Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The humble role profile, a missed opportunity in Talent Acquisition

How many hours of verbal candidate briefing are carried out by recruiters, HR partners and hiring managers in a year of recruitment activity, and with what level of quality and consistency? If you value your candidate experience and are keen to close candidates on job offers, the answer should be a lot.

The role profile provides a great opportunity to qualitatively standardise and professionalise your candidate briefing process and drive efficiency and cost savings. The elements below can combine to make a high quality and powerful candidate briefing document:

  • The organisation attractors – sector, size, market conditions, position in the market, products/services and financials etc.
  • The Employee Value Proposition summary.
  • Corporate culture.
  • Function and department overview.
  • Position description, purpose, accountabilities and deliverables.
  • History – how has the position arisen, what expectation has the previous position holder created, what have been the successes and failures.
  • Relationships – which categories of stakeholder will the position holder work with.
  • Future. Where might the position holder move to.
  • Required experience.
  • Required competencies and behaviours.

Providing high quality information to candidates via a qualitative role profile embeds sales and marketing into the recruitment process from the outset and prompts both higher degrees of self-deselection and process commitment by candidates.

The perception of professionalism and higher degrees of engagement of both the hiring manager and the candidate is significantly enhanced by the quality of information and thoroughness of approach and generates goodwill, supporting the offer closing process.

Having a qualitative standardised template builds consistency of communication on key aspects of the value proposition across all internal stakeholders (and external partners) and enables a higher standard of candidate communications, supporting the employer brand.

By removing, in the initial stages of the recruitment process, the need to spend so much time talking about what is now written in the role profile; an enormous amount of time is saved and can drive significant recruiter productivity improvements. This is particularly true for researched, passive, and social media candidates, who to a greater extent need to be sold before coming into the recruitment process.

Building consistency across organisations is always a challenge, as is ensuring that hiring managers provide the time and that the facilitation is carried out by HR Partners and Recruiters. However, as recruitment channels are increasingly open, with many organisations having access to the same pool of talent, and as recruitment budgets put pressure on recruiter headcount, it is a challenge worth taking to deliver real benefits.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Maximise Recruitment Vendor Performance

From the most progressive of direct sourcing organisations to the agency driven and process outsourced models, there is likely to be a significant number of recruitment vendors in most companies' recruitment supply chain
Given the key role the vendor channel plays in delivering talent into organisations, and the high cost of use, how much do we really know about the vendors we select, their outputs and the experience they provide to all of the stakeholders in the process they support, through the prosecution of their services on their clients behalf? The answer is likely to vary from not much, to a lot, depending on the approach to vendor selection and on-going contract and relationship management employed by the client company. 

Put a group of HR/recruitment leaders on the discussion topic of recruitment vendors together and inevitably there will be many stories of disappointment, lack of timely delivery, poor service levels, patchy quality and cycling through suppliers in search of the holy grail of long term successful delivery. Likewise, speak to candidates, a key stakeholder in the process, and there will be an even greater focus on quality of service received. Candidate experience can have a dramatic effect on brand perception as well as in the decision process of whether to accept or not accept a client offer.

Interestingly, there will also many stories of how well a process is working and how happy candidates and clients have been, often regarding the same vendors criticised by other users and organisations. From the vendor side there will be much feedback regarding clients' ability to successfully respond to their needs and to support and enable them to deliver successfully.

So, what explains the differences between those that get the most from the supplier relationship and those that don't? In my experience, and from broad feedback, the key difference is focus of approach on partnership and diligence of approach to service requirement definition, supplier assessment and selection, development of feedback mechanisms and on-going metrics based continuous process improvement.
What are some of the characteristics of approach by those reporting the most successful outcomes?
  • A clear definition of the service required and associated metrics by which the service delivery will be measured, including two way service levels, process flow and narrative.
  • A detailed review, RFP and face to face evaluation, of vendor capabilities across all key drivers of capability by key stakeholders (functional and line) to include:

    • Vendor experience and track record
    • Approach to service levels and measurement
    • Background and experience of proposed service delivery team members
    • Technical and administration infrastructure
    • Vendor Knowledge base
    • Research/attraction capabilities
    • Professionalism of approach to process
    • Financial stability
    • Capability to support future efficiencies
    • Client references – from similar sized organisations with similar service requirements.
    • Clear commitment and capability to implement
    • A focus on delivering the required service consistently, at the most competitive price – reverse auction, negotiation etc. 
Establishing a change mangement and engagement process internally appears to provide the key to ensuring the most appropriate providers are not only chosen, but are effectively implemented to deliver the required outputs. Successful selection and implementations seem to share some of the following characteristics:
  • Change Management, communication and project plan through all stages of the process
  • Engaging all stakeholders early and agreeing the case for and approach to change
  • Seeking inputs to define service capability requirements and gaining consensus on approach
  • Contract Management as a conduit to continuous process improvement:
  • A defined contract manager
  • Regular, agenda driven supplier meetings reviewing metrics, stakeholder feedback and supplier feedback in the spirit of understanding what results are being achieved, why the results are what they are and how they can be improved, along with an action plan to be reviewed at subsequent meetings.
  • Metrics and Management Information to include on-going candidate and hiring manager surveys on key aspects of service delivery as well as performance metrics from the two way service level agreement.
The outputs from 3rd party managed services are often driven, at least to a large extent, by the inputs and approach of the client company during both the selection and on-going contract management process. I hope the above will provide a useful context against which to rationalise current performance of selected vendors and act as a broad broad roadmap to mitigate unsatisfactory performance.

The author, Rob Connor, is a director of Human Capital Talent, a corporate recruitment strategy consulting, process support and HR executive search business. He has an extensive background in recruitment change management, functional leadership and global executive search gained working for, and consulting with, leading organisations such as Cargill, Royal Bank Of Scotland, Willis, Cisco Systems, Littlewoods and others. To contact please email or visit

Monday, 11 June 2012

5 employer branding errors and how to mitigate them

When someone accepts a position with a new employer, they are accepting on trust the messages and information provided by the employer on the nature of the organisation, its culture and its employment offering. Whilst many candidates will act with a degree of caveat emptor as they make their decisions, most will have an expectation that the information provided is broadly based on reality.

An employment brand is a promise regarding the employment value of an employer provided to an employee. Getting the promise right can deliver significant commercial advantage through the attraction, engagement, retention and performance of talent. However, the effect of a negative gap between what was promised during the recruitment process and what is experienced by new employees can lead to significant performance, retention and engagement issues.

So, what are 5 common errors made by organisations and what can be done to mitigate them?

  • The organisation is not the employer brand

    Studies have shown that the organisation attractors – size, market position, growth, sector etc. can account for as little as 5% of the attraction decision. However, many organisations employment messages often make organisation attractors the focal point of recruitment communications.

    The challenge to mitigate this issue is about aligning the right stakeholders, creating a consensus around best practice and creating a partnership/employer branding platform comprising HR, communications, marketing and business stakeholders to ensure the understanding of the broadest possible context of employer branding and to develop and drive all activity from that platform. Leverage this platform to drive employer branding projects and recruitment marketing/branding related change.

  • Culture, Culture, Culture

    Often summarised as "how things get done when nobody is looking", Culture is an area that requires the most qualitative measurement and accurate articulation as it is foundational to the day to day experiences of employees. Unfortunately, most organisations do not measure their culture in any qualitative way and as such the messages are often at significant odds with the reality. Likewise, many hiring managers and recruiters struggle to deliver a detailed and consistent articulation of the culture.

    Understanding, documenting and articulating corporate culture is challenging and it can be difficult to align stakeholders to a common view, particularly when the reality is at odds with what is currently communicated. However, defining a framework to build up a valid cultural picture is a great first step – an example is the OCAI (organisational cultural assessment instrument) but there are many others. The important thing is to choose a template structure and measure, investigate and articulate the culture consistently using that framework.

  • Employment Value Proposition (EVP)

    The EVP includes those elements of the employment offering that relate to the nature of the work itself. The EVP, along with corporate culture, affords employees the greatest opportunity to compare and contrast one employer with another. Typical elements include: salary, bonus and benefits, career development, training, quality of work, management quality, quality of colleagues, flexibility etc.

    Given the importance of the EVP, it's surprising how many organisations do not specifically measure their EVP, preferring a generalised and subjective articulation to a data led, structured approach. As with culture, hiring managers and recruiters also struggle with a clear, consistent and detailed articulation of employment value.

    Gathering and analysing primary data on an EVP and challenging the resulting assumptions in stakeholder forums can provide a powerful foundation to identify common EVP strengths from which a common and valid employer brand can be constructed. Likewise, it can ensure that areas for development are qualitatively identified for mitigation.

    Leverage the common EVP strengths and the cultural realities in to a realistic brand substantiation statement (narrative on the strengths of a employers offering) to embed into recruitment messages. Then distil an employer brand slogan around which you can build your recruitment marketing communications and on-going employer brand equity.

    The Corporate Leadership Council provides an excellent framework and interesting research on EVP elements and can provide a great template to build your own survey and tools to develop your employer brand

  • Embedding the message

    Many organisations that have developed a strong and valid employer brand often fail to truly embed the message at every candidate touch point. Even with investment in recruitment marketing material, on and off line, it is difficult for candidates to find a detailed qualitative understanding of culture and employment value. Try to find it on your own corporate site against a benchmark of comprehensiveness and you may struggle. Likewise, when you get to front line recruiters and hiring managers, few are capable of consistently articulating a structured overview.

    Evaluate what is currently available to candidates on-line and ensure that candidates can easily find comprehensive content either on-line or via a downloadable PDF. At the very least it will save recruiters briefing time later and will drive self-selection for candidates with whom the culture does not resonate. Likewise, look at role profiles as an opportunity to further reinforce messages. Utilise your off-line materials to reinforce key messages whilst driving candidates on-line for a more comprehensive overview.

    Understand who engages with potential employees and at which stages. Have a communication plan for each stage and stakeholder, along with an appropriate briefing template. An internal employer branding intranet or downloadable PDF file is a great place to start, along with regular remindative stakeholder communication on the importance of driving valid and consistent messages to potential employees.

    When it comes to employer branding, the further from the source the weaker the message can be. When using agencies and search firms, and indeed employee referrals, it's essential to ensure that the employer branding message is delivered with quality and consistency. Ensure that partners are briefed and measure candidate experience of briefing during the recruitment process.

  • Feedback mechanisms

    With annual engagement surveys, exit interviews and the ease of cheap high quality internet driven bespoke surveys, information on the employment brand and various stakeholders perspectives on it have never been easier to obtain. However, many organisations neglect to utilise existing data or to gather specific data on candidates or employees perspectives. This makes data driven insights, interventions and improvements difficult.

    Develop specific surveys including a candidate experience survey, based around a common template, to understand various stakeholders' perspectives on the EVP, culture, organisation attractors and the quality of the briefing received on the employer brand. Include surveys to:

    • New employees on joining and after 6 months.
    • Rejected candidates.
    • Employees leaving the organisation – to understand what their perspectives are and what they are rejecting about the employers' EVP.

    Establish teams to analyse, report on findings and to make recommendations on initiatives to improve outcomes.

Whilst this blog has been written with the focus on employer branding as a recruitment tool, clearly branding for current employees can also have a significant performance impact. However, given the breadth of the subject, I decided not to include in this article.


The author, Rob Connor, is a director of Human Capital Talent, a recruitment strategy consulting, process support and HR executive search business. He has an extensive background in recruitment change management, functional leadership and global executive search gained working for, and consulting with, leading organisations such as Cargill, Royal Bank Of Scotland, Willis, Cisco Systems, Littlewoods and others. To contact, please email or visit

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

5 practices to improve diversity recruitment outcomes

Most organisations recognize by now that a diverse and talented workforce is good for business. Indeed most leadership teams articulate a strong and clear positive message regarding their support for Diversity. There are many studies to show the competitive advantage and superior business results from Diversity in the workplace and most scale organisations have made significant investment in building global diversity functions and programs to improve Diversity.

So with all of the support, investment and initiatives, why do many organisations struggle to make meaningful progress in their Diversity objectives and what can be done to improve results? Whilst there are many drivers of success, including the employers value proposition/attractiveness to their diverse employee populations, they fall into two broad categories, demand and delivery:


The formulation of demand, the development of the job profile/requisition, is where the rubber meets the road in the diversity recruitment process and is where it often breaks down and negatively impacts every step that follows. Hiring managers ask HR/recruiting to find a profile and that profile is typically the same profile – education, skills, experience, attitude and industry sector – that has been used in the past and which is likely to deliver a similar spread of candidates as in the past.

Few hiring managers have had training and experience in interviewing, let alone diversity interview training; many will approach the selection process in the same way as they have always done, typically delivering a hire similar to other hires made in the past. The result? Another chance to increase diversity is lost. As one of my former colleagues, and Global Diversity Leader put it, uncharitably but not inaccurately, often "stale, male and pale".

In my experience, it's not that managers have a general bias against Diversity. Rather, they have a fixed view based on culture and experience that leads them to formulate their demand, and select against delivered shortlists, in a very narrow range that leads to poorer diversity outcomes


Like the rest of HR, recruiting functions, and generalists tasked with recruiting, are being asked to do more with less. They are measured with cost and time to hire metrics and are challenged by business stakeholders to deliver candidates ever more quickly. Under resource, cost and time pressures, many HR organisations miss the opportunity to truly engage the candidate market fully, relying instead on e-recruitment or agencies to deliver candidates.

By working with job boards, and/or agencies, the restriction of range of candidates engaged misses the opportunity to really interact with quality and diversity in a meaningful way and in a way that drives competitive advantage.

Agencies on no-fix-no-fee will work their databases and perhaps some job posting and networking, knowing that speed is key, otherwise they lose the fee to a competitor so they deliver the best candidate they have, rather than the best and most diverse candidates available. Likewise, when corporate recruiters use job boards as the primary source, they are only engaging candidates that are seeking employment and not the best and most diverse candidates available to them.

By only working within the active candidate market (those people actively seeking employment), employers are missing out on the quality and diversity within the passive candidate market (talent employed by other organisations but who are not currently seeking a new job). The quality and diversity outcomes are therefore undermined by the restriction of range of candidates engaged.

So, what can organisations facing the challenges above do to improve diversity outcomes? Here are 5 practices that have proven benefits in driving better Diversity results:

  1. Demand

    The role profile for a requisition sets the parameters for the recruiting process to follow. The broader the profile, the wider the range of quality and diverse candidates that can be engaged in the attraction and selection processes.

    To ensure the broadest possible role profile, build a qualitative intake meeting into the recruitment process involving the HR Business Partner, Recruiter and Hiring Manager to define the required profile. In the meeting explore the diversity impact of choices on industry experience, specific skills, attitudes and education and seek to broaden where possible e.g. is an advanced degree really required, do they have to really have retail expertise, what are transferable skills from other industries that could be included etc.

    Challenging hiring managers on choices and engaging as a true business partner rather than providing transactional delivery of requested hires can lead to significantly enhanced outcomes. However, it is key to ensure that HR partners and recruiters are capable of articulating the commercial benefits of diversity and have the courage, capability and credibility to consult with, and challenge, their stakeholders on diversity outcomes.

  2. Sourcing

    Driving quality and diversity requires the broadest and most qualitative sourcing process possible. A solution approach that ensures both passive and active candidate populations are engaged is a key driver of success. By building sourcing solutions that combine e-recruitment posting/advertising along with social media and competitor talent research and approach, quality and diversity are significantly enhanced, whilst also delivering qualitative data from target talent regarding its perception of your employee value proposition.

    The reality is that the vast majority of recruiting functions lack the resources to leverage the passive market and necessarily rely on the e-recruitment/advertised market at great opportunity cost to their businesses. However, there are providers in the market who deliver services related to research and approach within the passive market and others that provide combined passive and active candidate identification, approach and shortlisting, often on highly favourable charging models.

    Indeed Human Capital talent provides its MyHeadhunter and Myheadhunter-research services on a time based charging model which significantly discounts agency and search firm costs whilst improving quality and diversity.

    They challenge for HR/recruiting functions is to adopt a solution approach and to resource internally, or source and select a new type of partner that bring scale and capability in both the passive candidate market and multi-channel sourcing.

  3. Measurement

    Measure the results from your diversity recruiting investment. Measurement allows businesses to understand its diversity outcomes and provides qualitative data from which to build a platform for improvement. Truly understanding outcomes is difficult in isolation of knowing what is happening at each stage of the recruitment process. It's important to have insights on which stages of the recruitment process are enhancing/reducing diversity outcomes and within which talent segments, businesses and hiring managers. Having this information will enable the identification of behavioural and systemic barriers to diversity success and provide a baseline for a virtuous circle of measurement, action and improvement.

    Whilst data collection can be daunting, most applicant tracking systems provide the ability to capture and report diversity data. Creating cross functional teams to analyse data and recommend initiatives provides a great opportunity for business HR partnership and professional development.

  4. Accountability

    For any diversity program to be successful, it's essential that accountabilities are defined and allocated correctly. Make sure that hiring managers understand that they are accountable for diversity hiring outcomes. Make HR Partners accountable for manager training, education advice and consultancy on the diversity agenda and hold recruiters accountable for driving diversity friendly sourcing programs and solutions.

    By combining clarity on accountabilities with measurement, activity, advice and consultancy, the elements are in place to drive enhanced diversity results.

  5. Partnership

    Build a sense of partnership and shared objectives across stakeholder groups to achieving sustainable benefits. Given the fragmentation and geographical remoteness of Diversity program teams, Recruiters, hiring managers and HR partners, it can be easy to slip in to silo approaches and unaligned activities. To avoid this and to create a sense of partnership, whilst generating stakeholder engagement and professional development opportunities, build cross functional diversity teams. Include all stakeholder groups in diversity action teams and task them to review diversity outputs and to develop and champion initiatives and to manage diversity related change.


The author, Rob Connor, is a director of Human Capital Talent, a recruitment strategy consulting, process support and HR executive search business. He has an extensive background in recruitment change management, functional leadership and global executive search gained working for, and consulting with, leading organisations such as Cargill, Royal Bank Of Scotland, Willis, Cisco Systems, Littlewoods and others. To contact, please email or visit

Monday, 26 March 2012

5 search firm practices to enhance your social media recruitment outcomes.

The game is up; the future of recruitment is social media. How many blogs and articles have you read espousing one or other varieties of that statement? Lots I'm guessing and to a degree, it's true.

The competitive advantage of agencies and search firms has been significantly eroded over the last few years, at least as it relates to candidate identification, and progressively more so with scores of new potential candidates pouring onto the main social media sites - linkedin, Xing, and Viadeo - on a daily basis. With the reality of social media recruitment now firmly established, are corporate recruiters maximising social media recruitment potential? Well, not quite and not yet.

Many corporates do not use social media at all. Indeed, a recent report showed that 70% of HR directors surveyed in the UK are unclear as to the benefits of social media for recruitment; for those organisations that do, many merely utilise social media sites to post their jobs. Others simply to send messages to prospective candidates identified through the search functionality of the site they are using. Whilst still delivering some benefits, this approach is largely missing the opportunity that social media presents to improve the quality of hire and truly impact the performance of hiring organisations.

For executive search firms, social media candidate generation is merely an extension of their custom and practice in candidate research. Social media makes it easier for them to identify prospects but they rely on their tried and tested practices to deliver talent for their clients and revenue for themselves. In the evolution of the search industry, those with the best practices grew whilst less efficient competitors floundered. So what principles can in-house teams adopt from search firm best practice to improve their social media outcomes?

  1. Be resourced

    Dedicate internal research resources or engage external social media candidate research partners to provide a specific focus on social media candidate engagement and attraction. The return on investment will be significant, particularly for management, professional and leadership roles.

  2. Be prepared

    Ensure a professional engagement with prospective candidates – have a candidate briefing that outlines the company, the culture, the role, the history of the role, the accountabilities, deliverables and potential development opportunities, as well as an indication of the broader employer value proposition. You will have to explain verbally anyway, better to produce a template once to use and tailor on an on-going basis to maximise candidate perceptions of quality and recruiter time management.

  3. Be proactive

    Don't rely only on site based messages for your engagement of prospects. Telephone prospects and engage them to agree to review your briefing and follow-up to discuss their thoughts. At the very least, you will know what they think of the job and your organisation. You never know, they may know the ideal candidate, especially if you ask them for a referral.

  4. Sell

    All recruiters are salespeople, whether they like it or not, whether they recognise it or not and whether they are any good at it or not. They are selling to the only product that can refuse to allow itself to be sold – candidates. In fact, social media candidates are not even real candidates at all in the traditional sense, rather prospects that have been approached and who need convincing as to the attractiveness of your role and company. To engage at all, to convert prospects to candidates and candidates into employees requires the recruiter to ensure that the total value proposition and its relevance to the candidates' motivations are well laid out, professionally communicated and reinforced all the way through the process.

  5. Follow-up

    Todays rejected candidate is tomorrows potential hire. Given that a social media approach creates an expectation in the candidates' perception of some due diligence on the part of the recruiter prior to approach, it is essential to provide a professional rejection regardless of the stage in the process where the of rejection occurred. Failure to do so will damage the employer brand of the employer and significantly inhibit the ability to engage talent segments over time.

In general, the quality is in the passive candidate market and in this space the thoroughness and diligence of the approach dictate the best outcomes. By learning lessons from those who have streamlined their approaches in this market and by applying those lessons to new channels such as social media, corporate recruiting functions can greatly benefit in quality improvements and cost reductions whilst maximising their employer brand perception.

The author, Rob Connor, is a director of Human Capital Talent, a corporate recruitment strategy consulting, process support and HR executive search business. He has an extensive background in recruitment change management, functional leadership and global executive search gained working for, and consulting with, leading organisations such as Cargill, Royal Bank Of Scotland, Willis, Cisco Systems, Littlewoods and others. To contact, please email or visit


Monday, 12 March 2012

Virtual executive, management and professional recruitment support – improve candidate quality, diversity and greatly reduce costs

How can you hire quickly, with quality and diversity in today's competitive market place. The simple answer is to leave no stone unturned in your search for the best candidate that you can attract with your value proposition. Simple? In theory, yes, in practice, well that's a little different.

To get the best candidate you can attract it's essential to source both the active candidate market (those currently seeking a new job and registered with agencies or applying to print and job board adverts) and the significantly larger segment, the passive candidate market (those who are not applying to adverts, or registered with agencies).

The reality for most organisations is that time and resources pressures restrict sourcing activity to job boards and/or agencies and ultimately recruit the best available candidate rather than the best possible candidate, potentially reducing quality of hire and diversity through restriction of the range of potential candidates engaged with the search. In addition, for many organisations using agencies and search firms, the cost is considerably higher than it could be.

Human Capital Talent's Myheadhunter service combines tailored and extensive sourcing, researching social media, competitor talent mapping and e-recruitment (job boards etc.). Assignments typically take 2 weeks of Researcher time to generate candidates and a week of Senior Consultant time to interview and shortlist.

By charging a fixed price for research and consultant time we are able of offer our clients a comprehensive view of the market for any particular role at a typical discount to agencies and search firms of over 50%. What's more is that we guarantee to deliver within the cost footprint of 2 weeks of researcher and 1 week of senior consultant time, thus guaranteeing the cost savings and quality benefits of a broad multi recruitment channel search.

The Myheadhunter service can be used on a one off per hire basis, or more strategically to support the delivery against peaks in recruitment demand or to flexibly augment your internal recruitment function. In any case, our multi-lingual researchers and experienced executive search consultants guarantee a quality output backed by our client and candidate service promise.

To hear more, or to discuss the service in more detail, please contact Rob Connor at Human Capital Talent – or call him on 00 44 (0) 203 551 6948 0r mobile 00 44 (0)7947 532280.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Leverage the benefits of Linkedin and social media for recruiting

The growth of social media as a recruitment tool has been rapid over the last few years, with Linkedin leading the way. Organisations now have the opportunity to leverage social media to drive significant quality of hire, recruitment cost reductions and operational efficiencies.

If we look at the benefits from Linkedin, the most lauded, typically, is cost avoidance through a reduction in agency fees. Perhaps because it's the easiest to quantify and indeed can be substantial. Not paying C.25% of a $100,000 salary aggregates quickly over 20 hires to $500,000, a great business benefit and very useful when discussing the recruitment function budget with your financial controller.

Another common benefit is time to hire. Clearly with such a broad range of candidates identifiable and contactable, it is possible to drive a hard charging recruitment assignment faster than through traditional methods; the quicker the hire is made the sooner they are helping to increase revenues for their new employers.

Whilst cost reduction and process efficiencies are important and real benefits, the opportunity to increase the quality of hire for organisations is where LinkedIn excels. By expanding a search beyond candidates who are looking for a new job and hiring the best available from that limited pool, Linkedin affords organisations the opportunity to hire the best in the market that their value proposition and compensation can attract. Simply by mitigating the restriction of range of a search by using the vast network of linkedin members as potential hires can greatly increase the quality of a talent pool for a particular role(s). When used in combination with active channels and competitor mapping, the results can be impressive.

Another under discussed benefit is the market connectivity and stakeholder feedback that leveraging networks on linkedin and elsewhere can bring. Understanding a talent pools reaction to your organisation attractors, value proposition and compensation is key to understanding and improving the return on investment of your recruitment spend. Also, by directly engaging with your target talent segments, you reduce the risk that they will be hired elsewhere during your recruitment process – a big concern when using no fix no fee recruitment agents, who may market a candidate to 10 competitors at the same time to improve their chance of a fee.

So, with such significant business benefits available and with the main competitive advantage of search firms - databases and networks – largely mitigated by linkedin and other tools, why are so many organisations missing the opportunity to maximise, or even utilise social media channels like linkedin? To get to the answer, we first need to look at the elements that need to be in place to successfully support an effective social media recruitment capability:

  • Recruitment service delivery structure

    Social media recruitment takes time – to research, contact, screen and engage prospects and turn them into candidates for selection takes a lot more time than sending a requisition to a group of agencies or to post a job on a board. Whether your recruitment is done by a HR generalist, a recruiter, or a specialist sourcer, it's critical that they have the time available to add social media recruitment to their existing sourcing channels.

  • A focus on Social media recruitment as sales and marketing

    When engaging prospects on linkedin regarding career opportunities, it is important to understand that to convert a prospect to a candidate requires that the organisation, it's value proposition and the role be sold to people who are happy in their current jobs but who may be open to hearing about other opportunities. Linkedin is not a database of candidates who have specifically come to the site seeking employment – like the Monster candidate database for example – and adopting the appropriate philosophy to engage prospects and turn them into candidates will have quite an impact on the quality and number of prospects engaged as candidates.

    It is also important that hiring managers understand the difference between an active and passive candidate and that processes are tailored to consistently reinforce the value proposition during the two way assessment process to maximise the chances of a successful hire and to minimise drop out and offer rejection.

  • A proactive and qualitative approach

    How you contact prospects identified from linkedin and other social media sites will have a significant impact on engagement rates. Providing a high quality briefing document - covering the role, organisation, culture and value proposition by inmail (linkedin email) and following up by telephone or inviting a telephone conversation will yield many more referrals and interested prospects than simply inmailing a role profile and inviting applications.

  • Credible, capable recruiters

    It's often said in sales that people buy people first. In social media recruitment it's also the case when trying to engage people with your career opportunities. Having recruiters that can articulate the company attractors, its value proposition and culture as well as the function and role, in a way that aligns with a prospects motivation and career goals, will have considerable impact both in conversion rates of prospects to candidates and on corporate and employer brand perception.

  • Tools

    In order to generate candidates, recruiters/researchers require access to as broad a network of prospects as possible – Linkedin provides a range of subscriptions with varying degrees of access to the complete linkedin network and with varying ranges of support tools and inmail (direct email contact) allowances etc. The cost is marginal to the cost avoidance of agency fees. Without a subscription, recruiters are left to building their own network of contacts which, even with most dedicated of networkers will take considerable time and will be unlikely to provide the quantity and quality of a subscription based network and may disappear with the employee if they leave the employer.

    In the process of social media recruitment research, a great deal of information will be available on how key talent and talent segment view your organisation and its value proposition, market information and referrals etc. Great information, particularly if you are consistently recruiting within a sector or talent segment. How to manage and leverage this information is a common question. The answer for many organisations is a customised version of a customer relationship management tool (CRM) which enables information on talent segments, competitors, skillsets, prospects, feedback and other information to be easily and cheaply organised, managed and leveraged.

To answer the question as to why many organisations are missing the opportunity to maximise or even utilise social media to generate the significant benefits available, there are typically three broad factors: Lack of subject matter expertise, lack of headcount or lack of financial resources. So what can be done to mitigate these challenges?

  • Subject Matter Expertise

    Developing a social media recruitment strategy cannot be done in isolation of the general sourcing strategy, service delivery approach or other operational aspects of delivering recruitment in-house. However, there are various RPO, HR Consulting and interim experts in the market across all territories that can provide the expertise on a project basis. Indeed, Human Capital talent offer a high level audit of recruiting strategy and operations to produce a practical social media strategy and detailed operational process recommendation that organisations could quickly implement, with or without support.

  • Headcount Issues

    In the current economic climate, many HR and recruiting functions are progressively challenged to achieve more with less and are seeing an absolute focus on HR headcount management and reduction. In these circumstances adding headcount to leverage social media recruitment and direct sourcing is a significant challenge. To overcome these challenges many organisations are maintaining their e-recruitment process for active candidates and/or adding or continuing to use agencies. However, many are missing an opportunity to utilise co-sourcing to task out those parts of the process that they cannot, or do not wish to, do in house.

    The process of name gathering, reviewing, screening, and engagement up to selection and shortlist can be provided by the global network of independent researchers, recruitment process support firms and specialist research organisations, negating or reducing the use of agencies. All work can be specified to mirror your own standards, SLA's and materials and charged at a per day or project rate. There is an existing flexible service tier that can be leveraged to allow access to linkedin and other social media, often at a discount of up more than 50% of agency and search firm rates. The firms are in-country, off-shore and near-shore.

    Human Capital talent provides social media research process support up to and including selection and shortlisting and is tailored to be flexible, scalable and to provide significant cost savings and quality of hire benefits.

  • Lack of Financial Resources

    In many organisations, it's easier to get money than headcount. In a growing number of companies it's difficult to get either; more so in centralised HR shared services budgets. This provides a clear issue for recruiting functions. If they can't do social media themselves and they can't pay for process support, then many are resolved to continuing with the status quo and missing a clear opportunity to drive real business benefits. For most organisations in this situation, the recruitment budgets will be held by the business, typically for agency fees. In my experience, a well-developed social media strategy recommendation combined with a sound financial base case can win support from business budget holders to divert budget for agency fees into supporting social media recruitment, even as a pilot initially.

    I recently worked on a project for an organisation spending millions in search firm retainers trying unsuccessfully to hire chemical engineers and plant superintendents across Europe. The lack of hires was causing serious issues in plant management, capital investment and maintenance management for their plants in Russia, through Europe across to the UK. I worked with the HR Directors of the engineering function and their supporting business units to define a social media and competitor talent attraction strategy and financial base case.

    The recommendation included developing social media channels and competitor mapping process supported by a researcher, recruiter and admin, with an external research support network to provide scale. As there was no headcount or funding within HR, the business funded the costs of the tools and people and within 6 months the organisation was directly hiring their entire professional and above level engineering talent from linkedin, other social media and competitor mapping with significant reduction in costs and time to hire.

With so many benefits to be gained from Linkedin and other social media recruitment channels and so many ways to deliver the services – in-house, outsourced or co-sourced, I am sure that organisations with continue to progressively adopt Linkedin and other social media. However, like most aspects of business the level of return on investment will depend on the adopted strategy and will vary in-line with the quality, diligence and depth of approach. Happy Hunting!

The author, Rob Connor, is a director of Human Capital Talent, a corporate recruitment strategy consulting, process support and HR executive search business. He has an extensive background in recruitment change management, functional leadership and global executive search gained working for, and consulting with, leading organisations such as Cargill, Royal Bank Of Scotland, Willis, Cisco Systems, Littlewoods and others. To contact, please email or visit