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Dave Lefkow

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (, a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.

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The Rise of the Social Networks

by Jul 24, 2007

After recent announcements by Facebook and the rise of networking platforms like MySpace, LinkedIn, and Ning, social networks are once again gaining momentum. Usage is accelerating, new audiences are being drawn in, and new applications are being developed that can help us all better manage our lives and contacts. Recruiters stand to benefit most from these trends, and here’s how.

One of the biggest challenges in online recruiting has been a lack of detailed, regularly updated and public information on candidates. Social networks have the ability to change this, and we’re still in the early-adopter stage. There are signs that social networks are growing up, expanding their audiences beyond the earliest adopters, and increasing their usefulness to recruiters.

keep reading…

Talent: The Ultimate Profit Center

by May 23, 2007

Making the move from a cost center to a profit center is a daunting task that most talent management and recruiting teams don’t attempt. Yet when the economy shifts, and it will again, this might be the most important thing you can do today to ensure that your budgets don’t get cut, your staff doesn’t get slashed, and your department isn’t decimated.

The Human Capital Business Strategy

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Hire a Blogger Today

by May 2, 2007

Passion is perhaps the most important component of performance. Blogs are providing a new window into what drives individuals that we’ve never been able to see on a resume.

In the course of building my own teams and recruiting for other companies, there was always a certain intangible quality I sought that was one of the strongest indicators of on-the-job performance.

keep reading…

A Recruiting Guide for Startups

by Apr 18, 2007

Today’s entrepreneur is finding that it’s harder than ever to attract top talent. In the early days of the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, big employers were rightfully scared of startups hiring their people away with promises of unimagined riches, half-day ping-pong tournaments, and lavish parties. It was like summer camp with stock options.

Yet one day the bubble popped, and now startups are feeling the pain. To many employees, working for an established bigger company just makes a lot more sense. And this isn’t just a stability issue anymore. Big companies pay better, on average, and the potential jackpots of an IPO or merger/acquisition now rarely exceed the typical pay disparity.

keep reading…

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Video Resumes

by Mar 21, 2007

Video resumes and video interviews are here. Yet some employers, afraid of the legal ramifications of reviewing videos of people in the hiring process, are curling up into the fetal position and taking steps to avoid them altogether. Here’s why you should do the exact opposite and fully embrace them.

I recently had a conversation with a director of recruiting at a large organization who said that he had just put a policy in place to reject all video resumes. “And why would you do that?” I asked.

keep reading…

Idea Recruiting

by Feb 20, 2007

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a wave of innovation that the world has never seen. And this decade will move even faster. In an innovation economy, recruiting can play a central role in how new ideas are developed and taken to market.

According to Ray Kurzweil, recipient of the National Medal of Technology and a member of the national inventors’ hall of fame, “we’re about to experience a merger between humans and computers that is so rapid and so profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.”

keep reading…

Proactive Recruiting Metrics

by Dec 13, 2006

A fundamental shift in recruiting values is now taking place inside organizations around the world. At the center of this shift is a focus on more proactive recruiting tactics in order to help drive a higher return on investment from recruiting and develop talent pipelines ahead of demand.

In a reactionary, requisition-driven recruiting model, overhead metrics such as cost, efficiency, and speed are adequate measurements of a recruiting department’s value to the organization. Cost-per-hire, staffing efficiency, and time-to-fill are still the primary metrics used in most organizations when recruiting reports to the business.

keep reading…

My Blog Is My Resume

by Oct 3, 2006

Just when you think you’ve mastered the Internet, along comes a new generation that is changing the way we use the Web. It will be incumbent on today’s recruiting innovators to rethink and shift their recruiting tactics in response to the changing dynamics of the Web’s second generation.

Ten years ago, leading companies identified that the habits of their target audience were rapidly changing. The Internet, once an exclusive haven for techies and geeks, was now becoming an indispensable resource for everyone from college students to experienced professionals.

keep reading…

Relocation Recruiting

by Aug 8, 2006

As unemployment continues to decrease, local talent is becoming harder to find in many U.S. markets. Recruiters in hot job markets like Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Las Vegas more frequently have to relocate candidates from other areas. Determining which markets to target with your recruiting efforts doesn’t have to be a guessing game. In consulting engagements with several Seattle-based high-tech companies in the mid-1990s, I attempted to build regional targeting strategies to help deal with the local crunch for IT labor. We typically began with unemployment rates in each geography and did primary research on industries that were strong in each geography, migration trends, and labor force composition.

This was incredibly time-consuming back then because the Internet was still in its infancy. Today, the Web is a treasure trove of resources to help you identify the most logical markets for your recruiting strategies. Data is now available on everything from migration trends and job growth to housing prices and industries – all of which can combine to give you a much clearer picture of where to target next.

Where Talent Will Move or Stay When building a regional or relocation recruiting strategy, knowing which markets are gaining or losing the most people is a great starting point. Markets that are losing high numbers and percentages of people are the most ripe for targeting. Many economic factors, including housing prices, costs of living, job availability, climate, and crime rates, factor into which areas have the highest migration rates. Beginning at the state level, domestic migration to southern states continues to increase, with residents in Western and Northeastern states (including many retirees) beginning to move south seeking more affordable housing and better standards of living.

According to a recent USA Today article, one of the dominant trends is movement away from our biggest cities. States like New York, Illinois, California, and Massachusetts demonstrate the impact that this new urban flight is having, although they make up for this population outflow with international immigration. Chart 1: Domestic Migration

view full-size image The percentage of people entering or leaving each state due to domestic migration is also a great tool to identify areas where it is possible to have some recruiting success. Midwestern states like Kansas, Iowa, and North Dakota score highly on this list as potential target states. Delaware, South Carolina, and Idaho, among other states, score much lower on this list. Chart 2: Domestic Migration

view full-size image At the city level, the U.S. Census Bureau’s data demonstrates the impact of out-of-control housing markets in some of our biggest cities. Metro areas with the biggest net migration to other areas from 2000 to 2004 were New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston. The biggest beneficiaries of these migration trends were Riverside-San Bernardino, California, Phoenix, Tampa, Atlanta, and Dallas. As you’re putting together your next recruiting strategy, housing prices remain a huge indicator of where the population will move next and the areas from which it will become easier to pull talent. The areas mentioned above are pricing many people out of their market, and in other cases, individuals are pocketing the money they have gained from their houses and moving elsewhere.

The net impact of talent migration for a recruiting team is as follows: Without a phenomenal job offer, targeting candidates in a lower cost-of-living area like Texas if you live in a high cost-of-living market is nearly impossible. However, all is not lost. “Weather recruiting” – hitting specific markets when the weather is unbearable, like Texas in the summertime or the Northeast and Midwest in winter – can be a highly effective strategy, one which I have used successfully for many companies.

Understanding the Job Market, Part 1 The job market in a metropolitan area is another reason why people move from one state to another. A poor economy and weak job market often translate into an excess talent supply. The Milken Institute, a non-profit economic think tank, is an excellent source of data on local economic conditions and job growth. Its analysis of the 200 largest cities and 179 small cities is one of the most useful resources on the Web to evaluate the economic health of a potential target market. Not only does it provide sortable data on job growth, wages, and population, but it also gives an indication of the high-tech industry base in a given city. Its data confirms that some of the hottest talent markets are in Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Arkansas (thank you, Wal-Mart). A harder to use but equally valuable resource is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site at

About as detailed as it gets, the BLS site’s most useful statistics are its tracking of regional and metro area unemployment statistics. The most current release shows that unemployment rates are high in states like Michigan, Kentucky, and Alaska, and low in states like Florida, Virginia, Utah, and Nebraska. The metro rates of unemployment are also very revealing – at times an indicator of economic health in attractive climates (like Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Fort Walton, Florida) and at other times an indicator of markets that have a hard time keeping their local talent (like Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota). The month-to-month statistics on the metro area unemployment rates are perhaps the most useful component of this chart, giving one an idea of whether the economy in each metro region is expanding or contracting.

Understanding the Job Market, Part 2 General job market data like job growth and unemployment is useful, but not if you can’t find the specific types of individuals you seek. In my hometown of Seattle, for instance, the strong high-tech market means that there are relatively large numbers of programmers and software engineers (approximately 85,000 of them, to be exact), which is reflected in the BLS data on occupations and wages by metro areas. There’s not much of an entertainment industry here, which is also reflected in the low numbers of Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes (only 50 of them in Seattle compared to 2,610 of them in Los Angeles). Occupational data is also an important indicator of whether the types of individuals you seek live in a given market. For example, you can see which metro areas and states have high concentrations of recruiters and which pay the highest wages. It will take you a little while to navigate, but the “customized table” function allows you to view an Excel sheet with detailed data by city. This data shows that New York and Chicago have by far the highest numbers of recruiters (over 10,000 in each city), followed by Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

The biggest gap in the BLS statistics is in industry by state. If you’re looking for pharmaceutical employees, you’d want to know that the areas you’re targeting have high concentrations of employees in this industry given its specialized nature. The U.S. Census Bureau has very general statistics on industry employment by metro up to 2004 that are relatively helpful, and this data can often be supplemented by state departments of labor, a helpful list of which can be found here.

Finally, your own knowledge of competitor locations and the types of individuals they employ in each location are incredibly important. One of the best resources for this type of data is each organization’s career website, which can give you an idea of what types of employees they recruit and in which locations they recruit them.

Putting it All Together Using a combination of your knowledge of regional job markets, industry concentrations, migration patterns, and costs of living and your competitors, an organization can begin to create an effective regional recruiting strategy. The tools provided above can help you strategically identify and whittle down your target list. Now it’s up to you to create a message that speaks to the selling points of your area relative to your target markets and learn from your experiences along the way.

keep reading…

Recruiting B Players

by Jul 13, 2006

We all want the best available talent, but of course we’re not alone. As the market for great talent intensifies, some of the best recruiters will realize that there’s often a place for B players in their talent strategies. Identifying and exploiting these untapped talent pools can make your business a dominant force in your industry.

The Ultimate B Player Talent Strategy: The Oakland Athletics

It has been said that “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a perfect testament to this. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, this is an amazing story with valuable lessons for anyone in talent management. In his best-selling book, Lewis documents the practices of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, who with a $45 million payroll have stayed competitive against the league’s richest teams, some of whom outspend them by a 4-to-1 or even 5-to-1 margin. To illustrate this, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the A’s (who spend an average of $55 million or less per year on payroll, making them one of the lowest-spending teams in the majors) versus the New York Yankees’ (whose payroll is now over $200 million per year, the highest in the league) regular season records over the last six years:

keep reading…

Why They Hate Recruiting

by Jun 7, 2006

For all staffing directors that lament that they can’t get a strategic seat at the table, Keith Hammonds of Fast Company magazine has an answer for them: “HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.” It’s time to consider recruiting’s role in why companies hate their HR departments – and if leaving HR for good is the answer.

It’s quite fashionable these days to bash HR departments for all of their failings. Last year, Fast Company magazine infamously took this to an extreme, pasting the headline “Why We Hate HR” on their front cover. The shock and outrage from the inflammatory tone of the piece continues to this day (60% of readers “hated it” according to Hammonds), yet there has been widespread support for the points he brings up (91% of people polled during a recent online interview with Hammonds generally agreed with him). Hammonds’s silver lining here is that “HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential – the key driver, in theory of business performance. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win.”

One look at the New York Times article (registration required) on Microsoft and Google’s grapple for supremacy confirms that talent has driven corporate performance since the beginning of the industrial age. Yet, what constrains the function from getting respected in most organizations is a focus on being good at “administrivia,” and not “the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company.”

Secede or Die?

Most of the bigger complaints in the article are aimed at the people who manage issues like pay, benefits, training, performance management, and retirement. Does that mean recruiting is really just guilty by association? Not exactly. Some of the same criticisms could apply to many recruiting departments as well: using efficiency-focused, rather than value-focused, metrics that demonstrate business impact; restrictive bureaucracy, often driven by fear of legal repercussions and compliance; a focus on activities versus outcomes; and a push for short-term cost efficiency over longer-term value. Yet, in many other cases cited in the article, recruiting is merely guilty by association.

In fact, several recruiting leaders I’ve spoken with are as frustrated with HR as the rest of their company – the policies, the restrictions, and the myopic thinking. What was surprising to me was that, among the talk of employee engagement, benefits, and mentoring programs, recruiting was rarely even mentioned in the article. So here’s a radical thought. Instead of being HR’s red-headed stepchild that’s locked away in the basement (only to see the HR team take all the credit for the big accomplishments of your team), it’s time for truly strategic talent management departments to secede from HR. To stop sitting at the “people-people” table and start sitting with the “businesspeople.” To take the initiative and show the business impact of effective employer branding, referrals, strategic sourcing, and talent-supply-chain management. To think and act like a profit center, not a cost center. And, to report directly to the CEO or vice president of corporate strategy, not the VP of HR. As the HR outsourcing tide continues to rise and swallow anything in its path, secession may be the best possible option for recruiting and talent management – perhaps the only functions in HR that a company should not fully outsource if it wants to maintain a competitive advantage in a knowledge-based economy.

The HR Death Spiral

As part of the HR silo, it is inevitable that recruiting will be vulnerable to HR outsourcing initiatives. Today, many companies (94% of them, according to a Hewitt Associates survey of large employers) are already examining how to reduce the administrative costs of HR by outsourcing administrative-heavy functions like compensation, benefits, and retirement. It’s still somewhat rare that recruiting falls under that same axe – partially due to the poor product offerings in this area from HRO vendors (who often repackage their same broken internal recruiting processes and tools), and at times to a realization that staffing is in fact a very strategic business function that is best done by in-house experts in each organization. But the writing is on the wall.

According to the same study, by 2008 many organizations plan to expand outsourcing initiatives to cover other HR activities like learning and development, health and welfare, global mobility, and, yes, recruiting. The real rub, however, is that companies that want to get strategic about talent are starting to hire businesspeople from outside the staffing world to run departments. This is a growing trend I have seen across the country. Other organizations have gone the other way, bringing in HR managers with little to no recruiting background to run staffing as part of a rotational program.

To avoid any of the above fates, I highly suggest you read Kevin Wheeler’s recent article, “Will Your In-House Recruiting Be Outsourced?” and John Sullivan’s excellent profile of Valero Energy (both of which fall into the “I really wish I’d written that” category). Both are excellent reminders of the type of thinking that will be needed for recruiting to become a vital business partner inside a company. It is unfortunate, but I have yet to see a convincing case study of a company systematically tying recruiting initiatives to increased revenue and profit, although I am hopeful that several exist. You will be forever judged by your current accomplishments, not by your potential. By becoming an inseparable part of your company’s business strategy, your job is likely secure. If you’re limited in your ambitions by ineffective or even hated HR leadership, it’s time to build your secession plan.

Are you Prepared for a Candidate’s Market?

by May 9, 2006

The national unemployment rate, now at 4.7%, continues to decline. Recruiting costs are rising, and it’s taking longer to find and hire people again. Hiring managers are starting to get frustrated. Believe it or not, employers still have the upper hand ó but not for long. In 2011, the first big wave of Baby Boomers begin retiring. This has the potential to leave a talent void that stretches all the way up to the executive suite. But don’t hit the panic button just yet. In a few years, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t take advantage of the opportunities you had today to capitalize on what was an employer’s market in comparison. Recruiting is often the hardest hit by an economic recovery. Stripped to the bone during a recession, fewer recruiters are left to do more work when a rebound happens.

Because of the increased competition for recruiting talent (economists would be wise to watch the ERE job board (for signs of economic life), companies start hiring rookie recruiters to fill in where experienced recruiters left off. Team productivity often suffers, but in the long term, new blood ends up being a great thing as it becomes less difficult to implement the new approaches necessary to deal with new realities. The ripple effect is just starting to hit other professions and the general media. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently posted a story about starting salaries for lawyers from top schools creeping above $135,000, with multiple-offer scenarios becoming common again. Another sign of a heated talent market in an early stage is the level of competition for MBAs. When economies are having trouble, there are MBAs with three to five years of experience in the available labor pool. During a swing like we’re in now, it’s less likely that you’ll be able to find an affordable MBA who isn’t “fresh off the boat.”

According to a recent survey from the MBA Career Services Council, the national job market for MBAs is growing quickly, with higher starting salaries, more jobs, and more employers competing for the same talent. Consulting, financial services, consumer products, and healthcare industries lead a rise in hiring across almost all industries. Signs of Trouble There are many signs that companies have not seen the writing on the wall and aren’t taking the steps necessary to prepare for an overheated talent market. In a candidate’s market, your organization may have a very rough ride if you:

  • Have not optimized the candidate experience. Companies still expect candidates to fill out broken and painful online application forms that take up to 30 minutes to complete (if they’re successful filling it out at all). Recruiters in these organizations know that they lost more than 40% of their online applications once they implemented their new applicant tracking systems, but they didn’t cry about it when they had hundreds of people coming to them. If it ever really hits the fan again and you see multiple counteroffers flying around, you’ll wish that you had taken the time to think of your candidate experience like a customer experience.
  • keep reading…

Lessons from the Ethics Panel at ER Expo

by Mar 21, 2006

In my time in the recruiting space, I have learned that there is one topic that routinely incites the masses: ethics in recruiting. The recent “Ethics in Recruiting” panel at the ER Expo in San Diego was an enlightening experience that will set the stage for years of discussion and debate in our industry. The Players The first panel on ethics in recruiting at ERE consisted of:

  • David Gebler, a noted and respected ethics expert and president of Working Values.
  • keep reading…

America’s Employer Brand in the Age of Global Recruiting

by Feb 28, 2006

In the global war for talent, the United States has always been able to rely on our strong appeal as a land of opportunity to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world. With the rise of other economies like China, India, and Singapore, we are seeing increased competition for these resources, and in many ways we may be at a disadvantage. It’s time to start thinking about America’s employer brand and the effect it has on our ability to recruit quality talent.

Whether you recruit in San Diego, California, or Lima, Ohio, you know how important location is in recruiting. It has the potential to be your greatest asset or present your greatest challenges. In order to make a potentially life-changing decision like changing locations, candidates will look at quality of life, cost of living, and the base of other companies and future opportunities available in your area. Where you live has a huge impact on who you can recruit. In the global talent marketplace, the United States has always been seen as the land of opportunity. U.S.-based companies have been able to ride this wave to recruit the best and brightest from around the world. Our leadership position has been particularly strong in math and the sciences: With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States employs nearly one-third of all scientists and engineers. Half of the Ph.D.’s in the United States are foreign-born. Half of Americans who have won Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry were born abroad. We are therefore highly reliant on immigration to produce our best and brightest. Yet there is strong evidence that we are losing our lead and that global recruiting is about to get more difficult.

Is America’s Edge Slipping?

If you want a glimpse into the possible future of global recruiting, I would suggest you read two books with somewhat similar sounding names: Flight Capital: The Alarming Exodus of America’s Best and Brightest and The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent. These books are great supplements to the equally excellent The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman, which focuses primarily on the global outsourcing trend and how technology is leveling the playing field in the global marketplace. In the first (and most recent) book, Flight Capital, author David Heenan explores how rising economies in places like China and India are resulting in “boomerang migrations,” or expatriate workers who are returning to their home countries. It stands to reason that workers would prefer to do work in their homelands, close to their families, and within more familiar environments and cultures.

Our increasing globalization and new opportunities in their native lands make this possible. According to Heenan, “on its present course, America’s nation of immigrants will become a nation of emigrants.” In particular, the book focuses on knowledge workers in math and the sciences. If we lost our edge in math and sciences, one might reason that our advantage will always be in American ingenuity and creative thinking. But even this “creative class” is at risk, as author Richard Florida argues in The Flight of the Creative Class. Somewhat controversially, he argues that other governments like Canada, Scandinavia, and New Zealand provide less repressive environments that might be more attractive to creative thinkers — and shows how the loss of even a few creative geniuses could have a significant impact.

Immigration, Emigration, and the Skills Gap

Many of us in the recruiting industry are rightly concerned about the Baby Boomers retiring and the potential for large skills shortages. For decades, immigration has not just been a source of very specialized talent; it has been a magic bullet of sorts for any skills gaps. Without serious shifts in U.S. government strategy and policy, immigration actually has the potential to be more of a problem than a solution over the next several years. Due to security concerns following 9/11, the United States has enacted the tightest immigration laws in recent times, reducing the number of H1-B visas from almost 800,000 in 2000 to approximately 80,000 in 2005. Emigration is also a very real threat, and not just with math and science experts or creative talent. The brain drain of U.S. citizens might reach all the way up to the executive suite. According to a study by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, over 50 percent of U.S. executives surveyed would relocate to China, and approximately 35 percent would go to countries like India or Russia, all of whom would be hungry for the experience these executives have building and operating successful companies here in the United States.

The Government Responds

In the President’s most recent State of the Union address, we heard about an interesting program that lays out a new workforce plan for the United States: the American Competitiveness Initiative. The proposed initiative lays a foundation for increased spending in R&D and education plans designed to help us build rather than continue to acquire our math and science workforce. The program includes:

The Future of Employee Referral Programs

by Feb 9, 2006

In the face of growing worldwide skills shortages, organizations will increasingly attempt to activate their employee base as the main engine of their recruiting efforts. This will eventually blur the line between where the recruiting department ends and employee referral programs begin. Furthermore, our traditional notion of what makes a great employee referral program is poised to change dramatically.

Recruiting in the Year 2015

Imagine the year is 2015. The first wave of 78 million baby boomers started turning 65 four years ago. Headlines and lead news stories reference skills shortages in IT, engineering, nursing, and consulting, among other fields. Help-wanted signs begin to pop up everywhere. Productivity growth slows and potentially declines as valuable intellectual capital and productive workers are lost to retirement. The U.S. economy has shifted even further into a knowledge-driven economy — less capital- and more human-intensive than ever before — expanding the competitive set for talent in many industries. In past skills shortages, America has been able to turn to immigration to solve our challenges. This time is different. The United States is no longer seen as the land of opportunity, having been recently supplanted by countries like China and India. As suggested in the new, must-read book, Flight Capital: The Alarming Exodus of America’s Best and Brightest, tight immigration laws designed to fight terrorism and rising economies in places like China and India restrict our ability to import highly skilled workers away from their homelands. Many companies will turn to employee referrals to fill the void. This will not just be based on the fact that referred employees stay longer and perform better once hired, but based on desperation to find someone ó anyone ? who can do the job.

“We’re All Recruiters”

As Cisco demonstrated in the tight IT labor market in the late 1990s, it’s possible to turn your entire company into a recruiting force for you that generates up to 50 to 60 percent of new hires, increases productivity, and lowers time to fill. With larger volumes of active candidates and the ubiquity of the Internet driving large volumes of resumes, the Cisco Friends approach (where candidates could connect with a Cisco employee in their field instead of applying) would be a difficult strategy to undertake today without a tight screening process in place. Yet considering the time, when Internet usage was not as prevalent as it is now, labor markets were tighter, and Cisco was still establishing a name for itself, the Friends program was nothing short of brilliant. Cisco employees acted as an extended sales force, helping convince on-the-fence and passive candidates that the company was a viable (and friendly) employer. John Chambers, its CEO, measured referrals as a key performance indicator and kept employees on track with the program when numbers slipped. And the mountain of press generated about the innovative program helped turn it into a magnet employer. Today, most employees see recruiting as the job of one department. In the future, this will need to be seen as a company-wide initiative. Every employee will need to know that they are responsible for recruiting great people into the company, and how their activities will benefit them and the organization.

The New Employee Referral Program

What will it take to boost employee referral hires to 50 to 60 percent in 2015? How will employees be engaged in your recruiting efforts to help you get an edge over the competition? Here are five key employee referral initiatives that will help you achieve employee referral success in 2015 and beyond:

  1. Extend employee referral programs to passive job seekers. Your target hires in 2015 will be even more likely to be employed than they are today. In the future, employees will be encouraged to drive leads and prospects vs. resumes and applicants, and recruiting processes will be better prepared to support this. They will also be your best networkers, opening up their rolodexes or actively building relationships that will lead you to great talent. Extended or multi-level referral programs that reward indirect referrals (for instance, a friend of a friend of a hire) will become very common.
  2. keep reading…

The Talent Story of the iPod

by Dec 1, 2005

At the beginning of every great business success there’s a human capital story, and that’s certainly the case with the iPod. In just over four years, the iPod/iTunes product and business strategy has helped Apple double its market cap, establish over 80% market share in two very profitable industries, and drive almost $3 billion per year in revenue. But the story of the iPod is not just a story about innovation. It’s also a testament to one company’s ability above all others to hire a true visionary. It’s a story that every executive hoping to take their company to the next level should read.

The Story of the iPod

I first stumbled upon this story while I was preparing for a speech I was giving on the future of recruiting in Vancouver, BC. A big focus of my talk was on quality of hire — including the metrics, technologies and processes that could support aligning a recruiting department around quality of hire. But I needed an example that illustrated the value of top talent. I thought for a moment about the great business stories of the last few years, and my thoughts immediately turned to the iPod. In the back of my mind, I assumed that it was an entire team of individuals brainstorming in a board room who built the strategy and laid the foundation for the iPod’s success. But in fact there was one person without whom none of this would have been possible: the founder of the iPod, Tony Fadell.

In the late 1990′s, Fadell began working on a business strategy that would revolutionize digital music hardware and software by combining the two together into one powerful platform. You may be surprised to know that Apple wasn’t the first company to hear about his idea, however. Fadell shopped the idea around to several companies, including RealNetworks and his previous employer, Philips. None of them jumped on it as fast and as hard as Apple, who gave the project the undivided attention and vision of founder and CEO Steve Jobs. The project was completed in under six months, a record for Apple. “This is the project that’s going to remold Apple,” Fadell predicted in early 2001. “Ten years from now, it’s going to be a music business, not a computer business.” And he was right.

Finding the Next Tony Fadell

For any executive with questions about what hiring top performers can do for a company, Tony Fadell is not the only example. You don’t have to look much further than:

  • Omid Kordestani, who helped turn Google, a growing search engine without a significant revenue model, into a truly disruptive online advertising force, with over $5 billion in yearly revenue and a $126 billion market cap.
  • keep reading…

Using Blogs as a Strategic Recruiting Tool

by Oct 18, 2005

Blogs represent an emerging and rapidly growing communication vehicle. Today, there are over 14 million blogs, and this number is increasing fast — over 80,000 are added each day. The applications for recruiting have been fairly limited (Microsoft’s brilliant marketing/finance and technical blogs aside). Yet there is a very real and powerful place for blogs in a recruiting strategy. Done well, blogging can save you time and money, inexpensively generate brand awareness and word of mouth, and do a more effective job at employer branding than your employment website.

Blogs as a Marketing Tool

In the excellent book, Creating Customer Evangelists, authors Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell demonstrate with real-world examples how “buzz marketing” has started to level the playing field between large, advertising-driven companies and small companies with limited budgets. Rather than spending huge sums of money on media and advertising plans, companies that embrace buzz marketing know how to have more personal dialogues with their customers and prospects. In our increasingly connected world, word of this approach has the potential to spread quickly. Another suggested reading on the topic of word of mouth and buzz marketing is The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Blogs are becoming a de facto tool in the buzz marketing arsenal for emerging companies. They allow these companies to rapidly communicate information, get customer feedback, and create a community of potential customers that are more likely to purchase their products or services and spread positive word of mouth. Done well, a blog reduces the need for a big marketing budget to generate brand awareness. This is exactly why some CEOs, who are quite busy running the day-to-day operations of their companies, choose to spend their valuable time blogging. Even a company mascot has joined in the fray.

The Microsoft Recruitment Blogging Strategy

Microsoft has an interesting, love-them-or-hate-them employer brand challenge. They employ some of the most brilliant developers and business minds in the world, yet there is an entire population of their colleagues that would never work there. It is no secret that the reactions from candidates are often virulent. So how do you make Microsoft seem less like a slow-moving, bad-intentioned giant and more like a nimble innovator with a policy of open communication? Enter the Microsoft recruiting blogs, which now include an Australian entry. Add to this a host of blogs from Microsoft employees (over 3,500 of them in all), and you’ve got a phenomenon that has started to create a human face for the company. The Microsoft recruitment blog approach gives the company a competitive advantage for semi-active candidates by providing a level of personal interaction with candidates even some of the smallest companies don’t offer. If you post a comment, you’re almost guaranteed to be answered by the Microsoft recruiting gods and goddesses. In contrast, most candidates refer to employment websites as either “black holes” or “resume vortexes.” Posts are not always about recruiting or the Microsoft culture, which is exactly the point: create content that interests your target audience, and you can create a community of passive job seekers. In Microsoft’s case, there are literally thousands of readers of the recruiting blogs. Anyone researching a technical, marketing, or finance career will likely stumble upon one of the easily indexed blogs through a major search engine. This is low-cost, high-impact buzz marketing for recruiting. Microsoft has set a trailblazing example for the rest of the recruiting industry.

Blogging Strategies You Should Take Advantage Of

Today, blogs are a competitive differentiator used by an elite group of pioneering recruiting departments. As more companies realize their power, they may soon be an integral part of every recruiting department’s strategy. I’ve spoken with quite a few companies about incorporating blogs into their strategies. The most common reasons I hear that they don’t blog today (with my usual responses) are:

  • “We don’t have the resources.” My response: Focus your resources on a better way to connect with passive candidates and you will see a return on investment.
  • keep reading…

The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on The Recruiting Industry

by Sep 20, 2005

We’ve all been touched in some way by Hurricane Katrina, the worst domestic natural disaster in our lifetime. Ripple effects in our economy and our industry are only beginning to be felt. Heroic and tragic stories of friends, relatives, and colleagues continue to reach the public. Our own industry is also not immune to the personal toll, as Gerry Crispin (who has penned some great thoughts on the tragedy) pointed out recently on his blog:

On a conference call with colleagues from SHRM late on Friday, I learned that the Society had taken a government list of Gulf Coast zip codes where mail can no longer be delivered (seriously impacted areas) and cross checked it with the membership roster. Eight thousand names came up. I’m still getting my mind around that one.

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The Future Labor Shortage

by Aug 23, 2005

Since the late 1990′s, many in our profession have been consumed with the potential for a cataclysmic labor shortage in the U.S. We’ve all seen the numbers: a predicted 10 million worker shortage in 2010, and up to 35 million shortage by 2035. Will a combination of aging population demographics, a growing economy, and fewer qualified workers to fill the void cripple our economy and make labor a scarce commodity? Or will increases in offshoring, immigration, productivity, and delayed retirements mitigate a potential crisis? Behind the Numbers There is an incredible amount of data that gets factored in to labor force projections. The most comprehensive source on labor supply is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which uses a combination of census and labor force data. The BLS projections estimate that workers age 55 and older will continue to increase as a percentage of the population well into 2050. Over the next seven years, the annual growth rate of the 55-years-and-older group is projected to be nearly four times that of the overall labor force. In 2011, the first boomers hit the accepted retirement age of 65. By 2030, the Baby Boomers will all be between the ages of 66-84.

Figure 1. Civilian Labor Force (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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Blink and Diversity Recruiting

by Jun 28, 2005

In Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent new book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, he demonstrates that the power of our unconscious biases is often greater than that of our conscious beliefs. What we believe is frequently overshadowed by assumptions we’re often unaware we’re making. Like it or not, this spills over into almost all of our hiring decisions, and it can affect how we interview and perceive diverse candidates. Why Do We Hate Short People? What if I told you that companies regularly discriminate against short people when they are hiring top executives? That’s ridiculous, right? Yes, some companies may discriminate by race, sex, or ethnicity, but surely our “vertically challenged” friends don’t need protected-class status! Yet some level of bias clearly exists. An excerpt from Blink on the “tall CEO” phenomenon:

I polled about half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list ó the largest corporations in the United States ó asking each company questions about its CEOs. The heads of big companies are, as I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone, overwhelmingly white men, which undoubtedly reflects some kind of implicit bias. But they are also virtually all tall: In my sample, I found that on average CEOs were just a shade under six feet. Given that the average American male is 5’9″, that means that CEOs, as a group, have about three inches on the rest of their sex. But this statistic actually understates matters. In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are 6’2″ or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30 percent were 6’2″ or taller.

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