A Hidden Source of Talent: Reducing Recruiting Waste

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Jan 9, 2019

If one cannot increase the supply of a resource, one must increase its yield. — Peter Drucker.

I have yet to learn about a recruiting process that isn’t wasteful. Recruiting is designed to be wasteful; it’s a premise of any selection system. It doesn’t have to stay that way. According to Josh Bersin the average open position receives more than 150 resumes; more than 45 percent of candidates never hear anything back from the employer; 83 percent of candidates rate their job search experience poor, and employers still tell us anecdotally that 20-25 percent of their candidates don’t turn out to be a good long-term fit.

Let’s talk about why.

Hiring processes typically tend to have a suboptimal validity. Unless you use a few ways to validate your choice of candidates, most hiring processes use interviews, which may be typically biased. In a very authoritative 1995 review of a huge amount of data on selection interviews Conway, Jako ,and Goodman found that problems with reliability were commonplace in selection interviews. Achieving reliability is challenging because each interview is unique in some way.

In any hiring process, typically 95 percent or more of candidates end up being rejected, which is a pretty high number. As with any process that relies on subjective measures  it is prone to human error, especially when there are a lot of people involved.

Candidates are not your typical commodity. They change. They change their minds. They evolve.

Recruiters, just like the most of us, do not like doing things twice and usually refrain if from reexamining old leads. In large recruiting organizations, a fresh viable lead is a rare find. The pool, on the other hand, is not endless.

In any recruiting system, there’s inherent change and noise. Roles get filled, and headcount comes and goes. This and many other reasons make it hard to optimize the system’s productivity.

In his book The Rare Find, George Anders who is a Pulitzer-Prize winner and a Wall Street Journal writer, sought out the world’s savviest talent judges to see what can be learned. He argues that our ability to identify great people has deteriorated. We have created so much data that we are drowning in it. He contends that great talent isn’t hard to find if you know where to look for it. The real problem that even some of the most diligent, ambitious organizations have built a talent scouting system that does not work. Even when we make decisions with confidence, we tend to overlook so much of the potential talent because of blind spots and rigid thinking.

Most organizations use screening methodologies that only focus on a single dimensional information, and even then they neglect to go back and reappraise these prospects as time goes by. The amount of energy that is spent on developing sources of talent is huge, especially with the majority being eventually rejected. Furthermore, whatever these sourcing and screening efforts may produce tends to get lost in translation. Even in organizations who have fabulous applicant and prospect tracking systems, there’s an inherent loss of productivity that comes from changing hands in the process and churn caused the dynamics of the hiring process.

With the advances in machine learning and big data, we are already improving our ability to predict the validity of our selection methods, but there are other challenges we face. We should be using these technologies to keep our data forever current and our search for talent perpetual. We should be treating talent as a dynamic and evolving, and the pursuit for candidates as one that should be done with a fresh of eyes every day. We should be powering our search with technology; recruiters could never sustain the amount of work needed to make sure we are optimizing our talent pool daily.

Instead of focusing on increasing talent pipelines, and scouring leads, we should invest in being able to understand how talent ebbs and flows. Finding a way to stay on top of candidates preferences, and how our preferences change would grant us with the ability to increase our yield and improve the efficiency of the hiring process. Recruiters would enjoy developing relationships with a wealth of candidates instead of spending so much time on sourcing candidates. Until technology catches up to help us solve this, here are a few things you could do to make sure you are making the most of your pipeline:

  • Make sure that you have a strategy in place to encompass all aspects of your talent acquisition plan: Make sure you track and take action on leads and have a follow-up plan when they fail to materialize. Use engagement techniques on more of your untapped talent. Make sure that data is integrated and maintained often.
  • Pipelines are leaky. To make sure potential is developed fully, make sure that candidates do not have too many contacts in the hiring process, and that they are being passed off cleanly when transitions do occur.
  • Initiate candidate-sharing mechanisms and a culture that promotes leading with the candidate, making sure every candidate counts and all avenues have been exhausted.
  • Revisit and review the hiring process every six months, as any process becomes stale after a while and that might mean you are missing on talent.
  • Switch things around: have different recruiters take different tasks and try different approaches.
  • Makes the experience memorable: candidates will not forget and will come back, even if it takes a while.
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