June 23, 2005   view past issues

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Feature: The C Strategy

Stripped of its embellishments, recruitment is an exercise in persuasion. Its purpose is to sell an employer to an extraordinary candidate. Not any candidate, not an average candidate, but a person who is among the best in their profession, craft or trade. Why? Because these “A” level performers are much more productive than their mediocre peers. According to the McKinsey & Company report called The War for Talent, they provide a 50-100% performance premium to their employers, adding significantly to sales booked, customer satisfaction, quality of output and internal morale. In other words, selling “A” level performers on the value proposition of your organization as an employer is the key to winning … not only the War for Talent, but the War for a Big Bottom Line in today’s hyper-competitive markets.

Which begs the question: how do we sell to “A” level performers? In my view, it takes an understanding of two key factors:

  • First, we have to recognize that the best and brightest have choices. They are highly valued by their current employer and sought out by other employers all of the time. To be successful, therefore, we have to “out-sell” both. We have to develop and communicate a value proposition that is so persuasive it compels top talent to buy into our employer, even in the face of all of that other competition.
  • Second, we have to recognize that consumers, but especially fickle consumers (and that’s precisely what top talent is), want a lot of detailed information about the product they are being asked to buy. And increasingly, they are turning to the Internet to find it. According to David Leonhardt of The New York Times, as people get closer to a buying decision, they switch from looking at ads on television and in magazines to conducting research online. Said another way, they move from general, emotional appeals to specific, objective information about a product’s features and benefits.
  • So, here’s the point: if we want to increase our yield of high caliber talent, we have to “out-sell” the competition with facts presented online. Where and how should we do that? I recommend the C strategy. That’s right. Use “C’s” to get “A’s.” Here’s what it involves:

    Compelling job postings. “A” level candidates are not going to be persuaded by the electronic equivalent of a three-line classified ad or by the bureaucratic language of a position description. To sell the best talent, our job postings have to act like “electronic sales brochures” and include enough information to (a) answer candidate questions before they ask them and (b) convince them to do what they don’t want to do: change (from their employer to yours). Luckily, the average commercial recruitment site will permit you to use up to 1,400 words for a job posting; that’s the equivalent of two typed pages of text. Use every word.

    Comprehensive career sites. “A” level candidates don’t visit a career site to look at jobs, they visit it to look at the employer-its culture, values, mission and career advancement opportunity. In short, they want to know whether they’ll fit in and move up in their profession, craft or trade. They’ll look at the job postings, but only if they first find the employer’s value proposition appealing. To optimize the impact of that message, (a) tailor it to the specific cohorts of the workforce that you are trying to recruit and (b) use their vocabulary, not internal corporate jargon or the language of formal business communications. Remember, your career site isn’t a memo to the boss, it’s a sales pitch to some pretty tough customers.

    Conversation. “A” level candidates hate soliloquies. They much prefer dialogues. To recruit them, therefore, we must supplement the “talking at them” we do in our job postings and on our career sites with some listening and “talking with them.” For example, you might (a) launch a recruiter’s blog on your corporate career site where you can offer a personal perspective on the culture and potential of your employer and respond to candidate comments and questions and/or (b) e-network with prospects by participating in online discussion boards and listservs that cater to your target demographic (e.g., sites run by appropriate associations, alumni organizations, and affinity groups).

    Continuity. “A” level candidates want to be wooed. They want an employer to invest in developing a relationship with them, to care enough about recruiting them to spend the time and effort they need to build familiarity, trust and confidence in your organization. To do that, you can (a) invite those who read your job postings to opt-in to a periodic e-mail communication that both provides additional information about your employer and offers tips and insights to help them advance their career and (b) promote your organization’s employment brand-its special attributes for “A” level performers-where the candidates you want to hire hang out online.

    Corrected commentary. American consumers (to include “A” level candidates) do not judge a product (whether it’s a new car or a new employer) based solely on their own observations of its merits. Instead, they are strongly influenced by the opinions of others around them. As a case in point, consider the U.S. automobile industry. Their product is now arguably as good as that produced by foreign manufacturers, but in many cases, our neighbors don’t think much of it. Your friends next door will probably gasp when a new BMW pulls into the driveway, but they’re likely to have a very different reaction when you pull up in a Pontiac. And that reality influences what consumers ultimately buy and what they don’t. It’s imperative, therefore, that employers do whatever they can to ensure accuracy in the opinions expressed about them online. The goal is not to get into a debate, but rather, to offer the employer’s side of the story whenever inaccurate or negative comments are posted online about the employer on blogs and at sites such as F_ and

    Today, out-selling the competition for “A” level performers is a core competency of business success. That’s not hyperbole; it’s reality. It is the only way we recruiters can win the War for the Best Talent, and our victory is the only way our employers can win the War for a Big Bottom Line.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. June is Random Act of Kindness Month. Do something nice and totally unexpected for a colleague. Tell them about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll remember your kindness in June and every time they read the newsletter in the months that follow.

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    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Harvard Business Review published an article entitled “What Great Managers Do” by Marcus Buckingham. One of his more interesting observations is that “average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess.” In other words, average managers treat people as if they were all the same (just as checkers are), while exceptional managers recognize their differences and apply those differences where they can be most useful and successful (just as different chess pieces are moved). While that’s a nifty metaphor and maybe even a correct observation, I think it misses a more important distinction: what differentiates a leader from a manager (great or otherwise). Managers, especially good ones, do indeed bridge differences among people. They do so, however, with process and procedures. The goal, then, is not to celebrate those differences but to minimize them; it is to eliminate the differences among the individual parts of the organization so as to optimize the performance of the whole. If you have any doubt about that, look who’s calling the shots in corporate America these days; it’s the Chief Financial Officer, the manager who reduces everything to dollars and cents. Leaders, in contrast, bridge similarities. They push a vision of shared purpose down into the organization and use that common perspective to draw out the passion, commitment and talent of all those involved. They tap into the universal human desire for purpose and meaning and use that shared individual attribute to raise the level of performance of the whole.

    iCIMS rolled out a new company image and brand to differentiate its applicant tracking solution from the competition. With the majority of its customers falling into the mid-sized corporate niche (from 1,000-10,000 employees), the firm believes it has eight distinguishing characteristics: system speed, financial strength, experience, staying power, support, satisfaction, ease-of-use, and price. As the company acknowledges on its redesigned Web-site, however, there are lots of applicant tracking systems from which employers can pick. What’s the key to success? I think it’s a very clear statement of goals-what do you want to accomplish with the system-and an optimized process-one that is re-engineered before the system is acquired. There’s nothing worse than buying a system that delivers features and benefits that aren’t helpful to you … except buying a system that automates an outmoded recruiting process. When that happens, the return on your investment is simply greater efficiency in your inefficiency.

    The U.S. Federal Reserve released new figures that confirm a tightening in the U.S. labor market. Specifically, the percentage of the population that is employed rose in May to 62.7%, the highest in 21/2 years. In addition, while the monthly payroll numbers continue to bounce all over the place, the U.S. Department of Labor’s household survey shows that employment has actually risen by 1.3 million this year. How can that be? Because a growing percentage of the population is going into business on their own. And, there’s the rub for employers and recruiters. As more and more Americans turn to self-employment, they are effectively removing themselves from the candidate population. Oh sure, some of them can be enticed to come back into the labor force, but many-and I suspect they include a disproportionately high number of “A” level performers-will simply no longer be available for you to hire. How can you protect yourself? There are many different strategies to consider, but I think a strong alumni program is a good place to start. Treat every former employee (unless separated for cause) as a future prospect. Stay in touch with them. Build a special Web-site where they can interact with your current employees. Treat them as a member of the family-an extended member, perhaps-but still someone with whom you and your organization share a connection. That tie isn’t a handcuff, but it can be as valuable as gold when you recruit in the future., a site listed in WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Directory of Employment-Related Internet Sites, has apparently discontinued operations. Its URL is no longer working. Thanks to KLS of Vericom Corporation for bringing this to our attention.

    WEDDLE’s announced the publication of a new, free periodic newsletter for employment Web-sites. The newsletter will report on Best Practices, developments, trends and news in the online employment industry. Registration is open to the owners, operators, managers and staff of job boards or career portals (i.e., sites representing commercial companies, newspapers, societies and associations, alumni organizations, affinity groups) as well as to the employees of organizations that provide products and services to those sites. The newsletter will be written by WEDDLE’s Publisher, Peter Weddle, and be delivered electronically. To register, please send your name, the name of your job board or career portal, its URL, and your e-mail address to

    Section Three: Site Profiles

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

    1. Your fitness center is expanding, and you’ve decided to add another personal trainer to your staff. Which of the following sites would add muscle to your recruiting effort?

  • 2. Your company has just relocated its testing laboratory to the East Coast, and you need to replace a Quality Control Chemist who refused to move. Which of the following sites would likely provide the ingredients for a successful search?

  • 3. Your company has decided to move into the Chinese market, and you’ve been asked to recruit a bilingual professional to lead the effort in country. Which of the following sites would translate success into failure for your sourcing strategy?

  • (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: National – USA

    Fee to post a job: $70/posting

    Posting period: 1 year

    Can posting be linked to your site: No

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: Not Reported

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among resumes: Controller, Auditor

    Other services for employers: Listserv for networking, Banner advertising, Status reports: Yes – Not specified

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but, the site of a bodybuilding resource center.

    2. All of them.

    3., the site of a German business intelligence company.

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