On Becoming a Great Recruiter, Part 3

Finding great active candidates isn't an impossible dream

We're into the third week of our eight-week program on becoming a top 10% recruiter. Aside from reading the two previous articles, there were four other things you had to do to get to this point: 1) take the online recruiter diagnostic to see where you are today; 2) email me lou@adlerconcepts.com about the biggest change you need to make to become a better recruiter; 3) sign up for a comprehensive survey and 4) begin tackling the reading list presented in the previous article. Now you're ready to find some top candidates.

The recruiting and hiring process can be divided into three basic categories: attraction, assessment, and acceptance. These are the three big As. What some people fail to recognize is that you must be good at all three to have great hiring results. Being great at one or two and weak in the third will result in failure.

On the other hand, you don't even need to be great at all three: Being good enough in all three can provide great results. Good enough is good enough. What a lot of HR and organizational-development people and other so-called experts fail to see is that hiring top people is a three-part system. For example, sometimes a great assessment tool can minimize the number of top people who apply because the tool is boring or demeaning. A behavioral interview or competency model actually might be useful, but not if managers find it too cumbersome to use or if candidates can game it.

Designing subsystems that defeat the objective of the main system is called suboptimization, and it's a common problem that good recruiters have to fight every day. The underlying theme of this eight-part series is to give recruiters the tools to deal with the bureaucrats who forget that the real objective is hiring great people every time.

In this week's session, we'll focus on the attraction piece: what it takes to find top people who might actually use the Internet, job boards, and career websites to look for jobs. While it shouldn't be your dominant focus, sourcing active candidates should represent about 25-35% (resume databases and advertising) of your total sourcing efforts.

This is shown in the following chart.

Total Candidate Pool by Major Sourcing Channel

  • Internal candidates:15-20%
  • Active. Resume database and pipelines:10-15%
  • Active. Online or print advertising and career website targeting active candidates: 15-20%
  • Passive. Employee referrals targeting passive candidates: 35-40%
  • Passive. Advanced sourcing of passive candidates, including the use of third-party recruiters: 15-20%
Success sourcing active candidates using advertising or resume database-mining techniques is dependent on good marketing in combination with effective technology. First, let's divide the active candidate pool into two big groups: good active candidates and not-so-good active candidates. Good active candidates are those you want to hire. Unfortunately, these good people don't use the job boards and the Internet to find jobs the same way the not-so-good people do. So, you'll need to design your active sourcing programs to meet the needs of the good people.

Here are some basic characteristics you'll need to consider:

2 Types of Good Active Candidates

Those who are fully employed and whose jobs sometimes get frustrating. When their jobs do get frustrating, they'll look for a better job for an hour or so on an infrequent, but regular basis. When they look, they are quite impatient, since they need to get through long lists of possible jobs very quickly. Knowing this, does your process address this type of candidate's need for speed?

Those who are fully employed, but underemployed. Their jobs might not be fulfilling or growing at a fast enough rate. During certain soul-searching moments, these strong people decide it's time to move on and they begin a low-key search. When they do look, though, it's for both a better job and a better career. Similar to their Type 1 counterparts, they look on an infrequent and irregular basis, yet, while they're impatient when looking, they'll deliberate longer before deciding about getting serious. To meet their needs, your career opportunities should be easy to explore and evaluate without making much of a commitment. Does your process allow for this?

I call these two types of active candidates the "sourcing sweet spot." The key to successfully hiring these great people is to design your active sourcing channel strategy around their needs — not your IT or applicant tracking system needs, or your lawyer's needs, or your administrative needs.

To attract and ultimately hire these great people, here are the most important factors you need to consider.

  • The quality of the ad. If you take the advice of your direct marketing team, you know that you have only 30 seconds to capture the attention of these less active candidates who are more discriminating buyers. This means the title of the ad and the copy — particularly the first few lines — must stand out. Email us if you'd like a sample ad for an account manager which does both. The title is "Wild and Crazy Account Manager." Who could resist reading this if it was one of the top six ads on any board? As part of your resume database efforts, you should send this type of compelling job ad to everyone who's in the ballpark. Ask if the person is interested and, if so, have the person send in a new resume with a half-page write-up of a major job-related accomplishment. Make it easy for the person who is not interested to send a referral. If the ad is compelling enough, you'll get a few.
  • Use some type of web analytics tool to track your ad response by every page. Talk with your web person to set this up for you. Your marketing department already uses something like this, so just tap into its subscription. Some of the following points require the use of this type of analytical tool.
  • The number of people who see the ad. If top people can't find your ad, it really doesn't matter how good it is. To get this part right, you need to reverse engineer every ad you write to see if a less active candidate can find it. Type in the title, keywords, the location, and the word "jobs" into Google or Yahoo, or use the "Search for Jobs" tool at Indeed, JobCentral, or Jobster (job aggregators) to see if your posting appears. If it doesn't, figure out what it takes to get to the top of the list and then make sure you get there. (By the way, I just did this for a few Java and J2EE jobs in Dallas and was underwhelmed by the quality of the copy and titles that showed up.) This represents an enormous opportunity for a creative company to find some great people easily.
  • The number of people who read the ad. You must track how many people click the ad and actually read it. If the 43 companies who were on the top of the listing actually did this, they would quickly realize how boring their jobs are. They only appeal to the non-best candidates in the active pool. These are people who aren't discriminating and just want any job. Do your job descriptions jump out and say "read me" to discriminating active candidates who are looking for better jobs and better careers? This is an easy fix — and an important one. Even passive candidates will eventually read this online job description, especially those who are part of the employee-referral program.
  • The number of people who start applying and actually finish. Great ad copy isn't so great if no one applies. If a lot of people read the ad, but few apply or finish applying, it means your application process is flawed. As a test, you should personally apply for one of your company's jobs. Process bottleneck problems will quickly be revealed. Generally, it usually takes too long or the knock-out questions are demeaning, or there are too many questions. Also, get the reaction of those that have already applied. Then, start fixing the problems that prevent the best less active people from applying. Don't forget this is your ideal target audience, so don't come up with some bureaucratic excuse as to why you won't change.
  • The quality of the people who apply. Up to this point, all you're doing is fixing the basic stuff and getting into the game of hiring some top people who are less active. Now we need to get serious. You'll need to start tracking the sources of the best less active candidates. Build a matrix that compares job boards by position by quality. Within a few months, you'll know which sites and boards are best for every position.
  • Reengineer your career website. You should do everything described above for your career website. Your company career website should be your primary less active candidate sourcing tool. So if your jobs take too long to find and/or your ads are boring, you are eliminating a great source of good people. Worse, passive candidates who have been contacted by your recruiters or your employees as part of an employee-referral program will generally go to your website to see if the jobs are any good before applying. If they can't find them and/or they're boring and/or it's hard and/or demeaning to apply, many won't.
Collectively, this is nothing more than generally accepted direct marketing concepts applied to recruiting, so it's not rocket science. Unfortunately, too many recruiting managers want to skip the basics and implement one of 20 other great, surefire ways to solve their sourcing problems. You'll do a lot better when you go back to basics.


By Lou Adler, reprinted with the permission of Electronic Recruiting Exchange
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
For more five star recruiting tips, click here.