The 9 recruiting strategies every HR professional should know
Hiring is a profession. An art. A science. All these together.
As with all professions, some bits can be taught and others are pure talent that you either have or you don't. How many HR professionals out there have the intellectual power and business acumen of Lazlo Bock, Google's recruiting genius?
Not many. So let us take you through the teachable stuff.
There has been massive disruption in the way hiring is done over the last few years. We expect more.
You many think that you know everything about hiring. What if we told you that a few minor tweaks to your current practices could help you optimise your recruiting strategies without spending a penny?
So here are 9 tips that will help you find the right staff, quicker and cheaper.
1. Make technology your friend, it will make your life easier
What would you think if you could check in real time if a candidate is a good match for your company, regardless of qualifications and experience?
What if you could automatically screen applicants in just 2 minutes instead of spending endless hours on checking CVs?
Well, this is exactly what technology can do for you.
You probably have to spend days to decide where to post a job ad and manually screen candidates.
Not anymore. These days you can use application tracking systems (ATS) such as Workable, SmartRecruiters, Changeworknow and SuccessFactors to track the journey of each employee, from their initial application to their last day on the job. This will you save you valuable time that you can use to focus on candidates that can make a difference.
You don't have to stick to a single software programme. Try to experiment with various ATS to find one that fits your business and your industry.
If you feel that you are not tech savvy enough for such a decision, use business software review platforms such as Captera or G2 Crowd that can guide you through the process, giving you access to a massive number of user reviews on HR software.
For something quicker, try googling keywords such as "talent acquisition software review" or "HR recruiting software''.
Focus on the ATS that makes you feel comfortable with your recruiting routines, day in, day out. An increasing number of companies use software as a service (SAAS), which allows them to cut costs and control pricing without long-term commitments. Get a free trial to see if it works for you.
You should also check if your preferred ATS has a good customer base. Find out which one your competitors use. Check if it is compatible with other software suites you are using. Test the ease of use of the system's backend and frontend. Would it be easy for your colleagues to handle? Does it have a user-friendly, clean user interface? Does it meet the needs of your industry, language or region? These are the questions you should answer before making your choice.
''But how can a software programme tell me who's a good salesman?'', technophobics probably wonder.
We think that this debate is over and the technophiles have won. As much as the technophobics like to fret about the rapid decline of human interaction in recruiting, technology has invaded for good their territory. Let's accept this and move on.
It's not that software will help you bring better people in your organisation. Far from that. It will just help you scale up - hire more good employees in less time.
Think about that: companies that use special software to screen applicants can increase employee retention by 30%. Not bad.
2. Make data driven decisions to save time and money
Big data is the new bandwagon in HR. Everyone is jumping on it.
So what's all the fuss about?
Simply put, data can help you see what works and what doesn't. Understand why your employee retention rates are high and how to make them drop. Set goals and meet them.
Think of your hiring routine and the in-house recruiting funnel. What do you need to make them cheaper, quicker and more effective?
Well, the answer is simple: data, data and data. And data.
An increasing number of companies use special software to assess future employees based on their on-the-ground competencies rather than qualifications. Some innovative ATS such as Gild and Cornerstone will help you automatically rank candidates based on their application materials, online profiles and their overall professional digital footprint. Gild for example helps employers rank developers according to the quality of their open-source code.
Such an approach will help you make sense of the massive load of information available online, from LinkedIn to videos on YouTube.
It will also help you create profiles of ideal employees and tailor job adverts accordingly in the future.
You should start from measuring five key KPIs:
- the number of placements made
- the ratio of placements to the number of applications received
- the number of interviews you conduct
- the time and workload (e.g the number of emails) needed for each hiring
You can then move to more subtle issues, such as the time it takes you to post a job advert and put it in the public domain, the location of applicants and the time they spend on your platform if you are using an ATS.
Data can help you decide which job boards are optimal for each position, thus giving you access to the best talent pools locally and internationally. That will save you around 70% of the time you currently spend on weeding out irrelevant applicants, as you will only be receiving applications from suitable candidates.
Don't you ever think that data will solve all your problems. Workers are still human beings and will always need to discuss a problem or negotiate a pay rise with another human being. Context matters too when interpreting data; you need time and resources to digest, analyse and make decisions. So data will never fully replace your HR function, at least not until all your employees are robots. It will just make it smoother and quicker.
So do use data, it will improve your recruiting routine. Just don't rely on it for everything.
3. Be social to stay ahead of competition, but do it right
Social recruiting is probably already an integral part of your recruiting strategy.
You may think LinkedIn is a good source of talent, particularly if you are looking for tech savvy and relevantly senior staff. Indeed, around nine of ten recruiters report having hired at least one employee through LinkedIn.
But you should try to go the extra mile. Some say that tweeting a job advert using #job as a hashtag is the new “post and pray.”
Research shows that professionals are members of at least five social networks and countless groups on them, so you should try to cast your net wider. The future is here and is interconnected. Can you afford to stay behind?
A number of talent communities have sprouted on both sides of the pond, specialising in niche markets. Many have evolved from job boards into organic communities of professionals who exchange ideas, meet up in person and occasionally set up their own businesses.
If you are a manufacturer, take a look at what 3D printing aficionados are doing. They are supposed to start the next industrial revolution and you want to be on the front line. For IT professionals there is GitHub, an open source developer community consisting of more than 6.5m members and 14m user repositories. Members rate other users' code and build makeshifts teams to work on projects. If you are a hotel owner, check travel blogger and hotel professional communities.
Restaurant owners, check out Chef Supermarket, an online community of over 65,000 chefs around the world where more than 2,500 cookbooks have been uploaded. This is where the next culinary revolution may begin, the battlefield where the future Ferran Adriàs and Anthony Bourdains may lock horns.
How do you find them? You can start with a basic Google search. You can ask your tech savvy employees. You can check who the influencers are and which groups they participate to.
But what do you do when you find these communities?
Stalk them, be part of them, make members feel like you are one of their own. Only 5% of the content might be good, but you will have a glimpse of the future from its very makers. Ignore the noise, the random speculative applications and funny pictures posted in the wee hours of the morning.
Once your organisation has grown enough, try to turn your HR function into one of these networks. Capture talent even before it graduates and regardless of its current location and employment status. Encourage discussion, even if it comes from outside, even if people question your practices and products. The flow of ideas will help you stay ahead of competition.
Candidates have the power now. You need to engage with them much earlier than previously and make sure that they like you. Research shows that 88% of applicants who had a “good experience” when applying for a job had a positive impression about the employer's brand, even if they did not get the job.
The user experience throughout the job application process matters a lot. Here's what Social Talent's Siofra Pratt says:
So your candidates should not have to spend more than 45 minutes on uploading their details and submitting an application.
Don't forget that all barriers are down in the knowledge economy. The line separating employees from customers and suppliers has never been thinner - a single person can be all these at the same time in a network. So you need their loyalty, feedback and resources. And, as discussed above, their data too.
4. Spread HR in and out of the company to increase your candidate pool
Do you want your new hires to fit into the company right away? How about reaching out to talent pools five times bigger than your current ones?
You can have that quickly and effortlessly, skipping tedious probation periods. All you have to do is harness the power of the crowd, with a little help from technology. Simpler said than done, but still worth a chance.
Think of InnoCentive, a US crowdsourcing company that solves its clients' R&D problems through crowd-based competitions. Thousands of engineers and other professionals compete to solve a problem for a prize. What companies used to do in-house, they can now pass on to the wisdom of the crowd.
HR has been gradually catching up with this trend. True, most companies are still using the traditional hiring methods, fearing that recruiting is too crucial a job to be passed on to non-experts. But it's always the mavericks that can give you a glimpse of the future.
The next big thing in IT recruiting is ''Hackathons'' where developers compete against one another, a practice that has become prevalent across tech companies. Try to translate this idea into a recruiting event that is relevant to your business. Turn your next career fair into a project-based team exercise.
A point in case is Google. The Google Code Jam, an international coding competition, attracts more than 7,500 developers annually. The top 25 finalists are invited to the company's HQ to compete for a job at Google.
Another example is the Facebook Programming Challenge, where participants solve programming problems, trying to impress Facebook's HR team.
You can also turn your members of staff into recruiters. An increasing number of companies allow potential jobseekers to interact with current employees, using the latter as mentors that provide information on the company and support candidates throughout the application process. Apps such as PathMotion can turn your staff into your company's best ambassadors.
There are many ways to do that, from holding a series of webinars with company experts to informal Google Hangouts with the candidates. Many companies have created YouTube channels with testimonials about the company culture and how it feels to work as part of a team there.
You might be wondering what is special about crowdsourcing. ''It's called 'word-of-mouth' and we have been doing it forever'', sceptics probably think out loud.
Indeed, the traditional method used by HR managers is to ask employees to refer a friend when a position is open. Target-related bonuses incentivise employees to refer candidates who fit the bill. In large corporations, such practices create a sense of community, thus making teamwork easier.
But what if you could turn this tried and tested practice into your most effective HR activity? What if you could automate it, turning your HR function into a culture shared across the board rather than a silo separated from other departments? Software programmes such as Zao and GoodJob allow you to do just that.
Yes, it's true that your HR staff has to be in control of your recruiting strategies. But you can crowdsource the tedious bits to optimise your employee turnover, specially if your company has more than 50 employees. KPMG has been doing it, providing clear social media guidelines and training to employees to encourage them to promote the company and engage with talent. Why not you?
5. Use gaming to make recruiting fun
Do you think that traditional recruitment assessment is boring and ineffective? What if you spiced it up a bit without much effort or cost?
Gaming as a tool to test applicants' hard and soft skills is the next big thing in recruiting.
Seven out of ten candidates prefer gaming-based assessment over old-fashioned interviews and tests according to the psychometric test provider Revelian, as “they’re perceived as more fun, less stressful, interactive and immersive.''
A good example is Knack, a platform using video games to offer employers detailed data on candidates' competencies through predictive analytics and advanced behavioural science. Users have to showcase their strengths and outperform other candidates by playing role playing games such as Wasabi Waiter, Dungeon Scrawl, and Balloon Brigade.
Some companies have even developed their own gaming platforms. Marriott, a hospitality company, has created an in-house game, called My Marriott Hotel, to assess applicants. Candidates are asked to play roles relevant to the company's activities, such as hotel manager, and perform relevant tasks.
Yes, you may have to become an HR warlord, collecting points and hunting monsters. Who said that HR can't be fun?
6. On-demand work is the future
Have you ever heard about the rise of the ''sharing economy''? Probably yes, but if not, think of companies such as Uber and Airbnb, which allow you to share your car or your flat with a stranger for a fee, thus optimising the use of underused resources.
Guess what. You can do the same with work. You can hire people from all over the world to complete specific tasks in a fixed period of time, allowing you to tailor supply to demand. Bring them in if you like, or use them as remote contractors. Anything goes.
Many companies use freelance marketplaces such as Upwork and Elance to outsource bits and pieces of their day-to-day operations, saving up to 50% of salary costs.
There is an increasing talent pool of 55m freelancers just in the US and the UK, and according to PeoplePerHour, an online platform for freelance work, this number has been growing exponentially and may make up half of the workforce by 2020.
Discuss with your managers which particular tasks they think could be outsourced. Distribute a survey across the company and ask your employees: ''What is legwork and what is meaningful work in your everyday routines?'' Ask them to rank their activities. Their answers will help you make decisions about the bits that are essential for the smooth operation of the company and the bobs that can be trusted to strangers.
This is a trend that the most successful companies out there have been riding on. Singularity University's Salim Ismail,Yuri van Geest, Peter Diamandis and Mike Malone, authors of the best-seller Exponential Organizations, believe that on-demand work is the future for companies that wish to grow exponentially.
This is what they say:
This means that your children may be freelancers for life, hoping from one job to the other; bit entrepreneurial and less financially secure than we are. As for employers, on-demand work may be both a virtue and a necessity. Take note.
7. Find creative millennials. Keep them happy. Let them go.
We said above that technology can work wonders to help you find the right staff and keep them happy.
Disclaimer needed. When it comes to creativity, potential and drive, forget all the above. No technology can trace these qualities.
If you want to stay on top of your game, you need to think like your employees and customers, particularly younger ones. They tend to think differently than their parents about work.
Here's what Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics and The Digital Economy, says about recruiting millennials:
''Don’t recruit: initiate relationships and engage the best talent.''
And he goes on: ''Old-style job interviews were much like interrogations in which potential employees were grilled on their strengths and weaknesses, knowledge and skills, sometimes being asked to perform tests that are terrible predictors of effectiveness. This approach should be completely revised. Employers who seek to identify, attract, and hire the best talent should see the process as a dialogue.''
Don knows what he is saying. According to a recent report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, ‘Millennials at Work’, millennials (people younger than 30 years old) are averse to commitment, prefer “to move on quickly if their expectations are not being met” and tend to have “a flexible approach to work”.
More than 25% expect to work for 6 employers or more throughout their careers, compared to just 10% in 2008. The majority prioritise career progression over pay and pick employers accordingly.
So don't you ever think that once you got them, you got them for life. The 'job-for-life' mentality is over. You need to make them happy too. Remember what Steve Jobs said? ''Stay hungry, stay foolish?''
Guess what. It's your job as an HR professional to keep them hungry (not literally) and foolish.
There are many ways to do that. An increasing number of tech companies in the Silicon Valley encourage their employees to experiment with mindfulness and spirituality to help them discover their creative self. You can try it too. Or buy them pizzas. Whatever works.
Think of your potential candidate talent pool as consisting of two segments: passive and active candidates. You already have the attention of the latter, but what are you going to do about the former?
Feed their ambition. Make them believe in the company's mission, a higher purpose that makes the company sexy and socially acceptable. Nurture pride in the company's culture. Promote your social responsibility programmes so that they empathise with what you do.
HR is converging with marketing, so you need to sketch out your company's brand and add a bit of storytelling to make its key values loud and clear. Build a digital footprint strategy and use it to convince talent that you are worth a chance.
You can create ideal candidate personas by surveying high performing employees. Ask what they are looking for and craft stories to bring more like them.
Forget about the volume of applications. It's almost irrelevant. You should go after quality, not quantity. In an era of accelerating multi-disciplinarity, the old-fashioned job description is dead. Persuade candidates to work for the company for what it is, not what they think it is. Job descriptions and person specifications could even stress the negative bits to dissuade unqualified applicants from applying.
Challenge them. Tell them what is difficult about the job, but also how it will help them develop professionally. Make them see this job as an end, not a means.You can check platforms such as Equest and Broadbean to get ideas about how modern job descriptions should be written. But no need to go into detail about specific tasks. On-the-ground training is KING these days.
As for your current employees, think about that: do they speak proudly of their jobs at dinner parties? If the answer is 'yes', you have captured the hearts and minds of a fresh generation.
If you are keen on more structured employee empowerment, consider the concept of 'Intrapreneurship': encouraging employees to come up with new ideas and projects, even at the expense of their routine activities, and allocate them resources and time to make them happen. Google is doing it. Why not you?
8. Nurture a collaborative ethos
An increasing number of managers talk about the idea of "collaborative leadership": empowering employees, encouraging them to take initiatives and above all work together in makeshift teams.
Try to build this into your recruiting procedures. Ask your candidates to work for a day as part of a team in the company before you hire them. Test their soft skills. Can they integrate? Do they have sufficient amounts of emotional intelligence? Are they adept at networking?
These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself before hiring junior employees.
Once you make a hire, turn collaboration into an inherent part of the company's culture.
Professor Lynda Gratton, a London Business School academic and founder of The Hot Spots Movement, has suggested in a famous article in Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Tamara Erickson, eight ways to enhance collaboration within an organisation. One of them is creating a "gift culture": embedding mentoring and coaching in the company's routine behaviours and procedures.
Gratton and Erickson point as an example the collaborative culture of the Finnish telecoms company Nokia.
True to its Finnish origins, Nokia has taken a relaxed, informal approach to mentoring and teamwork. When a new employee joins the company, their line manager sits down with them and lists all the people in the organisation, regardless of location, that the employee might work with. The manager provides a list of topics and then the newcomer sets up in-person or virtual meetings.
This is what Gratton and Erickson call "the gift of time": an investment that may cost work hours spent on coaching but pays back over time through better teamwork and a robust collaborative ethos.
Technology disrupts hierarchies, dress codes and borders. Even if your company is not a tech startup, try to make it feel like one. Encourage the use of file sharing, activity streams, wikis, virtual reality and emotional sensing.
This is what the authors of Exponential Organizations say:
''Exponential organisations have a flat organisation, allowing self-organising, multi-disciplinary teams and/or individual employees to operate with decentralised authority.''
Many tech companies use digital dashboards where employee metrics, feedback and even customer comments are fed in real time. This is accessible to all employees, helping them to stay on the same page.
The future is decentralised, collaborative and flat. Will you adjust?
9. Think locally, hire globally
You need skilled workers to fill critical vacancies, but they are nowhere to be found.
More than two out of three employers report acute skills shortages in their local job markets, being unable to fill critical vacancies.
Even when you finally spot the right staff and hire them, they are poached by competitors.
Well, fortunately or not, high employee turnover rates are here to stay. Even your best and most loyal members of staff one day will go, and that day may come sooner than you think. Get used to it. Prepare for the future.
Think globally. Millennials are already doing it. Hoping from one job to another, they are looking for their dream job anywhere in the world. According to a study by The Boston Consulting Group, they are much keener than their parents on trying their luck abroad. In the US, a staggering 59 percent of those aged between 21 and 30 would consider working in a foreign country.
What if you could engage and hire some of these foreign job seekers in less than 2 weeks?
There is a good reason why you should start tapping into international talent pools: they can help your business go the extra mile.
A recent study from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research shows that the more foreign employees a company has, the more productive it is, as international talent brings valuable skills and knowledge.
In the construction and hospitality sectors in the UK immigrants work two hours more than UK born workers per week. Think of that: a mere 1% of immigrant share in employment brings an increase in labour productivity of around 0.07%. Think what you can do if you increase the number of foreign workers to 30%.
But how do you engage with foreign talent?
The first thing you have to do is raise awareness your company and what it does. Find those channels that work better in your industry or broader region. If your company is based in Europe, reach out to pan-European or global talent networks like Movinhand.
The next step is to source candidates that meet your criteria and get to know them.
Test their skills and personality. You now have the tools to do this online. Companies such as Wonderlic, Duolingo, Logi-serve and Skill Survey provide loads of tests, quizzes and personality assessments.
Once you bring them in, help them feel like home. Encourage informal interaction with existing employees. That will help your company build a cosmopolitan culture, much needed in today's globalised economy.
Your competitors are everywhere: China, South Africa, Peru. What about your employees?
That's it. You are there. In charge.
You may not need to implement all these strategies at once. But even one or two will help you change the way you hire talent. Try and test, and the rest will be history.