September 13, 2005   view past issues

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Feature: The Tipping Point in Recruitment

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, you know that in certain human endeavors there comes a point when the future course of events is decided. That point occurs when a critical mass of influential factors is reached, and the ensuing events are tipped in one virtually unstoppable direction. While Gladwell focused his book on product marketing, I think it holds an important message for recruitment, as well.

The typical recruitment ad includes a range of information that describes the responsibilities of a particular position and the capabilities required of a person in order to be able to perform it. It includes such facts as:

  • the type of work that will be performed,
  • what is expected of the person in performing the job,
  • the skills and competencies necessary for successful job performance, and
  • the type of person the organization wants to hire.
  • All of that information is vital in describing the employment opportunity to candidates. It does not, however, reach the tipping point for selling them on taking it. It informs them, but does not persuade them. It doesn’t induce them to make a change. And that’s precisely what an ad must do in order to recruit the best talent.

    There are two truisms about the “A” level performers that we most want to recruit for our organizations. They are almost always employed, and they are passive shoppers for new employment opportunities. Therefore, a recruitment ad can only be successful if it convinces them to do the one thing that humans most hate to do: change. It must activate them to go from the devil they know-their current employer, boss and commute-to the devil they don’t know-your employer and a new boss and commute.

    How can we reach that tipping point in our ads? A 2003 study by the Recruiting Roundtable points the way. It determined the percentage impact various factors would have on changing the behavior of employment prospects. In other words, it found which factors would most likely influence passive shoppers to become active consumers of an organization’s employment value proposition. Here are the results:

  • the type of work that will be performed-4.5%,
  • what is expected of the person in performing the job-12.4%,
  • the skills and competencies necessary for successful job performance-2.5%,
  • the type of person the organization wants to hire-13.0%, and
  • the day-to-day experiences a person will have as an employee-19.1%.
  • In other words, describing what it will be like to work in your organization is 4 times as powerful in inducing a change among employment prospects as describing the type of work to be done. Does that mean that information about the job is unimportant in recruitment advertising? Of course not. It means, instead, that an “A” level prospect looks first at the whole of the employment value proposition. Why? Because they are (and will be) offered lots of great jobs during their career. The tipping point for them, therefore, is a two-fer: a great job with a great employer.

    Equally as important, the study also determined that this one factor-the employment experience-was especially important for “A” level performers. While “C’ level performers required a persuasion level equal to just 9.9% to accept a new position, “A” level performers were unlikely to move until a persuasion level of 20% had been reached. That’s why a traditional “responsibilities and requirements ad” (i.e., one that details “the type of work to be performed” and “the skills and competencies required for successful job performance” will work for mediocre talent, but doesn’t have sufficient selling power for the best and brightest.

    So, how do you incorporate the employment experience into your recruitment advertising? The following suggestions will get you started:

    Make culture a central element of your advertising message. The average commercial employment site will accept job postings as long as 1,400 words or more. Use that space to describe the work environment and values of your organization as well as the specific opening you are trying to fill.

    Provide employee testimonials on your organizational Web-site. These testimonials should cover a cross-section of occupations, levels of experience, ethnicity and age. They should include both a picture of the person as well as a description of their workday in their own words. And, the testimonials should change every year to reflect the diversity of perspectives and talent available in your organization.

    Make “A” level performers the public face of your organization. Videotape top workers talking about the experience of working for your organization-what they get to do, what they get to achieve, what they get to learn, whom they get to work with. Then, bring those vignettes to career fairs and on campus recruiting trips, and play them constantly.

    Provide a “What it’s like to work here” chat or blog on your organizational Web-site. While this feature can be implemented by a recruiter or a member of the HR Department, it’s likely to have greater impact-at least on “A” level prospects-if the author is their peer. Its purpose is not to present the party line or the organization’s compensation and benefits policies, but rather to paint a picture of the workday-its challenges, opportunities, camaraderie and even its imperfections.

    Create a brochure illustrating a “Day in the Life of ….” For those that don’t have a Career area on their organizational site (or can’t easily add interactive features to a site controlled by the IT Department), this publication can be the next best thing. Make sure that it’s written in colloquial English and not organizational jargon and that it provides an honest and candid picture of a “typical” employee’s workday. Include the brochure in all of your application materials and recruiting packets and make it available for select employees to hand out as they interact with peers at professional and business meetings.

    Winning the War for the Best Talent requires that we reach the tipping point for “A” level performers. We have to provide the information and insight that will overcome their passivity and activate their conviction to work for our organizations. The single factor that reaches that high bar of influence is the nature of the experience they can expect to have on-the-job. Make that irresistible, and you’ll recruit more than your organization’s fair share of the best talent.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and benefit from your recommendation.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: NETSHARE

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of NETSHARE. is a confidential subscription based career site for the $100K+ executive. Members have access to thousands of verified jobs posted directly by the recruiter or hiring manager. A leader in providing networking forums, NETSHARE enables members to participate in an exclusive community of senior executives. Recruiters and companies can post your executive jobs for FREE. In addition to recognition from FORTUNE, CareerXRoads and others, NETSHARE has been chosen as the “Best Site” for executives by Forbes in their Best of the Web awards for the past six years.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    AfterCollege, Inc. introduced an On-Campus Outreach service to help employers optimize the results of their campus visits. The new service, which was field tested last year, taps into AfterCollege’s university network in order to promote campus visits by a company; it includes event registration and attendance tracking capabilities.

    The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers launched a job board to connect employers and recruiters with candidates experienced in engineering and technology for biological, food and agricultural systems, including the association’s 9,000 members. A 30-day posting runs $250, and discount packages are available.

    Latino Hire announced the launch of its site for nonprofessional job seekers in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Employers’ and recruiters’ postings are automatically translated into Spanish and redistributed via a weekly print publication in the City’s Hispanic communities. Currently, jobs can be posted for free. Its modest start, notwithstanding, the site has very big aspirations. Its goal? To become the craigslist of the world’s Hispanic population.

    Net-Temps introduced advanced search features for its resume database. The new functionality enables recruiters to toggle back and forth between the site’s database, a second database of archived resumes, and resumes stored in the recruiter’s own candidate management system. In addition, the Boolean keyword search capability of the database has been strengthened and the time required to process a search has been shortened. came online to serve energy industry employers and recruiters seeking workers in the fields of architecture, construction, engineering, operations, geology and geophysics, project management, safety, science, service, and transportation. The site is owned by PennWell Corporation which also operates Oil & Gas Journal Online and other energy-related Web-sites.

    People IQ released the results of a recent study of corporate performance appraisal systems. It found that only 13% of workers and managers feel their employer’s performance appraisal system is useful. Their complaints? The systems do not sufficiently differentiate between high and low performance, they are cumbersome to complete, and they don’t deliver meaningful feedback. I’d agree with the criticism, but it’s not the performance appraisal systems that are at fault; it’s the people using them who are. A performance appraisal system is only as good as the leadership support it gets. That begins with the CEO (a) modeling the correct use of the system with his or her direct reports and (b) making its effective use one of the measured factors in the performance appraisals of those leaders and their subordinate managers and supervisors. Performance appraisal is one of the keys to successful talent management, and that makes it a leadership responsibility, not a process or technology issue., the military-related Internet job board exclusively endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), is permitting any company with jobs available in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina to post jobs for free for the next 90 days. These postings will be open to the public so that anyone searching for employment in the affected counties will be able to apply. The site’s resume database will continue to be limited to veterans, transitioning military and their family members.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

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

    1. Your organization has been tapped to deliver supplies to the areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina, and you need to find experienced truck drivers fast. Which of the following sites would put the brakes on your search?

  • 2. Your company’s Controller has just quit, and the CEO wants you to find a replacement who has a CPA. Which of the following sites could you count on for help?

  • 3. The IT Department has decided to upgrade your company’s CRM system and will need another Oracle database administrator for the effort. Which of the following sites would enable you to predict success in finding top prospects?

  • (answers below)

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

    Career Resource Center

    Association for Computing Machinery

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – Part time, Contract

    Distribution of jobs: National-USA

    Fee to post a job: $240-$300/posting

    Posting period: 90 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 75

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among resumes: Engineering, Information Technology, Professor

    Other services for employers: Automated resume agent, Banner advertising, Status reports: postings

    Answers to Site Insite

    1., the site of a company selling accessories for trucks, cars and trailers.

    2. All but, the site of a private CPA firm.

    3. All but, a job board serving those looking for a job in a country or city whose name begins with the letter “o”-I kid you not.

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