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10 Ways to Recruit Smarter, Not Harder

How to compete with external search firms for top talent.
COLLABORATORS Lou Adler
10 ways to recruit smarter, not harder
photo by Emanuele

The larger you get as a company, the closer you come to actually having in-house recruiters and talent scouts at your disposal.

But until that day arrives — and even after it does — we recommend this fabulous list of suggestions for becoming an outstanding recruiter from Lou Adler, CEO and founder of the Adler Group, a training and search firm. Adler is also the author of Hire With Your Head, an Amazon top-10 best-seller, based on his 20 years as one of the top recruiters in the country.

Adler’s Top 10 list, which you can — and should — read in its entirety, was posted to ERE.net after an in-house recruiting manager asked him “for a specific list of things her recruiting team could do to better compete with external search firms.” Here’s a summary, peppered with some advice from Adler, who spoke to Build last week:

10. “Develop and implement a talent scarcity acquisition strategy based on attracting top people in, rather than a talent surplus model designed to weed weak people out.”

9. “Prepare career-oriented communications that excite. You must understand your ideal candidate’s intrinsic motivator before you start looking for the person. Then you must capture all of this in compelling stories told via postings, emails, and voice mails. Here’s a sample job posting demonstrating this concept.”

For midmarket companies, nailing the job description is especially important — to make the case that a gifted candidate should work for you, rather than seeking the thrills of a startup or the stability of a fully mature organization. “You want to differentiate your company, and your ad should answer the question ‘Why would a top person regard this job as a good career move?’” says Adler. “Most ads are written to screen out the weak, by listing a bunch of requirements that might rule people out. Sometimes good people. The better approach is to write ads that attract the best.”

8. “Implement a 20/20/60 sourcing plan if you want to see and hire more top passive candidates. This approach will allow you to attract great people whether they’re active or passive. The idea behind this is that in order to reach all of the fully-employed talent market, you need to spend 20 percent of your sourcing efforts on compelling job postings that are either pushed to your ideal prospects or easily found. Another 20 percent should be based on using “clever” Boolean (see Point 7) and related search tools to identify possible prospects and reaching out to them using career-focused emails. The remaining 60% should focus on networking and obtaining high-quality referrals. Here’s a more detailed summary of this type of multi-level sourcing plan.”

7. “Consider LinkedIn Recruiter as a network, not a database, and learn to be “clever” at Boolean. Since all I use for sourcing is LinkedIn Recruiter, I find it rather simple now to find 10-plus worthy prospects (qualified and seriously interested in having a career discussion with a hiring manager) in a day or two for any assignment, no matter how difficult. To generate the initial list, all it takes is a basic knowledge of five Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT, “_” and (_); the ability to find nodes (people who know your candidate); developing clever terms that separate the best from the rest; and a phone (see point 6).”

6. “Learn to pick up the phone and network like the best third-party and retained recruiters in the industry. This means you need to call every hot prospect you found in Step 7 — done properly 80% will call you back! — and either recruit or network with them.”

In terms of what to say on the phone, Adler recommends that you keep it short and simple. “Just say, ‘I’ll give you a 1-2 minute overview of the company and the job, you give me a 1-2 minute overview of your career and goals, we’ll see if the job is too big or too small for you, and if we’re both still interested after that, we can meet.’”

5. ”Improve your assessment accuracy by learning how to conduct the two-question performance-based interview…. Here’s a quick story on how I taught a CEO how to conduct the two-question interview in a few minutes.

4. “Learn how to tame your hiring managers, aka, “How to Conduct a Rich Intake Meeting” and control their yes/no hiring decision… Here’s my favorite story on how to do this with the toughest, no-nonsense CEO on the planet.”

3. “Learn the basics of passive candidate recruiting, i.e., maintain applicant control, bridge the gap on first contact, convert jobs into career, get the candidate to sell you, and never make an offer until it’s 100% accepted.

2. “Stop using traditional skills-infested job descriptions for hiring. This is essential if you want to hire great passive candidates and hire more high potential candidates, and critical if you want to rapidly expand your diversity and returning military veterans hiring programs. Here’s an article describing why this is so important.

1. ”Master ‘Little Data’ before you get mesmerized by ‘Big Data.’ If you don’t measure how well you’re doing all of the above, implementing big data initiatives won’t help you improve the quality of each hiring decision or the underlying process. Little data process control metrics include interviews per hire (it should be no more than four), the time it takes to put together a slate of prospects to present to the hiring manager (with LinkedIn Recruiter target 72 hours max to find worthy candidates who are willing to have an exploratory conversation with the hiring manager), the number of pre-qualified referrals obtained on every networking call (target at least two), and the ratio of pre-qualified warm calls to cold calls (it should be 4:1). These metrics are especially important for recruiting leaders to track their team’s performance.”

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THE PLUS

No. 5 on Adler's list refers to a "two-question" interview.

There's more to it than that. Yes, it involves two questions, but they are doozies: (1) How would a candidate solve a specific problem, if she were hired? (2) When has she solved a problem like that previously?

For details about how this actually works during an interview, read Adler's post titled "Take a Tour of the Factory and Call Me in the Morning" on ERE.net.

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