RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Not Your Father’s Recruiting Function


Global influences that will impact the industry and those who work in it.

By D. Zachary Misko
As businesses across the globe evaluate and continue to assess their
recruitment needs, HR departments are being confronted by a daunting array
of challenges.
On the one hand, there is supposed to be an abundance of talent, yet
attracting the best people is more difficult than ever. While this is true, an equally significant problem will be the resurgence of presently employed workers who
have been unhappy with their employers’ engagement throughout the economic
downturn and are therefore looking to jump ship as soon as opportunity arises.
proliferation of new social networking and database technologies is
transforming the way people “look” for work. More so, technology has changed
the way companies and recruiters must now engage in looking and finding
passive candidates. And a new generation of independent, transient and
“globalized” workers in the burgeoning knowledge economy is creating new
rules around hiring and engagement.
At the same time, HR is feeling unprecedented pressure “lift its game”
and become more aligned with the key strategic drivers of business
performance. Measurement of HR performance is shifting and becoming more
demanding, requiring practitioners to demonstrate their contribution to high-level corporate goals, not just operational outputs.
These forces are converging at a stage when many corporate executives who
look at HR think its job should be relatively straightforward. From a talent
acquisition standpoint, they ask, “With so much talent on the market, why is it so
hard to attract and retain the right people?”
These are the imperatives facing the HR profession worldwide. This is not
simply a short-term cycle but part of a longer term trend that is shaping
the fundamental way that people think about work and interact with
employers, families and communities.
Events leading into 2010 have seen national economies shudder to a halt, and
with that has come a sudden shift in the critical labor shortages that had plagued
developed economies for more than a decade. Now that millions of
workers across the globe have been laid off, you might think labor will
be plentiful as we approach 2011’s increased opportunities. However, is it
the right or best qualified people that are actively available, and, if not,
how do you attract the qualified, passive candidate?
Hiring managers in some large organizations are seeing the re-emergence of
labor shortages even in the early phase of economic recovery. As economic
growth gathers pace, shortages in certain industries are appearing almost as
acute as before the economic collapse. In some areas of healthcare, science,
and IT, the talent shortage never actually disappeared and remains a highly
challenging environment for recruiting.
The trend is marked and becoming more severe. There is a limited global pool
of skilled labor, which is becoming more scarce each year.
This is not a
shortage of people but a shortage of qualified people, at a time when
workplaces are demanding higher levels of skills and knowledge. Even at
times of relatively high unemployment, employers face difficulty in
obtaining the best talent. So, while conditions might have eased the headline
skills shortage, they really only provided a reprieve from the long-run
trend of tighter labor.
This is the new reality that HR will need to address. HR people will need to
keep recruiting irrespective of short-term cycles. The best-educated and
skilled, technical, and professional employees will be in greater demand,
harder to find, and command a premium to switch or re-locate jobs.
Companies seeking highly skilled talent will need to consider strategies
that will enable them to circumvent this demand-supply impasse. Of all the
forces that are converging on HR managers, few will be as daunting as this
demographic shift, simply because it is virtually locked in for at least the
next 30 years.
The days of “help wanted” signs and newspaper job ads have passed, and a vast array of platforms and technologies are transforming the
recruitment landscape. People are on the move and the use of electronic and
social networking tools is affording recruiters and candidates innovative
ways of reaching their targets. Ultimately, people’s lifestyles have changed,
and recruiters need to evolve to keep up.
The ready availability of these applications has led to a leveling of the
playing field; organizations with media power and large advertising budgets
are competing with no-cost or low-cost blogs or webcams to post information.
In this environment, the challenge is not soley about the technology but also the appeal of
sophisticated and savvy strategies that penetrate the electronic “noise” and are
able to reach potential candidates, both active and passive. Technology
provides recruiters “speed to market,” but recruiting and sourcing
skills are still ultimately the driving factor in success. Having the right
tools in your toolbox, can get you there faster.
This raises the issue of what the contemporary HR practitioner needs to do
to adapt to this new digital environment. What follows are just some of the
techniques that are, currently and increasingly likely to be deployed in
the recruitment space and that must be mastered in order to tap into the
increasingly sophisticated labor pool:

  • Use niche websites, rather than general job boards that have
become flooded with resumes and frequently do not focus on any one industry
or the passive candidate. Niche sites also provide better targeting of
candidates with industry expertise.
  • Make social media a part of the recruiter¹s toolbox. Sites such as
Facebook, XING, and LinkedIn, among others, are becoming a focal point and
must be updated with information and communications on at least a daily
  • Use company or recruiter-specific LinkedIn profiles that are
regularly updated with information on the company, including upcoming job
expos and industry events.
  • Author or sponsor industry-specific white papers, posted to
company or industry websites, linked to advertising, blogs, and social media.
  • Develop and present webcasts that showcase company attributes,
industry trends, products, issues, or best practices.
  • Blog in places that potential candidates and industry experts are
likely to visit, and use of micro blogs, such as Twitter, to reach target groups.
  • Automate sourcing efforts with web tools and products that allow
recruiters more time to communicate directly with candidates and their
hiring managers. A great example of this is the TalentSeekr tool introduced
into the industry by Enticelabs.
  • Use internal applicant tracking systems (ATS). Many companies have
access to an ideal database yet often neglect this as a sourcing tool.
Previously considered candidates not qualified for one position might be
qualified for a current opening.
  • Build a passive candidate database through online searches and use
of sites such as resumeblaster.com or resumezapper.com, to name a few.
  • Last, the age-old practice of “smile and dial,” or cold call and maintain a personal rapport with experts in the industry who can be
added to your database or provide referrals.

A key element of the emerging HR paradigm and its convergence with social
media entails a more focused, strategic, and non-traditional approach to
reaching key audiences. This might be a difficult task, given the increasing
demands on the HR professional to focus on strategic versus tactical
imperatives. Often, HR generalists and even recruitment professionals simply
don’t have the time to stay abreast of all of the tools, learn technologies,
and the use of different systems and tools. When the effort on this education
is made, beware that if your in-house expert leaves your company, this
knowledge leaves with him or her.
By using industry expertise and thought leadership as a tool, able
recruiters cut through the clutter that permeates much of the traditional
media and engage in interactions that can uncover exceptional talent. This
can be time consuming, but for those proficient in such techniques, it
brings results and can be successful in reaching into talent pools that
typically resist traditional approaches.
HR is all about people, but it’s easy to become swamped by processes
and technologies. In media reporting of corporate issues, we frequently hear
of financial problems or operational problems, but not often HR problems.
Increasingly, HR organizations of all sizes have been shifting their focus
to outsourcing the recruiting and screening function.
Recognizing the need
to take a more strategic approach to their role within the organization,
HR leaders realize they can’t (and shouldn’t) be all things to all people. This
doesn¹t mean throwing in the towel. Outsourcing allows you to manage and
participate where needed, and better manage your flexibility to all of the
organization’s needs.
They will also need to consider how they can best add value.
The complexity
of the HR landscape means that many HR professionals are becoming bogged
down in transactional tasks, at the expense of more strategic priorities.
Much of the work around hiring is tactical, but it is also
increasingly complex and moving beyond the capacity of some HR managers.
These are the types of jobs that are ripe for outsourcing. As well, the
talent acquisition process cannot be defined and engaged only when hiring is
prevalent. Maintaining pipelines and candidate rapport, as well as conducting
discovery interviews, are just a few examples of ongoing activities that
should be included in your strategy.
Outsourcing some of the functionality can free time and resources for HR
people to start to looking at how they are meeting more important corporate
They can then be in a position to play a more strategic and valued role,
availing themselves of data and metrics that provide new levels of insight
into HR performance and its contribution to organizational results. Once
removed from the straightjacket of “process HR,” they are able to step into
the field of “clever HR,” through which they can use their knowledge in ways
that are directly relevant to decision-makers.
Armed with a range of key performance measures, HR becomes the repository of
critical human capital intelligence. It is relevant and valued.
Ironically, many HR departments devote a relatively small
amount of time to the recruitment function. Even during periods of labor
shortage, they are so burdened with transactional work that recruitment—arguably the most pressing task—is given too little attention.
It will be a matter for individual organizations to determine the scope of
any outsourcing decision, but it seems clear this is increasingly the path
being taken to liberate HR as it grapples with a multitude of issues.
Outsourcing frees HR professionals to address the increasingly complex and
fast-altering metatrends affecting their industry and to have a laserlike
focus on higher-level imperatives. This trend is being replicated across
the globe, as witnessed by the growing number and prevalence of providers
focusing on the recruitment process.
The landscape for the HR profession is rapidly changing and throwing up
questions about the way the industry adapts to meet a series of landmark
There is nothing new in the need to change; professionals across scores of
industries have had to rethink the way they work in order to meet business
trends and new technologies.
Yet new ways of thinking about recruiting and sourcing labor seem to have
ushered in a sequence of reforms that have fundamentally re-ordered the way
that HR has functioned for decades.
Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)
has provided HR the best of both worlds: a means to ensure that their
organizations find and place top talent, while at the same time freeing them
to focus on strategic initiatives.
This means that incremental change will likely not suffice to meet the
challenges ahead. HR professionals will be required to simultaneously
confront demands across areas encompassing technology, demographics, and
generational behavior.
Only as a result of these actions will HR leaders be able to take their
profession up the value chain and deliver a talent management strategy that
aligns with and supports the workforce solutions that modern business needs
more than ever.

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