SI Review: January/February 2013

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The ‘Inside’ Hire

What you can do to attract top talent

By Robin Mee

Are you cranking up hiring for 2013? As the economy slowly improves, many people are looking to change jobs. How do you attract the right talent? Though the industry specializes in putting people to work, hiring for clients and hiring internally are different. One can excel at the former and not be as successful at the latter. Often, staffing firms do not approach internal hiring in the right way. I have been placing professionals in the staffing industry for 25 years and have several key observations about what works best.

Hiring starts at the top. Internal talent acquisition needs support from senior company executives. Begin with the company strategic plan and build a recruiting approach to support goals and objectives. Consider investing in dedicated internal talent acquisition staff that will own corporate recruiting and take that sole responsibility off the branch and area managers’ desk. Branches are already stretched and challenged with revenue and profit goals.

When hiring is a collaborative effort between field management and the internal talent acquisition team, everyone is involved and constantly recruiting. The field strategy will typically be more relationship, and geographic, centric. Managers are rooted in their communities and are constantly meeting prospective employees at networking events and elsewhere in the marketplace. The internal talent acquisition team’s strategy is much more technology, phone and administratively based.

Your internal talent acquisition team will create a comprehensive strategy and build a corporate recruiting brand. This is a combination involving both high touch and high tech. It can be one person, or a large team working together, with the goal of hiring the best talent. With the support of senior management and the right resources, this division can function like a dedicated internal search firm.

The internal talent acquisition division is responsible for everything from original sourcing to closing on the candidate. Start by writing good job descriptions. A well-written job description is a recruiting roadmap. Consider creating two versions for each job — one with lots of sizzle used for marketing and the other with more depth. The first version gets posted everywhere and is used to attract potential candidates. The second is provided only to interested and qualified individuals, and contains job and company details for the candidate and everyone working to fill the position. Good job descriptions are never set in stone; they evolve as jobs constantly change.

Post your job descriptions in the right places. Develop an Internet strategy and decide who is going to manage the posting process. Start with posting to your company website. It may sound basic, but many staffing companies do not post their own internal jobs. Candidates interested in your firm must be able to see what jobs you are recruiting for internally. There are endless other places to post, so figure out what is most suitable for your company. Obvious considerations are:

  • LinkedIn – in jobs, groups and updates
  • Twitter
  • Your company Facebook
  • Job boards

We recommend building a community of talent utilizing up-to-date technology. Implement an applicant tracking system (ATS) dedicated for internal talent acquisition. Just like in your field offices, all résumés are recorded into the system with a date stamp and notes. You must be able to connect with candidates passively from the database by emailing press releases, internal job announcements, company updates, holiday greetings, white papers and other relevant content. The ATS will track all candidate activities, including internal interviews. Having an ATS will map where candidates originated and provide cost benefit data of your resources, including third party search.

Your Internet strategy is an ongoing and ever-changing process. For example, technology is available that links your website jobs with your social media outlets. You only post once and the system automatically sends the job out to other specified places, thanks to the power of meta-tagging. With so many options to choose from, you will need to determine what resources best meet your company objectives.

LinkedIn should be one of your main resources — it is the best online friend for recruiters. LinkedIn is the largest database in the world for finding talent and it is unparalleled for research. Building up your connections is the fastest way to have access to the greatest number of potential candidates. Reach out to your targeted contacts with the goal of networking for referrals on specific openings. There are several programs — free and paid — to choose from. You can get a free subscription or choose programs that have robust search capabilities for approximately $5,000 per user annually.

Let’s talk about the talent pool. There are not enough experienced recruiters, salespeople or managers with staffing experience to satisfy demand. For long-term success, it is critical to attract new talent, both recent college graduates and people with transferable skills. Our job is to hire the best and the brightest for our companies and our industry.

We recommend a two-pronged approach. First, hire those with little or no staffing background. They could be recent college graduates or have compatible skills and/or experience. Those without staffing experience will require a training program, either one that you build or buy. There are several companies that provide excellent staffing industry-specific training, such as Staffing eTrainer, StaffingU, Menemsha Group or Bingham Consulting. Alternatively, and depending on your size, you could hire an internal trainer to create and administer your program.

To attract the experienced staffing candidate, consider opening up your criteria and being flexible. Look at people who have a proven track record of success, albeit in a different niche.

Consider hiring more mature candidates. We regularly hear the following refrains:

“I want someone on the way up in their career.” “I need to hire someone who is hungry.”
 “We want to hire recruiters and salespeople with 3-5 years of experience.”
 “Manager candidates need to be able to relate to my team.”
 “Social networking skills are so important to my organization.”
 “This is a young person’s game.”

We need to change this paradigm and hire the best person for the job. Either out of desire or necessity, people are remaining in the workforce longer. Both your population of temporary contract employees and your clients are aging. There is a wealth of talent among 50to 70-year-olds, and it is this talent that we need. You should be thinking of ways that demographic diversity can create the most value in your company. Having a mixed group of ages, in all jobs, has obvious benefits.

The staffing industry as a whole needs to make some changes. Overall, there is not much diversity. The population characteristics of the staffing industry need to mirror more closely those of America in general. We must do a better job recruiting people of color, women, people with disabilities, and people from a variety of ethnicities, religious denominations and sexual orientations.

Create a roadmap to success with a strategic hiring plan and an internal talent acquisition team. Their responsibility for hiring great people will bring your company increased productivity and accountability. Your company, and our industry, will be stronger in 2013.

Robin Mee is president of Mee Derby, which specializes in recruiting for the staffing industry. She can be reached at robin@meederby.com.

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