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  • Writer's pictureAJ Cheponis

A Hiring Strategy That Works

When you look over candidates for a key open position, do you feel a sense of dread?

When you find the perfect candidate, do you always seem to lose them?

Or, when you finally hire someone, has their performance been underwhelming?

It’s a common quandary in today’s high-stakes, fast-moving labor landscape. But we’re here to help. If you can implement even a few foundational pieces from our mountain of tips, your hiring strategy will go from “rocky” to “rock solid.”

What’s a hiring strategy?

At its core, a hiring strategy is a system designed to find, hire, and onboard employees. Complexity varies by company. It could be as simple as posting a job online. Or it could involve lots of data, technology, and automation.

That said, technology can make your hiring process fair, consistent, efficient, and scalable.

The different types of hiring strategies

We wish we could say there’s a clear list of tried-and-true hiring strategies. Instead, most companies use a hodgepodge of approaches, depending on their industry, the depth of their candidate pool, and their ambitions for growth. We’ve outlined some broad categories below—some of which you may already use.

A hodgepodge approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hiring strategies don’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, they exist to support your business goals. You might be best suited trying to synthesize many different approaches. That way, you can customize your recruitment strategy to meet your needs as they evolve.

Below, we’ll explore five different hiring strategies you can deploy to land top talent.

1. Collect data that matters.

Most companies collect some kind of data on their hiring strategy. It could be as basic as how many people apply. Or it could involve pinpointing where candidates drop out in the hiring cycle.

More data is usually better. When you develop sophisticated recruitment metrics, you can understand where your strategy falls short. And that’s the best way to start improving upon it.

More data is usually helpful in enhancing your end-to-end process. In particular, if you track when people lose interest in your interview process, you can address the root cause. In turn, that leads to more applicants, better candidate experience, and a more consistent rate of job fit.

2. Adopt a framework.

Sometimes, our biggest issue isn’t a lack of data or a personal failing. Sometimes we just think about a problem the wrong way.

Frameworks can help by clarifying everything that goes into a recruitment strategy. For example, some companies use the DASH method. What does it do?

Basically, when companies try to find the best candidate, they usually look at skills. But skills aren’t the only factor. How someone acts and how they see the world are often equally important. After all, most skills can be taught—attitude can’t.

The DASH framework explicitly builds those behavioral factors into the recruitment process. In turn, you get a number of benefits:

  • You expand the range of potential candidates.

  • You hire higher-quality candidates.

  • Your new employees onboard faster.

DASH isn’t the only or best framework. But most frameworks function in the same way. They provide a systematic approach to a common problem.

3. Change the selection process.

Attracting candidates is often a challenge. In comparison, companies can easily change their selection process.

When the job market is tight, they can hire unconventional candidates like former independent consultants. When there’s plenty of qualified candidates, they can raise standards and take only the best.

The selection process isn’t the only hiring lever a company should consider. But it’s powerful and easy to pull.

4. Attract more (and better) candidates.

Attracting top candidates may involve everything from generous employee referral bonuses, better recruitment marketing, to more involvement in community events.

Sometimes smaller companies worry they can’t compete with the employer brand of established corporations. But when they compete according to their strengths, these businesses can add talented job seekers to their talent pool.

Of course, attracting top talent only goes so far if you don’t provide an appealing package. But playing up your company’s strengths can help bring the right candidates to your open roles.

5. Offer (very) competitive compensation.

Not every company can afford to compete on cost. But whether it’s a hefty paycheck or impeccable benefits, the effects in recruiting are undeniable.

Money isn’t ironclad. If you suffer from a toxic company culture, you might sink money into the best candidates, only to see them leave the next month. However, offering great pay is a good place to start—and if you want the best talent around your industry, it may be your best option.

How to develop a hiring strategy

Here are five ways to develop an effective hiring strategy and align your HR practices with your organization’s needs:

1. Give your company an advantage in tight labor markets.

Overall, the economy is healthy, and that’s putting pressure on HR departments to have a strong plan in place for attracting, retaining, and engaging workers. As Tech Republic noted, employers in a variety of sectors are feeling the squeeze for top talent—leading to responses that are designed to help brands compete effectively.

HR leaders will be focused on strategies that help attract talent beyond recruiting for a single position. Whether they’re reevaluating compensation models, embracing flexible schedules, or ensuring their values are front and center, HR is paving the way for companies to stand out. Building a strong employer brand and focusing on culture will play an important role.

Forbes reported that half of U.S. employees are actively looking for new jobs. In light of that fact, strategies for retention will also be a priority for many companies. Measuring engagement, understanding what valued employees want most, offering competitive recognition and professional development options, and putting strong talent management programs in place are areas that beg for increased attention.

2. Proactively shape strategy to achieve the organization’s larger goals.

HR departments often complete tasks as they’re needed by internal business departments; it’s just the nature of the role. On-demand support can range from recruiting to filling an open requisition to helping with an employee engagement or performance issue.

Yet, companies see the greatest return when strategic HR departments look at the organization’s broader goals and align people-focused efforts to help achieve them.

How can recruiting and retention, HR technology tools, and performance data position your company to break out and hit the most important milestones laid out in the year ahead? Taking the lead on the people side of organizational design and strategy execution can help reinforce why HR is a valued partner across your organization.

3. Work with stakeholders to develop “agile” processes.

One way HR leaders are breaking away from reactive HR is by rethinking processes. The most effective organizations are moving away from processes that only exist for the sake of having a process. Instead, they’re balancing the realities of compliance needs with common sense.

Terms like “agile” (lean approaches to business challenges that can quickly adapt to internal needs and market changes) have bled over from the tech world to other business functions—like HR. As Peter Capelli and Anna Tavis noted in HBR:

“In most cases, HR is pursuing ‘agile lite,’ applying the general principles of Agile without adopting all the tools and protocols from the tech world. It’s a move away from a rules- and planning-based approach toward a simpler and faster model driven by feedback from participants. This new paradigm has really taken off in the area of performance management. (In a 2017 Deloitte survey, 79 percent of global executives rated agile performance management as a high organizational priority.) But other HR processes are starting to change too.”

The implications are simple: HR leaders will be exploring their processes and looking for ways to cut the fat and deliver on their essential value. As strategic partners, stakeholders throughout the organization will be engaged in feedback loops to strongly align key processes to business needs—and data and technology (as discussed below) will further streamline delivery.

4. Leverage technology to streamline workflows.

Technology is helping organizations get smarter about their workflows and freeing up HR leaders to get more done. As Josh Bersin noted, HR tech trends point toward HR in the flow of work:

“From my perspective, we’re moving into a new era. One where HR technology is no longer a forms automation system, but is now becoming a true ‘system of productivity.’ The theme I’m now using is what I call ‘HR in the Flow of Work.’ What does this mean? All these wonderful HR apps should be natural, easy, and integrated into our work environment — we should be able to chat, click, or swipe and the HR tools we use should be as integrated into our lives as email, text messaging, or our favorite mobile app.”

HR leaders will see this play out in two dimensions in the year ahead. The first is integrating tools that can help improve business outcomes associated with the people function. For example, workforce assessments use machine learning to surface a better pool of candidates—those who are more likely to be a behavioral and cognitive fit for open roles. At the same time, companies will continue rolling out HR-focused and supporting tools that improve the candidate and employee experience.

5. Incorporate data and metrics to support better decision making.

While data and analytics have reshaped numerous functions within a business, HR is all too often left out of the conversation. However, organizations that put smart data gathering and analysis in place—and communicate that information to decision-makers—can further increase the strategic impact HR has over the next year.

As the HBR noted, many HR leaders aren’t taking full advantage of data in shaping key business decisions. This has serious ramifications at the business level. The authors of the HBR article cited findings from their global leadership study:

“It comes as no surprise that this skills gap has spurred a credibility gap between HR professionals and their colleagues. Only 11 percent of business leaders trust HR to use data to anticipate and help them fill their talent needs. When we last fielded the same survey three years prior, 20 percent of business leaders felt that way—still a low number, but nearly twice what it is today.

Benefits of an effective hiring strategy

The benefits of an effective hiring strategy are simple, right? You had empty seats. Now they have butts in them.

In actuality, hiring may be the most important part of any business. After all, every product, strategy, and improvement in a business is initiated by a person. Therefore, every part of business success—from its creativity to its efficiency—depends on the quality of its employees.

An effective hiring strategy leads to effective employees, for every one of the reasons below.

1. You make fewer mistakes.

Let’s face it: Hiring isn’t easy. Although we always want to choose the best candidate, we often have to pick from a few good-but-not-perfect options. And sometimes, we pick wrong.

While we’ll never be perfect, strategies like creating an ideal candidate profile can improve our chances.

2. You waste less time.

Caution is important. But sometimes companies go too far.

Whether it’s putting entry-level candidates through 12 interviews and a fight with a live crocodile, or making job postings so complicated only a mythical candidate would apply, bad hiring strategies can waste money and stunt your growth.

3. Your turnover drops.

Sometimes employees leave because the company isn’t great. Sometimes employees leave because the employee isn’t great. Sometimes they’re both great—but the fit isn’t.

A top-notch recruitment strategy can’t make your company a great place to work. But by utilizing behavioral assessments and other strategies, you can improve retention by making sure every employee is a good fit for the job.

4. Your employees perform better.

An ideal candidate can be several times more effective than a so-so candidate. By pushing the company forward (and eventually winning promotions), they can repay the effort it takes to find them many times over. That’s why a great hiring strategy helps you know what (and who) you really need.

5. Your new hires learn and grow faster.

A great hire doesn’t just have better Day 1 performance. They learn and develop faster, too.

When you implement an effective hiring strategy, each employee becomes a potential manager or trendsetter in your organization. A better recruitment strategy could save your company years down the line—or, in some cases, even save lives.

6. Human Resources has a seat at the table.

Organizations today love metrics and actionable plans. If you want executives to back and fund your initiatives, you need to prove there’s ROI. That’s why a strategic HR plan can help you earn a seat at the table.

7. You become more competitive in the job market.

Your hiring process is the first indicator that your company is worth working for. Great candidates want to work for great companies. So, if your hiring process is a mess, they’ll move their job search elsewhere.

On the other hand, an efficient and professional hiring process can make your organization more attractive. That can push a top candidate from “job offer” to “new job.”

How to improve your hiring process

Almost every organization says they want to make the best hires. But too few regularly do. So, how do you tackle this all-too-common challenge?

The solution isn’t to put yet another job ad on yet another website. It’s to use innovative, structured approaches, like those described below.

1. Use workforce planning.

Too many companies staff without seriously planning for the future. Instead, departments send in requests for personnel in an ad hoc way. Then, the budget is (or isn’t) approved.

Businesses should use workforce planning instead. Basically, workforce planning means creating a hiring strategy for the future instead of the present. Importantly, it takes into account how to grow and develop current employees into roles the company will need in the future.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have every possibility planned in advance. After all, pandemics happen. But you’ll be able to grow your workforce and your company in an intelligent, sustainable way.

2. Have a personal recruiting touch.

How often has a recruiter reached out to you without bothering to skim your resume?

Most recruiters aren’t this bad. But even great recruiters usually have room for improvement. By adopting a personal approach with video interviews and high-quality communication, recruiters can win over the best candidates.

3. Use behavioral and cognitive data.

Behavioral and cognitive assessments can predict up to 60% of a candidate’s performance. Whether you’re hiring a new executive or a new intern, the science is there: Using the right Assessments means results.

4. Establish a consistent hiring process.

Hiring a certain way for one employee and a different way for the next is like using a different recipe every time you bake a cake. You might get some interesting results. But you’ll never perfect the process.

Employers should adopt a consistent and reliable hiring process. Afterwards, they should optimize the process to find the best hiring practices.

5. Create an employee referral program—and make it count

Many organizations use employee referrals when hiring. It’s not hard to understand why. After all, if an employee is a top performer, they’re likely to recommend other top performers.

Referrals also expand your talent pool by allowing you to recruit passive candidates. This maximizes your chance of a great fit.

Of course, companies often don’t go far enough. If you’re hiring an employee for $50k, $100k, or even more, a sizable referral bonus can go a long way.

6. Capture metrics other companies don’t.

Yeah, sure. (Almost) everyone knows what their turnover rate is. But if that’s where your hiring managers start and end data collection, you probably need to streamline your hiring process.

If you want to hire the best employees, you need a heck of a hiring process. That’s why you should always think about which recruiting metrics your organization can (and should) be tracking.

If you’re not sure what to track, open up your recruiting software. You might find it captures data you never thought to track.

7. Customize the process to the role.

While consistency is important, so is flexibility. After all, sometimes roles have unique requirements that can’t be captured by the usual process.

For example, one process for hiring salespeople draws directly on the skillsets employees actually use. If you’re consistently putting mediocre performers in open positions, consider a more creative approach.

8. Balance skills and culture.

Hire someone without skills and they won’t get anything done. Hire someone with a bad attitude and no one else will get things done.

Despite what some people assume, this applies just as much to blue-collar work as the most pampered office drone. Hence why even the construction industry has to hire for both culture fit and skills.

9. Use social media—and not just in the obvious ways.

Plenty of companies post jobs on LinkedIn or Glassdoor, or their career site. One of the top hiring secrets? Lean into social media.

Rather than rely on job boards alone, organizations can use social media feeds as a tool for candidate outreach. If you’ve got a great culture, swap out a product announcement here and there for a promotional video.

Mistakes to avoid during the hiring process

1. Don’t use outdated technology.

Organizations sometimes hesitate to adopt new technology. After all, onboarding into a new system can be expensive. But it’s far more expensive when your hiring process is defined by these Three Terrible Ts:

  • Tedious

  • Time-consuming

  • A pain in the Tuckus

The best candidates can go anywhere. If they have to send an application through a slow and outdated applicant tracking system (or worse, by wooly mammoth), they won’t bother in the first place. That’s why you need to update your outdated hiring system. Without a seamless candidate experience, you’ll have an empty candidate queue.

2. Don’t hire top performers that bring other people down.

Most people like it when coworkers chat with them. They don’t like when coworkers scream at them.

Occasionally, businesses tolerate high performers that bully or belittle other coworkers. But while this may work in the short term, it doesn’t work in the long term. Eventually someone will leave. And when that happens, your one bad hire can cause a chain reaction of resignations.

3. Don’t rely on intuition.

There’s something attractive about the idea of using intuition alone to hire. We like to think we can tell someone’s personality as easily as we identify the color of their shirt. But intuition is often ineffective.

In truth, people often struggle to even identify someone’s emotions from their facial expressions. Telling good employees from bad might as well require a crystal ball.

Instead of relying on old-school hiring practices, you should use behavioral data to understand who your employees are, and what they act like on the job.

4. Avoid same-old interview questions.

Our approach to interviewing is simple. If you don’t have the time to create useful questions, you shouldn’t hold the interview. Why?

First, generic questions make your organization less attractive to candidates. After all, it’s a signal you don’t consider the job opening important enough to prepare for.

Second, generic questions aren’t useful. Good interview questions should look deeply into a candidate and encourage authentic answers. But generic questions are easily gamed. Anyone can memorize an answer for a question they’ve heard before—even if it isn’t true.

If you don’t want candidates to hate your hiring process, mix up your interview questions.

5. Don’t hire without a map.

During lean times, organizations hesitate to hire even necessary employees. When the market improves, managers often rush to fill job openings—without determining what they actually need.

Hiring without a map leads to hires that don’t stick around or don’t provide good ROI. It hurts the business. And eventually, leadership will hesitate to hire the employees you truly need.

6. Don’t neglect your brand.

Have you ever looked at a company’s website and been unable to understand what they actually do?

Often, career pages and job descriptions will suffer from the exact same issue. They’ll list some perks or benefits, but they won’t tell a story about why the company matters.

Usually, employees don’t (just) want a paycheck. They also want a job that matters at a company that recognizes them. If talent acquisition is a struggle, consider whether your boring brand might be scaring the top talent away.

7. Don’t create mixed expectations.

Another common issue: A hiring manager will envision the perfect employee. Everything from the job description to the interviews will be built around this expectation. They’ll find a candidate that matches every bit of the vision. But then, after the job offer is sent, it turns out everyone else on the team needed something different.

You need to communicate clearly with other stakeholders on what the employee should look like. Otherwise, you’ll wind up hiring in a tragic (and all-too-common) way.

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