Only 1 Way to Recruit Talent

Nov 9, 2011

For a thought experiment (and to encourage creative conversation), I recently asked a few recruiting friends, “If you were left with only one method or tool for recruiting talent, what would you use?”

I’ve listed a few responses below and included some dialogue regarding pros and cons of each. Hopefully this discussion will help recruiters and recruiting leaders focus their energies on those tools that actually bring value to their organizations.

This list is presented in no particular order.

Employee Referrals: Traditional employee referral programs tend to fail because they don’t excite employees. Too often referrals are advertised on the intranet, posters in the break room, or distributed via internal mass emails, so this communication just becomes background noise. These programs don’t engage the vast majority of your employee base.

If recruiters, however, only had a referral program as their sole launching pad for filling positions, they could have solid success. Instead of advertising the program, recruiters would pick up the phone and proactively ask for referrals from employees on a regular basis. From that starting point, recruiters could have rich and thorough conversations with referrals from their current employees who may be the right fit for a position or point them to the right candidate. This high-touch methodology would certainly turn up passive candidates that none of your competitors are actively pursuing. The sheer size of your employees’ first and second level connections could fill a talent pipeline for a long while.

Existing ATS: In general, most companies underuse their current database of candidates. Compounding this reality is the fact they’ve paid a lot of money to attract candidates to their application process in the first place. For large, well-established organizations, an ATS could mean access to millions of candidates. The biggest challenge then becomes effectively mining the database, but left with only one recruiting approach, relying on an ATS could very well be the best option. If used wisely, by creating talent communities and folders, an ATS can be a great stand-alone recruiting tool. Positions not filled directly by candidates housed in the database, could lead to referrals and hires down the road.

LinkedIn: Having a dedicated recruiter for LinkedIn searches, introductions, and resulting conversations can result in attractive talent. Since LinkedIn allows recruiters to quickly locate candidates who appear to be a close match to their needs, this tool has a great advantage over several options listed here. However, recruiters tend to start these conversations cold, and this barrier can create resistance to success. For an organization with a low volume of high-niche positions, LinkedIn could be the best go-to tool.

Search Engine Sourcing: Starting a search with the empty box of a search engine can be a daunting first step, but top-notch sourcers can unearth contact information and initiate conversations with talent that no one else is engaging. The weakness of this approach is the energy and time it takes to find candidates. Although much of the search engine process can be automated across several sites, the process still has flaws since connectivity to these candidates is usually pretty weak (as opposed to a referral) so you may have to turn over a lot of rocks to find an interested candidate.

The Phone: Not to be overly simplistic, the old-school recruiters might think it’s best to just start making cold calls to competitors as their starting point. Since fewer recruiters are pounding the phone these days this could be a fairly effective, if not time-consuming, activity. For companies with a high volume of openings this might not be the most practical approach.

Job Boards: This is an obvious choice to discount as a main/only source to find talent. Not only does post and pray not produce the best candidate pool, it also is the only expensive option listed here. However, I would say it has one advantage over all the others above: ease of use. For small companies without robust ATS’s that are mainly filling low-level positions, this may actually be the best option, especially if they don’t have dedicated recruiting support. Most companies are much more complex and require more assertive tactics to fill their positions.

I would love to hear other recruiters’ thoughts on what tools/methods they would use if they were left with only one way to fill positions. Additionally, the common thread in most of these techniques is the ability to engage a candidate and then ask for referrals — this is the relationship nature of recruiting. Those recruiters that are strong on the relational side of the business will always find ways to be successful, regardless of the tools or techniques they are using.

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