2012 ERE Recruiting Excellence Award Finalists

Feb 7, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

This eighth year of the ERE Recruiting Excellence Awards brought applications from big corporations, small companies, government agencies in the U.S., and consultancies in India. In some categories there were runaway winners, and in others, there were knock-down, drag-out barn-burners.

As fun as it is to judge, it was taken seriously. Some applicants used every hour of their midnight, January 6 deadline (we know — we were on the phone answering their questions) and judges used every minute of theirs (we know for the same reason). Judges wrote lengthy explanations of their choices, and some created algorithms to rank each applicant, and sent us the spreadsheets they created as living proof.

Anyhow, it sounds trite, but great work’s being done, in many cases under challenging circumstances. Some of the companies that didn’t win were so good that we hope they apply again, or share their stories on webinars or at future conferences. As for next spring’s conference in San Diego, that’s where the winners will be announced, and that’s where they’ll take questions from you as to how they succeeded, overcame hurdles, and what’s in store next. Without further ado, here are the finalists in alphabetical order within the categories:

Best College Recruiting Program

If you’re looking for good economic/job market news, there’s this: Ernst & Young’s campus hiring is back to pre-recession levels. Already no stranger to these awards, its 200-plus-member campus recruiting team has stepped it up yet another notch. For instance, the firm:

  • Launched a new campus recruiting advertising campaign in September 2011, using the tagline “See More” to encourage students to visit the career website for further information. It advertised on,, Pandora,,, and
  • Teamed with Millennial Media to deliver ads on smart phones to students at select schools.
  • Now has more than 78,500 fans on the Ernst & Young Careers page on Facebook.
  • Is on the new site CampusLive, which uses scavenger hunts, team events, prize offerings, and more.
  • Is using Flexspace, a virtual reality tool, where students can see what it’s like to have a job at Ernst & Young and a life outside of work.
  • Held its first Emerging Leaders Summit with about 250 students. This two-and-a-half day pre-internship program is filled with workshops on subjects like ethics in business.
  • Added a Global Student Exchange Program for interns to work abroad for four weeks, in Australia, Canada, China, and the UK.

The other finalist is the U.S. Navy, and it’s actually doing the kind of “go beyond the campus career center” campus recruiting we all talk about so much. In 2011, it implemented two new recruiting strategies that significantly improved the NUPOC program. NUPOC — the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program — involves recruiting college students and graduates with science and engineering backgrounds for five-year positions to work on nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, become instructors at the Navy Nuclear Power School, or engineers at Naval Reactors Headquarters.

With the first program, the Navy funded trips for 121 educators to experience a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier or submarine, visit a submarine learning facility, and interact with sailors. The goal is for faculty to then tell their students, and other professors, about these opportunities.

Also, the Navy Recruiting Command partnered with a group called the University Engineering Alliance — formerly the Big 12 Engineering Consortium — allowing the Navy to provide keynote speakers for engineering summits, nuclear experts for classroom presentations, and otherwise work with faculty to present material in classrooms.

In the end, 242 students were hired through NUPOC program last year, and the accepted applicant’s average GPA was up 5% to 3.43.

Best Corporate Careers Website

You may not have heard of RMS, but one judge says that its website is “hands down, one of the best sites I’ve seen. Graphically and emotionally intelligent, not too heavy on graphic elements. Tells the story. Interaction. Heads and shoulders above all of the other sites.”

The organization has more than 950 people and is in the field of catastrophe risk modeling. It overhauled the career site to make it clearer to people what the company does. Equally important, it wants others to self-select out if they don’t fit.

Its Live Chat allows people to interact in real-time with someone on the talent acquisition team. It released the new site on May 8, 2011. In the 12 months prior, it averaged 12 hires per month. For the six months after, it averaged 20 hires per month.

This category has, appropriately, shifted over the years; for instance, this year’s applicants, in many cases talked about their mobile initiatives. UnitedHealth Group, one of this year’s finalists, is no exception.

It built its mobile site with similar goals as others like Matt Jeffery talked about: engage candidates, don’t just let them search. Using GPS technology, the site can find candidates local events (and directions to those events) or jobs near where they live. Candidates get Twitter feeds during career fairs and recruiting events.

In year one of the mobile site, UnitedHealth had 213,000 unique mobile visitors on the site. The healthcare company also says that “read rates” are much higher for mobile phone users than for candidates it sends emails to.

Back to engagement: it measures that a number of ways, including pages per visit and whether people return — and about 35% of all traffic (whether mobile or to the normal corporate careers site) comes from return visitors.

It has been particularly happy about using smart phone recruiting to find people globally, such as in India and the Philippines. By using mobile technology to simplify (and personalize) its workflow surrounding recruiting events, the company has saved more than 200 recruiter hours, and more than tripled the hiring rate of new candidates from these events.

Best Employee Referral Program

Accenture again is a finalist, after winning last year. One of its recruiting leaders spoke at last fall’s Expo (see video below). Since winning last year, it focused on:

  1. Strengthening its global employee referral platform, which has an interface with Taleo, and allows employees to search for open jobs, share them through social media, track the status of their referrals, and more.
  2. Increasing the number of quality referrals, through LinkedIn’s Referral Engine.
  3. Creating an “employee referral concierge service for senior executives” — including a dedicated team that looks after senior exec referrals and provides extra service.
  4. Creating a dedicated global team to pull daily “pipeline reports” and monitor referrals. Local recruitment leads receive weekly updates about the referral candidates in their pipeline.
  5. Improving the referral experience; for example, employees receive a thank-you email from senior leaders for their referral contribution to Accenture.

It received more than 200,000 referrals in 2011 and hired just under 20,000 people through the program. Said one judge: “Its referral mobile app shows that it is two steps ahead of its competitors when it comes to technology.”


Improving Enterprises is what we March Madness fans would call this year’s “Cinderella Story” in the ERE Recruiting Excellence Awards. Even after its recent growth, it has only 148 employees.

Briefly, the way its referral program works is this: if employees refer someone, they get a point. Points add up and are paid on a quarterly basis. Points are considered when the software-developer distributes its profit share. Top performers are recognized at Town Hall meetings.

It has a ‘Two by Tuesday” program designed, the company says, to mitigate “extremes in the ebbs and flows of recruiting.” On Tuesday, it spreads the word of the most important company openings. People have a week to submit referrals. There’s a race to be the one who refers the most, with daily updates provided.

The company might get 100 referrals in five days, with two or more hires made.

There’s a lot more: open houses, pizza parties, several mini-conferences on the weekends, Monday Night Football and Movie Nights, all aimed at having referred candidates show up.

It also works a lot on having a really good workplace, and has won a number of awards for that. In 2011, it hired 54 top-level technology consultants from referrals, with a team of three technology recruiters. Around 90% of hires come from referrals and the related marketing programs mentioned above. Interestingly — very interestingly — it believes that people who were referred, but who didn’t join the company, have resulted in more than $3 million in additional revenue in the last two years. This calculation includes such things as whether the candidate ended up referring business to Improved Experience even though they weren’t hired.

Best Employer Brand

“This year marked the most dramatic employer brand shift our company has ever seen.”

Hotels planned for Russia

That’s what Marriott says about its global brand launch, done mainly by a team of three for under $200,000. It’s aligned with the company’s consumer brand, which is about “opening doors to a world of opportunity.” The “Find Your World” employment value proposition is similar.

In fact, though developed for job candidates, the tagline is being used by Marriott’s consumer marketing a bit, too.

The brand was launched with a video contest among employees, which attracted 200 submissions in 11 languages. And, it’s localized. So the China careers blog, for example, communicates the message in a different way than in other countries.

As you may have read, Marriott launched a Facebook game, now being played in 128 countries, to showcase work at the company and the “find your world” message.

Sodexo is moving from more of a foodservice company to a solutions/partner sort of company. A great example is its energy management services business, which involves energy audits and consulting for clients. It’s new for Sodexo, and competitive.

Sodexo quickly launched an enhanced employer brand aimed to be compatible with the new, consultative/solutions consumer brand. In the 2011 fiscal year, it hired about 50 specialized and tough-to-recruit professionals within a few months. Doing that involved positioning itself as an expert in the energy field, which involved such things as guest blog posts on websites for the energy industry and having people speak at industry conferences.

Hiring manager satisfaction at Sodexo went up from 4.49 on a 5-point scale in 2009 to 4.56 in 2011 (recently rising to 4.63). Its quality of hire increased from 4.37 on a 5-point scale in 2008 to 4.53 in 2011 (recently hitting 4.56).

For years a leader in social media recruiting, it is relying less on job boards and paid ads, which has saved it money. Traffic to its career site is up nearly 325% since 2008. Employment engagement is up and company finances are strong.

Best Retention Program/Practices

Broward Health, a healthcare system based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, faces what many medical facilities have been contending with: a shortage of nurses and allied health professionals. It’s putting part-timers, working as few as 21 hours a week, on its health plan and paying 65% of their premiums.

In a nutshell, its other retention programs include:

  • A competitive and comprehensive total rewards program.
  • Identity theft protection.
  • Employee discounts for massage therapy.
  • Up to 10% provided to employees with five or more years of service who have reached the maximum of their salary range.
  • Overtime pay and bonuses for eligible RNs, allied health and other clinical positions to work additional shifts.
  • Continuing education courses regarding leadership and staff development; E-learning courses for clinical, computer applications, compliance, safety education and mandatory licensure.

Its 2011 turnover rate was 9.2%.

The Support Equipment & Aircraft Launch & Recovery Equipment Department — part of the Research & Engineering department of the Naval Air Systems Command — began hiring again after many years of limited entry-level engineer and scientist hiring. There were what it calls “delays, confusion, and lost opportunities in the hiring process, and success was dependent upon an individual supervisor’s knowledge of the hiring process and determination.”

A Workforce Development Team was established to overhaul the antiquated recruiting process. Now, candidates at career fairs are screened based on qualification requirements — GPA, communication, prior technical experience, professionalism, career compatibility — and interviewed. The new workforce team notifies candidates of continued interest, and schedules an on-site visit within two weeks. It keeps in touch with them throughout the process, offering a personal touch onsite and even after the decline of an offer, trying to see what went wrong.

The 10-member team’s focus is expanding into mentoring, internships, and more, helping to hire 50-100 engineers and scientists annually. It’s prescreening more than 2,000 candidates and interviewing more than 200. What it calls hiring “cycle time” — the time from the initial meeting of the candidate at the career fair to the offer of employment — is down 80%, diversity is up, and more than 400 new engineers and scientists have been hired since 2006, with a 80% acceptance rate and 95% retention rate.

Best Military Talent Program

AT&T provides localized job notifications to the Transition Family/Support Centers of all branches of the military. In 2011, it participated in more than 50 traditional and virtual military career fairs.

Its recruiters reach out to military transition offices, Army alumni programs, and elsewhere. It created a program where veterans working at AT&T provide job search assistance to veterans applying for AT&T jobs.

It’s working on a Marine Corps job-shadowing program with Camp Pendleton in southern California.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s educating hiring managers and recruiters on the value of veterans, how to make heads or tails out of military jargon on resumes, and on the myths about veterans’ ability to integrate into corporations.

AT&T has added a number of features to its site. It worked with Direct Employers to pilot and offer a military skills translator on the site.

T-Mobile provides assistance on resume, interview, and job search skills at Army career centers, and at military events. Through the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success program it provided interviews to 42 transitioning soldiers and 10 career opportunities.

Online its T-Mobile Military Talent Network helps transitioning military receive communications from the company; the database includes more than 350 people.

The company also provides health benefits for people called to active duty beyond what’s required. It has received a number of awards, honors for helping wounded veterans, and for being a military-spouse-friendly employer.

Most Strategic Use of Technology

Last year’s winner in this category, Informatica, is back, and better. It uses a cloud-based format and user-friendly dashboard for viewing such things as the time it takes to fill a job.

It’s showing the company’s leadership that the talent acquisition department is doing what it needs to do within its budget, and meeting objectives like time to fill, costs, and who’s in the pipeline.

And — since it not only has a slick system but its metrics are strong — it’s making a case as to why the internal recruiting model and not outsourcing is the way to go.

Informatica has improved the candidate experience; improved its interview scheduling; and in its words, “dedicating ourselves as an organization to stop using archaic tools.”

UPS is one of the answers to the questions: is anyone actually hiring someone from Twitter? Does recruiting by text message work?

It found job boards, print, and radio to be working so-so. So it turned to new technologies. It launched an ad program for people to respond to job openings with text messages from mobile phones. And they did by the tens of thousands.

UPS has had success with Twitter pages and a mobile-friendly career website.

Everything integrates with its applicant tracking system, and, the company notes, “with trackable URLs only  … no candidate self-selection or recruiter bias.” drove more than a half-million page views in its first four months and the average time spent on the mobile site was 1 minute and 34 seconds, with 2.74 average page-views. The Facebook page attracted 18,000 fans in two years and 36,600 by the end of 2011.

What’s different about UPS is not that it uses social media but the degree to which it uses so many technologies together, and does so much tracking — like with its packages. In 2010 a minimum of 955 hires that its ATS could track were delivered by UPS through social media and mobile marketing integration. In 2011, between text messaging, QR codes, Twitter, Facebook, mobile phone recruiting, and social media networks, almost 3,000 hires were made.

Recruiting Department/Function of the Year

Last year’s winner CACI didn’t exactly rest. It worked on improvements in areas like employee mobility, alumni hiring, and college recruiting. It also experimented with new ideas like personalized coaching for hiring managers and recruiters, implementing “just in time” coaching for managers. Says CACI: “When a candidate reaches certain hiring milestones, an automated email is sent directly to the hiring manager containing links to ATS and interviewing training modules. This has enhanced manager knowledge throughout the hiring process, decreased recruiter time to train, and increased our quality of hire.”

It hired a Personal Recruiter Coach to develop and implement individual recruiter learning plans, like improving people’s LinkedIn skills. CACI reports that “over 50% of our recruiters have seen an increase in offer acceptances and hires due to their coaching.”

CACI added QR codes to its marketing materials; mobile visitors have doubled. It has worked on search engine optimization, increased marketing to its talent community, and improved its social media recruiting. Facebook followers increased 172%, LinkedIn followers increased 813%, and Twitter followers increased 2,600%.

It implemented software that matches candidates to positions by extracting relevant data from candidate profiles, such as skill set and clearance level. It saves recruiter times and lowered days to fill. Cost per hire is down to $2,863 — 13% down — and company revenue is up 14%. Said one judge: “They were able to show more meaningful results than others, with improvements in speed, cost, and revenue.”

Informatica enhanced how managers request requisitions, how candidate feedback is given, and how employment offers are generated; “all systematically and in complete contrast to the ‘paper and pencil’ which preceded in prior years,” according to the company. It developed a recruiting dashboard for the corporation’s executives, allowing leaders among the different company divisions to see how its talent acquisition organization is doing.

Like CACI, it has done a lot of SEO work. Its “resource scorecard” was created to evaluate recruiter effectiveness against set targets.

Managers have been trained better on interview skills. Recruiter training has increased, something the company believes has helped it win three recent awards for sourcing.

It has found ways to reduce administrative work in the requisition creation process and in scheduling interviews. It revised offer letters, and started a global background check process. Results include decreased time-to-fill from 114 to 68 days; increased hiring manager satisfaction; a 100% increase in career site traffic; and reduced time to fill by 70 percent.

Said one judge: “I’m impressed by the great work done at Informatica — their significant leap into technology, their cloud application, and their talent mapping tools.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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