May 15, 2004   view past issues

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Feature: Time is the Key to Recruiting Top Prospects

With business picking up and top talent increasingly hard to find, corporate executives are finally reawakening to the importance of recruitment. While that’s a happy development for those of us in the recruiting field, it is also a challenge. Greater priority means increased visibility, but not necessarily increased budgets or support. To take advantage of this more favorable situation, we must be able to sell our executives on the one resource we’ll need to do our job. We must find a way to help them understand what it takes to recruit the best talent or risk being unable to do so even as they pay more attention.

The first theater of the War for Talent taught us that the best talent cannot be sourced on an ad hoc basis. Waiting until an opening actually exists before beginning to recruit candidates for employment is an outmoded and ineffective strategy. It is an artifact of a surplus labor market that no longer exists … except, perhaps, among mediocre performers and those with obsolete skills. To recruit the best prospects in the workforce-rare performers and those with rare skills-you have to identify them early and woo them continuously.

That’s the lesson we must clearly and convincingly convey to corporate executives today. The key to success in recruiting top talent is time. Not a little of it, but a lot of it. There is simply no short cut to the process because those who have plenty of job opportunities from which to choose don’t make snap decisions or rely on the advice and exhortations of strangers. They expect recruiters to earn their confidence and trust or, to put it another way, to invest the time required to build a relationship with them. That’s the only way they can be convinced to do the one thing that people most hate to do: change. In effect, we must convince top talent to go from the devil they know (their current employer) to the devil they don’t know (our employer and its opportunity). It’s a feat that simply cannot be accomplished on the spur of the moment.

To be successful in the rapidly emerging War for the Best Talent, therefore, we must acquaint executives with that fact and show them what they must do to give us the time we need. In short, we have to tell them how we’re going to get started early on the sourcing and recruiting of the best prospects and what it will take in the way of support to do so.

I call this process of preparation “pre-cruiting.” It involves forecasting recruiting requirements in advance of actual staffing needs so that three key tasks can be accomplished:

  • enough of the best prospects for each expected opening in the enterprise can be identified and sourced,
  • enough data can be acquired from those prospects to pre-qualify them for the openings, and
  • enough information can be provided to the candidates to pre-sell them on the organization and its employment opportunities.
  • The goal is not to forecast open positions, but rather, to determine how many top people we must begin to build relationships with now in order to have enough of those quality prospects to fill our openings in the future. Acquiring that inventory is the secret to winning the War for the Best Talent, whether your strategy involves doing the sourcing yourself or turning it over, in whole or part, to a recruitment advertising agency or a staffing firm.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: most organizations have little or no workforce planning capability, so just where are these recruiting forecasts going to come from? I acknowledge that expecting hiring managers to provide such information is the stuff of fairy tales, so pre-cruiting adopts an alternative approach. It is based on the simple premise that the future looks a lot like the past. In other words, your organization’s staffing needs next year will not be dramatically different from those last year. While this approach clearly won’t afford you perfect predictability, it’s certainly good enough to help you with two important challenges:

  • it will give you the data you need to establish the business case for your receiving additional resources (budget, staff or some combination of the two) over and above that required for filling the openings you have now, and
  • it will give you the lead time you need to invest those resources and thereby find and build relationships with the top talent you will likely have to select and hire in the future.
  • How does this pre-cruiting forecast work? First, it’s based on a formula that uses only data you have or can acquire. Second, the calculations within the formula do not require a super-computer to complete or an MBA to understand. In fact, you can roll up the requirements calculations for an entire corporation on a simple spread sheet. And third, the entire process can be easily updated as events unfold and workforce needs firm up.

    The formula looks like this:

    Projected requirements for a given skill category =



    NRLY = Last year’s recruiting requirements in that skill category generated by new openings

    ARLY = Last year’s recruiting requirements in that skill category generated by attrition

    ARTO = Your acceptance rate among top talent in that skill category to whom offers were made last year

    The following example will illustrate how it works. Let’s say that, last year, you recruited 10 C++ programmers for new openings, had an attrition rate of 20% among all C++ programmers in your organization, and achieved an acceptance rate of 30% among the C++ programmers to whom you made offers. Therefore, the total number of top performing C++ programmers with whom you must build a relationship is 40 or (10 + 2)/0.3. That’s the inventory you must acquire today in order to deliver ten new hires and replace two former hires in the future … if you want those employees to be the best in their field.

    Some of that inventory may be available in your current candidate database, but even if it is, you must still use the time you have until the openings occur to woo those and other, new prospects effectively. In essence, the purpose of forecasting recruiting requirements is not resumes, but relationships. It’s about investing the effort to build confidence and trust with the quality candidates you’ll need to meet your organization’s staffing requirements and the expectations of those reawakened executives.

    Thanks for reading,


    This Issue’s Sponsor: Dice

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

    Give Dice a try with our FREE job posting offer!

    Dice is where you will find the best tech candidates available.

    But don’t just take our word for it …. Try Dice for yourself – at no risk. Click here today!

    The Free Job Posting offer is available to first time customers only, posting jobs by May 31, 2004.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Clark Consulting (NYSE: CLK), a human resource consulting firm, polled 357 executives at public companies to see just how much they would have to be paid in order to accept an offer of employment from Le Donald, as in Donald “You’re Fired” Trump. It’s hardly science shattering research, but the results are interesting, especially for those of us who aspire to be effective leaders. They were:

  • Will work for free 8% (Some people are just gluttons for punishment.)
  • $50-100,000 10%
  • $101-250,000 17%
  • More than $250,000 32%
  • He doesn’t have enough money. 33%
  • As I see it, this is proof positive that most people intuitively understand the truth behind the old adage: “Talent joins organizations and leaves supervisors.” Make sure your managers aren’t behaving in a way that will hurt the ability of your organization to attract and retain the talent it needs.

    Dice released the results of its 2003 Annual Salary Survey. According to the study, tech salaries recovered last year to their highest level since 2000, up by 2% overall and by 4% in the government and defense sectors. In addition, for the first time since before the late, unlamented recession, the pay gap between men and women in IT narrowed to 11%. The gender gap varied considerably by industry, however, with Internet services the best at 3% and the medical and pharmaceutical field the worst with a 19% pay disparity between men and women. So what’s the lesson we should draw from these findings? As the War for the Best Talent heats up, winning will involve much more than recruiting activity; it will also depend upon effective human resource leadership, and a key component of that is ensuring equal pay for equal work among all employees. Without that fundamental component of fairness, your value proposition as an employer will turn off at least half of the best talent in the market.

    National Association of Colleges & Employers released its Job Outlook 2004 Winter Update Survey. It found that 17.4% of respondents only accept employment applications online (and another 11.4% plan to adopt that strategy)-the equivalent of saying that the employer’s convenience is more important than the preference of any customer (or, in this case, top talent), while 53.3% say they have no plans to accept applications online-the equivalent of living in the world of business circa 1950. The best and brightest are hard to recruit at any time, so if you’ve written a good enough job posting to attract their interest, why wouldn’t you take their application any way they want to convey it … by Internet or mail, or by fax, paper airplane or the pony express?

    Research and Markets published the results of its latest call center report. If you have any doubt about the growing trend of offshoring consider that there are now over 350 call centers operating in India; 78% of their traffic goes to the U.S., the rest to Europe. Of the centers in operation, 103 provide customer care, 100 provide Web sales and marketing, 81 provide billing services and 70 provide telephonic sales. Some of these centers are captive units of such companies as GE, British Airways and American Express, while others are third party providers. The key driver in this move offshore, of course, is cost savings, but beware the hidden costs … in morale and corporate stature at home and in hard costs for integration, management and training overseas.

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that a worrisome number of returning Reservists and members of the National Guard are suffering from readjustment problems upon their return from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this condition has clear warning signs; they include personality changes (such as irritability, anger, anxiety or withdrawal), tardiness or absenteeism, trouble completing work on time, conflict with co-workers, increased accidents or close-calls, a drop in motivation or performance, and evidence of alcohol or drug abuse. How can you help veterans reenter your workforce effectively? First, provide each with an individualized reintegration plan that is tailored to their wishes and needs; second, make sure they are aware of the private, personal support resources your employer offers (e.g., an Employee Assistance Program); and third, sit down with their supervisor and brief them on the warning signs of a possible problem and on the assistance they and the company might provide.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

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

    1. Need an experienced pediatric nurse for your hospital in Boston? Which of the following sites would keep you from singing like a nightingale?

  • 2. If your insurance agency needs an experienced salesperson, which of the following sites would be a risky source for candidates?

  • 3. You need a list of candidates for a new tech writer position in your product support team; which of the following sites would leave you holding a blank page?

  • Society for Technical Communication (
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories


    A WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award Winner

    Post full time jobs: Yes

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

    Distribution of jobs: National: USA

    Fee to post a job: $301+/posting

    Posting period: 30 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: No

    Number of resumes: N/A

    Source of resumes: N/A

    Top occupations among resumes: N/A

    Other services for employers: Banner advertising, Status reports: banners

    Answers to Site Insite

    1., the site of a neonatal and maternal-fetal physician services group in Florida.

    2. None of them; they all would support your requirement.

    3., the site of a creative services company.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: Dice

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

    Give Dice a try with our FREE job posting offer!

    Dice is where you will find the best tech candidates available.

    But don’t just take our word for it …. Try Dice for yourself – at no risk. Click here today!

    The Free Job Posting offer is available to first time customers only, posting jobs by May 31, 2004.