A truly successful recruiting strategy involves your entire team as well as several aspects you might not expect. To help demystify the process, we’ve assembled 15 simple recruiting tips to help you consistently attract top talent.
1. Promote employee referrals
Laszlo Bock shared the secret sauce behind Google’s recruitment success in his recent book, Work Rules! If you haven’t read it yet, grab a copy—it’s packed with useful insights from one of the world’s top people operations practitioners.
In the book, Lazlo describes the challenges Google faced in their journey to hiring the best candidates for an exponentially scaling organization. Throughout the process, several priceless learning experiences presented themselves.
Although they generated plenty of press, zany interview questions and billboard puzzle easter egg hunts weren’t the most effective strategies Google used to bring in great candidates. The most effective recruiting and candidate selection strategies were actually pretty simple.
Google built its “self-replicating hiring machine” through several rounds of trial and error, but just like any great achievement, it started with one step. As Bock explains:
The first step to building a recruiting machine is to turn every employee into a recruiter by soliciting referrals.
Sometimes the simplest strategies are the best:
- Hire the most amazing people you know
- Keep them consistently challenged and happy
- Encourage them to bring their most talented friends
- Provide an excellent candidate experience
- Repeat (until this process inevitably outgrows employee networks)
By the time you get to the point where you’re unable to repeat this process, it’s likely you’ve started to develop a dedicated in-house recruiting team.
Lazlo isn’t the only one who believes in employee referrals. In a CareerBuilder study, 82% of employers rated employee referrals above all other sources for generating the best return on investment (ROI). Want to learn more? Check out this guide for setting up an Employee Referral Program.
2. Prioritize candidate experience
Designing an outstanding candidate experience provides many benefits. Getting it wrong can give your organization a reputation that’s hard to come back from.
Never forget: candidate experience is the first interaction a potential employee with your organization and its culture.
When candidate experience is designed skillfully, top candidates get the impression your organization cares about its people even before they’re on the team.
That’s an extraordinarily powerful (and positive) signal to send—not just to candidates, but to new hires and longstanding employees. You’re reinforcing the importance your organization places on its people at every level. You’re also providing a behavioral standard for other employees to emulate throughout the hiring process.
If their experience with your organization is exceptionally positive, even candidates who aren’t accepted will still have great things to say about engaging with you.
A poorly-designed candidate experience will invariably leave a sour taste, not only for the candidate came in to interview, but also for the employee who made the referral.
You can guarantee that if an employee sticks their neck out and provides a candidate referral, and you treat that candidate poorly, they’ll be reticent to do it again.
It doesn’t matter how much you’re paying, or how great the projects you’re working on are: if you fail to treat candidates with the same esteem you’d treat a longtime colleague, you’re doing the organization a disservice.
Here’s a quick checklist to make sure your candidate experience is on the right track. Did you:
- Provide an accurate up-front description of the job duties early on?
- Show up on time?
- Come prepared?
- Provide a warm introduction them to the team?
- Exchange feedback with the candidate?
Keeping this quick checklist in mind will help keep the process on track to greatness if it’s already good, and help fix it if it’s broken.
3. Have a great offboarding process
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a great offboarding experience is an important element of a successful recruiting machine. Not all employment relationships terminate on bad terms, and a great deal of that hinges on the way employees are offboarded.
Sharlyn Lauby explains the importance of having a solid offboarding program in her HR Bartender article, “Offboarding Is Just As Important As Onboarding”:
We’re so focused on creating the perfect onboarding experience that it takes a little nudge to remind us how important post-onboarding events can be.
Just like current employees who love your organization enough to recommend it to their friends, past employees can do the same. Sometimes past employees can be an exceptional source of referrals for new candidates.
Past employees aren’t just potential ambassadors, either.
Former employees who loved working for your organization and were offboarded amicably are more likely to return. If and when they do, they’ll be bringing bring back the unique skills you hired them for, and likely some new ones.
4. Use modern tools
There are now more tools than ever to help you improve the effectiveness of your sourcing and hiring processes, both at large and small scale.
GapJumpers is a tool that allows organizations to host blind auditions. Blind auditions offer an opportunity to strictly judge candidate performance, rather than resume bullet points, GPAs, pre-existing relationships, or any other number of unconscious biases.
Why are unconscious biases so important?
There are many scenarios where an excellent candidate might be passed over because of a factor that wouldn’t be determinate of their success in the actual position you’re hiring for. On the other side of that coin, blind auditions can help prevent candidates who would be less suited to a position (but better looking on paper) from making their way in.
Textio is a tool to help organizations draft better, and more effective job descriptions. Although that may not seem like the top priority in your recruitment strategy, it’s one of the first things a candidate will see. There are a number of unnecessary descriptors, and types of language that could be considered unappealing or off putting to a great candidate.
Once you’ve drafted the perfect job description, there are some excellent platforms that can help you reach and interact with the perfect audience.
ZipRecruiter is a great recruitment force multiplier. It’s a platform that allows you to draft a single posting and distribute it across 100+ job boards. You can also manage social recruiting and screening all within a single platform. (Full disclosure: ZipRecruiter uses Bonusly!)
Wayup is an incredibly useful tool for any organization working to build an internship program, or on the lookout for recent college grads to add to the team. If you’re only looking for a few candidates, there’s a free version you can get started with.
Applicant tracking systems are a great modern tool that allow you to streamline the hiring process and fill positions quickly. There are many options out there, so be sure to do your research and find the best applicant tracking system for your company.
5. Practice collaborative hiring
Collaborative hiring is another recruiting tip that can make a big impact. It’s important for several reasons. First—and this is a big one—there’s likely more than one stakeholder in your hiring process.
Unless they’re astronauts, your new recruits won’t be working in a vacuum.
Each new hire is going to impact the work of those around them. This doesn’t mean you need every member of a department to sign off on a new hire, but they should at least be involved.
It’s important to listen to your team’s thoughts and take them into consideration. They’re in a unique position to provide insights about the position and the candidates hoping to fill it.
Your colleagues can help the hiring process in other ways, too.
In her RecruiterBox blog article, “6 Ways to Remove Hiring Bias from the Recruitment Process,” Erin Engstrom explains why this is such an advantageous practice in the recruiting process:
Collaborative hiring helps to safeguard companies from a number of cognitive biases—the inherent thinking errors that humans make in processing information.
It’s always healthy to be aware of cognitive biases. Your colleagues can help you work to identify subconscious biases and understand them.
6. Write better job descriptions
If you’re not accurately describing the position you’re hiring for, you’re at a disadvantage from the beginning. It’s crucial to be honest about the job to make sure that you’re attracting the right candidates.
Maybe the job you’re trying to recruit for isn’t glamorous, or doesn’t pay at the top of the scale. If that’s the case, don’t try to dress it up that way. At best, you’ll have wasted everyone’s time when the truth comes out.
At worst, you’ll end up actually hiring a talented employee who learns later on that the job didn’t fit their aptitudes, their interests, their financial expectations, or their personality. That employee is likely to be less engaged, and more likely to leave as soon as they find a better match.
7. Value quality over quantity
You’ve likely already found that a top performer produces dramatically stronger results than those around them. Focusing on the quality of candidates instead of volume can be a very effective recruiting strategy.
Why is that?
There’s less overhead involved in hiring two outstanding employees who are a perfect match than five good employees who aren’t. Fewer interviews, less onboarding.
There’s also more potential for exceptional results.
The team at LinkedIn recently shared a perfect example of this regarding their college recruiting strategy and how their program has changed over time in an article titled “Why the LinkedIn Recruiting Team is Waving ‘Bye-bye’ to Traditional College Recruiting.”
Ironically enough, LinkedIn is looking to broaden its talent pool with this new program, while at the same time dealing with fewer applicants.
Laszlo Bock also describes a similar scenario in Google’s hiring machine:
The hiring machine was overly conservative by design… because we would rather have missed hiring two great performers if it meant we would also avoid hiring a lousy one.
Keep quality in mind as you’re working to build your team. You’ll likely find that the extra time and effort spent in finding an outstanding candidate will pay dividends long into the future.
8. Communicate a strong Employee Value Proposition
In his article for the Edelmann blog, “Four Key Steps to a Great Employee Value Proposition,” Andrew Collett offers an excellent definition of Employee Value Proposition (EVP):
The EVP serves to define what the organisation would most like to be associated with as an employer and defines the “give and get” of the employment deal (the value that employees are expected to contribute with the value that they can expect in return).
So what are the elements required to build a strong EVP?
There are a near infinite number of components you can combine as part of your EVP, but here are some common ones:
Salary — Are your salaries competitive?
Benefits — What type of benefits do you offer? Who is eligible?
Work environment / company culture — What is your work environment like? Is your company culture balanced? What does it feel like to work for your company?
Autonomy — Are employees micromanaged or are they in control over how they do their work?
Rewards and recognition — How are employees rewarded for their efforts (beyond salary)? Do you offer frequent bonuses or do you only reward those who have made it through the year or have reached a certain milestone?
Just like attracting customers and clients, to attract the strongest candidates, you’ll need an offer that stands out.
9. Think like a marketer
What is your employer brand?
As business evolves, so does recruiting. Just like sales and marketing were required to make a dramatic turn, recruiting is in a similar position. Technology has made it easier for people to learn a great deal about an organization with a few simple searches.
Many of us are aware of the groundbreaking Forrester research claiming that 70% to 90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before first contact. If you don’t think this relates to recruiting, you’re missing the boat.
Just like potential customers, potential employees are spending ample amounts of time researching organizations before even applying.
Sites like Glassdoor offer potential employees an unprecedented access and insights into the experience others have had working in your organization.
It can be a beacon for talent, or an embarrassment. That much is up to you.
Make sure you’re developing an employer brand that employees are intrigued by and you’ll see more candidates coming in on their own.
10. Ask better questions
When your goal is to bring in the most qualified candidates, it behooves you to ask them the right questions.
This can be different for each organization, and that’s why it’s such an important area to focus on. A list of interview questions for one company might be grossly inappropriate for another.
For software engineers, these questions might come in the form of a programming exercise. For someone on the marketing team, those questions might be focused on how their work impacted revenue.
The point is, the questions you’re asking should be relevant.
There’s no need to ask off-the-wall, quizzical interview questions unless solving those types of puzzles will be core to a candidate’s regular duties. Ask questions that will help identify candidates who stand out as great fits for your culture, and the task at hand.
11. Explore remote work arrangements
A great remote work program can put your organization at the top of the list for a much larger audience of talented individuals.
Modern communication and collaboration technology have made remote work more effective and easier to manage than ever. Many high-functioning teams successfully leverage a remote work structure.
Automattic, creators of the WordPress platform, operate an almost entirely remote team. Although this remote work flexibility does help attract top talent from across the globe, that’s not its only benefit. As they explain on their careers page:
Everyone works from the location they choose. We’re spread out all over the world in more than 50 countries… Because of the geographic variance, we’re active 24/7.
It’s important to remember that remote work isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition.
Although a 100% remote structure might work for some teams, that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to adopt an all-remote structure on yours. There are a number of qualified candidates who simply require remote work flexibility.
That flexibility can be the difference between earning those candidates’ interest, and losing them before the first interview even takes place.
A flexible work schedule isn’t just a job perk.
Some highly-qualified candidates may have conditions or life circumstances that limit their ability to work in a co-located office on a daily basis. There are countless reasons a candidate might need flexibility in their working arrangements—they may be sole caretakers, have limited mobility, suffer from migraines triggered by fluorescent lights, or simply do their best work from their home environment.
Building remote work flexibility into your Employee Value Proposition can make your organization a more attractive choice for many candidates.
12. Seek and embrace diversity
A diverse team is a major competitive advantage, and building one starts with the recruiting process.
In addition to dramatically increasing the depth of its talent pool, a diversity-focused recruitment program provides an organization with the opportunity to experience the myriad benefits of a diverse and inclusive team.
According to research shared in Forbes Insights‘ Global Diversity and Inclusion: Fostering Innovation through a Diverse Workforce:
Senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of respondents agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.
Diversity can take many forms, which is important to consider as you endeavor to attract a more diverse group of prospective employees. A successful program seeks applicants from the widest possible range of backgrounds and life experiences.
13. Get clear (and realistic) about timelines
Recruiting a great new hire can take a long time—often much longer than anticipated. Extended timelines can be challenging for your recruitment and hiring team, but they’re perhaps even more challenging for candidates.
It’s hard enough to search for a new job, and if you’re engaged in a protracted interview or recruitment process, it only makes things harder.
A solid candidate might wait too long to accept a good offer with another organization, or give up entirely if your recruitment process takes an inordinately long time. That’s the kind of poor experience they’re likely to share with others. A poor candidate experience won’t reflect well on your organization.
Do your best to let candidates know two very important things early on:
- When you plan to make a hiring decision
- How much of the candidate’s time you will likely require
By communicating your expectations about time and timing from the start, candidates can plan and organize their job search accordingly.
If you plan to give interviewees a homework assignment, let them know up front so they’re not blindsided by it, and give them ample time to finish. If you’re in the first week of a three month search process, be transparent about the fact that there won’t be any final decisions made until the end of that process.
14. Use an interview rubric or scorecard
Many hiring and recruitment decisions are still based on “gut reactions” about a candidate. The problem with those gut reactions is that they’re not often accurate.
Although it can be difficult to remain completely objective during the selection and interview process, leveraging an interview rubric or scorecard can make it easier.
As Ben Datner explains in his recent Harvard Business Review article:
An interview scorecard can provide a quantitative basis for comparison between interviewers, enabling you to validate your perceptions with your colleagues and learn where your ratings may be outside of the norm.
Using practices like these to temper gut reactions with quantitative data can help make your recruitment efforts more effective and more inclusive, while decreasing the number of “misses” in your hiring process.
15. Don’t discount previous candidates
Just because a candidate wasn’t chosen for a particular position doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a great fit for another spot on your team, or for the same position if it comes up again later.
Paying attention to the quality of your candidate experience can help ensure your organization stays at the top of their dream job list.
Our friends at Greenhouse shared some great advice for communicating with candidates who didn’t make it through your hiring process this time around, but might still be great fits for the future:
For applicants who made it to an interview, get personal with rejections. Call them, highlight what they did well, suggest areas of growth, and ask to stay in touch.
In many cases, candidates will truly appreciate honest, constructive feedback how they might do better next time, and that personal touch will go a long way toward keeping them as advocates for your employer brand.