The War for Talent: Selection & Hiring Best Practices

The War for Talent Hiring Selection Best Practices

Here’s a quick employment quiz: 
Since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, on average how many jobs each year have remained open and available to US workers?

a) 250,000 – 500,000
b) 500,000 – 900,000
c) 2 million – 2.75 million
d) 4 million – 5 million

While headlines shout about the unemployment rate, announce lay-offs and carefully track workforce participation and joblessness, the reality is that answer “d” is correct.  In the past 5 years, millions of open jobs have been out there and constantly available.  Four to five million at any given time.  True, not all are high paying corporate roles, but many are.

The underlying reasons for this are complex and will not be discussed here.  The point is this: while the public’s perception is that of an employer’s market, for many disciplines and industries just the opposite is true.  Even in a bad economy, many skilled and pedigreed employees are holding most of the cards, and they know they’re in high demand.

Hiring managers who want to attract “rock stars” need to recruit and evaluate prospective candidates as if they are in a war for talent.  To land the best, hiring managers must take decisive and urgent actions analogous to “doing battle” with other companies in competition for those same prospects.  This is particularly true for “STEM” roles (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), clinical and staff roles the healthcare sector, and those positions that help companies save money, like analysts, financial types and supply chain professionals to name a few.

Setting roles and sectors aside, some candidates are fortunate enough to have it all: a great resume of critical skills and impressive experiences, easy interpersonal skills and a high degree of likeability.  Aka: rock star.  The problem is that most of us are mere mortals who are flawed employees but somehow get the job done despite how we look on paper.  There are many, many more of us than there are of them.  The term “star” suggests something or someone who is shining, unique and rare.  Truth is, there are just not that many rock stars to go around.

In any market, the best candidates will always have options.  We’re not suggesting that your hiring standards be lowered, but if you want the best you must out-perform the competition.  You’ll need to do everything possible to increase your chances of landing the talent you want.  Slow moving, status quo, “I’ll interview when I can” selection activities will not get the job done.  No way.  Chances are that you will be out-maneuvered and out-gunned by those companies with better processes.  Being cautious and deliberate in your hiring decisions is one thing – being complacent is altogether different.

Too often hiring activities are thought of as simply another task on an already crowded desk.  Here are some suggestions for creating a sense of urgency and accelerating the hiring for your company or organization:

Re-prioritize.  Make recruiting & qualifying candidates for key (i.e. hard-to-fill) positions a temporary, “Top 3” priority for everyone involved until the position(s) is filled.

Structure the recruiting & selection campaign as a formal project.  Put someone in charge to act as project manager.  Identify team members to be involved, clarify responsibilities, create timelines and hold people accountable for follow through.

Hold your recruiting partners accountable.  Ask for metrics to be regularly reported on candidate flow, channel utilization, contacts made, interviews held and candidates presented.  If you don’t like the numbers, then ask questions.

Commit to providing feedback on resumes within 24-48 hours, with no exceptions.  If you’re uncertain as to whether a candidate is worth moving forward, ask for help or for more insight from your recruiter.  It takes experience to properly evaluate a candidate, and good ones (capable, non-rock stars) often get dis-qualified for the wrong reasons.  Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you.  Drive to a decision at each step of the way.

Consolidate steps where possible.  The “selection” part of the recruiting process is the careful evaluation of candidates after they’re sourced.  No matter how fast or well recruiters may move, things usually slow down once hiring managers are involved.  Instead of taking a week just to schedule a face-to-face visit, try picking up the phone and having a 30-minute quickie interview on the spur of the moment.  Even if not immediately available, candidates can usually find time within a day or so for a short conversation.  Instead of individual interviews, consider a panel interview; or schedule back-to-back, successive conversations all within a single day.

Keep the momentum going.  Candidates get excited at the thought of positive employment change, and expecting them to maintain a high level of enthusiasm for 10, 12 or even 16+ weeks may not be reasonable.  When an offer is finally presented, candidates sometimes do decide to stay with their own companies.  From where we sit, a long selection process is a typical characteristic of those failed campaigns.

Remember that employment evaluation is a two-way street.  While looking at candidates, they’re also looking at you.  How your organization handles prospects through hiring will speak volumes about the quality of your team, your processes, and whether or not your stage will be suitable for a rock star.  Candidates want to be wanted.  Woo them – don’t assume their complete admiration for your organization is a given.

Hiring new talent is always a risk.  Recruiting & selection is about finding prospects, collecting data and then making an informed decision about a candidate, and that candidate about your company.  In the War for Talent, hiring risk is best mitigated by organized and urgent participation, not slowness.  Caution and high standards are certainly ok but must be offset by well-defined and well-managed hiring processes.  All steps taken should aggressively culminate in a compelling and timely offer to a well-qualified candidate who is enthusiastic to join your team.

Want a rock star, or at least his manager?  Then you may need to fight harder.