To Hire More Top People, You Need to Become Talent-Centric

If you’re not seeing and hiring enough top people, you have a problem. If things are getting worse rather than better, you have a bigger problem. If you’re using more high-priced contract employees or more external search firms to fill in the gaps to meet hiring needs, you’re masking the problem. Identifying the problems and providing a few solutions is the point of this article. Everybody wants to hire top people. Better advertising and marketing is part of the solution.

Another part of the solution is having enough recruiters who know how to recruit top people. Even more important than these two combined is having every hiring manager committed to hiring top people and capable of doing it. There are a lot of other steps involved in solving the problem, but the bigger issue at the core of all of this is that most companies’ hiring tactics, techniques, and tools were not designed to hire top talent. They were inadvertently designed to fill positions with marginal candidates. Nobody ever went out of his way to hire marginal candidates.

But this is the kind of thing that happens when tactics drive strategy, rather than the other way around. A talent-centric strategy means that every single step involved in hiring is designed to meet the needs of top talent. This means that every interface, every advertisement and ad placement, every form, every question, every meeting, every email, every encounter, every schedule, every call, every follow-up call, every offer, and everything else is designed to ensure that a top person will be wowed! Furthermore, this strategy should be different for a top engineer, a top manager, a top salesperson, a top college grad, or a top part-timer to work in the call center. Brad Anderson, the CEO of Best Buy, provides some insight on this topic. Here’s a recent Fortune article describing the importance of developing a talent-centric marketing strategy. The article has nothing directly to do with recruiting, but has everything to do with marketing to a target audience. Anderson is leading a massive makeover of Best Buy’s 930 stores. The gist: design every store to meet the needs of its local customer base, whether it’s high-tech, low-tech, wealthy, housewife, boomer — or in-between. Best Buy’s term for this is customer-centricity. On a comparable basis, how well does your company market to the audience of top performers you want to hire?

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In evaluating your hiring processes from a talent-centric standpoint, here are 10 important factors worth considering. Rank your company on a 1- to 10-point scale for each, with a 10 being awesome and a 1 being bad. Add your scores up and see how well your company is doing and what you need to do next to start hiring some better people.

  1. The compelling nature of the job itself. Remove your company name from one of your typical online job descriptions. Would a top 10 percent person apply to it if she read it and if she already had a good job? Give yourself a 10 if yes, a 5 if maybe, and a 1 if no. (Here’s an earlier ERE article about this.
  2. The quality of your advertising and marketing effort. Take the job above and go to the site it’s posted on. Put in the keywords a top person would use to find the job in the search box without your company name. If your job is listed on the top 10 jobs and it has a non-traditional and compelling title, give yourself 5 points. To get the other 5 points, Google the job (use the job title and the location and the word “job”) to see if it shows up. If you’re on the first page, you get the other five points.
  3. Effective use of high touch in a high-tech environment. How good is your customer service? Give yourself 5 points if a top person is contacted within 24 hours after applying and called by a recruiter within 48 hours. Give yourself the other 5 points if a top candidate can instantly access more information about the job either online or by talking with a live person.
  4. Use of advanced marketing techniques. You deserve all 10 points if you have created unique approaches based on the level of the job and how active or passive the person is. Advanced marketing techniques include developing targeted marketing campaigns, designing different Websites for different people, and using different drip, CRM, and interactive marketing tactics, depending on the type of position to be filled. The key is not only have different approaches for different professionals, but also the idea that you want to target candidates who are the best in class regardless of the job level.
  5. Use of proactive referral programs (employee referrals and networking). Give yourself the first 5 points if you have a very professional employee referral program. This means it’s well-administered, candidates are contacted regularly, and the database of leads is kept current with great information, including candidate quality and key strengths. Assign the other 5 points based on how well current employees provide you with names of great candidates who aren’t looking, how steady these great leads are developed, and how well you get more names of great people from names generated using the best Internet name-generating techniques.
  6. Quality of the screening process. Is your screening process designed to attract top people or keep marginal people out? You get 10 points if top people are energized by your method of asking questions, luring them in for a more rigorous exchange of information. You get 0 points if your questions might eliminate good people who are perfectly qualified doing comparable, but not identical, work, or good people who feel disrespected by the types of questions asked or if it takes too long. Take your own questionnaire yourself to see how you feel.
  7. Quality of candidate experience online. Top people sometimes look for better jobs, especially on bad days. If a top person gets the urge to look for something better, would the person be able to find your site and find the job quickly? Is this person likely to apply based on what he or she reads, and how long would it take to apply? Is there enough supporting information available to reinforce the person’s desire to engage? Give yourself 10 points if you designed every aspect of the online experience to reinforce how top people look for better career opportunities. Give yourself 5 points if you got part of this right. You can’t get more than 5 points if you use a hard-to-use pull-down menu approach to finding jobs.
  8. Quality of candidate experience onsite. After a few hours of interviewing, how many of your candidates feel great about your company and the opportunity presented? Multiply this percent by 10 to get your score on this factor. You keep these points if these people are very open to giving you great referrals, whether they get an offer or not. Cut this score in half if they’re not.
  9. Recruiting team’s time and ability to recruit. Top people require more hand-holding and more effort to find them. It doesn’t matter how good your recruiting team is if it doesn’t have enough time to recruit top people. You get the first 5 points if your team has the time to recruit. Assign the next 5 points based on how good it is at recruiting and hiring top people without having to pay salary premiums. (Here’s a quick test to evaluate this part.) If your team has time, but isn’t very good at recruiting, you go back to 0 points.
  10. Hiring managers’ ability to attract and recruit top talent. If your hiring managers aren’t capable of hiring top people, everything else is a waste of time. To get your score on this factor, first figure out what percentage of your managers have the ability to attract top people. This is probably around 25 to 50 percent. Multiply this by the percent of top people who don’t opt out during the hiring process and accept your offers. Now multiply this combined factor by 10 to get your score. (Here are a few ERE articles to help improve your score here.)

The point here is not the score. If you’re talent-centric, you scored high. If you’re not, you scored low. The bigger point here is you must become more talent-centric in the future if you want to hire top people. Things will get tougher, not easier, so don’t make excuses. Instead, go visit your local Best Buy for some fresh thinking. The key: Recruiting top talent is more about marketing than selling.

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).