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Can You Recognize This Recruiting Model?

by Jan 8, 2013, 6:00 am ET

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t. – Mark Twain

See if you can place this current staffing model without skipping to the end.

You are responsible for an organization that has thousands of openings to fill.

For you, big data is an everyday part of your operational initiative. Everyone (and we do mean everyone) who could possibly join your organization is known to you. Access to the details about them has been cost effective (about $.35 per) for some time.

More than just a qualified lead with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience, you also have access to other demographic characteristics (biodata) about each and every lead that relates to your organization’s “fit” and it all can be uploaded into your tracking system.

In fact not only are all (100 percent) of the potential pool of candidates known but your analysis of the factors that predict success for any one of these individuals can be calculated. So, without you ever meeting them, without their having ever heard of you, selection and assessment is moot for most. It is like finding a mine with the entire world’s supply of a given metal in a ready-to-use state … as long as you can acquire it.

And therein lies the rub.

The bad news is that this universe of prospects that pre-qualified without their having to have applied has been getting smaller for some time (and, in fact, industry-wide is 4.5% smaller than just four years ago). There aren’t enough to go around, and your competitors’ prospects, having worked out similar algorithms for success, overlap your prospects and in some cases are even more desperate to engage them and get them to join their organization than you.

After all, we can calculate their value to the organization’s future performance.

You know, and your leaders tell you often, that organizations like yours that are not competing successfully for this diminishing pool are already going out of business … either quickly, because they are not compromising their standards and thus failing to get enough prospects to convert, or more slowly, as they attempt to make do with lesser quality candidates and are outperformed by those who get more than their share of quality candidates to choose them.

Engaging the most qualified prospects who are wanted by so many organizations into this industry’s supply chain is a serious business. To compete, successful organizations realized some time ago that there is only a small grey area where you need to spend additional time assessing a candidate. Most prospects that you’ve been able to convert to candidates — getting them to apply, that is — are essentially all capable of succeeding. Selection (by the candidate) is now the key to recruiting and your strategy focuses on combining sourcing, branding, and measurement to influence the qualified candidates’ choice at every step from making them aware to giving them reasons to apply and, of course, closing the deal.

A few successful strategies that you have evolved in this climate include:

  • Heavy investment in collection and analysis of data. You invest upfront in acquiring “qualified leads” — individuals who can succeed and will likely choose your organization based on a profile of characteristics about the individual, as well as a competitive analysis of how desperate your competitors are wooing them and your investment in the candidate’s experience. You have validated this analytic approach during the last decade, you constantly tweak it. and can confidently predict the likelihood that a candidate will select you. People with these (technology) skills in your organization are driving everything you do.
  • Mass-customized messaging and media. Based on the your analysis, you typically “message” large numbers of highly attractive prospects multiple times in a varied but planned-out series of scripts across every medium, measuring the results, often in real-time. Your well-documented, carefully researched, and constantly self-correcting algorithms demonstrate that the combination of message + medium + incentive = higher rates of return leading to engagement then application then joining. It’s not about social media or mobile-enabled platforms. It’s about constantly exploring and measuring what messages in what medium cause a quality candidate to take an action, and in what timeframe.
  • Face-to-face high-touch interactions. As one of the most competitive organizations, you are also leveraging the awareness and interest you are building from the relatively low-coast offline, online, and social media messaging initiatives noted above with a high-cost, high-touch strategy of deploying a platoon of recruiters into the field, where concentrations of the best prospects currently live, to meet, greet, and develop relationships face-to-face. As a result, your organization has raised has raised its numbers of high-qualified prospects to apply so you can select the best of the best.
  • Reduced supply chain friction. Organizations like yours are making it simpler and easier to move prospects through their pipeline. Having already acquired the information you need to select them, you can move much faster when their interest has peaked to seriously consider you. In some cases where the predictive correlation with future success is particularly high, prospects can be accepted without application, interview, or other requirements.

One unintended (but inevitable) consequence of your recruiting model is that your methods and especially your success are transparent to the entire world. Since your organization’s long-term performance is so clearly and directly dependent on the number of quality candidates you can interest in joining you, independent agencies have emerged to evaluate your recruiting function as one measure of the health of your organization. These organizations examine:

The ratio of the total number of qualified candidates (those who have applied and are fully qualified) to the number of openings you are projected to fill based on your business plan needs. The agency publishes a list of the top 100 organizations in several categories, in part, based on this ratio. (For example if you have 45,000 (fully)qualified applicants for 5,000 openings you are ranked higher (9/1 versus 2/1) than an organization with only 10,000 (fully) qualified candidates for the same # of openings).

Their “rankings” for you and your competitors are published periodically and impact your firms’ “investors” as well as future prospects.

Your leadership reads and reacts to these rankings … big time.

(Note: While in the past, it was common to have 100 applicants for every job, someone forgot to point out that two-thirds of those (estimated) were not qualified. Today we can easily show the total available pool, the number of times that prospects in the pool have been touched, the number of qualified and vetted prospects who have applied, and the ratio of qualified applicants to hires necessary to meet plan. Now assume you are pressured to share it publicly as a predictive measure of your future success … or face stockholders pulling out.)

Oh, welcome to the world of college admissions! This article in the Wall Street Journal December 26, Colleges Rise as They Reject, essentially describes everything detailed above.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://sggh.net Ronald Katz

    Gerry, you nailed it! As someone who has shepherded three kids through this process your description is frightening and accurate. College is no longer about education, it’s a commodity like most everything else. Thanks, Ron

  • http://www.talentcommunity.net Marvin Smith

    You fooled me (but that is not difficult). I did notice some interesting parallels to other types of recruiting. Great read.

  • http://community.ere.net/blogs/the-careerxroads-annex/ Gerry Crispin

    Thanks Ron and Marvin. We may be headed into some interesting times. Currently the emphasis is still on technology and protocols that do a better job ‘matching’ the qualities of candidates to what we believe are our interests as employers. When this paradigm has run its course, the technologies that help manipulate the way qualified candidates choose a firm will emerge as critical and I can’t think of a single firm that studies this in a disciplined way…and it could be scary.

  • http://www.rocket-hire.com charles handler

    Great thoughts Gerry. Shows what is possible, what is probable (in some ways), and what is still presenting major hurdles to industry. Why does this work for colleges but may be much harder for companies to mimic? For colleges the predictive information set is much narrower (SAT, GPA, Awards, etc) and the measures of success are objective and relatively standardized (GPA, completion of program of study, etc). So the possibilities are narrower (even though this is not fiction!). Despite this, great insight and I believe there is a lot to learn from this model. Is anyone paying attention?

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  • Vivek Khanna

    Gerry,

    How and at what stage of the process would you determine who is a “fully qualified applicant” – just trying to understand your definition of “fully qualified” in the context of this article.

  • http://community.ere.net/blogs/the-careerxroads-annex/ Gerry Crispin

    An interesting question Vivek. Two answers. In the context of the article, its not what I would do nor is it my definition. I was merely describing how university admissions is able to pre-determine an applicant as fully qualified- that there is sufficient public and opt in demographic data about ALL high school grads to predict with some certainty whether an individual will succeed in graduating from a specific college..without ever speaking to that person.

    On the other hand,if I were to design a selection process for competing for very high end prospects ‘tomorrow’, I would make the algorithm to predict an individual’s success transparent. I would put a set of questions online ask a prospect to complete them anonymously. The result, available only to the person would offer a prediction about a) their likelihood of success in the environment my company offers and b) the likelihood they will successfully compete for the position should it be open…and then let them apply if they wanted to. So, to answer your question, I would let the prospect determine just how qualified they were at the front end, prior to application (and only for pivotal positions). There’s more to discuss and debate but that is essentially it.