“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi


It’s the dream – you get lucky, the first applicant happens to fit, and you have your first hire. Simple and clean, often one and done. While I’ve only heard about these slam dunk hires a few times, I often wonder if it’s really a worthy prize at all. No doubt there’s a lot to love: the hire was cheap, the role is filled and checked off your to-do list, everyone is happy and on to their next project. Everyone except that little nagger in the back of your mind always knocking, asking if you got the best person for the job. I hate it, especially because it might be right, and that plagues me.

Whether you’re a recruiter or a hiring manager, I believe that in order to feel great about closing a requisition (without all those pesky what ifs) you want to have the confidence that you looked under every rock to find the best person for the job. So how do you do this? And fellow recruiters, how do you move past being a mere order taker and become a curator of a very full list of potential great hires for now and beyond? The answer lies in research. Well executed and strategic research which better serves the client and the end goals.

Research is a key element of elevating recruiting practices. Ask any marketing, sales, or product leader – they spend a great deal of time, money, and mindshare learning more about target customers and their buying patterns, as well as researching the competitive landscape and analyzing why they won their last deal or not or why the product launched well or not. Sound familiar? Probably not – that type of in-depth research is one of the first things to get tossed out the window in the life of a busy recruiter, yet it’s a very significant piece of how we can up our game and elevate the profession as a whole.

We have two fulltime Researchers on staff at Recruiting Bandwidth. Most customers marvel at this, but there’s a reason for it. When we go (or more correctly, allow ourselves to go) deep “down the rabbit hole”, as my most Senior Researcher often does, we learn more about the candidate pool. We discover where the best people may work or live and we can think about what might get them to consider our opportunity based on prior professional decisions they’ve made. We look at the trends in knowledge and experience accumulation, we research why people make the decisions they do regarding their career and their skillset. Whether you’re a hiring manager or a recruiter, all of this is golden information for all the steps that follow finding great people, including what we may say when we reach out to them and why they might want to work for our company or the one we are representing.

When it comes to searching for these candidate patterns it pays to start with the great hires your company or client has already made. Spend time with all the best employees in the company, pick their brains and figure out both what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night. It could mean a pattern around colleges or degrees and personal projects that meld perfectly with the company’s product. It could also mean a pattern around the best competing companies that are known for producing great engineers, or just the opposite – horror stories coming from places and situations you might never consider. You might find the best employees have an interesting mix of working in different verticals, or that they’ve proven their versatility in both big companies and scrappy little startups.

If you believe that history predicts the future, then why not invest in researching your best hires? For you fellow recruiters, hiring managers will love knowing that you truly are their talent scout, looking under every rock, paying attention to every success pattern to hopefully achieve more predictable success for them and the company. Beyond your standing with the hiring managers, there’s a sense of fulfillment in gathering and possessing data relevant to your industries, one that can talk back to that nagger that lies between your heart and your head and say, with confidence, “Yes, I did find the best person for the job.”

Next week we tackle a topic a little closer to the hearts of both recruiters and hiring managers: candidate engagement, the make-it or break-it danger zone of the recruitment process. I’ll talk about engaging your audience, building candidate communities, and setting yourself apart from legions of competing recruiters.

Posted by Jennie Ellis

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