Strategic Recruiting Issues and Trends — Fire Away with Kevin, Lou, and John

Feb 14, 2011

This March at the ERE Expo attendees (and those watching the live video stream) will be treated to something new. For the first time in the Expo’s history three of the longest-running ERE authors (Kevin Wheeler, Lou Adler, and myself) will come together for a live crossfire to respond to your questions and top issues. For nearly 14 years the three of us have shared our perspective on strategic issues, current trends, and emerging issues, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not.

In recent weeks the three of us have tackled a number of topics including the growing influence of social media, the future of recruitment process outsourcing, and improving functional efficiency and effectiveness. While these topics are likely to emerge during the crossfire so too are many others. The top-20-plus subjects on my mind heading into the crossfire include: 

  1. The return of employer brandingemployer branding and building talent communities are the only long-term strategies in recruiting. Real branding has been ignored throughout the downturn, but years of bad press and the increasing use of social media is forcing organizations to once again take branding seriously. We will see more organizations add roles dedicated to employer brand management and spending on employer branding will nearly double this year.
  2. Growing recognition of employee referralsreferrals were downplayed by many organizations during the downturn, but as hiring has slowly picked up, so too has the recognition of ERPs as the dominant source of hire (both volume and quality). As organizations better learn to leverage social media to support employee referrals, the critical role of ERPs will continue to evolve. The average rate of external hires attributed to ERPs will exceed 40% within the next two years.
  3. Increasing value of social media — there is little disagreement here on its continued growth and importance. We are still learning on a “trial-and-error” basis how to use social media in recruiting, and our metrics are horrible. However, this channel will continue to excel at prospect relationship building rather than as a job posting channel. Overall, finding candidates will become increasingly easy, so resources and the focus will shift toward building relationships and “selling” top prospects and candidates.
  4. The mobile platform dominates — Kevin Wheeler and I have both outlined the tremendous value of the mobile platform for recruiting. This platform excels because prospects and candidates are willing to read and even respond at almost any time of day. The mobile phone will become the most powerful communications channel in recruiting and employer branding. Unfortunately, most recruiting managers have not required that their corporate career sites and all of their recruiting and branding related messaging be made “mobile-phone” friendly.
  5. Key recruiting success measures are implemented — there is little disagreement between Kevin, Lou, and I regarding the fact that recruiting must become more businesslike and refine quality of hire measurements. You simply can’t improve your hiring process without knowing the on-the-job performance and retention rates of your new hires. Recruiting managers will also have to improve their metrics for employer branding (both positive and negative), the candidate experience, hiring manager satisfaction, and the source of hire (i.e. the “actual” sources or channels that result in hires). The most important high-impact metric area that will become prominent is placing a dollar value on key recruiting outcomes (i.e. the cost of a bad hire, a slow hire, the value of a superstar in a mission-critical position, etc.).
  6. Retention issues grow dramatically — we have all written about the upcoming surge in employee turnover. Unfortunately, most organizations rarely focus on retention and are unaware of the 20 different retention strategies. Rather than continuing to use “peanut butter” strategies, the most effective organizations tailor retention efforts to high-value individuals and employees in critical jobs.
  7. Prioritization becomes essential — business units always prioritize customers, products, and suppliers. Recruiting managers need to learn that same valuable lesson by prioritizing and focusing the best recruiters in the most resources on revenue-producing and mission-critical openings.
  8. Contingent workers provide agility — if you forecast an “up-and-down” economy like we have suffered through during the last decade, you will quickly appreciate the value of contingent workers. I am predicting that as much as half of the work done for major corporations will be done by some type of contingent or outsourced workers. Unfortunately the current contingent model where management is split between HR and procurement must be blown up and replaced with one that puts contingent workers on a par with regular employees when it comes to onboarding, reference checking, information access, and training.
  9. The return of the war for talent — Kevin Wheeler has mentioned that we need to plan for its return. I agree but in a global economy, the war for top talent in key high-demand positions never really diminishes. When the hiring boom does return, most corporate functions will be no better prepared to handle it than they were last time. The key weakness in winning this “war” will be the lack of a “boundaryless” integrated approach, where all talent related processes work closely together.
  10. The candidate experience must improve — currently the metrics demonstrate that the candidate experience is universally miserable. Mobile phones and social networks now make it amazingly easy for unhappy candidates to almost instantly widely spread a message about their negative application and hiring experiences. As a result, recruiting managers will have no choice besides measuring and dramatically improving the candidate experience.
  11. Remote and global work grows dramatically — the growth of hiring manager acceptance and improvement of remote work tools will make recruiting significantly easier at firms that are willing to offer remote work options for hard to fill jobs. If you expect to effectively attract and use global talent, offering remote work is an absolute requirement.
  12. A shift toward being proactive — recruiting has historically been 100% reactive in that it only acts when a requisition is opened. In a fast-changing world, that results in many missed opportunities because the best candidates are not looking at the same time that you have an opening. We are already seeing a gradual shift toward a proactive “pre-need” model where talent is continually recruited and recruiters alert managers about current talent “opportunities” even when no requisition is open.
  13. Onboarding/off-boarding gains recognition — as more firms take the time to calculate the dollar impact of slow and weak onboarding, resources will be shifted toward dramatically improving it. Areas in which it must improve include stretching it out over time, metrics, getting new hire input, more online information, and continuing recruiter involvement. Once you quantify the impact of great onboarding, you will also likely increase your focus on the employee exit process because it stinks at most firms. Off-boarding is becoming more important because hiring, losing, and later rehiring top employees will become much more important as “long-term single firm” employment becomes a less-common goal among top performers, game changers, and innovators.
  14. CRM use grows — customer relationship management approaches and tools have proven to be amazingly effective on the business side of the corporation. The same tools will continue to be adapted to in prospect and candidate management until they dominate.
  15. Internal movement grows in importance — an area that has to be classified as among the most impactful but poorly managed processes is internal mobility. Kevin Wheeler has written extensively on how it must be improved. The best firms are beginning to use metrics to learn that current internal movement and promotion processes simply fail to identify and proactively move internal talent to areas where they would produce a higher ROI. Future processes at all major firms will use recruiters and technology to proactively move both individuals and teams.
  16. The future of outsourcing — Kevin Wheeler recently wrote an article highlighting areas in which internal recruiting has stumbled and where outsourcing will grow. I am much more pessimistic, in that I have found little metric evidence that shows that RPOs routinely produce superior candidate quality or ROI. In addition, they generally choose a “vanilla” approach and seldom use advanced tools and strategies. In addition, they cannot build your brand or provide a competitive advantage if their services are also available to your talent competitors.
  17. Interviews and assessment must improve — Lou Adler has frequently mentioned his preference for performance-based interviews (instead of behavioral interviews) for improving interviews and assessment. I also see that the traditional corporate practice needs dramatic improvement but without metrics that connect interview scores with on-the-job performance, progress will be slow. The use of live Internet video interviews will continue to grow until they become standard practice.
  18. Technology permeates everything — we all are supportive of new technologies, but I warn against technology fads. I am cynical about adopting technologies until the underlying process is refined. Adding technologies to weak processes like performance appraisal, reference checking, skill assessment, onboarding and applicant tracking do not automatically produce a measurable improvement in process output quality. They do make administration easier, but HR needs to learn to stop selecting “solutions” simply because they make HR’s life easier. I agree with Kevin Wheeler that simulations and games will soon begin to play a large role in attracting and assessing candidates. At least for the near term, I would also be concerned about vendor reliability and consolidation when I made my technology-buying decisions.
  19. Corporate webpages must evolve — there is no weaker source of “authentic” information about a firm than corporate career websites. Job seekers have learned to use social networks and secondary sources (i.e. Glassdoor, JobVent, Vault, etc.) to get unfiltered information about what it’s like to work at a company. Unless corporate websites include authentic employee blogs and videos that allow a prospect to “see and feel” their job, their importance and value will diminish dramatically.
  20. The future of executive search — Lou Adler, undeniably a leading expert on executive search, has written about the potential value and how to bring executive search in-house. He notes and I agree that many have not done it effectively in the past. I see the future of executive search firms narrowing as social media makes finding and building relationships with executives much easier. If executive search firms continue to be slow to adopt technology, new strategies, performance metrics, and pay for performance, they are likely to see their role continue to diminish.
  21. Large job boards will be challenged — large job boards are fine for active candidates that have updated resumes. However, if your focus is on getting top performers, game-changers, and innovators, you shouldn’t allow recruiters to even consider large job boards. Many niche boards will continue to add value.
  22. Job descriptions must be rejuvenated — we all agree that most job descriptions are inadequate and actually hinder the accurate sourcing and the selling of prospects. A more scientific and marketing approach to job descriptions and job postings are needed.
  23. The death of resumes — we have all at some point complained about the use of resumes as accurate assessment tools. Up to two thirds contain misstatements, and waiting for candidates to finalize their resume is a major impediment to reducing time to fill. The long predicted “death” of the resume may actually begin shortly as firms begin to accept professional profiles (i.e. LinkedIn profiles) at least initially in lieu of resumes. The public visibility of these profiles automatically makes them more accurate than resumes. They are also more likely to be current and readily available then a formal resume.

Final Thoughts

I’m looking forward to the dialogue and being challenged by my colleagues and readers. If you have a question or topic for us to tackle, let us know by sending it to

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