25 Smart Recruiting Topics For Bold and Innovative Recruiting Leaders

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Apr 23, 2013

During the newly reinvigorated and exciting Spring ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo last week in San Diego, two attendees posed related but powerful questions to me.

The first was, “What advanced topics should be on the agenda of recruiting leaders at elite firms?” Or as another put it, “What should Google be planning to do next in recruiting?”

At least to me, future agenda items are an important topic, because after visiting well over 100 firms, I have found a dramatic difference between the agenda items that are found on 95 percent of the firms (cost per hire, ATS issues, requisition loads, etc.) and the truly advanced subjects that only elite recruiting firms like Google, DaVita, Sodexo, etc. would even attempt to tackle.

25 recruiting topics for bold recruiting leaders

So if you have the responsibility for setting agendas or recruiting goals, here is my list of truly advanced recruiting topics that elite leaders would find compelling, but that most others would simply find to be out of their reach.

If you want to be among the elite, you should select a handful for implementation. However, even if you are currently overwhelmed by your current agenda, you might still find them to be interesting reading.

I have listed these advanced recruiting topics and goals in descending order, based on their estimated potential business impact. Best practice firms that I have found that others can learn from are mentioned in parentheses.

  1. Hiring more productive employees — The primary output measure of any talent management function is the productivity of the firm’s workforce. Recruiting makes its contribution to workforce productivity by accepting the accountability of bringing in new hires who produce more output and revenue than existing workers in the same job. Some call it quality of hire, and unfortunately, solving the problem seems to be well over the pay grade of 99 percent of recruiting leaders (Sodexo, Google, Apple).
  2. Prioritizing jobs for hiring — Leaders need to quantify the business impact of each job family and then prioritize hiring to focus recruiting resources on those high-impact jobs. A special focus should be on those jobs that generate large amounts of revenue. The recommended approach is to work with the CFO’s office because it adds tremendous credibility to the process (Zynga).
  3. Develop targeted hiring programs — Developing the focused capability for increasing the number of high-value-added innovators and adaptive/agile individuals that are hired can have an immediate and measurable impact on the bottom line (Google, Facebook).
  4. Referrals should reach 50 percent — As more firms gather data within their own corporation on the quality of hire that results from employee referrals, their recruiting leaders will realize that they should improve their referral program’s capability and then target 50 percent of all hires to come from referrals (Deloitte, AmTrust).
  5. Predictive analytics must replace historical metrics – Almost without exception, vendor-supplied metrics dominate recruiting. Unfortunately, 99 percent of all recruiting metrics are “historical” and as a result, they only tell you what happened last year. Real-time metrics are more powerful because they tell you what’s happening today. Predictive analytics are even more powerful because they warn you in advance about what will likely happen, and they also tell you why, so that you can better prepare effective solutions. Recruiting should develop “alerts” to warn hiring managers and recruiters of upcoming problems and talent opportunities (Google).
  6. Confront the doubters – The chief roadblock to sufficient funding in recruiting is the CFO. Advanced leaders should collaborate with the CFO’s office to identify and resolve issues and then build a continuous compelling business case for recruiting. Among the calculations that must be approved by the CFO include the performance differential of a great hire, the cost of position vacancies, the long-term cost of a weak hire, and most importantly, converting all major recruiting results into their dollar impact on corporate revenue. And because hiring managers are the primary limiting factor to great execution in recruiting, the most cynical managers must be invited in to outline their issues, and leaders must then work with the most powerful managers to resolve each one to their satisfaction (Sun, Google).
  7. A shift to algorithm-driven decision-making in recruiting — Even some of the elite recruiting functions make program decisions based on existing best practices and external information. The future of all people-management decision making needs to follow the highly successful approach used by Google’s people analytics team and PiLab. And that means relying on data, statistical algorithms, and even experiments to prove to skeptical managers and recruiting professionals “what works” and “what doesn’t work” in recruiting at your own firm. Research must also be conducted on the job acceptance criteria of top candidates and on which sources produce top candidates (Google).
  8. Catching up in your capability on the mobile platform – Although progress has been made at many firms, the future of recruiting messaging and communications is the mobile platform. Every recruiting feature must be directly accessible from smart phones, and recruiting approaches must be tailored to fit the advantages of the mobile platform (Sodexo, AT&T, McDonald’s).
  9. Employer branding must be brought up to date – The down economy has resulted in stagnation in most firms’ employer branding efforts. However, as hiring becomes more competitive and with the growth of social media and websites like, traditional employer branding approaches will have to be abandoned. Recruiting leaders will need to learn how to effectively measure employer brand strength and to identify the brand pillars that top candidates care most about. Smart recruiting leaders will gather data that will demonstrate that employer branding and employer referrals stand alone as the two most powerful recruiting approaches (Google).
  10. Ramping up your hiring capability — A hiring boom has already begun in high tech, the mobile platform industry, and at Internet firms, so now may be the opportune time for the recruiting functions in other industries to begin preparing for the inevitable coming hiring boom. That means that leaders must develop a plan to rapidly ramp up your firm’s hiring capacity and capability, without additional budget.
  11. Candidate selling must be improved — When the economy rebounds and candidates have more choices, closing them will become increasingly more difficult. As a result, the neglected “selling” aspects of recruiting will eventually become critical. All of the selling aspects of recruiting will have to be revisited, and in addition, they must shift away from past practices to a data-driven selling approach (Cisco).
  12. Assessment can no longer be ignored — Relying on resumes, interviewing, and reference checking as the complete candidate assessment approach has always been a mistake. As a new online assessment approaches and simulations grow in effectiveness, recruiting leaders will need to add them to the current assessment approaches (KPMG).
  13. Bolster competitive analysis and competitive intelligence — Only elite firms conduct competitive side-by-side analysis to determine if their recruiting approaches and results are superior in all key aspects to that of the firm’s talent competitors. Most firms also fail to conduct competitive intelligence assessments of their competitors, and many fail to realize that LinkedIn has multiple capabilities in CI. Among the many things that a LinkedIn expert can tell you is which of your talent competitor firms are hiring in what jobs and away from what firms. LinkedIn can reveal which firms have turnover problems and to what firms those employees are moving. It can also tell you where your own departing employees went and where potential boomerang rehires now work, in case you wanted to bring them back. Experience may prove that updating their LinkedIn profile may also be an indicator that a high-value target is about to enter the job market.
  14. Add personalized recruiting for landing difficult candidates — Marketing has led the way within corporations in supplementing the traditional one-size-fits-all programs with a more narrow targeted approach. Executive search firms only use a personalized approach but most corporate recruiting functions have failed to develop personalized recruiting. It is more powerful because the recruiting approach and method focuses on the unique needs of individual highly desirable candidates (Deloitte).
  15. College recruiting programs must be updated – The demand for college recruits is coming back stronger than ever. Unfortunately, almost every existing corporate college recruiting programs is either broken, outdated, or both. If you expect to get more than a trickle of college hires and interns, your program will have to adopt features like student referrals, remote college recruiting, quality-of-college-hire metrics, reliance on the mobile platform, and contests to identify the very best (Deloitte, E&Y, Purina).
  16. Contingent labor must be integrated – In a volatile VUCA world, the ability to rapidly add talent and also quickly reduce labor costs will become an essential capability. That means that the hiring and management of contingent labor must be improved dramatically and then closely integrated with other talent management functions including recruiting (Microsoft).
  17. Video interviews must become required — This is certainly not an advanced approach anymore but there is simply no excuse for not making live video interviews a required corporate recruiting practice. These interviews are powerful because they increase hiring speed, interview quality, and they help the environment while dramatically reducing travel costs.
  18. Technology substitutes must be considered — HR and recruiting have long been focused on hiring and managing “people.” But it’s time for both functions to expand their perspective to include the ever-increasing array of software and robotics that are now viable alternatives to employees. This will require a partnership with the IT and technology functions to develop an algorithm for determining when it is economically appropriate to substitute technology for employees (Philips).
  19. Internal movement must be improved — Because it has the added benefit of increasing development, motivation, and retention, the first option for filling an open job in most cases should be an equally qualified internal candidate. Unfortunately, because most internal movement systems are broken, qualified internal candidates are all too frequently not found, so external recruits become the best option. The recruiting function at elite firms needs to get involved in speeding up and improving that internal movement (Cisco, Booz Allen, and Microsoft).
  20. Centralizing recruiting is required – Some firms, especially large global ones, have yet to realize that decentralized recruiting must be replaced by a centralized function. Centralization is essential for excellence in employer branding, referrals, powerful metrics, recruiter training, and the sharing of candidates between business units (GE).
  21. Addressing the upcoming shortage of recruiters – As hiring ramps up, recruiting leaders will soon realize that the down economy has decimated the number of available well-trained recruiters. Even though most great recruiters have remained employed, finding enough “good” recruiters will soon become both more difficult and expensive. So a plan needs to be developed to train new recruiters or to identify and eventually hire the very best existing ones.
  22. Consider incentives for corporate recruiters – As the demand for candidates and recruiters both increase, the long dormant issue of incentives for corporate recruiters will return. Only the best will realize that both team and individual incentives for quality of hire, hiring in prioritized jobs, req loads, and manager and candidate satisfaction can be a major contributor to increasing recruiting excellence.
  23. Consider strategic hiring for the good of the firm — In almost every firm, the hiring manager determines what is required, based on their individual needs. Elite recruiting leaders should consider an alternative approach which puts the broader needs of the corporation first when it comes to hiring. This may mean instituting a practice of “hiring for this and the next job,” a separate hiring team for filling key jobs, or even having the CEO approve all hires to ensure that they reflect corporate needs and the standards (Google, Zynga, Yahoo).
  24. Workforce planning must be revisited — Traditional workforce planning supply/demand models simply don’t work in a volatile VUCA environment. As a result, the planning horizon must be shortened and a range of possible “surprises” must be anticipated and planned for.
  25. Retention must be updated — Retention and recruiting are interrelated. Because of social media, retention issues quickly become widely known and thus they negatively impact recruiting. Preventable turnover unnecessarily increases the workload of recruiters. As a result of this interrelationship, recruiting leaders must work with retention leaders to ensure that both programs excel.

Final thoughts

I should warn you in advance that if you want to learn more about the above, like most advanced topics, you won’t find them on conference agendas that are focused on the average firm. You also won’t find them covered in best-selling books or even in vendor sponsored white papers. Even benchmarking may be minimally productive because elite recruiting leaders know the value of secrecy in maintaining their recruiting dominance.

But maybe that is the most important lesson to learn about all innovation and new ideas. And that lesson is the best way to determine if something is really innovative and new is that you won’t find much written, the best practice leaders don’t want to share, and the average person will dismiss it has either unnecessary or pie in the sky.

I hope you found at least a few innovations and new ideas for your “next year’s recruiting agenda.” And finally, if you have any items that you feel should be added to this agenda list, use the comments section at the end of this article to make them known.