Hire the Best Available Talent Now

During a break in the action in one of my weekly racquetball games, a fellow racquetball player mentioned that the new guy on the court was the highest-producing stockbroker in the entire state of Florida, but no one would ever know because he never talked about it.

Suspiciously, I congratulated the new guy on his success and commented that I didn’t think stockbrokers existed today, as the Internet has replaced most stockbrokers with the online trading concept.

“Sure, there are more online tools available today, but I am by far better than any individual investor who has to use those tools,” he replied.

Before I had an opportunity to support my statement with the concept of online recruitment tools replacing headhunters, as I have read over the past few years, he postulated, “Take a look at those basketball players on the basketball court. Do you think that the best player on the court can step onto this racquetball court and beat you in a game of racquetball?” I knew the answer because I competed with many good racquetball players.

Before I responded, he asked, “Do you think that you can walk onto the basketball court and compete with those guys?” I knew the answer to that question as well, because I coach my nine-year-old son’s basketball team and know first-hand the difficulty in mastering the mechanics and fundamentals of basketball.

Before I responded to that question, he said, “The reason that you would answer ‘no’ to those questions is the same reason why online tools will never replace the good stockbrokers: most investors do not know what they are doing.”

Based on the veracity of his comment, two things became clear at that moment: I was convinced that this guy may be the top-producing stockbroker in the state, and with the latest recruitment tools in corporate career sites, job boards, applicant tracking systems, and referral programs, corporate recruiters may not know what they are doing in successfully recruiting top talent.

From a headhunter’s perspective, I am not stating that all corporate recruiters do not know what they are doing; I am suggesting that the new talent-acquisition model is flawed in the quality of corporate recruiting talent and the cost-per-hire strategic objective.

Quality of Talent

To win the war for talent and maximize the ROI in recruitment tools, organizations must upgrade their recruiting staff by recruiting only top recruitment talent. These professionals bring successful headhunting skills in developing relationships and gaining a level of trust with candidates in accessing their skills, understanding their career motivations, selling the organization, and motivating that candidate to take action.

The usual suspects on the typical corporate recruiting staff consist of the ex-headhunters who have crashed and burned in the third-party-agency model because they were unsuccessful in making enough placements to earn/sustain a living. Since they can earn a steady income in the corporate setting, they may not be as passionate about the thrill of the hunt, which is the common denominator for success in finding the right candidate for the right job.

On the other end of the spectrum, some corporate recruiters are more HR-focused. They are subject-matter experts on HR metrics, branding, onboarding, retention, and engagement; however, they tend to be reactive, process-oriented, resume-content driven, and often lack the hands-on sales skills necessary in strategically leading procrastinating hiring managers throughout the interview process while anticipating and resolving issues.

Organizations must recruit top recruiting talent, not through online job postings, but the proven way by headhunting for the successful recruiting professionals who are not actively seeking employment. Initially this will be a more expensive proposition from a compensation perspective, but in the end you get what you pay for because finding good talent won’t be cheap, and cheap talent will not produce good results.

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Cost Per Hire

I once interviewed a candidate who stated on his resume that he reduced cost of hire by $500,000 in his first year as a corporate recruiter. After inquiring how he achieved that amount, he indicated that his team made a number of hires without using third-party recruiters and as a result, saved $500,000 in placement fees. Placement fees paid to third-party recruiters have being targeted of late, and rightfully so, since more recruitment tools are available. But it is also ironic that the number of hires made via third-party recruiters has historically been an amount less than 15% of the total hires; the vast majority of hires have always been through the result of employee referrals and job advertisements.

Electronic recruitment tools are very effective in achieving favorable cost-per-hire results in finding the majority of active job seekers. However, there are challenges in capturing the high-impact candidates typically handled by third-party recruiters. High-impact candidates are the hard-to-find candidates who the hiring manager needs yesterday; he is compromising service and losing customers by not having that person onboard.

High-Impact Candidates

High-impact candidates are the “rain makers” who excel in their craft; they can pay for themselves in terms of efficiency, developing revenue, leading teams, and attracting/developing new talents to their organization. They are happy and busy in their present jobs and will only take calls from recruiters who understand the types of unique roles that may be of interest to them.

They interview well but are concerned about confidentially, and as such are reluctant to submit their resumes to job boards, apply online in corporate career sites, or divulge compensation information. Their preference is to bypass HR and interview initially with hiring managers to determine their level of interest in a particular job opportunity.

To successfully recruit these individuals, recruiters need to establish an ongoing relationship with candidates and have strong industry knowledge with regard to competition, recent market activities, and career progression within your industry. These individuals are very susceptible to counteroffers.

If you’re too focused on cost per hire and on following a set procedure, you’ll run the risk of getting bogged down: there are too many steps involved in obtaining the lowest cost-per-hire: post the jobs internally, search internal database, obtain and contact internal referrals, post the job externally, search external database, contact agencies (involves additional steps).

This process increases the time to hire and allows the best available candidate to slip to the competition. It is restricting to third-party recruiters for the following reasons:

  • It processes passive candidates in the same manner as the active job applicants. Many job offers will be lost because this process does not energize high-impact candidates and as a result, they will not develop that “warm and fuzzy feeling” toward the job opportunity, which is essential for motivating an individual to take a leap of faith and leave his present employer.
  • Does not allow interaction between the hiring managers and third-party recruiters during the interview process. Corporate recruiters concurrently work on multiple job requisitions and do not have enough time to devote to any one particular search assignment. Successful third-party recruiters know that the compelling candidate presentation, interview feedback, and ongoing dialogue between the candidate, hiring manager, and recruiter are the critical elements in determining the proper job fit and resolving issues that may derail a successful hire.
  • Ignores opportunities to hire candidates because its focus is limited to only approved job requisitions in the system. Successful third-party recruiters know that hiring managers need to be immediately notified when a high-impact candidate may be available, which will allow that manager to determine whether an opportunity to hire possibility exists. More specifically, the Miami Heat would have not acquired Shaquille O’Neal and won the NBA championship because they had no open requisition to add a perennial all-star center at the beginning of the 2006 season.
  • Considers resumes in the database a property of the HR department and off-limits to third-party recruiters for a candidate submission. Recruiters approach high-demand candidates on an ongoing basis; however, it is the right approach at the right time by the right recruiter that will ignite and motivate the right candidate to take action. Corporate recruiters should not overlook top talent in their internal databases.

To successfully recruit the best talent and maximize the ROI of online recruitment tools, HR departments must restructure their talent-acquisition strategies with objectives of hiring the best available talent now, top-grading their internal recruiting staff with sales-oriented performers, and using third-party recruiters as specialized search partners that can add value in successfully recruiting high-impact candidates.

Ken Forrester is managing director of A.W. Forrester Co., a national search firm (954-722-7554) that specializes in employee benefits consulting, health insurance brokerage, and sales. He started his recruitment career in 1990 and is responsible for completing search assignments for senior management positions while developing and mentoring junior associates.