Avoid Post and Pray Recruiting

Getting talent management right starts with hiring the right talent. But according to Corporate Executive Board’s (CEB) 2011 “Smart Sourcing” study, shifting candidate preferences, an uncertain hiring environment and continued growth and evolution in online recruitment technologies have notable implications for how the best recruiting teams succeed now and in the future.

Emerging networking and search technologies offer recruiters in today’s global labor market unprecedented access to talent. But Web-enabled talent searches are not just about finding names. Winning the hearts and minds of the right candidates lies not in yesterday’s one-size-fits-all “post and pray, then pitch” recruiting approach. Today’s recruiting environment requires a dynamic and consultative approach where giving and getting the right information — about the job, the candidates and their potential barriers to switching — at the right time is key to successfully engage target prospects.

Tools for the Landscape
CEB’s active-passive index tracks job search activity among employed workers going back to 2006. The index reveals a steady rise in the prevalence of passive candidates — the percentage of the labor market not actively searching for a new employer. Globally, the passive candidate pool is bigger than it has been in the past five years, with nearly 50 percent in the passive category compared to only 22 percent in 2006 (Figure 1).

That said, active candidates — many of whom are unemployed or underemployed — are working hard to get recruiters’ attention. The average number of applications a recruiter receives for a given job posting increased by 167 percent from 2007 to 2011 according to CEB’s annual “Candidate Rules of Engagement” study (Figure 2).

The data suggests that post and pray recruiting strategies — the marketing-heavy method of recruiting that relies on posted job ads to generate enough good applicants — are adding to an already overloaded applicant queue and often generating the wrong applicants. The implications are twofold. The quality of many applicant pools is poor. The same study reports only 35 percent of the typical applicant pool meets even the most basic job requirements. Second, many recruiters are wasting considerable time filtering through low-quality resumes when their businesses need to focus on higher value-adding activities. This is where technology comes into play.

Internet growth and technological advancements have rapidly transformed the recruiting landscape during the past 20 years. Help wanted signs turned into newspaper classified ads and phonebooks, which became online job boards, career websites and job aggregators, which led to search engine optimization, Boolean search, online networks and smartphones.

To recruit high-quality talent today, recruiters are increasingly relying on emerging online recruiting technologies, which promise scalable access to more people than ever before. The trend is significant. According to CEB’s 2010 “Web 2.0 Recruiting Trends” report, the percentage of recruiters using online social media for recruiting went from 35 percent in 2009 to 75 percent in 2010 (Figure 3). Going into 2011, 91 percent of recruiters were increasing their use of online professional networking tools for recruiting, according to CEB’s “2011 Recruiting Trends Forecast.”

These new technologies give talent competitors equally scalable access to prospective candidates. As online sourcing channels continue to proliferate, many recruiting organizations lack online candidate tracking tools and the analytical focus to know which channels really pay off. Recruiters who apply new technology to old post and pray approaches are wasting time and money and will struggle to capitalize on the promise of online recruitment.

The Case of the Serial Applicant
It is not just recruiters who are posting and praying. Job seekers are using new technologies to “spray” numerous employers with resumes and applications as well. Data from CEB’s quarterly “Global Labor Market Survey” shows that one in four job seekers applied to at least 10 potential employers — or more — in their most recent job search. It’s no wonder recruiters are drowning in unqualified applications. This raises the stakes not just for more effective writing and placement of job postings but also for strategically designing resume or application screening approaches that will save recruiters from today’s serial applicant.

In partnership with recruitment marketing company Jobs2Web, CEB’s 2010 study “Where Do Online Candidates Come From?” revealed information that underscores the need for recruiting to move beyond yesterday’s post and pray model:

1. Online channels attract many wandering eyeballs, but few apply and far fewer are ultimately hired. It takes 884 online visitors on average to yield a single hire. Winners in today’s recruiting game figure out how to adapt their strategies and cost-effectively tailor their use of technologies to filter out all but the best.

2. Job aggregators, company career sites and company talent networks supply most online job search traffic. On average, 82 percent of online job search traffic comes from job marketing communications to proprietary talent networks, job postings on aggregator sites or an organization’s career site. If organizations aren’t thinking critically about how these three channels are working for — or against — them, they should be.

3. While “push” sources such as job boards yield many applications, “pull” sources yield more hires. One in every four job board visitors applies, while those who first visit through other channels, especially search engines, job aggregators and pay per click, are less likely to apply. However, when visitors first use “pull” sources — channels the job seeker uses to target specific employers such as a company career site or a search engine — they are more likely to be hired once they apply. In fact, 72 percent of all hires start on a company’s career site.

4. Currently social media recruiting is a drop in the bucket. Given their relatively nascent stage of development, social media and online professional networks only account for 1 percent or less of online visitors, applications and hires respectively. This number should grow over time — it already has for certain types of positions and candidate profiles such as professional and tech-savvy talent. It’s a small percentage partly because prospect interactions that happen behind professional and social networking platforms are not as easily tracked as general Web traffic. However, many recruiters find clear benefits from the targeted search capability afforded by these sites.

Go Beyond Post and Pray
Most recruiters still rely heavily on direct or active applicants to fill their pipelines, and doubt when and how they can reach passive candidates in scalable ways. This is in part a mindset issue — change is hard. It is also partly due to the proliferation of online sourcing channels making it hard for recruiters to know which channels to use and when. CEB’s 2011 “Smart Sourcing” survey reveals three in four recruiters still rely on the volume, not the quality, of candidates a source provides as their primary criterion for selecting which sourcing channels to use.

High-performing recruiters avoid that trap by using data-based evidence not just to inform sound channel selection decisions, but to move beyond the post and pray legacy approach as their modus operandi. The best recruiting teams drive beyond this status quo in several specific ways.

1. Tailor sourcing efforts to specific positions and market conditions. This might sound obvious but it is not common practice. Markets are dynamic and recruiters must be too. For example, prioritizing sourcing efforts according to each requisition’s importance improves quality of slate by 11 percent according to CEB’s 2011 “Smart Sourcing” study. But more than half of recruiters treat all requisitions equally. Systematically capture practical intelligence from each prospect interaction and deliberately provide transparent, accurate, personalized information about each job and career opportunity to enable “win-win” candidate decisions.

2. Make data-informed sourcing channel selection decisions. Approximately 75 percent of recruiters rely on volume, not quality criteria to decide which sourcing channels such as job boards, referrals or LinkedIn to use, according to the same 2011 study. Analyze the connection between new hire source and profile data to performance data to enable informed sourcing investments that yield quality hires.

3. Question whether a career site is working. Almost 72 percent of all hires start on a company’s career site, according to CEB’s 2010 “Where Do Online Candidates Come From?” study. Don’t fall for the glitz and glam an advertising agency or Web strategy firm recommends; make sure a company’s site’s content works for recruiters. While specific content will vary across organizations, all career websites should educate prospects on the organization, its career opportunities, its work environment and its people so they can self-select into the pipeline or choose not to apply.

4. Use company talent networks to build and engage pre-filtered, high-value prospect pools. CEB’s “Smart Sourcing” study also found nearly 60 percent of recruiting executives are increasing spending to build technology-enabled company talent communities. For most, that amounts to a glorified database of prospects who periodically receive emails with job openings. Today’s technology offers the ability to marry the market-driven need to engage passive candidates with the business need for recruiting process scale. Most using talent networks to advertise jobs overlook their potential utility as a targeted engagement tool (see sidebar, page 22).

5. Use technology to reinvent the candidate experience and expand the market. Low-cost video and other automatable or interactive technologies provide unique opportunities to improve and audit the candidate experience in ways that remove cost and geographic constraints.

6. Designate what’s in and out of scope for recruiters using social media. Be explicit with recruiters about which objectives to achieve, jobs to target, channels to use and metrics to track through social media. Help recruiters capture real value from social media recruiting by providing clear criteria and guidelines to evaluate which jobs and recruiting activities are best suited for different social media channels. A simple statement detailing an organization’s strategic and practical intent using social media-based recruiting is a first step toward better return on recruiters’ investment in social media.

When the news is full of stories of high unemployment — with images of long lines of applicants vying for scant available jobs — it is easy to assume this is a buyer’s market, flooded with great candidates desperate for a decent offer. However, post and pray recruiting strategies are reducing the quality of hires and drowning organizations in unqualified applicants.

CEB’s research found nearly 80 percent of the variation in quality of hire is driven by recruiters’ capabilities — their attitudes, experiences and skill sets — and the ways those recruiters are managed, such as development, workload and performance management practices. The best recruiting functions are defined foremost by their recruiters’ capabilities. And while technology can make the recruiter’s job easier, it likely will never be the difference maker. To successfully bring the right talent into their organizations, recruiters always will need to engage and inform prospects with the right information at the right moments, and the next-generation recruiter increasingly will leverage new technologies to do that.

Donna Weiss is managing director for Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company. She can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.