The received wisdom these days is that relationships are the key to recruiting top talent. As anyone who's been in a relationship knows, however, establishing such a strong connection with someone is both time-consuming and hard work.
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Luckily, there is a more manageable alternative: Build candidate allegiances instead. Allegiances can be just as powerful as relationships, but they require less active investment.
Recruiters have long focused on building relationships with top talent for one very important reason: These prospects listened to their mothers. What was the first thing your mother taught you? That's right: "Don't speak to strangers."
So, establishing relationships enables recruiters to move from being unknown to being recognized and listened to by top talent.
The downside to this strategy, of course, is that it's hard work. Relationships don't come easy, and they require constant attention. In today's economy, the last thing a recruiter needs is another time-consuming task on their plate. The result is that, all too often, recruiters start their relationship-building efforts with lots of enthusiasm before they are eventually overtaken by other tasks and demands on their time – which means those relationships they worked so hard to create fall into disrepair.
That's why I recommend building allegiances instead. The Google dictionary defines "allegiance" as the "loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause." A relationship is an emotional bond that is based on the regard two parties have for one another. Allegiance is also an emotional bond, but it is based on the care and support one party provides to the other.
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Allegiance in recruiting starts when an organization serves the individual, rather than friending, following, or connecting with them. As a result, the individual perceives that the employer cares about their success and will do what it can to support their advancement. That perception generates the familiarity and trust that are essential to recruiting top talent.
The best prospects are almost always employed, so to recruit them, we have to convince them to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: make a change. We have to persuade them to move from their current employer to ours. By building familiarity and trust with those prospects through allegiance, we can create the conditions under which making a change looks like a good idea to top talent.
Making the Case to Change Devils
Relationships are interactive experiences. They require continuous communication and lots of hand-holding. Allegiance, in contrast, can benefit from ongoing communication, but is primarily developed via the right resources tailored in the right way.
Allegiance cannot be effectively built in someone else's backyard. Your allegiance-building strategy should be implemented not on a social media site, but on your organization's own career page. It involves taking just three steps:
Organize the site's content into channels: Top talent hate to be treated as generic candidates, so present your employer's value proposition in channels devoted to -- and written in the specific language of -- the career fields for which you're recruiting.
Provide a fulsome array of career self-management resources: Top talent are the "career homeless" of the workforce. They know the corporate career ladder and gold watch have disappeared, so they're looking for a place that will help to nurture their continued success regardless of where they are employed at any given moment.
Help top talent get to know your employer's top talent: Avoid the "monologue" feel of most corporate career sites by giving top prospects a way to have a dialogue with the people who would be their new colleagues and coworkers.
Building relationships with top prospects typically involves time-consuming and labor-intensive initiatives to create talent communities and to network on social media sites. It's difficult to sustain such efforts, and thus hard to reap their benefits.
Building allegiance, on the other hand, involves a reimagination of the organization and content of your corporate career site, but once that's done, it requires very little additional investment. Equally as important, by building familiarity and trust with the best prospects, allegiance predisposes them to change devils – and that's an outcome made in heaven.
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