5 Ways to Rethink Your Recruiting Strategy

Over my three-decade career, I have had the opportunity to work with many HR teams. Overall, if I had to grade HR’s effectiveness in bringing in the talent necessary for long term success, I’d give them a mixed review.

Even though many HR pros would argue that one of their key roles is recruitment, my observation is that HR teams tend to focus more on the administrative aspects of the role — managing payroll and benefits, coordinating training and development plans, ensuring compliance, and administering reward programs.

I was always concerned that HR leadership didn’t give a high enough priority to recruiting. Recruiting the best people means defining and acquiring the skills and competencies necessary to deliver superlative performance and to meet the challenges of a highly competitive environment.

I think HR can make a difference in discovering the best people and bringing them into the organization. But they have to change the way they work and approach their mandate differently.

Here are five ways HR leaders can redirect the HR team’s energy and produce better recruiting results.

Think About HR as a Strategic Player

Redefine human resources to be 80% strategic tool and 20% practitioner. Getting strategic means having a deep understanding of the strategic game plan of the organization and then translating it to what it specifically means to HR.

At many organizations, that might mean taking a hard turn away from practicing the discipline of HR, and starting a new role leading the execution of the people piece of the organization’s strategy.

As the president of the data and internet business unit for a major telecom organization, I held regular sessions with HR leadership to present and clarify not only the strategy for my business unit, but the strategy for the entire organization. My goal was to refocus their priorities away from practicing HR to serving as a strategic support. We invested considerable time in defining exactly what they should be doing to support the strategy and enable its success.

Define the New Skills You Need in Your Organization

Develop a specific people acquisition strategy with a focus on the new skills and competencies your organization will need to succeed in the future. It should be a strategy on its own rather than a component of the overall HR strategy and should outrank other more pedantic elements on the HR task list.

Then, move beyond strategy into doing. Make a tactical implementation plan to recruit new individuals and develop existing talent. Assign key milestones and accountabilities.

When my team implemented this process, we identified specific individuals we wanted to bring to the organization, as well as employees who should move laterally to apply their skills to different roles. We also had to make the tough call about employees whose skills were no longer relevant to the strategy of the organization.

Get Buy-In From Other Business Leaders

It’s important that the leaders responsible for delivering the overall strategy to the market understand and approve the people strategy. They are the clients of HR who depend on the right people with the right competencies being available at the right time.

All too often, HR views its client as the chief executive and other executive leaders when it should be focusing on the business leaders charged with executing the organization’s strategy.

As a leader, I made it a priority to engage HR in business matters and ask for their leadership to deliver a people plan that enabled my organization to achieve its business goals.

Dive Deep Into Your Target Talent Pools

Once you know what skills your organization needs, it’s time to actively engage with those talent communities. If, for example, software development skills are critical to delivering the organization’s plan, it’s HR’s job to find out where developers share their experiences and hone their competencies. They must embed themselves in those organizations and cultivate relationships with high-potential individuals who could be recruited at the appropriate time.

The end game for HR: build a brand of being the go-to organization for people with that skill set.

Change the Way You Measure HR Performance

How are you currently measuring performance? If bringing in new skills is a strategic priority, measure and reward it. Implement an internal report card that rates the performance of HR on strategic initiatives.

HR should not see themselves in the human resource management business. The prime objective of HR is to recruit the people with the skills and competencies needed to advance the organization’s strategic agenda. Period.

Eight Employer Brand Essentials To Spice Up Candidate Experience

Secret sauce. Special recipe. If it sounds like recruiting has turned into a mystery cooking show – it has. The good news is that we’re honing this new global, multigenerational, myriad-channeled cuisine.  We’re finding scopey, tastier, far more effective strategies for recruiting tech talent and engaging our candidates. 

Here are the top eight ingredients:

  1. Start With Fresh Talent

More arenas acknowledge that talent is the basic commodity in tech recruiting, and considering individual talent as the basic goal of recruiting, and not just filling spaces, is what’s going to set companies up for successful hiring. Given the gap between more jobs we need to fill and less talent we need to fill them, tech candidates in particular are well aware of that. 

  1. Mix With Due Diligence

We’re getting better at due diligence when it comes to recruiting, doing a better job researching our candidates, and personalizing our approach. DICE’s 2015 Tech Candidate Sentiment Survey found that50 percent of tech candidates really wish HR recruiters did more homework on them and their backgrounds, which is well below the 63% who said so in 2013.

  1. Simmer In Human Contact

Despite mobile and social, despite video conferencing and (coming soon) holographic interviews, the face-to-face experience is still invaluable as the candidate moves up the ranks of vetting. One savvy tech recruiter noted that despite everything else lining up, chemistry is critical, and it’s certainly an ingredient we can’t keep refrigerated in the cloud until hiring time. Sometimes it really boils down to two people in a room.

  1. Set The Whole Table

Uber recently poached 40 top researchers away from Carnegie Mellon’s hallowed robotics department. South Korea’s app and tech industry is not only rivaling Silicon Valley, it’s proving to be more global and more innovative, pulling top talent from the U.S. as well as other major sources. The simplest way to think of the gap between talent and hiring is that it’s like a buyer’s market — to switch metaphors here, you just have to offer the prettiest, most awesomely tricked out house.

  1. Your Employer Brand Matters

Every employer has a different perceptible brand, but awareness of it starts well before the hiring process. Talent Board’s 2014 Candidate Experience (CandE) survey polled some 95,000 candidates who had applied to about 150 companies in North America: about 44% said they conduct two hours’ research before submitting an application. They’re not just looking at products and services, they’re looking at values as well. Given today’s pace of information, two hours can glean an entire universe of data and impressions, good to — bad.

  1. Brand ReallyMatters

There’s employer brand, and company brand. Another stat from the 2104 CandE survey found that attracting talent starts well before anystrategic

outreach: candidates form their own bias based on many different channels of content. 52.3 percent of candidates said they had a previous relationship with the company — as a customer, consumer, a friend or relative of an employee, or an advocate of the brand. Obviously that works for huge icons like Apple or Google, but big or small, legacy or shiny new, nothing related to brand is off the table, ever.

  1. Shop Globally And Extensively

From job sites to social media to global job boards, there are countless ways for candidates and companies to find each other, and using them all needs to be the new normal. Internship programs and workforce development opportunities often glean international candidates; heading to universities and colleges can pinpoint fresh talent. You need a steady pipeline for effective recruiting.

  1. Don’t Use Artificial Flavors

Remember the real estate analogy I sprinkled in here a few bullets back? Let me qualify: that awesome property had better be real: Facades and artifice won’t work, either with more seasoned candidates or the younger generations, who we know hold integrity, transparency, mission and values in extremely high regard — so high that they may simply walk out the door if faced with a profound “this is not what I thought it was” moment.

There are all countless terms for what we do wrong, such as spray and pray (which is more costly than effective). And there are tasty terms for what we get right, including that critical first contact, onboarding. Making the onboard experience rich and flavorful is part of any recipe for successful recruitment. At one Tampa Bay area tech firm, the CEO visits each year’s crop of new recruits. To attract talent away from traditional meccas, the company also provides a whole range of perks, from employee compensation for referrals to retreats to the Bahamas to a thriving, creative, active workplace culture.

We have a lot of cooking to do: one recent survey showed new hiring now falls short by 36% percent globally; and more than half (54%) of the firms surveyed said that shortage had a serious impact on their ability to fill client needs. But here’s the bottom line: talent knows where it’s valued, and that’s the table you want to set.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.