Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.

~ A.A. Milne


It’s clear that entering into a recruiting partnership is more than a necessary evil, it deserves a place in your organization and will become one of the keys to your success. Legacy recruiting approaches may have been causing you more trouble than you could have foreseen and by now you’ve streamlined your agency relationships and cut some overhead. Now is the time to step back and examine your hiring strategy (perhaps your organization is ready bring some of the function in-house or maybe now is the time for a massive recruiting sprint) and start down the path to a faster, leaner hiring program.

Hiring both efficiently and effectively can be described as developing a talent engine. Your talent engine will have many thoughtfully designed and painstakingly assembled moving parts all working together. Once properly-tuned and calibrated, this engine powers hiring efforts with scale and precision–with less effort and more reward.

Sure, it can never reach the perfection of an autonomous system (if so, we’d be out of a job!) but with a little practice it can be both simple and rewarding to maintain. While developing a truly effective hiring strategy may eventually come to involve many iterations, they all start with the same basic parts.

To hire well you will need to address five things:

  1. Perhaps most importantly you must have an understanding of your employer brand or value proposition — WHY would someone want to work for you?
  2. Truly know what problem the person in this role is looking to solve for the company because that knowledge can take recruiting efforts to a more strategic level in order to solve the problem — WHAT problem you are looking to solve in hiring this role?  
  3. Next, and often overlooked, instead of just a job description you need a clear definition of success and a picture of what mix of skills, experience, and personality will be the right fit — WHAT does the ideal person look like?
  4. Then find the people who believe in the WHY and match most of the WHAT — WHO are you going to hire?  
  5. Finally, ensure the actual interview process is simple, measurable, and repeatable and that prospective talent comes away with a solid, positive experience — HOW are you going to hire?

No problem, right? Let’s break it down a bit.

Your Employer Brand and Value Proposition

Your employer brand (aka value proposition) is the key to being able to attract the best and brightest people to work with you. As a hiring manager, it’s completely understandable to be focused on solving your own problems, and, ultimately, people join your company based on what’s in it for them, not you. This starts at their paycheck and includes everything from your company vision to the office space, location, culture, teammates, work/life balance, management style, specific duties, the contribution they can make and so much more. You need to condense this down to an elevator pitch, and get the message out there – in your job ads, on your website career page, via sites like Glassdoor. It’s important to keep this up, to nail the value proposition through every step of the hiring process. If done right, these are the first steps to creating a community of great people who’ll come right to you.

Some great hires are achieved through sheer dumb luck — and this happens more often than anyone is willing to admit. If you don’t understand why you’re actually hiring, how can you possibly land the right people? Writing a job description is straightforward, but the boilerplate approach only captures the specific duties, experience, or requirements of the role. What’s often missing is why the position must exist in the first place, a snapshot of the challenge the ideal candidate will have to face. What’s the real reason you’re hiring? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve and what does success look like? What kind of people have succeeded in the past and what do you think it will take for someone to succeed this time? And when they do, what happens next? You can’t hire great people by just ticking off a list of requirements and calling it a job well done – you have to hire for the ability and willingness to succeed as well.  

If your message is good (that fine balance between intriguing and revealing) and out in public for everyone to see, some perfectly-qualified candidates will just dive on in. Social media, PR, company profiles on Glassdoor (or AngelList/CrunchBase/etc), good job ads, a meaningful career site, and an easy application process will all encourage candidates to flock right to you. But this is only half of the talent engine, as sometimes potential applicants deserve a little wooing.  

Even if your company brand speaks for itself, you’ll still likely need to add some sourcing to the mix. You do this by identifying and engaging with people you think can solve your problems and will be attracted by your value proposition. You need to find them, get them talking, and show them they’d be better off if they came to work for you. Actively engaging passive candidates is not easy, but it’s often how the best people are found. Help is also closer at hand than you think — if you already have great people they probably know more of the same and will be your greatest ambassadors. Leverage a referral program to get all your employees helping grow the company and creating a great place to work.

The Interview Process  — Get It Right

Now it’s time to tie it all together with an efficient interview process. You need a repeatable and measurable way to make objective hiring decisions, while providing potential employees with a way to evaluate you and your company for the right fit. This is where all your hard work starts turning into great hires – but get it wrong and you can do real damage to your brand. A bad interview process (changing interview loops, changing interviewers, misalignment on objectives, dropped candidates, etc.) can reflect a mismanaged company, even if this isn’t even the case! If it happens enough you might even ruin your ability to attract good people. Please don’t wing the interview process, this an important stage in the wooing of the candidate.

Getting it right is not easy but it can be surprisingly simple. Be organized. Communicate often and clearly. Set expectations early. Be transparent. Respect everyone’s time. Move as fast as you can. Follow up, follow through, and follow your process. 99% of hiring horror stories can be avoided right here. I can’t overstate the importance of treating candidates well during their recruiting experience. These actions and behaviors are all investments that build equity in your employment brand. They do pay off.

Manage the Candidate Flow — Be Organized

A way to manage the flow of candidates once you get the talent engine running is to invest in a good Applicant Tracking System (ATS). It can help you manage the entire process – from branding to onboarding – and keep everyone involved on track towards hiring goals. Best of all, by capturing all your data you’ll be able to measure your performance, find out where things are going wrong (and they will) and continually optimize your process.

Goals for this stage — you should know how to identify someone you’d want to hire, and how to articulate the opportunity to make it attractive to the right people. That’s half the battle right there. What you need next is a pool of candidates who can solve your problem, will fit in with your team, and would take your offer. Then all that’s left now is to get on with it. Can you hear it? the rumble of gears and whir of wheels turning as your talent engine revs up? I know I can.

Look forward to the next episode, where we dive a little deeper into the process of locating truly ideal candidates. Hint: it’s one of the most important fuels for powering your talent engine:  Research.

Posted by Jennie Ellis

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