THE TECHNACIOUS RECRUITER NEWSLETTER

November 5, 2009   view past issues

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A Set of Master Keys in Words

Keywords are a central feature of our business day. We use them to search our resume databases and to parse through the profiles and resumes posted on job boards and social networking sites. The problem, of course, is that we pesky humans have a bad habit of using different words to express the same idea. That variability in human expression makes it difficult to know which keywords will actually identify the best candidates for each of your openings.

So, what should you do? How can you select the right keywords when there are so many competing alternatives? The answer, I think, is to create a keyword taxonomy-an annotated list of search terms-that is rich in the language of the top talent in the specific career fields for which you are recruiting. Think of it as a “set of master keys in words” that can unlock the candidate databases you are probing.

Creating such a tool is not particularly difficult. Doing so, however, is a departure from the current practice in many organizations. It involves temporarily stepping outside the press of individual, day-to-day assignments and taking a longer term view of how keywords can best serve your recruiting strategy. Here’s what I mean.

The rule of thumb in developing a list of keywords has usually been to rely on the information provided to us in a job description or requisition. The problem with this approach, of course, is that those documents are typically formulated by hiring managers-one of the least articulate populations on the planet. The terminology they provide, therefore, is necessary but insufficient to unlock the best talent in an ATS or job board database. It is a part of the master keyword set, but not all of it.

How can you fill in the gaps?

I suggest you borrow a page from your colleagues in sales and marketing and form a focus group. Such a group is only useful, however, if it is composed of the right participants. You’re trying to uncover the language used by the best talent for your openings, so your focus group should be populated with the same kind of people. And, you have a ready source of such individuals among your organization’s “A” level performers in the career fields for which you’re recruiting. They, better than anyone else, know exactly which terms their peers will use to describe their qualifications.

Top performers are usually very busy, however, so you may have a hard time breaking them free for such an exercise. If that’s the case in your organization, you can also build your set of master keywords by conducting a similar survey with your new hires during their orientation. This approach is clearly more challenging to implement, however, because you will have to base your selection of the group’s participants not on their demonstrated excellence at work, but on your judgment of how they are likely to perform once they are on-the-job.

In either case, your focus group will yield the best results if its work is conducted in three steps.

  • First, build your baseline. Ask the participants to list all of the terms they would use to describe the qualifications required for an individual to be able to perform their job effectively. These attributes can include specific skills, occupational and/or industry knowledge, prior work experience, personality and any other factors that would bear on their ability to contribute. If the group has a hard time knowing where to begin, ask them to review one or more of the keyword references that are currently available. These include Google’s Keyword Tool, which will suggest keywords based on previous Google searches; Wordtracker, an online research tool; and WEDDLE’s 3 volume set, Finding Needles in a Haystack, which lists over 25,000 keywords and keyword phrases, across 5400 job and position titles in 28 industries and professions (see below).
  • Second, restate the terms in order of their importance. Ask the group to prioritize each of their terms according to its impact on an individual’s job performance. While there may be some disagreement among the group about the placement of specific terms, encourage them to arrive at a consensus rank ordering of the overall list.
  • Third, group the terms into search baskets. The best way to probe a resume or profile database is to conduct your search in concentric circles of ever greater specificity. This approach enables you to hone in on and eventually determine a reasonable slate of the most qualified prospects in a database. Therefore, ask the group to break their list into the following categories: absolutely critical, very important, somewhat important and nice to have.
  • Those four baskets of search terms should then be added to the terms you derived from the hiring manager’s job description or requisition. If those documents enable you to do so, assign each of those terms to one of the categories used in Step 3 above. If not, the most politic course to assign them to the absolutely critical category. The resulting integrated list of search terms is your set of master keywords.

    The above process is clearly labor and time intensive so think of it as an investment to develop an asset. The product you create-your keyword taxonomy-is just such a resource. It is a state-of-the-art search tool that can be used over and over again by the entire recruiting team. No less important, that tool gives them a genuine competitive advantage because it will increase both their efficiency and their performance. It should, therefore, be password protected and carefully monitored. As with all assets, it will require updating from time-to-time, but the effort involved will be substantially less than of the original development.

    Keywords are typically viewed as one of the basic tools in our profession. For better or worse, everybody uses them so it’s easy to assume they have little or no differentiating value. When forged into a powerful asset, however, keywords can help an organization unlock talent other employers can’t reach. That’s why no recruiting team should be without “a set of master keys in words.”

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s Newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness, and so will we.


    Get WEDDLE’s recruiting bestsellers today!

    Hot off the presses, you can now order:

  • WEDDLE’s 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. This widely acclaimed guide to the Web’s 100,000+ job boards and career portals has been completely updated so you can make smart buying decisions for your organization’s online recruitment advertising.

    This edition of the Guide, our 9th, introduces an entirely new format: The Top 100, our pick of the most effective job boards and career portals on the Web, and the Best & the Rest, a directory of over 10,000 sites organized by career field, industry and geographic focus. And at just $39.95, it’s a true recession buster, as well!

  • WEDDLE’s 2009/10 Guide to Association Web Sites. The best talent are often members of their local, state, regional or national professional associations. This one-of-a-kind Guide enables you to determine which of those associations have the recruiting resources you need to connect with their members.

    The Association Guide lists over 3,000 associations by the career field, industry or location in which they specialize and indicates whether they have a job database, a resume database and/or a discussion area for professional networking. It is the only book of its kind in print and at just $49.95, it’s practically a steal.

  • How can you get these amazing resources? Click here to reach our online bookstore or call 203.964.1888 to order your copies of these truly unique recruiting guides.

    And don’t wait. Even if you’re not hiring at the moment, these books can be helpful to you. Their site profiles will enable you to pinpoint the best places online for recruiting, once the economy starts growing again. And if that takes longer to happen than you would like, these books also include useful information for a job search. So, don’t delay; get your WEDDLE’s Guides today!


    Our Featured Books

    The Da Vinci Code of Careers

    It’s no mystery to Amazon.

    The online giant is offering a 34% discount on Peter Weddle’s new book Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System.

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    Even Super Search Strings Won’t Work With the Wrong Keywords

    How can you tell search engines and computers what kind of candidate you’re looking for? Use Finding Needles in a Haystack. Just released by WEDDLE’s, this 3-volume set is the first comprehensive listing of keywords for successfully searching resume databases online and off. You can select individual volumes or get the entire set.

    Volume I

    Engineering

    Executive & Management

    Finance & Economics

    Healthcare

    Human Resources

    Sales & Marketing

    Technology

    Volume II

    Banking

    Broadcasting & Media

    Construction

    Dentistry

    Food & Beverage

    Hospitality

    Insurance

    Investment Finance

    Law

    Pharmacy

    Psychology & Counseling

    Real Estate

    Retail

    Science

    Social Work & Services

    Volume III

    Accounting & Bookkeeping

    Administration

    Advertising & Communications

    Architecture

    Art & Design

    Customer Service

    Equipment Installation & Maintenance

    Hazardous Materials

    Manufacturing

    Public Relations

    Purchasing

    Security

    Translation

    Logistics

    Writing, Journalism & Editing

    The set provides over 25,000 keywords and keyword phrases, across 5400 job and position titles in 28 industries and professions. You can order each book for $49.95 or the 3-volume set for just $139.95. As, sourcing guru Shally Steckerl put it, these books are “a rare and uniquely useful reference guide for recruiters!”

    To order your copy, please call WEDDLE’s at 203.964.1888. Don’t delay. Order today!


    Our Featured Job Board

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet.

    There are 50,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to recruiting top talent online, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the best sites for each of your requirements. WEDDLE’s 2009/10 Guide profiles The Top 100 employment sites on the Web today and provides The Best & the Rest, a listing of over 10,000 such sites worldwide. It’s all of the information you need to determine which job boards will deliver the optimum yield for you. For example:

    CareerBuilder.com

    http://www.careerbuilder.com

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes-All

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: $400+/posting

    Posting period: 30 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 28,000,000+

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among visitors: Wide variety

    Other services for employers: Discussion forum, Assessment instruments, Banner advertising, Status Reports: postings & banners

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes


    New Certification for HR Professionals

    One of the key roles HR professionals play in any organization is staff development. To execute that responsibility effectively, they must know how best to counsel employees on career issues and concerns.

    How do you acquire the expertise to do so? WEDDLE’s is proud to introduce the first-ever certification program in Career Fitness. Based on Peter Weddle’s new book, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System, this program provides all of the training and follow-up support you need to become a Career Fitness Pro (CFP) and counsel employees on both the key principles of career success in the 21st Century and the practical steps that will put those principles to work for them on-the-job.

    The Career Fitness Pro certification also offers two other very important benefits for you:

  • It will set you apart among your peers in the HR field
  • and

  • It will enhance the contribution you make to your employer.
  • In short, this certification will give you career security even in today’s turbulent workplace.

    To learn more, email Peter Weddle at peter@weddles.com or call at 203.964.1888.