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A Muumuu May be a One-size-fits-all, but Effective Recruitment Isn't

Forgive me for the gap between postings.  I hope that too much continuity is not lost, but its easy to do a quick review.  The goal of my last post (“The wise man built his house upon the rock, how’s the foundation of your human system”) was to establish the foundational importance of strategic recruitment for any organization.  I hope it worked.  I’m going with the assumption it did.  I believe this makes it very worth while to dive deeper into this component to find out why it isn’t done better, and to learn a better way to approach and slay this dragon.  

Blip overview:  Any organization's success can be directly correlated to the quality of individuals who make up the organization.  Therefore, the acquisition of the best possible human resource team is a paramount function of each organization (recruitment & selection).  Done strategically, this can create a competitive advantage.   Though an important part of every organization, very little formal training or education is ever done on the fundamentals of recruiting.  The good news is there has been somewhat of an awakening and in many organizations, now known as “talent management”.

For a working definition of recruiting, it is the process of the developing a group of candidates (sourcing) from which you will select. 


Is this your recipe for Candidate Pot Pie?

  • 1 Cup of  politically correct “post it internally”


You must let this sit idle and ferment for two weeks.  Sense of urgency does not change this time frame. Whether or not you believe you have a right and capable person internally is of no consequence. 

  • Mix in local/regional advertising.  The higher the level the bigger the ad.  You may do this for one week or you may continue this through the duration of the opening.  A chef’s preference.  Local advertising is not contingent upon how large or small your market. Newspapers, they don’t discriminate based on how likely or unlikely you will be successful, but they love it.

  • 3 Tsps. more advertising.  Trade journals, trade organizations, the more the merrier and it adds nice texture to the mix.

  • One box of recruitment Ginseng, better known as job boards.  In case you haven’t heard this is the secret ingredient that was guaranteed recruiting vitality.  Post it on your site as well as the national sites and other industry specific job boards.

  • Stir this together and let stand; see if it congeals. 


At this point you may have some optional ingredients that could really add some spice to this.  

  • Fold in 6 psychic contingency recruiters; they have the perfect people and know what that perfect fit is before you even tell them.  Why aren’t they all in Vegas becoming millionaires instead of clogging your voice mail?  Did you get the same resume from 3 of them?  That just spoiled the pie as you are now judge and jury as well as referee.

  • Other options here would be a pound of job fair or a trip to Canada, though we recommend Summer brand Canada… winter Canada can be a harsh concentrate too strong to tolerate. 


Unfortunately, you have probably had this dish many times, too many times.   Sometimes it goes down well, other times you get some serious backlash and indigestion.  So what is the solution?  It isn’t a one course meal.  When you break down and understand recruitment (sourcing) it really is a multi-course meal.  It takes a paradigm shift to adopt this, but believe me, when you’ve had more than just Candidate Pot Pie, the good stuff, you’ll never go back to the single item menu.

I believe there is somewhat of a mental cloud that hangs over recruitment; a subconscious quest for clarity and a formula that works every time.  Any time you deal with people, you won’t have something that works the same way every time.  However, you can design systems that are effective with normative groups. 

I believe the way to bring clarity and effectiveness to your set of recruitment initiatives is to see them as such.  A SET of initiatives, plural..  I firmly believe the solution lies in breaking recruitment apart by functionality and job family.  Each job family will have similarities and differences.  Those differences and how they are addressed make or break recruitment success.  Part 1 today will give us the overall model to use in approaching recruitment.   Part 2 will use the model to give application to specific recruiting differences.

The key to “sourcing” or gathering of candidates understands that:

In its purist form, recruitment of any kind is marketing. It is important to understand the fundamentals of marketing and how they parallel recruitment in order to have an effective recruitment program.   

Aside: (I must have at least one of these per posting) I have seen some argue that recruiting should even report to the marketing department.  Personally, I feel that is extreme.  I think with an understanding of these principles, coupled with the right personality, an organizational shift like that is unnecessary.

Marketing, in recruitment, is defined as: an organization's desire to attract a specific group of individuals (target market) to the qualities and attributes of the organization and the opportunity it represents, in order to develop a mutually beneficial relationship (employment).

Marketing is a function of defining IN SERIES:

  1. Who your target market is (different than just who you are marketing to).

  2. What your message to that market is.

  3. How, the medium by which you are going to reach that market.


I can’t emphasize enough how this is not a list of three components, rather it is a series of sequential steps.   Just like the People Flow Continuum, mistakes happen by focusing on a component and not the integrity of the sequence of the components.   Mistakes are frequently made by not addressing these steps in their proper order. Those mistakes translate into wasted resources, bad hires, and often secondary “fall out” turnover of your best people...$big bucks$.   Many times people choose the medium first and never reach their target market. Other times people choose the message they want to send and don't ask if it is the message their target market will be receptive to.

Target Market:

target market, from a recruitment perspective, is defined as a group of individuals with a specific background of qualifications and experiences (competencies) that would infer said individuals would functionally be able to fulfill your recruitment need.

For most organizations and positions (especially management/leadership roles), the ideal target market is a group of individuals currently successfully employed; who if presented with the right opportunity, would consider making a career change.  New graduates in professional roles are a different market, thus approached differently.  Think briefly of the broad job families you have:  executive/managerial, professionally credentialed staff, skilled staff, laborer staff, etc.  Can you see already some of the different characteristics?

A “Target Market” is different from "who you are marketing to". You may be marketing to many people who are not part of your target market. If so, there are costs associated with that; both in the medium you choose and the time you invest in facilitating that group of unwanted/unqualified responses.  How many times has this meant bringing people from out-of-town and 20 minutes into a the interview….oops.

Where on the standard distribution curve would you consider your target market?  (I know it seems like a rhetorical question, but bear with me, we will use it again later.)

You obviously want people who are above average…”A-players”.  This is something to remember through the rest of this discussion.  Mentally, keep thinking back to what your process is today, and what the logical yield is.  If you define success in recruiting as a filled position, I want to you re-define it as a filled position with the best available talent for that specific position.


Once you decide and distinguish who you are trying to recruit, your target market, you must answer:

What do I want to tell them?

Your message should address these three main things:

  1. A description of the opportunity

  2. A description of the qualifications you seek

  3. A description of the organization


The goal is to paint a picture that you perceive your target market will consider attractive and be prompted to respond to. It goes without saying that this picture must represent reality, but not all messages are created equal. There can be very different ways to paint the same picture.

In creating an effective message, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the nature of the individual you are trying to reach?

  2. Is this role one that is dominated by male or females?
    Different sexes typically have different issues and different perspectives and places they listen from.   This is not to discriminate, but to understand realistic sociological dynamics.

  3. If so, are there different dynamics to be sensitive to?

  4. What are the personality characteristics of the norm of the people in this role? For example: most typical Directors of Marketing have a very different personality than a typical Chief Financial Officer.  Most typical food services workers are different from your pharmacists.

  5. What is it that professionally motivates and excites these individuals?  For example: Your message should be different for a turnaround situation than it is to replace a manager that has been running a successful operation.  Your target market is different, your message, to excite and entice the right person should reflect those differences.  Do you have specific technology, plans, awards that would be seen as attractive?

  6. How can we paint the picture to attract people with not only the right experience, but also with congruent values to ours? The best functional person can fail in the wrong environment.

  7. Does our message communicate intrinsic values we offer?  Geography, community culture, secondary job market for spouses, educational opportunities, benefits, etc.


If you can be sensitive to these questions and develop your message with these things in mind, you will be more successful in attracting better people than your competitors. Realize though, the very best message is ineffective unless it is heard by those it is intended for. So choose the right medium for your message.


The medium is the method/conduit you choose to contact and convey your message to your target market. Each medium has different factors that have a direct effect on the three key issues of an effective recruitment program: Quality, Time, and Cost.

Turnover is very costly and disruptive, recruitment is work; the last thing you want to do is to keep repeating this process when you didn’t have to. Do it right the first time. Choosing the right medium is where a lot of people get off track and make mistakes.  Those mistakes translate into wasted resources, bad hires, longer search cycles, diminished confidence in human resources, etc.  The list of negatives can go on.  However, understand the juxtaposed positives:  wise utilization of resources (means return on investment, not just less cost), better hires, shorter search cycle times, and more confidence in the human resources department.

When you address different mediums, remember your message is going to have different limitations and dynamics with different mediums. It may be limited by how adaptable to the individual it is. You may limit the length of the message, the amount of information you are able to communicate, and the amount of interaction you have with potential candidates. For instance, if you are able to talk to your target market directly you are able to customize your message to meet individual needs and paradigms. It can also be limitless in length and content. If your message is in print there are obviously more limitations.

Though this isn't the right time to dive into selection systems, as a conclusion to this segment, it is applicable that you think of how sophisticated your selection systems do or don't need to be based on the group of candidates you gather for any position.

Medium Options:

Each of the following medium are available options you can utilize in your recruitment efforts. They are in order of passive versus active. The higher on the list, the more action it will require of the individual to take his/her own initiative to learn of and respond to the opportunity. I know there are others, but here are the top 5 main groupings:  

  1. Advertising:
    Advertising via Internet

·        your own website

·        national large job boards, ie.,

·        trade group websites

          Advertising in local and regional newspapers
             Advertising in regional or national trade journal

  1. Attending trade shows and job fairs: booth or not

  2. Visiting appropriate schools and training programs

  3. Foreign recruitment

  4. Direct recruitment

    Direct recruitment via mail

    Direct recruitment via telephone


All of these are things that you can do yourself. There are also outside organizations that can provide all of these services for you. Time, human resources, and expertise are the things you must evaluate that you either have or don't have in sufficient supply to dedicate to this endeavor. The biggest variables exist in the provision of direct recruitment services. Some of those variables include cost, compensation structure for the services, operational differences, commitment levels from service providers, and experience of providers.   Evaluation of service providers is another sermonette.

Medium Qualifiers:


To avoid frustration and potential failure, understand the purpose and goals of each medium. That means you must realize the capabilities and limitations of each. Ask yourself:

  1. Who are all of the possible people who this medium will reach?
    What is the total market?

  2. Am I able to convey my message utilizing this medium?  Does this medium allow for an interactive message or is it limited?  How much so?

  3. Will my message get to my target market using this medium? Why?
    Always ask this question twice. Put yourself in the shoes of your target market and make sure your message would find you through this medium. It is useless to get the target market and message right if you are going to utilize a medium that is ineffective and won't reach those people.

  4. How long will it take for the message to get to my target market?

  5. Is this a passive versus active methodology of recruitment?
    How much action does it require of my target market to find, respond and reach me? People that are happy and successfully employed are going to take the least amount of time in proactively exploring career opportunities on their own. If this is your target market, give careful consideration to your medium, dare they never see or hear your message.

  6. How long will it take to see an effect of the utilization of this medium?

  7. What is the cost to me not having someone in this key role?

  8. How long does this medium last?
    Is the medium a one shot deal or does it have continual activity. If a one shot deal, will it last a week, a month, a quarter?

  9. Does this medium have any tangible accountability to produce results?

  10. Of the candidates generated by this medium, how much of my time (or someone on my staff's time) is it going to take to screen through and interview these individuals in order to get a finalist batch? Does this medium produce a high or low number of “no-go’s”?

  11. Likewise, who will do the references?

  12. What is the Return on the Investment of my resources?  Not the net amount of resources invested, but the net return.  

  13. Productivity Cost:
    Another consideration that is a function of both time and cost is the aspect of the cost of the time you invest on weeding through large ad responses and interviewing many people to get a finalist grouping. Different mediums will produce this finalist grouping with very different amounts of your direct time involvement. The perceived cheapest path is not always the most cost-effective path and does not always yield the best return on investment

  14. If this medium is not successful, what has been my cost, what is the next step, and what will it cost? Should I do that first instead?


Though this isn’t the point to dive into selection systems, as a conclusion to this segment, it is applicable that you think of how sophisticated your selection systems do or don’t need to be based on the group of candidates you gather for any position.  The ability to weed out the wheat from the chaff and find the best amongst many.  The more bulk you have, the more work and effort to weed through it and thus, the greater opportunity for mistakes.

Next week, we will dive deeper into the use of different mediums relative to the dynamics of different job families and roles.


We are all driven by choices, choose to make it a great week!


Don Rottman

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