Back in the good old days it seemed a lot easier to anticipate what kinds of hires your firm would need to make and how to make them happen. Talent pipelines were straightforward, big databases made for easy hires, job descriptions were fairly standard, and there was almost never a request for a purple squirrel.
To be fair, probably over 50 percent of all positions are still pretty much routine and don’t require any special skills or effort. But the other half is a different story.
Recruiters are more and more frequently called on to hire people with experience and education that they have never looked at before. They are asked to deal with frequently changing job requirements, uncertainty about qualifications, tight timelines, and for people with skills and knowledge that may not even exist. They have to deal with brands that are often unaligned with the positions they are recruiting for, or they are dealing with distant geographies or unfamiliar cultures.
So how can you survive as a recruiter or a recruiting leader in this kind of VUCA world?
First of all let us start by making everything easier by dividing all the open requisitions you have into four buckets or categories.
All the easy requisitions – the ones where there is a solid supply and clear requirements. These are the receptionists, lower-level manufacturing folks, sales associates, and other similar ones. Any recruiter can handle these.
The jobs that are fairly hard to fill but have clear requirements (for e.g. lawyer, HR generalist). Sourcing them is not as hard as closing them. Again, most recruiters have no trouble with these jobs and, if they do, there are agencies that can help.
Entry-level jobs, college hires, mid-level professionals where selection and fit are important but sourcing them is only moderately difficult. Junior-level recruiters can get experience working these requisitions and there are automated tools to help with selection and fit.
This is the category we talked about at the beginning – the vague, uncertain and often complex jobs that require recruiters with a high degree of confidence, skill and persistence to fill. Every aspect of hiring these people is hard from sourcing to closing.
So how do you tackle Bucket 4?
Here are a few things you can do to make it much easier to fill these jobs with minimal stress and maximum success:
#1 What’s Your Employment Brand?
Sourcing for these tough positions is only made more difficult by either the lack of a strong corporate brand or by a negative brand. When the job is foreign to the type of firm, it is also hard to garner candidate interest or even awareness.
The primary way to overcome the brand issue is through the creative use of social media and referrals. You will need to find messages that resonate with the potential candidates. General Electric recently concluded a highly successful advertising campaign called “What’s the Matter With Owen?” designed to change the attitudes of young programmers about working for GE, which is perceived a manufacturing company.
#2 Most Experienced Recruiter
These positions should be given to your most experienced and creative recruiters. Every recruiting team needs to have 2-3 recruiters who are great at sourcing using conventional and unconventional methods. Sourcing for these types of people will require detective-level skills and may involve everything from referrals to deep web searches. But before giving these requisitions to anyone, having a deep conversation with the hiring manager is essential.
#3 Negotiate the Deal
You as recruiting leader, the recruiter and the hiring manager all need to really understand what the position is all about and what its most essential skills are. You need to get the hiring manager to spell out the most critical skills this position needs and also where he/she will be willing to compromise. You will need to negotiate with the hiring manager to balance as best you can the skills and background required with what you know exists in the talent market.
In some cases, it may be possible to break a position that has impossible requirements into two positions where you can find people with the needed skills. In other cases, you may be stuck with the impossible but you will have a much better relationship with the hiring manager.
#4 Be Prepared
Anticipate as much as you can what the needs may be based on the overall corporate strategy and on new products or services that you have heard about. For example, a large sporting goods retailer moved from selling known brands to also selling its own branded items that were designed by an in-house team. The recruiting team has to source, close and get a team on-board within a tight time frame.
By anticipating this move, the team already had a recruiter with experience recruiting sporting goods designers and fashion designers.
#5 Be Realistic
Make sure both you and the hiring manager are aware of how long it may take to find the right person and why it may take that long. Being very clear upfront about the time you think it will take versus the expectations of the hiring manager is critical. Having a service level agreement (SLA) in place, even if it is only verbal, can be a great help when the search is harder than you thought.
#6 Keep Everyone Informed
Make sure that you keep the hiring manager and anyone else concerned about this position informed regularly and frequently about what you are doing, what you have done and where you are in the process. Nothing grows distrust and disharmony more than not communicating.
Hiring hard-to-find people doesn’t have to be painful. In the hands of a creative recruiter it can be a rewarding challenge.
Kevin will be speaking about the future of workforce in a VUCA world at the tenth annual Australasian Talent Conference (ATC), Sydney in July. Join Kevin and other global and local leaders in talent management to learn more. Register now for the event!
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