Don’t Fire Your Recruiters Just When the Recovery is About to Begin

Hiring will start to recover in Q2, 2009, and now is the time to rebuild your recruiting team and massively upgrade your sourcing and hiring processes.

If you’re still considering cutbacks in your recruiting staff, think again. Recruiting top people is a repeatable sales process that’s fundamentally different than hiring average people. Instead of cutting back, replace the underperformers with people who can sell complex intangibles and services, those who can learn solution selling, and those who have demonstrated they can follow a realistic sales process including meeting quotas and being managed by the numbers.

Forget the Lone Rangers and those experienced recruiters who have not gotten significantly better over the past two years. Hiring top people is a business process, equivalent to selling your firm’s products and services. Now is the time to start implementing new training programs and changing your outdated pre-recession recruiting processes.

The amount of stimulus Obama, Bernanke, and Paulson/Geitner have already induced and are planning to induce into our economy system will jumpstart the recovery faster than can be imagined. So get ready to rumble. The best people are now sitting on the sidelines waiting for some reason to think about the future, rather than holding onto the past. (Take our annual recruiting challenges survey if you want some instant insight on what’s happening.)

Instead of minor changes and improvements, I’m going to suggest a wholesale rebuilding of your recruiting department is in order. This will give you a chance to hire the best people as soon as there is evidence the economy is changing direction. So starting with a fresh clean slate, here are three things you should be doing right now to get ready for the upcoming hiring recovery.

Set up a forward-looking workforce forecasting system. This is a quickie version of a workforce plan, but used more for predicting when hiring will come back in force, rather than a full forecast of all hiring needs. To prepare this, have your line managers forecast their hiring needs by quarter for the next 12 months for just your biggest needs. This could be all of your highest volume hires or those who are critically important to your business. Select job classes that drive your business and have some predictive power to reflect all of your job needs. Have your managers update this forecast every quarter or whenever they see a big change in upcoming requirements up or down. If you add some analytical rigor to these forecasts, rather than just rely on intuition, these changes will be meaningful and provide an early-warning signal that something big is about to happen. Most people don’t realize that forecasts are as much about improving communications throughout a company as for having reasonable numbers for planning purposes. Regardless, having a 90-day headstart on the competition will allow you to see and hire more of the best people, especially those now in the starting blocks just waiting for the gun to fire.

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Create talent communities. These are talent hubs on steroids. A talent hub is a creative micro-site designed to be found by a group of people (e.g., developers, engineers, Gen Ys, retirees) who are on the margin — i.e., not actively looking, but open-minded. These people become prospects for your future opportunities, so you need to provide some incentive for them to give you basic bio data. These prospects then need to be nurtured along using some type of robust CRM (candidate/customer relationship management) system until something exciting pops up. Reporting is minimal since these people are not yet candidates for a specific job. The steroids bit has to do with the degree of automation, amount of regular contact in the form of emails and the variety of touch points, like video, RSS feeds, and chat features. (If you’d like to learn more about this, sign-up now for an upcoming free webinar on January 22, 2009 I’m hosting with Jobs2Web on this critical topic.)

Build a team of great recruiters. The best people are more discriminating. Technology can help you separate the good from the bad (one example: search on award terms), but you need to be a good recruiter to convince the best that your job is worthy of serious consideration. Without good recruiters you’ll just be hiring the above average; that’s why a serious investment in upgrading and training your recruiting team is absolutely critical. In my mind a good recruiter applies applicant control at every step in the process, understands real job needs, and uses solution selling to position each job as a career opportunity, not a compensation move. (Here’s a quick recruiter test: if candidates frequently say they’re not interested in what you have to offer anytime in the hiring process from first call to final close, you don’t have applicant control. Recruiters who use applicant control switch roles and determine if they’re interested in the candidate at these points.) Applicant control is less important and easier to maintain when you’re dealing with an average or above-average candidate, but essential when dealing with a top performer. That’s why a well-trained recruiting team is critical if you want to consistently hire the best.

The first six months of the recovery will be a free for all. If you do nothing different, you’ll find a few good people and a few above-average people. But if you make wholesale changes in how you source and upgrade the quality of your recruiting team, you’ll dramatically increase the number of top people you hire who you previously would have lost. Even better, if you set up a predictive workforce forecasting system, you’ll know 60-90 days ahead of everyone else when the recovery in your industry is ready to begin. Start now and get the best people into your prospect database. Before you know it, you’ll be hiring great people every time. However, if you wait to read about the recovery, it will be too late.

(Note: make sure you participate in The Adler Group’s annual Recruiting and Hiring Challenges survey to discover some other leading hiring indicators.)

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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