Why Your Recruiting Strategy Matters

Oct 6, 2010
photo from the Intel Foundation, promoting math/science careers

Most recruiters complain that they cannot find the top talent or the talent they really need. Despite efforts to build databases and talent pools, they still struggle. In some case, lesser qualified people apply, but not the ones they identify as best. In other cases, good people apply but want too much money, or otherwise are hard to close.

Maybe this is because these firms are not listed as best places to work or have a bad reputation among job seekers, but the opposite is often true. Many of the complaints I hear are from organizations with sterling reputations, good career potential, and good locations.

What really makes a difference is the recruiting strategy they have pursued.

A recruiting strategy needs to be a well-thought-out approach to building a pipeline of candidates, both in the shorter term as well as longer term. Many organizations have spent years crafting a holistic recruiting strategy that starts early and continues after people are hired. While they are rare and sometimes expensive to operate, they pay off with large benefits. A short-term strategy includes elements that attract current job seekers or those who might be looking in the near future.

Before you do anything else, though, decide what key talent you have the most difficulty to recruit and then determine where that talent is most likely to be. If you are an engineering firm, talent may primarily be in the high school physics and math classes or in the engineering schools at local colleges and universities. Or, it may be in other similar organizations or in some types of firms that are not competitors but have similar types of people. Your strategy has to be directly linked to getting those people interested in you and aware of what the benefits of working for you are.

Here are a few specific ways successful companies have built these strategies. None of them alone are enough, and the right combination is made up of the resources you have available as well as the commitment your organization has to finding the best people. Nonetheless it is imperative that you develop and communicate your strategy to hiring managers and everyone involved with recruiting so you can move quickly. Each of the tools I describe here has specific purposes and are not necessarily the right approaches for every situation.

Social Media

This provides an immediate way to attract people to your organization today. Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as other local social media tools that might include Twitter and Craigslist, are components of a social media approach. To be successful you need to have the appropriate messaging, a targeted audience, and a commitment to following up with potential candidates regularly.

Social media is not going to provide you with everyone you need and not work well if you are primarily recruiting senior level or very experienced people. These people are often of an age group that isn’t into social media or are so highly employable that they rarely are looking.

Referral Programs

A lot has been written on ERE and elsewhere about referral programs. They can be useful additions to a social media strategy and can often provide the hard-to-find candidates who also fit into your culture. By asking current employees to recommend others within their network, you can vastly expand your potential pool of candidates.


This is much like employee referral, but asks a much broader group of people to recommend candidates who meet certain criteria. Facebook pages and other similar sources can act as a place for people to recommend others. Or you can create a special section of you career site to allow people to recommend others to you. While relatively new, and only made possible by the use of social media platforms, it promises to be a rich source of candidates when aimed at a targeted audience.

Career Site

A robust, interactive career site is essential to any recruiting strategy. This is the “go to” place for any interested candidates to learn more about your organization and what you have to offer them.

Many of the career sites I see as boring and ineffective because they lack authentic information, videos, pictures, and useful information about the company. People are very sophisticated today and do not respond well to the traditional corporate boilerplate and PR-speak that adorns made of these sites. Organizations with exceptional career sites include the U.S. Army, KPMG, Deloitte, and Microsoft.

Community Outreach

Many organizations already have community outreach programs, but they are rarely linked to recruiting at all. Rather, they are regarded as donations or simply as a way to maintain community relations. What is different about combining recruiting with community outreach is the ability to build a superior workforce, with great loyalty and low turnover, at a small cost. But remember, these programs take time to develop, and don’t pay much back for some time.

Hewlett-Packard and Intel, as examples, have had education and community outreach programs for decades that build local knowledge of the firm and cause people to think about them as possible employers. This has included everything from sponsoring science fairs to having employees give guest lectures in high schools and tutor students in math and science. Both also hire extensively from the local community and from local colleges.

IBM is well-known in the communities where it is located as a generous sponsor of events and supporter of education and other community programs. Charles Schwab works with local high schools to encourage students already somewhat interested in finance and investment to pursue those interest, offering part-time jobs, internships, and college tuition.

College Recruiting

Getting to potential employees early is critical in fields like engineering, math, physics, nursing, and other hard-to-find people. College recruiting is an essential building block in a comprehensive recruiting strategy. Establishing relationships even in the first or second year of college and building on that relationship using social media and other tools can help bring new talent into the organization as well as provide much needed skills.

College can include internship or rotational programs to give students a taste of real work as well as a way to evaluate and assess students for potential recruitment as regular employees.

There are most likely many other elements that could be added to this list, but the idea is not to create a list of everything. It is to show you that a combination if all of these elements is what is required to create a bulletproof, flexible, and expandable ability to find good talent.

Recruiting strategies don’t happen overnight and take work and perseverance to establish. Not everything will work immediately, and there need to be an attitude of experimentation and learning as you add elements and integrate them into the whole recruiting picture.

But in the end a clear strategy gives your organization an advantage by improving your reputation, strengthening your community citizenship, and by building a loyal and motivated community of people who know you and want to work for your firm.

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