March 3, 2011   view past issues

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Recruiting Non-Generational Talent

This column is the second in a two-column series which explores a contrarian idea: Rather than focusing on the differences among America’s generations, recruiters would be better served to address the similarities among the best talent across generations. (To read the first column, please click here .) This non-generational cohort of top performers is best described as “career activists.” They share a set of values which reinforce a common aspiration: Each and all of them want to be the best they can be in their profession, craft or trade.

Ironically, a large number of organizations already tacitly recognize the existence of this cross generational slice of the population. Indeed, data collected by SHRM indicate that even at the height of the last recession – when recruiters’ emailboxes were filled to overflowing with resumes – seventy percent of employers were paying hiring bonuses for top talent. They didn’t selectively choose to make such payments to one generation or another, but were instead doing so to the best talent, regardless of whether they were Baby Boomers, Gen Xers or Millennials.

Recruitment bonuses are a useful tool, but as the SHRM data make clear, not appropriate for every employer and certainly not for every opening. So, what other methods can be used to recruit this select group? Those that leverage the values they share as people who aspire to be peak performers in their field. For example:

  • They seldom look for a job. In fact they would never consider themselves a job seeker, active or passive. They are, however, continuously looking for a career advancement opportunity. For that reason, it’s important to deploy aspiration-based advertising.
  • They care deeply about an employer’s culture and vision. They won’t even consider an opening unless they are engaged by the day-to-day working experience an organization offers. It’s important, therefore, to develop an aspiration-based corporate career site.
  • They expect to be respected. They know they are among the best and brightest in the workforce and they want employers to acknowledge that fact in the way they are sourced and recruited. Hence, it’s essential to design an aspiration-based recruiting process.
  • Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.

    Aspiration-Based Advertising

    Career activists (the top performers in all generations) are normally employed, so in order to recruit them we have to convince them to do the one thing most humans most hate to do: change. We have to get them to go from the devil they know (their current boss, commute and employer) to the devil they don’t know (a new boss, commute and employer).

    Unfortunately, traditional recruitment advertising and job postings, in particular, have only half of the power necessary to produce such a move. They describe the requirements and responsibilities of a job. They provide the information a top performer needs to change devils, but not the motivation to do so. An aspiration-based job posting, in contrast, has both important information and persuasive power. It is set up as an electronic sales brochure and focuses on the career advancement aspects of the opening: the day-to-day working experience provided by the employer and the importance of the contribution the new hire will make to the organization.

    An Aspiration-Based Corporate Career Site

    Career activists are especially careful about the changes they make in the direction and content of their career. They are bombarded by recruiters offering employment opportunities, but seldom make impulsive decisions. Instead, they strive to assess each option fully by acquiring information from sources with which they are familiar and in which they have trust.

    Unfortunately, those two attributes are very difficult to establish in the rush and pressure of near term recruiting requirements. For that reason, it’s important to offer a corporate career site that provides a different kind of visitor experience. Most such sites operate as stores today; they are focused on the acquisition and processing of applications. An aspiration-based career site, in contrast, provides the same application capability for job seekers, but operates as a farm. It focuses on building relationships with career activists by providing features and functionality that will help them manage their career.

    An Aspiration-Based Recruiting Process

    Career activists are always evaluating prospective employers because they realize the importance of working in an environment that will support and advance them. A key element in their assessment is the degree of alignment between what the organization says about the work experience it offers and the reality that’s displayed during the recruiting process.

    Unfortunately, many organizations focus on the efficiency and administration of their process rather than on the caliber of the candidate experience it provides. Yet, it is that experience which determines whether a career activist will stick around long enough to be evaluated by and, if appropriate, sold on the organization. An aspiration based recruiting process, therefore, is designed to ensure that every human, technological and organizational interaction with the candidate reflects and reinforces the vision and values articulated in its employment brand. In effect, it makes the expectation created by that brand come true in the process.

    The differences among the generations are important if you’re selling them car or clothes. If you’re selling them employment with your organization, however, it’s the similarities among the best of them that deserve your attention. Aspiration-based recruitment advertising, corporate career sites and recruiting processes will ensure you reach and recruit the best, whether they twenty-two or sixty-two.

    Thanks for reading,


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