March 30, 2006   view past issues

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Feature: A Life Cycle Recruiting Strategy

Over the past five years or so, HR professionals have been pushing to be recognized as the “strategic partners” of traditional enterprise leaders. They want HR activities (including recruitment) to be on a par-in terms of influence, budget and priority-with other corporate functions and line operating units. As the term implies, however, the only way to achieve the status of strategic partner is by defining an effective strategy and successfully implementing it.

So, what is a talent acquisition strategy? My experience is that most organizations don’t have one, at least not one that is explicit. The approach they take in going to market for talent is almost never formally articulated and, as a consequence, seldom implemented consciously. Instead, for most organizations, the recruiting strategy emerges as an accumulation of practices and procedures that … well, just happen.

Although such an approach is unplanned, it is a strategy nonetheless, for it guides and influences an organization’s performance in the labor market. If actually articulated, these strategies would likely be:

  • Fill openings as cheaply and quickly as possible.
  • Find the first qualified person with a pulse and make them an offer.
  • Justify the corporate career site and/or the applicant tracking system by requiring everyone to use them regardless of how that might affect their propensity to apply.
  • In short, the strategies emphasize efficiency over effectiveness, filling reqs over accessing top quality.

    While these approaches will certainly make the CFO smile, they will not transform HR and its recruiting function into a strategic partner in the enterprise. That position requires a strategy that confers a genuine and sustainable competitive advantage on the organization in the labor market. Such an advantage is the one sure way to win the War for the Best Talent, and winning that war is the one sure way to demonstrate that HR makes a contribution equal in importance to that of its peers in finance and marketing and line operations.

    To achieve a genuine and sustainable competitive advantage in sourcing and recruiting top talent, an organization must acknowledge the life cycle of talent and develop connections with specific individuals at each stage in that cycle. In other words, an effective recruiting strategy is a continuous process that begins before a person is hired and continues even after they leave the organization. In fact, there are five different stages in the talent life cycle:

  • The prospect
  • The candidate
  • The new hire
  • The retainee (a retained employee)
  • The alumnus/alumnae.
  • Let’s take a brief look at each of them.

    The Prospect

    Often called a “passive job seeker,” this individual is not a job seeker at all. They don’t come to employers; employers have to go after them. Equally as important, employers have to convince them to go from the devil they know-their current organization, boss, and commute-to the devil they don’t know-a different organization, boss, and commute. Making that case requires a lot of persuasion, and that persuasion, in turn, takes time. The keys to success during this stage of the talent life cycle, therefore, are timing and continuity. Employers have to begin early with individuals who are likely to become great candidates, and they have to work on those prospects without let-up until they actually do.

    The Candidate

    The talent life cycle focuses on prospects to build inventory; it focuses on candidates to fill specific openings. To access the best candidates, however, organizations must devise a recruiting process that has a single, compelling outcome: it must create an expectation that comes true. First, the recruiting process must cause organizations to develop and project a brand with the power to attract top active job seekers and passive prospects and, then, that same process must produce behaviors, information flows and interactions that make the brand real and credible. Talent is transformed from prospect to candidate by offering a better employment experience, but since it’s impossible to sample employment before it happens, the recruiting process becomes a surrogate for that experience. In other words, the better the process, the better an employer’s chances of accessing the best candidates for its openings.

    The New Hire

    Most organizations end their recruitment process with a candidate’s acceptance of their offer. For top talent, however, the process must continue in two phases: phase one covers the time between offer acceptance and the first day of work, and phase two includes all of the activities typically associated with onboarding. Phase one is critical because most of the best candidates will be working, so they will have to give notice after accepting an offer. During that two-to-four week period, they are especially vulnerable to a counteroffer from their current employer and better offers from other recruiters. For that reason, employers must stay in touch with and keep selling new hires until they actually walk in the door. And that’s when phase two begins. Employers have only one chance to make a great first impression with a new hire, and that first impression will color both their performance and their retention for a very long time. As a consequence, the onboarding process must be as thoughtfully designed and executed as the recruiting process, and it must achieve the same goal: it must make the new hire’s expectation (of their new employer) come true.

    The Retainee

    While the old adage-people join organizations and leave supervisors-remains a fact of life in most enterprises, it is not an excuse for abandoning employees to lousy leadership. Indeed, I believe it is the job of recruiters to teach hiring managers how to be CROs or Chief Retention Officers. Why? Because high attrition rates seldom get laid at the doorstep of managers; they get dropped at the feet of the HR Department, in general, and recruiters, in particular. Recruiters, however, have very little influence over the actions of new employees after the first 100 days of employment; at that point, their supervisor’s behavior plays the predominant role. So, it’s in recruiters’ (and their organizations’) best interests to ensure that the supervisor’s behavior is all that it can and should be. Ironically, that involves two of the key functions that recruiters perform all of the time: assessment and selling. In other words, recruiters have to teach supervisor’s how to assess what will make an individual feel challenged and motivated in their work and how to sell the organization’s (and their) commitment to delivering that opportunity on-the-job.

    The Alumnus/Alumnae

    With some notable exceptions, most organizations still ignore their former employees. Whether it’s the lingering effect of a 1950’s view of employee loyalty or simply a lack of resources, they source far and wide for unknown prospects and avoid a pool of prospects they know very well: their alumni who are working for other organizations (including their competitors). In today’s world of work, however, people will move from organization-to-organization to optimize their opportunity for growth and advancement. In some respects, these departing employees are exactly the kind of talent employers most want to hire: they take personal responsibility for their own development. For that reason, an organization’s recruiting strategy should also include maintaining contact and nurturing relationships with alumni, so that-after they have been honed into more capable prospects elsewhere-it can recruit them back into its organization.

    What’s readily apparent about this life cycle strategy is that it’s simple, obvious and, sadly, often ignored. While there will always be circumstances that demand ad hoc responses to staffing requirements, recruiting is most successful when it’s planned and executed according to a carefully defined and comprehensive strategy-a strategy that provides a genuine and sustainable competitive advantage.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    This Issue’s Sponsor: tinytechjobs

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of tinytechjobs.

    tiny technology. BIG OPPORTUNITIES!

    tinytechjobs is a unique global career Web-site focused on jobs in nanotechnology, microtechnology, biotechnology, and information technology. It allows job seekers free access to a large database of industry jobs and it offers employers job postings, resume database search, and effective targeted advertising opportunities. The site also contains many resources for those interested in nanotechnology.

    Visit tinytechjobs at the NSTI Nanotech Job Fair in Boston on May 8th and 9th. The job fair will allow employers to connect directly with scientists and engineers skilled in small tech. For more information, click here.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Diversity Best Practices, a membership-based organization seeking to improve diversity in U.S. corporations, and the University of Maryland published a study of diversity practices at corporate career sites. According to its findings, the industries with the best company sites in terms of diversity are:

  • Sports Best company in category: NASCAR
  • Publishing Best company in category: R. R. Donnelley
  • Telecommunications Best company in category: Sprint Nextel
  • Accounting/Consulting Best company in category: PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Banks Best company in category: KeyCorp
  • What are diversity best practices on corporate career sites? WEDDLE’s research indicates that they encompass a broad range of features, including the following:

  • A separate channel devoted to diversity candidates that is promoted on the first page of the employment section;
  • Within the channel, a range of testimonials that accurately reflect the diversity of a company’s workforce and address the key issues and questions diversity candidates have, not the party line on the organization’s commitment to diversity;
  • A detailed statement by the CEO describing the organization’s commitment to diversity and its programs and initiatives to make that commitment real; and
  • Promotion of the site and the organization on other sites frequently visited by top diversity candidates.
  • Conde Nast Traveler published an appetite reducing description of the allegedly “better” food in the first class cabin on major airlines. Called A Day in the Life of a Chicken Breast, the article notes that the morsel you are consuming was:

  • cooked 14-16 hours before takeoff
  • then, blast frozen for 2-4 hours
  • then, placed on a catering truck 3 1/2 hours before the flight
  • then, loaded on the plane 90 minutes before scheduled departure, and
  • then, reheated an additional 3-5 minutes before it’s placed in front of you.
  • The next time you pay extra to fly first class on a business trip remember this: you are eating leftovers and very old leftovers at that.

    The New York Times offered a sobering account of the challenges facing Baby Boomers as they care for aging parents. According to the article, the Society for Human Resource Management, conducted a survey in which 39% of its members said that elder care was “too costly to be feasible.” Indeed, only 1% of its members’ organizations provided any form of subsidized elder care last year. Such an outlook, however, is likely to be a penny wise and pound foolish. According to a 2004 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, the following are the consequences of ignoring employees when they have to provide more than a day per week of care for a relative:

  • 12% took early retirement,
  • 15% turned down a promotion,
  • 35% quit working entirely,
  • 38% switched to part time work,
  • 41% took a leave of absence, and
  • 83% arrived at work late or were absent during the day.
  • (Numbers total to more than 100% because workers often took more than one of these actions.) As these findings make clear, a subsidized elder care benefit-especially one that provides for backup care in the event of emergencies-is now a potentially powerful tool in recruiting and retaining top talent.

    WEDDLE’s is offering a series of training programs for recruiters and employers. Delivered by audio conference (with accompanying course materials), the topics and dates are as follows:

  • April 26th: Best Practices in Sourcing Passive Prospects Online
  • May 4th: Optimizing the Candidate Experience for Top Talent
  • May 23rd: The Sum & Substance of a Great Employment Brand
  • June 13th: Building a Corporate Career Site for Top Talent
  • June 21st: Staffing Metrics for All the Right Reasons
  • July 11th: HR Leadership-The Antidote to Management By-the-Numbers
  • All programs begin at 11:00 a.m. EST, 8:00 a.m. PST and last for one hour.

    You can take the courses individually or invite as many colleagues as you would like to listen in. Even better, the enrollment fee is priced for every budget. Just $129 per program!

    That’s hundreds of dollars less than comparable programs elsewhere. In addition, if you:

  • sign up for two programs, the fee drops to just $119 per program.
  • sign up for four or more programs, the fee drops to an unbelievable $99 per program.
  • Registration is limited, so reserve your seats now. To sign up, please call WEDDLE’s at 203.964.1888.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. Your company is facing increasing competition from firms in low-wage countries, and you need to improve productivity to respond. Which of the following sites would help rationalize your sourcing for an organizational development specialist?

  • American Management Association (
  • 2. The spring allergy season is kicking in, and you need another pharmacist for your grocery chain. Which of the following sites would offer the right prescription for a successful search?

  • 3. Your salon stores are going great guns, and you need to find cosmetologists fast. Which of the following sites would take the wrinkles out of your sourcing efforts?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories

    Post full time jobs: Yes

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

    Distribution of jobs: Regional – USA: Central Pennsylvania

    Fee to post a job: $195/posting

    Posting period: 30 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 22,900

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among visitors: Wide range

    Other services for employers: Automated resume agent, Banner advertising, Status reports: Postings/banners

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. Only; is an online OD consulting firm, serves the field of international aid and development; and does not offer a job board.

    2. All but, the site of an online pharmacy based in Canada.

    3. Only; is the site of a hair coloring and conditioning company, is the site of a dating service, and is the site of a dermatology services company.

    Support Our Sponsor: tinytechjobs

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of tinytechjobs.

    tiny technology. BIG OPPORTUNITIES!

    tinytechjobs is a unique global career Web-site focused on jobs in nanotechnology, microtechnology, biotechnology, and information technology. It allows job seekers free access to a large database of industry jobs and it offers employers job postings, resume database search, and effective targeted advertising opportunities. The site also contains many resources for those interested in nanotechnology.

    Visit tinytechjobs at the NSTI Nanotech Job Fair in Boston on May 8th and 9th. The job fair will allow employers to connect directly with scientists and engineers skilled in small tech. For more information, click here.