The Ultimate Guide to Recruiting Top Talent

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Large or small, international or domestic, the biggest asset any company has is its people. When companies don’t have educated and talented people to design products, run the equipment, keep the books, sell the products and make viable plans for the future, even the richest companies are destined for failure.

That’s what makes recruiting so important. Unfortunately, finding good talent is expensive, as research shows that companies spend more than $110 billion a year on it. Finding good talent is also difficult. With over 300 million people in the United States alone—how do you find the right candidates for your company?

Basic Elements of Good Recruiting

The first rule of recruiting is to know what you want. Many companies simply write job descriptions, post them and then choose a candidate from whatever the cat drags in. They focus on pre-hire outcomes, such as whether they can fill the job in 30 days or get a person with a master’s degree to take a $30,000 job. Less often, they focus on post-hire outcomes, such as whether the person performs well or stays on the job for at least two years. And even less often, they evaluate a candidate’s personality for cultural fit. Good recruiting efforts target all of these things.

Work is an exchange of time and expertise in return for money, which means that good recruiting requires having something to offer. Your company’s culture is a big factor in a candidate’s decision to invest time and expertise in your company. Even in a tough economy, employment is not a one-way street in which the company is “the savior” and the candidate “needs saving.” If you can’t demonstrate that a position provides a good financial return on a candidate’s investment of time and expertise, you will have a tougher time attracting good talent.

Recruiting Methods

Once you understand what you’re looking for, there are many ways to find good candidates. Here are a few reliable approaches for today’s market:

1. Tap the Networks of Current Employees

The main idea here is that good people know other good people. So if you’ve got a superstar chief financial officer and the purchasing department needs a new financial analyst, invest extra time in probing the CFO’s network for candidates. Doing this can shorten the hiring process (no need to post a job for three weeks and then sift through 500 resumes) and can, more importantly, have better outcomes (if the CFO doesn’t put up with slackers or whiners, her network likely doesn’t contain any).

Additionally, current employees value their reputations, so they’re less likely to send a dud your way and are more likely to make sure the new employee works out once he or she is hired. In some cases, current employees can even source candidates who aren’t actively looking for new jobs, allowing you to scoop the competition (just make sure the candidate isn’t working with a Non-Compete Agreement).

2. Social Media

In the old days, searching for candidates used to take two forms: posting an ad in the classifieds section of the newspaper and word-of-mouth advertising. Those functions still exist, but the form has changed dramatically. Social media in particular is taking the recruiting and job-search worlds by storm. Three sites in particular are imperative for recruiting top talent today:

  • Facebook. This is how word-of-mouth advertising works in the 21st century. If your company has hundreds or thousands of people who like you enough to take the time to find your page and like your page, you’ve already got a built-in audience of people who might consider working for you (or at least like you enough to tell their friends). If you’d rather save your fan page for marketing promotions and brand-building, you can also use Facebook’s Social Jobs app.
  • Twitter. Twitter is a social network that allows users to share short messages, pictures and links that others can see. One of the great things about Twitter is that it is one of the few mostly “public” networks, which means that anyone can see anyone else’s tweets. Using hashtags and keywords are useful for helping Twitter users find your posts, but you can also use them to source specific candidates. Twitter lists and chats also help reach out to those prospective candidates.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn highlights professional connections among people so that they can keep track of each other’s career advancement and contact information. Posting open positions on LinkedIn puts your jobs on a searchable list that’s available to all LinkedIn users. It’s also useful to create a profile for your company and join a few LinkedIn groups if you’re recruiting because it allows prospective candidates to follow your company and learn more about what you’re looking for. LinkedIn also helps you get in touch with candidates through InMail.

3. Your Website

Your company’s website should have a prominent “Jobs” or “Careers” section for candidates to view open positions and learn more about what it’s like to work for your company. The look, feel and tone of the language on this section convey a lot about the culture. Consider sharing a photo of your current employees in order to put faces to the names and personalize the experience. It’s also very important that your company’s website is sending the right messages and is conveying accurate and thorough information about open positions and the hiring process.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, there are certain elements that a website should have to improve their recruiting efforts:

  • Effective use of color and an uncluttered design
  • Easy navigation with a few clicks
  • Information important to job candidates, such as job duties and location
  • Easy to post a resume
  • Notifications that the company received the resume
  • An explanation of the steps in the hiring process

Your website is also a way to establish credibility with potential candidates. That’s why you should always make sure that all the links work, that the process for posting a resume isn’t broken, that the confirmation emails arrive and that the application process isn’t tedious.

4. Job Boards

Job boards are today’s equivalent to placing an ad in the newspaper (which is still an option, too). It’s important to remember, however, that not everyone uses job boards. If you want to hire seniors, for example, an online-only approach may not reach your intended audience.

There is no shortage of job boards, so the key is to post on the ones that your audience is most likely to search. Some job boards, such as Monster.com, seek the broadest audience possible. Other job boards focus on geographic areas (metrodenverjobs.com, for example), specific career areas (mediabistro.com, for example) or even specific salary levels (6figurejobs.com, for example).

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of job board. Monster, for example, reaches such a broad audience that you’ll most certainly be buried in resumes. Also, you’ll have to work harder to differentiate your company from all the others on the site. If you only use local job boards, on the other hand, you might not see the perfect candidate who happens to live one state over. And posting a job only on an industry-niche site might overlook the person who has the right skill set but is in another field.

5. Recruiters

Corporate recruiters are another way to source top talent. Generally, corporate recruiters work for recruiting firms, and their job is to do the legwork of sourcing potential candidates, reaching out to them, vetting them for you and presenting you with a handful to choose from. They can save a tremendous amount of time by providing a wider pool of candidates and can also offer you another perspective on which candidates might be the best fit for an open position. However, recruiters are often expensive: a typical recruiter’s fee is about 30% of the new hire’s first-year salary.

In many companies, the only measure of good recruiting is whether the HR department gets a warm body into the position within a certain timeframe. But good recruiting involves measuring post-hire performance too: the cost of filling the position, the retention rate in that position, the new person’s performance ratings, the manager’s satisfaction with the new hire and the new hire’s satisfaction with the job. Social networks, job boards and even your company’s own website are the new standards in recruiting top talent, but for a special position, you may consider outsourcing to a recruiter.