly need to be developed. The development cycles for these new sourcing techniques are getting shorter, so it’s hard to be first all of the time for everything.
  3. Be best. Optimize whatever you do, and be better than everyone else. As long as you do whatever you do better than the competition, you’ll stay ahead of the pack, even using older technologies. For example, compelling ads on the big and niche boards are still effective if everyone else’s are boring. The key is you must make the optimization a process, not a project, which, by itself, is part of a good long-term recruiting strategy.
  4. Hire the best recruiters you can, or give good recruiters great training and great processes to work with. I tend not to consider the Lone Ranger model of letting a bunch of alpha-recruiters loose on your hiring managers a good tactic or strategy. Not only is it pretty inefficient, since they’re hard to corral, but you don’t have much of a perpetual legacy when they leave. You also get the frequently asked question from hiring managers, “Why does every recruiter have a different approach? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have all of our recruiters use a common set of best practices?” This suggests that good recruiters can become great if they have a reasonable workload combined with great tools and are using a common set of best practices.
  5. Use compelling targeted advertising. Whether you’re focusing on active or passive candidates, the ability to stand out with creative messages (postings, emails, Tweets, voice mails) is the key to attracting the best talent. Going viral is a critical aspect of this, meaning have your jobs forwarded to friends and connections by whomever saw it first. Here’s my favorite job posting of the month. It’s a blog posting from a Director of Engineering at Netflix. Two key trends are demonstrated with this. First, the hiring manager is personally involved. Two, it’s how a talent community should operate. (I’m holding a webcast on this subject on April 19th hosted by ZoomInfo, so don’t miss if it’s not too late.)
  6. Be proactive. Planning puts you at the front of the pack, and even if you’re not the best, you’ll still win the race because you started before everyone else. Knowing who you’ll be hiring in the next few quarters gives you more options. This approach will hide inefficiencies, but if it results in great candidates, it doesn’t matter.
  7. Implement PERP and ICRM. These two concepts represent the next phase of social media and advanced networking. PERP is the idea of expanding a company’s employee referral program by having employees proactively connect with the best of their former associates. When a new opportunity arises, these new connections can then be instantly contacted. LinkedIn leads the pack on this critical front developing new tools to automatically advise employees which of their first degree connections best fit open opportunities. ICRM refers to interactively nurturing talent pipelines using a decision-tree approach for sending semi-custom emails. In this case, different emails are sent out depending on how candidates respond to earlier emails.The eighth strategy is a combination of all of the above to some degree, without the need to be the best, the most perfect, or the most proactive, just the most complete.
  8. Be scalable. Use best practices for each of the sourcing and recruiting steps not above, as well as you possibly can on a consistent basis. In the long run this is the best approach to building a top talent acquisition process, since good people using best practices get consistently better results than having a few overworked stars on the team. The key to success: it needs to be driven top-down, the recruiting function needs to be provided with ample resources, and hiring managers need to be fully engaged.

If you’re going to rely on active candidate sourcing, you’d better be great at it. If you’re still using traditional job descriptions as part of your advertising, you’ll never be able to attract top people who have multiple opportunities. So banish these today if you want to hire anyone but the desperate. Once you start using career-oriented advertising, then being first, best, and proactive will help you compete.

If you’re intending to shift to a passive-candidate-centric recruiting model, you’ll need to ensure your recruiters fully understand real job needs and have no qualms about calling passive candidates and convincing them to consider your open positions. As part of these they need to be able to establish instant credibility, be persistent, and quickly turn your job into a career opportunity worth exploring. We’ve prepared a Recruiter Circle of Excellence competency model defining the core skills required to compete in this type of talent market. Here’s a link to a handout from a webcast we recently held with BountyJobs on this topic. This will get you started in making the shift from active candidate sourcing to passive candidate recruiting.

As the battle for hiring supremacy accelerates, a shift in hiring and recruiting strategy is essential. Part of this is realigning resources toward a more passive candidate recruiting approach and upgrading the skills of the recruiters involved. Even being the best at active candidate sourcing is not good enough. For one thing, finding the best of the 18 percent is not the same as hiring them. Worse, it still leaves 82 percent of the market untouched. Recruiting and hiring the best of this group requires great recruiters using sophisticated solution-selling techniques and fully-engaged hiring managers. We’re holding a series of webcasts this month highlighting what it takes to make this shift, but it all starts with a new strategy.

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