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Checklist for recruiting readiness

By Aaron Green, 5/29/2007

Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek is famous for the preparation he goes through prior to a game. By analyzing charts and statistics on each player in the opposing lineup, Varitek learns the batters' tendencies and can call the right pitches to help Red Sox pitchers throw strikes.

Likewise, successful recruiters always go through substantial preparation before starting a talent search. I've compiled the following tips to improve your recruiting readiness:

Begin searching before an opening occurs - Strong recruiters know that being prepared with a ready network or database of names is imperative to success. If you build a talent pool or relationships over time (or hire a recruiter who has built up these sources) you will significantly increase your chances of attracting top performers. Developing a strong network also provides you a way to get high-quality referrals.

Have more than a job description - Having a job description is helpful, but it does not mean you are ready to begin a talent search. Before you begin your search, it's important to spend time with the hiring manager to understand exactly what profile you're looking for. For example, a manager interviewing candidates for a finance role may have a bias toward workers with public accounting experience, even if this is not spelled out in the job description. By spending time with the hiring manager beforehand, you spare yourself the trouble of recruiting otherwise qualified candidates and having them rejected during the interview process. Ideally, you should use the interview to discover not whether a candidate is qualified for the job, but whether his or her personality fits in the role. In order to reach the point where your company can use interviews this efficiently, you'll need to ask questions of the hiring manager, talk through key points and develop a rapport with him or her.

Make sure your compensation stacks up - You will save yourself heartache later if you evaluate the compensation and benefits being offered for the position before speaking to candidates. Spend some time comparing the proposed salary to salaries for comparable positions in the industry to make sure that your company is poised to offer compensation that is competitive and commensurate with the job responsibilities and requirements. If you don't feel the salary matches the job description, make adjustments now. I don't need to tell you that there is no point in bringing in a qualified candidate only to have him or her reject your offer as out of step with the marketplace.

Formulate your strategy - The same recruiting strategy will not be effective for each job search. Depending on the types of candidate you are recruiting and circumstances under which you have to make the hire, you will have to decide where to advertise your job opening, which industry or recruiting events to attend and whether there are any other recruiting tools you can use. Ask yourself:

  • What type of talent are you trying to recruit? Do you need to fill a position as fast as possible? If so, you should be looking for "active" candidates who are currently pounding the pavement or a "magnet" hire, someone who would bring along, or attract, other new employees. Conversely, if you need to bring in a top performer, your recruiting strategy might include going after "passive" candidates who aren't currently seeking a new job.
  • Are you looking for experienced candidates or someone who can be trained? Would it make sense to try someone out in a temp-to-hire capacity? With this understanding, you'll know whether it's more important to find someone with the right skills, contacts and experience or a candidate who is a strong cultural fit with the right personality.

Define your interview process ahead of time - Many of the missed opportunities that occur during the recruiting process can be eliminated if the recruiter has defined the recruiting process ahead of time. Does the candidate need to be approved by two people or six? When a new hire has to be approved by multiple people, make sure to have each of those people meet with the applicant within a reasonably short period of time and also take the time to explain your company's decision making process to applicants. Too often, moving slowly or changing the decision-making process in the middle of the search will cause your candidates to lose confidence. A candidate once came to me after having gone through numerous rounds of interviews at a company he really hoped to work for. The hiring managers weren't clear about who had the ultimate decision-making authority and they kept adding delays to the recruiting process. The candidate ended up taking a position with a competitor primarily because the competitor had a more efficient hiring process.

Establish a team approach - While they can be effective, you don't need a formal referral program to get great referrals. Educate your current employees about identifying talent and stimulate interest in joining the organization. But, when seeking referrals, don't stop at your employees: involve contractors, vendors, employees' families, former employees and even customers in the recruiting process. Let this large network of people spread information about your company, the work culture and career opportunities.

Maintain solid, up-to-date marketing materials - The best laid recruiting strategy will fail if your proof-points don't measure up. Take a look at your company web site, for example. Does it provide accurate information and help sell the company as a great place to work? Does it have updated information about current job openings? Corporate web sites are the first places candidates look to research potential employers; would yours attract top talent?

Keep an eye on the competition - As in other areas of the business, your competitors' activities can impact your recruiting strategy. If you end up using the same strategies and tools that everyone else is using, you should expect approximately the same results as everyone else. Instead, work to stay a step ahead of the competition; look for new places to build your referral network and find new sources of candidates that your competitors haven't found. Remember, when it comes to talent acquisition, you aren't only competing with companies in your industry. For instance if you work in the pharmaceutical industry and are looking for a sales manager, your competition is not just the pharmaceutical industry but all companies that might want a sales manager.

Doing your homework and developing a recruiting strategy before you start talking to applicants will make your recruiting efforts more successful. Following the suggestions mentioned above can help you identify, recruit and hire top talent faster and more efficiently.

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