Fix Your Broken Recruiting Process

For most recruiters, changing your recruiting strategies is a major transition. You see, we recruiters seek endlessly after the holy grail of recruiting: superior quality of hire. Most recruiters use boring, generic, job description-based postings that attract a high volume of applicants, and then we must take additional time to weed out the bad candidates. The expectation is always that maybe, just maybe, a few good people remain at the end.

Mercedes Benz would quickly be out of business if it manufactured its automobiles this way. A better recruitment strategy would be to build quality in every step of the process, rather than at the end.

The strategy begins with a job posting designed to screen in the highest quality, diverse candidates.

If you ask most hiring managers to identify the most essential quality for candidates — gaudy credentials, or documented accomplishments in meeting the key job deliverables — the vast majority of the managers would choose the latter. They realize that just because a candidate possesses the listed credentials, there is no guarantee the candidate can actually achieve the deliverables necessary for superior performance in the job.

The best method of identifying these deliverables is to pose this question to hiring managers: “If we could fast-forward to the initial annual performance review for this position, what accomplishments must the incumbent achieve to merit a superior performance rating?”

Success essentials are then created to capture the five or six results that must be achieved for success in the position. Success essentials replace the job description as the foundation of your talent acquisition process. Success essentials can be featured in job postings, job ads, the cover letter screening process and in performance-based interviews.

Many recruiters think that posting job descriptions on the employer website, or sending vacancies to an internet job board is the essence of recruiting. Savvy talent acquisitioneers know that posting jobs is … well, posting jobs. Real recruiting may involve market research to find out where your “A players” hang out when not job hunting. Recruiting is determining what “triggers” top candidates to apply to your positions. Recruiting is also identifying the factors that will influence a candidate to accept a job offer.

A better example of real recruiting is to merge some old-school talent acquisition with the newest technology. Passive candidates represent up to 80 percent of the qualified applicant pools available. Active applicants, who will search out and apply for anything that “moves,” represent approximately 20% of available candidates. The math is fairly simple — recruiters need to spend the majority of their time sourcing, recruiting, and closing on the passives. Passives are often not in the buying mood, so simply posting a generic job description ad on a job board doesn’t excite them. The solution is to “Black Friday” them by creating ads that address the candidates’ employee value proposition — i.e., What would motivate a passive to leave their current employer and uproot her family to come work for you?

Most recruiters will admit that we tend to source all candidates the same way. We often post jobs for two to four weeks and expect our ideal candidate to be active in the job market, to discover our generic posting, and be motivated to apply for the position. We have little data on how to communicate our “compelling career opportunities” in a way that will engage the interest and participation of the top candidates.

While the talent acquisition process may be broken, there are a number of “fixes” for the problems. I have identified two low-cost, low-labor alternatives:

  1. Adopt performance-based recruitment processes. Lou Adler is my guru on performance-based recruiting. If you haven’t read any of the multitudes of articles from Lou, you won’t know Jack about recruiting. Following Lou’s strategies, I use success essentials as the key to identifying the success factors for superior performance. Success essentials promote agreement between the recruiter and the hiring manager as to what superior performance is on the job, and how top candidates communicate these abilities on application materials, and during the interview.
  2. Establish relationship recruiting. Definition: “A ready pool of pre-screened applicants who have already expressed interest in working for your organization.” By establishing an ongoing relationship with your top passives, the perfect candidate will be waiting by the phone when a suitable opening occurs. First, we initiate a continuous process of identifying the top performers for your hard-to-fill positions (and you won’t find these candidates searching on employer websites or job board posting). We then seek to associate with these individuals professionally at industry association meetings, conferences, or in social media, like LinkedIn Groups. During this “engagement” period, we look to connect with them online. For example, you can create Google Alerts to keep track of any time your best candidates are mentioned on the web. You would then send them an email or LinkedIn “InMail,” referencing the accomplishment or upcoming event. It is an essential part of building positive relationships with your passive candidate base before you need to contact them regarding an open position. As compelling career opportunities arise within our organizations, we would refer them to our candidates. If the timing was not quite right for the individual to make a move, we would nurture the relationship until they are “ripe” and ready for the career move.
  • John Hoskins

    Brilliant! Amen! Halejula!

  • Edward Sussek


    You’re off the mark if you think the recruiting process begins with a requisition. This is an old “fishing” model of recruiting. Today, Recruiters need to watch the pulse of the organization. They should be hinting for talent that could fit into the organization.

    Once found then Recruiters build relationships with prospects. Then, when a manager has a need, the Recruiter connects with prospects to identify actual candidate.

    Your model can add up to 2 weeks to the process and only focuses on those looking for jobs. Recruiters need to be selling jobs to prospects regardless of their current status


  • Mary Spilman

    Yes, I agree, we use a more fluid model of quality candidates always, tapped and ready, our quality of hire, a measurement that we also view as the critical metric, is 98% over 30 years.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Glenn. There’s a saying on my side of the recruiting fence: “If you have time to build a relationship with a candidate, you don’t have enough reqs.” This particularly applies if you’re looking for contractors. I need people who are ready to go NOW, and don’t have time to fool with folks who “might be ready to think about some sort of a change in 3-12 months.”


  • Shankar Ganapathy

    Relationship building with candidates need not always be a 1-1 transaction. With Technology evolving so fast, there is considerable relationship building that one can do through employer branding and talent engagement (for example :

    The real problem as far as I have seen is the slow transition from pen-paper to technology. How many B-Schools in this world train talent in use of ATS, PMS etc?