Simple Recruiting

There is a question I have been posing to recruiters all over the world that is evoking some interesting answers: What is the simplest recruiting model you could imagine for your organization? What I mean by this is, how minimal could you go and still deliver good people in a reasonable time? Could you get by with no applicant tracking system and no website? What would you keep and what would you toss out if you were given the task of reducing the recruiting function so that it used almost no resources? Why do I care about this? I believe that when you can reduce a function or a machine to its simplest components, you can see more clearly what is essential versus what is a nice enhancement. For example, a car is at its simplest when it consists of a chassis, four wheels, a basic engine with no electrical system, no gauges or dials, a steering system directly connected to the wheels, and a single seat. Everything else is sure nice to have but does not make the car any more functional. Recruiting today has become encumbered by all sorts of bells and whistles that may give us the illusion of better recruiting, but that may also be eroding our ability to do the very basics of recruiting: find the best people, convince them to work for our employer, and make the process simple and fast. It is always healthy to go through a process of simplification, downsizing and streamlining. What emerges is usually a much more effective and efficient operation. Let’s take a look at some things that might be eliminated from our current recruiting practices and what could replace them. Let me make it clear before I jump in here that I am an advocate of using technology and of the tools that make it easier to do our jobs. I am writing this to help sharpen our answers to the questions we are often asked, such as why we spend all that money on an applicant tracking system or what real value we get from the website. By thinking about what they contribute and what would be missing without them, we can be better advocates for them. 1. Forget all Internet interfaces. The Internet is wonderful and I couldn’t imagine a world without it, but is it essential to recruiting? I worked as a recruiter, as did many of you and many of the other ERE writers, well before the Internet was even a twinkle. We were successful. We used our personal contacts, focused on local recruiting, added a lot of weight by taking potential candidates to lunches and dinners, and talked a lot on the telephone. It was time consuming, but satisfying, and it worked. Recruiting could still be done this way. The Internet has also spawned a host of related needs: training in online search, training in how to use a job board and how to post to one, and training in data mining and information gathering to better pinpoint searches. All of these require time and money and need to be perceived as worth the effort. Many recruiters still resist and have been successful. 2. Forget the recruiting website. I know that I am perhaps one of the strongest advocates of having a good recruiting website, but what would happen if you didn’t have one? Very successful recruiting functions, such as that at FirstMerit Bank, which Dr. John Sullivan wrote about earlier this week, have almost no web presence. I imagine that most small companies either have an extremely basic website or none at all. Still, they manage to attract and recruit good people. Websites are merely reflections of branding strategies and plans that have been thought out and executed in a host of ways. Candidates of a certain type may feel that organizations without websites are strange, but I doubt if anyone has stopped pursuing a job because the organization did not have a website. 3. Why bother with an applicant tracking system? For most recruiters the ATS is a sinkhole for both money and time. System can cost more than six figures to install and customize and hundred of thousands more to maintain annually. Many organizations employ IT professionals to support these systems and have additional staff to keep correspondence up-to-date and to enter data that cannot be entered automatically. The fact is applicant tracking systems cost a lot and probably are only really justified when recruiting volume is very high or when an organization has a strong global brand and is a magnet for candidates of all types. Many organizations use these systems primarily to generate reports for the government to show compliance with EEO and other requirements. The number of organizations that have purchased one of these systems is small (maybe 5% of all organizations in the U.S. have such a system in place being used regularly). Many organizations use an Excel spreadsheet or some other simple database. Some just use paper file folders and the telephone. They are far from essential for most of us. 4. Job boards are a waste. Who doesn’t post to a job board? Almost every organization uses some sort of job board, but very few actually know how many candidates they got from them. What we have done is closed some doors to candidates while opening others. In many cases, the same candidate also would have sent you a resume directly or would have called you had that avenue been available. Most recruiters in past decades opened postal mail, picked up the phone, or kept communication open with potential candidates through meetings, social events, and their network. Job boards are relatively expensive; they generate candidates who may not be qualified and reach out to a very broad geography. For most organizations, recruiting is a local activity and candidates come from nearby. They learn about you and your positions from friends and word of mouth. Perhaps job boards, too, are expendable. At this point we’ve reduced your recruiting function to a few people with a telephone doing essential things ó cold calling, networking, selling, building talent pools ó not learning technology and worrying over Internet security or the latest glitch in the ATS. Technology is incredibly helpful, but only when it integrates seamlessly into helping us do these essential things. Take a look at your technology investments and see if they are helping make your recruiting simpler or just adding nonproductive complexity.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at