Effective recruitment strategies are critical to the long term success and growth of your company, especially when it comes to strategic hires.
And as I’ve said before, anything that has the word strategy in it is all about being blunt and accepting about what’s real with your company and its current positioning, not believing in some aspirational goal as reality. Only then can you make strategic changes.
Recruitment strategy is the reason why Manchester United needs José Mourinho* more than the “special one” needs Man U. Without the magic of his name, they won’t sign the top players they need, because top players want European Champion's League opportunities, and Manchester U isn’t in that competition.
So let’s be blunt about your recruitment approach to strategic hires. It probably sucks.
Your recruiters are your brand ambassadors, yet they typically report into an HR function with little or no knowledge of brand or strategy or communications.
Even if they are effective brand ambassadors, you simply cannot imagine the number of recruiters that that drop the ball almost immediately after speaking to a potential candidate. They don’t call back, they throw away the CV even though the candidate would be a superb fit for the next job that comes up, and frankly they’re moving so fast it looks like they’re running away from doing the simple communications things that would make the candidate want to stay in the loop.
Not only does it leave a bad taste in the mouth, but you can be sure that the candidate will tell his friends and colleagues about the poor quality of service in your HR department and consequentially assume that the rest of the company is similarly dysfunctional.
Just a single bad communication at the first step with just one relatively unknown individual will pollute the talent pool available to your organisation. Not by much if you do it once, but do it enough times and the pool becomes smaller, more stagnant and smelly. Only the desperate or the second rate will apply and sooner or later your corporate growth slows.
So who can put the brand together with the communications skills to find the candidate numbers you need?
Typically, external recruiters and head-hunters are highly conscientious and communicate very effectively both ways. Yet it’s rare to find one that is as effective a brand communicator as someone inside your own organisation. So where do you go for those strategic hires?
In one company I worked at, we needed to replace 40% of the country managers in a single year. (We had pivoted, they had not). With country managers, you have to be thinking about high-touch sourcing – this is not something that happens through job boards!
To handle that size of task, we built a funnel of potential candidates from a variety of sources over and above the usual methods. For example, I’d go listen to presenters from competitive companies at industry tradeshows. I’d watch the TV and listen to radio to hear who had the ear of the press. (One of my best hires came from watching BBC’s Click TV from a hotel room in Italy).
I also looked at social media sites to see who’s showing the passion and the knowledge. I met with divisions which had no connection with my own to find their top talent and sound them out about a move into our business.
And more to the point, I’d make the first move, not a recruiter or a head-hunter.
And while there may have been a process to go through, with HR, hiring managers, other departments, etc., all getting their lump of flesh from the candidate during the process, it remained my job to stay in the loop, offer guidance if appropriate, but mostly just be available to deliver brand consistency and some honesty about the process.
Having recruited a lot of staff this way, I can honestly say that my time was never wasted by the candidates, that the talent pool remained uninfected (even though we didn’t always offer jobs) and the brand remained strong throughout.
It also helped that the company was driven to hire for diversity. With not enough women in tech, I had to be creative just to find all the successful ones, let alone hire them.
Maybe it’s time to think how you can drive your strategic hiring processes better? It’s all well and good outsourcing the detail to HR or to head-hunters, but your team’s brand is your personal responsibility – wouldn’t you be better off owning that part of the process?
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* We could have titled this blog “A Jose by any other name would still smell as sweet to Manchester United”. Especially since Chelsea FC owns the rights to the man’s name!