12 Best Recruiting Practices to Copy

Last week I attended the biannual ERE Expo recruiting conference, the premier event for identifying best practices in recruiting and talent management. Attending it provided many examples of practices others would want to emulate. It also reminded me of several best practices that occur throughout the recruiting profession.

Unfortunately, not all companies are allowed to talk in public about their best practices, and almost all are reluctant to brag about them in the media. Fortunately, one of the things I specialize in is tracking best practices and what I call “next” practices. Below you’ll find some of my favorite best practices that you might want to consider emulating.

12 Best Practices I Would Emulate

  1. Valero’s business-case model. Using basic statistical regression models, the recruiting function identified the gaps between what the business would need to continue operations and what talent they could bring in via their current model. They then converted that gap into a dollar impact and used that result to sell the executive team and the board of directors on the need to invest heavily in recruiting. Valero’s investment in recruiting and talent management has doubled not once but twice as a result of this business-impact business case. The case had such a large impact that the chief executive officer publicly announced that talent management was the firm’s number one business (not just HR) problem. Another firm that has made a similar excellent business case includes recruiting powerhouse Google.
  2. MGM Grand’s employment branding. With the CEO’s full involvement and buy-in, this organization has quietly become world class with regards to employment branding. Their approach is comprehensive and has included quantifying the organization’s promotion rates, publicly thanking those who have excelled and been promoted via newspaper ads, and publicizing internal contests for chefs and bartenders to extend visibility of performance beyond job titles and send a message that opportunities are open to all within the organization. In addition to winning numerous awards for being a top place to work, the Director of Branding has developed a “compelling stories” inventory for use in spreading differentiated stories about the excellent management practices. She convinced the executive team to become more visible both inside and outside the organization by speaking at conferences and universities and having everyone on the executive team write a blog to keep employees informed and enable them to tell their story in a genuine way.
  3. The U.S. Army’s use of video games for recruiting. Although many of their recruiting practices are dated, there’s no one that even comes close to them in recruiting using video games. The strategy is great because many of the individuals they seek to recruit are avid gamers. By providing an exciting job preview or simulation, they are informing and exciting potential recruits. They are not only the best, but they are also the only large organization that has used simulations to both recruit and to train employees. They even added a little tongue-in-cheek by incorporating a “virtual recruiting station” within the game. Truly visionary.
  4. Google’s employment branding. Recently, a major survey by BusinessWeek noted that Google was the number two choice among college students as a place to begin their career. This is an amazing accomplishment for any firm and unprecedented for a firm less than five years old. All of the brand recognition around Google has been developed without employing any of the formal advertising approaches that many other firms rely upon. While Google does have some outrageous benefits and management practices, what truly establishes their great brand is their ability to get their management practices talked about in such a wide range of media outlets.
  5. Booz Allen’s boomerang recruiting effort. One of the highest-quality sources of hires are boomerangs, or employees who have left your firm and then return. Booz Allen, which is also world class in employment branding and the rapid internal redeployment of current employees, has implemented a special team known as “the comeback kids” to recruit this type of top talent. Incidentally, Deloitte has also produced world-class results, recruiting as many as one-third of all new hires from boomerangs. That is an amazing statistic.
  6. Allianz Life’s service-level agreement. I’ve seen dozens of recruiting service-level agreements, but there isn’t one that comes close to the comprehensive agreement developed by Allianz (printed in the September Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership). It covers in detail not just what recruiting will do, but also what managers are expected to do.
  7. Starbucks’ workforce planning. Most recruiting managers are deathly afraid of metrics and statistics. However, Starbucks’ Jason Warner has demonstrated through his convergent analysis that recruiting organizations can prepare for the future by identifying statistical correlations between external environmental factors like unemployment rates and the turnover rates of an organization’s managers and employees. It’s a simple but compelling concept. Doesn’t it make sense that as fewer people are unemployed, others realize that there is less competition and begin a job search?
  8. Bank of America’s retreat from outsourcing. Even though every consulting firm on the planet seems to be pushing recruitment outsourcing, Bank of America has chosen to pull back after realizing that outsourcing can negatively affect the quality of applicants and hires, which in turn impacts organizational performance. As an early adopter, they gave outsourced models time to adapt and refined established processes. Ultimately, though, they decided that driving efficiency was not the answer and concluded: “It’s the quality, stupid.” It takes great vision to measure the effectiveness of outsourcing, and even greater courage to drop it when you find it’s not as fast, cost effective, or focused on quality as you might have hoped.
  9. Dell’s measurement dashboard and superior measure of quality of hire. Less than one in four organizations I encounter use a quality-of-hire measure that is not, for lack of a better characterization, laughable. While Dell is known for employing world-class supply chain analytics, they have recently demonstrated that their great metrics extend throughout the business and into recruiting. By looking at the number of new hires that become top performers within 12 to 18 months, they are hitting the nail right on the head. Great recruiting is not about hiring a large number people or hiring them cheaply; it’s about hiring individuals who become top performers and who stay with the organization.
  10. JP Morgan and the Athlete’s Alliance for hiring athletes because of their discipline. To say that most college recruiting programs are uppity would be an understatement. They look only at top schools and demand outrageous grade point averages. In addition, they shun athletes and cheerleaders as “dumb jocks.” But it turns out that athletic competition builds discipline and the willingness to work hard to succeed. These two organizations have realized that individuals with these traits and a history of winning can carry those behaviors in the business world. Bravo to these companies for bypassing the school name, major, and GPA and instead looking directly at skills, abilities, and a track record of producing under intense competition. Also worth mentioning is Catholic Healthcare West, which has successfully recruited cardiac nurses at craft events by asking their current nurses where they hang out. Cisco started this approach by recruiting at wine festivals in the late ’90s.
  11. Valero’s college recruiting. The recruiting team at Valero has turned college recruiting into a true competitive advantage. They start their recruiting a month before any planned activities from their competitors, court potential recruits by transporting them in style to corporate headquarters during the academic year, and use grad assistants to identify top talent without having to visit campuses. The numerous practices they combine to create their approach deliver unprecedented success. A close second to Valero’s effort is Google’s brilliant program for recruiting current students to distribute pizza during final exams and using cookies to identify and change their homepage to recruit individuals at target schools.
  12. World-class corporate recruiting websites. Unfortunately, the ERE event reminded me that these websites are all bad, most to the point of embarrassment. When will companies realize that whatever employment branding or advertising you do is instantly lost when 70% of your applicants judge the credibility of what you said based on what they find on your website? Without exception, candidates find dated material, dinosaur technology, and copy that’s about as exciting as reading an accounting textbook. When will corporate websites customize the information based on the person visiting and include exciting profiles, interesting job descriptions, “wow” graphics, and specific information that addresses each of the criteria that top applicants use to select an employer?

Final Thoughts

It’s time to realize that a recruiting function can become excellent merely by identifying, copying, and then improving upon what other firms have already proven to be effective. There’s no shame in copying from the best.

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I hope my listing these best practices will spur you to copy a few and maybe develop some new ones on your own. The real key is to be continually learning, identifying what works elsewhere, and then adopting it to fit your culture and situation. Lose your fear, because copying from these world-class organizations is an expected practice at industry giants like GE. Most industry heroes I know view copying as the sincerest form of flattery. Don’t be embarrassed: copying should be part of the foundation of what you do.

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic 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 www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.