How Can I Transform My Talent Acquisition Capability When I Don’t Have X?

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Oct 24, 2019

This question in the headline has been posed to me several times. For context, we are driving a transformation of the way we do talent acquisition. In a nutshell, we want to focus on meaningful candidate engagement vs. a transactional approach to hiring.  Through meaningful engagement, hiring managers get better quality talent, and candidates are more likely to advocate for us.

A great deal of effort went into designing our new operating model. We had to decide what experience we wanted to yield, and when, before we could go deliver it to our organization. 

A side note about change management: we’d spent a lot of time during our design phase, raising awareness in the organization that change was coming, and educating people about why the change was needed. This was good; it generated excitement! That excitement however, quickly turned into anxiety and restlessness: 

“ … you don’t need to keep selling me on why we’re changing, just let me go now …”

“ … why do I have to wait for a training … ”

“ … how can I start implementing now, I’m ready … ”

Here was my response: Don’t wait. Go now.  

To the question, “how can I transform my talent acquisition capability when I don’t have X?” here is my response: The following are core tenants for how any talent acquisition team should operate, regardless of how the team is structured, their internal processes, and specific tools and technologies they use or don’t use. 

Candidate Engagement

Candidates want to receive relevant information in a timely manner. No technology or training should prevent a TA team from doing the following, now:

  • Monitor the supply of candidates being attracted and develop additional nurturing campaigns to feed information of interest back. Give the candidates a reason to want to come back and provide more information.
  • Routinely search your existing candidates for those who have the skill profiles needed but have not yet applied to reqs. Make an introduction. Ask them about what opportunities/locations/etc. they may be interested in. Let them know that you will search for what they want. Make sure to capture those insights in the candidate’s profile. Before a req signals a hiring need, have a holistic understanding of the makeup of your candidate pipeline.  
  • Identify your short list of best of the best candidates. Set aside time to regularly follow up with them. Make it obvious to these candidates that you are advocating on their behalf. Keep them motivated to stay interested. 
  • Of course, being able to do this at scale is predicated on 1.) Knowing the precise motivations of your targeted candidates so that you are reaching the right candidates vs. the almost right candidates (or not at all right candidates), and 2) Sizing your plan so that you don’t attract more candidates you will be able to provide a good experience to.

Hiring Manager Engagement

Hiring managers want the talent-acquisition team to come to the table as consultative partners who can discuss the value of the candidates being presented to them, in addition to helping them navigate the hiring process.  Therefore:

  • Provide relevant information on why you are sharing certain candidates.
  • Share best practices for how hiring managers should engage the candidates.
  • Help hiring managers create impactful job descriptions. This ties back to the point in candidate engagement — attracting a lot of candidates who aren’t precisely what is needed puts the talent acquisition team under water bandwidth wise, and into the business of managing candidate discontent. 

Partnership Across the Talent-acquisition Team

Transformation is not a light switch. It takes time to adjust to doing things differently. For example, we still do hiring in our old model in places where we have not filled all new roles yet. Regardless of the org structure within your talent acquisition team:

  • If you are tasked to build a talent pipeline, have you sought feedback from your peers on the perceived quality of the pipeline? Are there specific skills needed that the pipeline is lacking? What areas of the pipeline are believed to be particularly strong, and why? Ahead of a req signaling a hiring need: do you know which candidates you will be able to match to it? If your answer is “no,” then you don’t have a handle on your pipeline. 
  • If you are tasked to match your talent pipeline to specific opportunities: have you shared any challenges you’re having with those responsible for attracting the pipeline? Do those who engage the business understand the supply challenges you see, so that they can educate and influence the business about them?
  • If you are engaging the business:  have you shared the reasons candidates get rejected with your peers who attract and engage them prior to consideration by the business?

The Candidate’s Profile Is King

The candidate’s profile, in whatever system of record used, must know what is happening with the candidate. At all times. All interactions and insights gleaned must be noted. For example, if a candidate will only consider positions in a specific location, note that. This  saves the next person from looking for opportunities the candidate won’t be interested in, and makes it easier to quickly match the candidate to opportunities in the location of choice. Candidates appreciate not having to repeat themselves when multiple people engage them. 

Talent-acquisition teams are made up of different roles, use different technologies, and require scaling unique to the business they support. Our differences shouldn’t detract from the basics of good recruiting. 

Your “What Your Team Should Do Now Regardless of X” Checklist

  • Monitor the supply of candidates you are bringing in.
  • Develop nurturing campaigns to feed information of interest to your target audience. (Do your research. Learn and validate what the candidate wants to know vs. what you think they want to know.)
  • Elicit more information from the candidates in your pipelines to enhance their profile. Note that in the profile. Always.
  • Seek feedback on the perceived quality of the pipeline you are attracting. 
  • Search the candidates you have in your pipeline to identify their skill profiles and interest level. For those who have not yet applied to reqs, contact them and start building a relationship.  
  • Explain why you are sharing certain candidates with hiring managers for certain roles.
  • Educate the hiring manager about what the sourcing environment is like, for the roles they are trying to hire.
  • Share any challenges you’re having finding the people you need in your pipeline, with whoever is driving the attraction efforts.
  • Identify your “short list” of best of the best candidates and make a plan to keep in touch with them. Actively look to place them in other positions.
  • Be conscious of, and start reframing your hiring manager conversations, to be about the value you bring as an expert on the talent you are sharing with them. Demonstrate your value beyond simply helping the hiring manager complete the steps in the hiring process. 
  • Share the reasons candidates get rejected by the business, with the rest of the talent team, to inform ongoing attraction and engagement.
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