The art and science of recruitment

Good recruitment is both an art and a science. It requires good technique as well as excellent strategy.

A key objective of the vast majority of recruitment exercises is to find the best available candidates from which to choose from. However the reality is that most campaigns do not achieve this and simply select the best from an average or even reasonable selection. Quite often a review of the recruitment process will conclude that it is hard to find good candidates and that the best HAS been chosen. Many times you may surmise that there were numerous applicants so you MUST have chosen the best.

If you are in the business of hiring from a pool of mediocrity and only giving your organisation’s jobs to “candidates” who are looking (jobseekers), then don’t read on.

Here’s the thing – the best people are usually NOT looking

If you want to attract the best people to your organisation, you need to really think about how you are going to reach them. The best people are not thinking about new opportunities. They are busy and probably haven’t updated their resume in many years. They are unlikely to be receptive to non-personal advertising campaigns, and very unlikely to be registered with or “on the books ” with candidate driven recruitment agencies.

You may have an internal candidate, or know of someone who may be suitable, but unless there is a clearly defined succession plan which is ready for transition, the best thing to do is to benchmark any known candidates against the best available. This will result in the best selection and importantly, it will ensure that the successful candidate has been chosen from a comprehensive and competitive process, which is beneficial to all parties. Simply tapping someone on the shoulder may create the wrong dynamic, and encourage a sense of entitlement, and you will never know if you found the best.

An advertising campaign, particularly only online or in the employment section of newspapers will really only attract job seekers. It’s like fishing with a net. Cast it out, see what you catch and select the best. For many positions there’s lots of fish swimming around so you may think it’s a good market for employment. However your recruitment efforts will probably be focused on the selection process, and most time will be wasted sorting through applications and resumes. Sometimes there are not enough candidates and you may conclude that there is a “talent” shortage, so you try to fit the best applicant into the position. Occasionally you may find someone better than average or even good, but very rarely will you recruit an exceptional candidate.

Similarly, approaches to recruitment agencies to see who are “on their books” will usually only identify those who are likely to be currently or regularly seeking new opportunities. The recruiter will scan their database of previous (and mostly unsuccessful) job applicants to identify possible candidates, in order to get resumes in front of you before any other recruiters do. This is very unlikely to include the best available, just those who nearly or just fit the basic requirements. They will not apply a strategic process based on the specific position, as this would take too long and they may miss out on the fee.

What many hiring managers and HR professionals probably don’t realise is that there are big fish out there; they just won’t catch them with a net. They need the right rod, the right bait, the right spot at the right time, and use the right technique to catch them. And they need to be patient.

This is the art and science of Search and Selection. It is not an easy strategy to navigate. Many organisations lack the specific skills or capability required to do it well, or it may not be appropriate to directly approach the best candidates who may be working for competitors.

A search and selection strategy may also involve advertising, but this should include targeted methods to attract passive candidates who are not actively looking. Just advertising within employment or job boards, or directly to previous job seekers or candidates, is unlikely to produce the best results.

Most often a search and selection strategy is best managed by a professional third party who is reputable, experienced, discreet and confidential, and who can ethically and effectively identify and attract the best people for the job, by engaging a thorough and specific search and selection process. And not just by “searching” their databases of previous job applicants and current jobseekers.