August 15, 2003   view past issues

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Feature: Finding Rare Propsects

Despite all of the happy faces on Wall Street these days, there is precious little evidence that the projected economic recovery will return us quickly to the good old days of go-go recruiting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as hopeful as the next person that we are finally seeing the end of the malaise that has gripped most industries for the past two years. But, here’s the rub: the end of the “jobless recovery” does not necessarily mean the advent of the “job generation economy.” Why not? Because conditions have changed.

“The War for Talent,” a report published by McKinsey & Company way back in 1999, projected an epic struggle for talent among employers. That battle was caused by the emergence of two key conditions:

  • Employers would face increasingly severe shortages of workers due to a mismatch between retirements, or losses in, and new entries, or additions to, the workforce; to put it another way, supply was down.
  • and

  • Employers’ demand for labor would continue unabated, if not accelerate, due to the continuing growth of the U.S. economy; in other words, demand was up, way up.
  • These conditions had not only begun to make themselves felt in 1999, but they would impact on organizations and potentially degrade their ability to perform through at least 2020. Hence, the War for Talent was one of those rare events that could affect quarterly earnings in the near term and shareholder value in the longer term … so even CEOs paid attention.

    Will that special alignment of the stars return, now that the recession appears to be over and growth is ever so slowly increasing? Not if the causal factors cited in the McKinsey report were correct, and I believe they were. In other words, the conditions that created the War for Talent are no longer present:

  • Retirements have slowed due to the stock market decline which severely eroded the savings of many households, while the pool of candidates has swelled due to corporate staff reductions which continue to this day; to put it another way, supply is up, way up.
  • and

  • Most economists predict that the rate of growth in the U.S. economy is unlikely to exceed 2.5% per year for the foreseeable future, while the labor demand cited in the McKinsey report was based on an assumption of 3.5% annual growth; in other words, demand is down.
  • In short, the War for Talent, at least as it was originally conceived-a battle for any capable person with a pulse-is not coming back.

    The war, however, is not over; it has, instead, morphed. In its first incarnation, it was a quantitative battle that was best described as a War for Any Talent. Today, it is a qualitative conflict that is best characterized as the War for the Best Talent. As I mentioned in my last column, the key to victory in this new conflict is to source and recruit more of two kinds of workers than the competition:

  • Rare Performers, the so-called “A” level workers celebrated in McKinsey’s “War for Talent” report;
  • and

  • Rare Skill Holders, the workers who have skills that are both critical to the mission of an organization and in critically short supply.
  • Acquiring such top talent, however, requires a set of strategies and tactics that are very different from those employed in the War for Any Talent. In essence, you have to convert the best and most difficult to find performers into Rare Prospects. For example, most employers have an Employee Referral Program (ERP) that rewards employees for recommending prospects that are eventually hired by the organization. ERPs are a voluntary program, however, and don’t necessarily tap into the knowledge base of your organization’s own Rare Performers. And that talent pool-your Rare employees-is the best guide to Rare Performers elsewhere in the workforce. One way to tap into it is with a technique that I call cyber indexing; here’s how it works:

    Step 1. Conduct a focus group with your organization’s Rare Employees in each of the key career fields for which you recruit. Ask them to identify the people with whom they would most like to work … the thought leaders and innovators in their field. Encourage them to name anyone and everyone, even if they are certain the person would never leave their current employer.

    Step 2. Investigate the prospects you identified in Step 1. Enter each name into the search engine at Google ( and read what you can about their activities, accomplishments and awards. Also note their “Google Score,” the number of times they are mentioned on a document identified by the search engine. Then, begin building a file on each person and collect those records in a database. This asset is unique because it is a database of rare prospects, not a compliance-driven archive of applicants.

    Step 3. Look for “Hidden Heroes,” other individuals who are mentioned in the documents you reviewed in Step 2. These individuals may also be Rare Performers, but were overlooked by or unknown to your own employees. How can you judge whether they deserve your attention? Run a separate Google search of the Hidden Heroes by name and note their “Google Score.” If the score is relatively close to that of the Rare Performers you’ve already investigated, add them to your database. Alternatively, check with your focus group members and get their reaction to your including them among your prospects.

    Step 4. Establish contact with the Rare Performers. Obviously, it’s best to reach out to Rare Prospects at home. If your employees have the appropriate contact information, use it. If not, the following resources may help you find what you need:

  • The directories at The Ultimates ( To use this resource, enter as much as you have of the requested information about a prospect and search both its White Pages and its E-mail Directory.
  • The residential phonebook feature at Google. To use this feature, enter the following search command in the search criteria box on the Google Home Page: rphonebook: the person’s last name, the city in which they live (e.g., rphonebook: Adams, Atlanta)
  • Once you have the appropriate contact information, make a good contact. I suggest you use the “executive search” approach in your initial message. In other words, don’t send the prospect an e-mail and ask them if they want a job. Instead, note that they were identified as a key player in their field by your colleagues and then ask if you can stay in touch with them from time-to-time to tell them about developments and opportunities at your organization.

    Step 5. Continuously work at building a relationship with your Rare Prospects. Use a “permission marketing” campaign of regular, personalized e-mail to build familiarity and trust with each prospect. Such a campaign will provide information that is useful to them (e.g., about their career field or the industry) and ask for small bits of information about them in return (e.g., what are they doing now, what are the next challenges they hope to address in their career). The goal of this effort is to simultaneously pre-sell and pre-interview them one message at a time.

    Yes, it takes awhile and some effort to do that, but the only way to recruit Rare Prospects successfully is by building a relationship with them … and relationships-at least enduring ones-don’t happen overnight. What’s the return on such an investment? The higher customer satisfaction scores and performance appraisals you get back when you are able to place a Rare Prospect in your organization. The increased retention rates you achieve when your employees are able to call the best and most difficult to find their colleagues. And the increased satisfaction you feel when you have recruited not just any talent, but the rarest talent for your employer.

    Section Two: Site News

    The DaVinci Project of Upstate New York, a local consortium of 50+ companies, colleges and universities in central and upstate New York, has changed its focus from high tech and engineering recruitment to recruitment in all fields. In addition, members can now have their openings “wrapped” or automatically copied right from their own Web-site and posted on the DaVinci site and on America’s Job Bank.

    eMoonlighter has acquired the employer membership base and domain name of It will officially adopt the Guru name on January 1, 2004 and continue to provide employers with access to freelance professionals in four categories: IT, creative design work, office administration and business consulting.

    ExecuNet, a career management services company for the $100,000+ executive, announced that its Executive Talent Deamnd Index showed a 2% gain between the second quarter of 2002 and the second quarter of this year. By comparison, year-over-year demand was flat in the first quarter of 2003 and down by 17% in 2002. Those functions showing gains were Finance (4%), Human Resources (9%), Sales & Marketing (3%) and MIS/IT (15%). Those showing a decline were General Management (-13%), Operations Management (-3%), Consulting (-3%) and Legal/Regulatory (-2%)., a division of, has changed its name and expanded its focus. It’s now called and supports recruitment advertising to all healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, radiology technicians, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists.

    WEDDLE’s announces that research for its 2004 Guides has found the following sites are no longer in operation: Accounting Professionals Resource Center (,, Bank Marketing Association (,, FinCareer Global Financial Careers (,,, and

    Section Three: Site Profiles

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

    Which of the following sites would get a bad review if you were recruiting candidates for a radio or TV show?

  • Where would you probably get a decent payoff from posting a compensation and benefits manager position?

  • WorldatWork
  • If you had an opening for a Logistics Manager in your manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids, IA, which of the following sites would likely produce the best results?

  • CorridorCareers
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2003 Guides and Directories

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time/consulting jobs: Yes

    Distribution of jobs: International-USA & Canada

    Fee to post a job: $100 or less/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 14,000

    Source of resumes: Direct from candidates

    Top occupations among resumes: Social Service/Human Service professional (social work, behavioral health, mental health)

    Other services for employers: Special area for HR professionals

    Answers to Site Insite:

    1., a site for the metal forming and manufacturing industries

    2. All but, a staffing firm specializing in the healthcare industry

    3. CorridorCareers