Creating a world-class talent acquisition effort that incorporates cool recruiting ideas may seem unrealistic for many HR departments. After all, the pressure to fill the ever-larger pile of open reqs leaves little time for experimentation. And at smaller firms, where recruiting duties often fall to an HR generalist who has to interview candidates in between many other daily duties, attracting good new hires is good enough, which leaves the absolute best hires working someplace else.

Yet, even if you hire just one new candidate a month, you can leverage many of the same effective strategies as the leading companies in talent acquisition, say the folks who lead them. You simply need to learn about the latest trends, and then strive to incorporate some or all of those efforts into your daily hiring routine.

Most HR specialists agree they want to get better at talent acquisition. In a 2016 SHRM survey of more than 2,300 HR professionals, respondents said recruitment was their top business/HR challenge, ahead of compliance, employee training and compensation/benefits. Finding the time to implement these leading strategies is the bigger challenge. To that end, here are summaries of the seven most meaningful steps to creating a more effective talent acquisition effort, according to a range of leading voices in the field. Many don’t require a major investment of time or money, and instead can be incorporated into the recruiting practices you’re using already.

  • Brand your company as a great place to work. If you don’t tell your story, others will do it for you. Having an attractive career web site was a prerequisite 10 years ago. Now, it’s a basic requirement to manage your brand and, once in place, allows you to focus on what makes you special to potential candidates in your marketing materials, across social media and in person. For example, post written and video testimonials on your web site from current employers explaining why they enjoy their jobs, to create an image among prospective hires of what it’s like to work for your company.
  • Maximize employee referrals. Referrals are still the primary source of new hires. In fact, 96% of all companies with 10,000 employees or more say it’s their No. 1 source of new hires, while that percentage falls to a still high 80% for companies with less than 100 employees, according to a 2016 SHRM Benchmarking survey.

“So why are most incentive payments so low?,” asks Tom Darrow, SHRM-SCP, founder of Talent Connections, an Atlanta-based executive search firm and chair of the SHRM Foundation Board of Directors.  “It’s widely known that employee referrals are the best source for candidates, yet many companies offer pitiful ‘bonuses’ of $500 or $1,000 to their employees, while offering search firms a $20,000+ fee for the same position.” He suggests incentivizing staff to serve as recruiters and encourage them to tap into their networks to help fill open positions.

  • Pay at least as much as your competitors for talent and be transparent about what you offer. Make absolutely sure that your total compensation package is competitive and, if one or more aspects are lagging, tell candidates why. Then work with your senior management team to improve your offerings.

“Create a competitive compensation package that reflects your culture, then put the dollars in front of candidates at the start and you’ll likely have to negotiate less,” says Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, executive director of human resources at LaRosa’s Inc., a Cincinnati-based restaurant group. “It’s a brass tacks approach, but be sure to supplement the dollar discussion with the other workplace benefits you offer, including flexibility, autonomy, the work space and more,” says Browne, who is a director-at-large on the SHRM Board of Directors. Darrow adds that by highlighting what makes your offer most attractive, you can help deflect attention from what doesn’t.

  • Consider hiring more part-time contributors, and embrace their flexibility. If the full-time talent you seek is too difficult to find or costly to hire, then fill each open position with multiple part-time employees who have embraced the “gig” economy and are willing to share the workload. And don’t punish them if they decide to try something else.

“The biggest shift for us culturally is that we tell each new employee that we’ll enjoy you while you’re here, and that we want to make the time you’re with us be great,” says Browne. “So if you decide to become an Uber driver, congrats! We enjoyed having you while we were here.”

  • Build strong talent networks. Learn to develop relationships with potential new hires long before relevant job openings are posted. One approach is to create “communities of engagement” online through social media where candidates can learn about your company and see how current employees have an opportunity to make a difference.

“Too often I see companies aren’t hiring the best of the best; they’re hiring the best of who they stumble on based on their poor sourcing strategies,” says Darrow. He advocates using social media and networking to build a deep pipeline of potential candidates who you may not have jobs for today, but who you can tap into when appropriate openings emerge down the road.

  • Learn and implement predictive analytics. The role of HR metrics has grown dramatically. While you may not need to hire a full-time data analyst, you (or your vendors) should have the ability to measure the effectiveness of all aspects of your recruiting efforts.

“Employers have to be able to assess the probable yield of a recruitment ad in a certain location, among a certain demographic or at one salary point vs. another, and then instantaneously measure the results and make changes to that ad placement and content on the fly,” says Peter Weddle, CEO of TAtech.org, the association for talent acquisition solutions in Stamford, Conn. By managing your recruitment marketing efforts this closely using analytics, you’ll optimize the results and lower your cost per hire, he adds.

  • Simplify job applications. Poor completion rates for online applications results in the loss of top talent, poor word-of-mouth from candidates frustrated with the process and wasted spending associated with abandonment in cost-per-click recruiting models.

About 60 percent of all job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because of the form’s length or complexity, according to CareerBuilder. Conversely, companies can increase the rate at which candidates will complete an application by more than 300 percent by reducing the length of the application process to five minutes or less, reports Appcast, an online recruitment service. “You have to make applying simple, fast and mobile friendly, or you won’t attract the best candidates,” says Darrow.

Photo Credit: 宏☆ Flickr via Compfight cc

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