When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Recruiters Get Creative

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national unemployment rate decreased from 5.0 percent to 4.7 percent in May 2016. While this is great news for our economy, it presents some unique challenges for human resources professionals who need to recruit and retain top talent.

It's time to get creative when it comes to recruiting. Relying on the "post and pray" job boards is not enough in today's talent market.

Here are some ideas that you might want to try:

For Recruiting Entry Level Talent

Reach out to schools. Think about where the people you need go to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful on the job. Reach out to department heads, professors, and student organizations that might know the candidates you are looking for. Ask if you can speak to a class. If you can, give a presentation on what it's like to work in your industry, at your company, and what it takes to be successful.

Expand your digital footprint. Many of the candidates you are looking for are not cruising the job boards, nor are they looking for your website. They are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Are you? Does your company have a presence on these platforms? If so, does that presence reflect your organization as a place where people enjoy working? Do you show off the accomplishments of your employees? Do you demonstrate appreciation for your employees? Does your social media presence appear to be cold and corporate? Or does it appear to be warm and inviting for the right candidates?

For Recruiting Mid-Level Talent

Reach out to professional associations. Like schools, professional associations are places where people go for learning and camaraderie. For example, if you are looking for electronic and electrical engineers, find your local IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) chapter. Maybe sponsor one of their meetings. Maybe host an "industry night" at your location and find a way to show off what you have to offer for the right candidates.

Manage your online presence. Be mindful of what websites like Glassdoor are saying about your company. Are these employer review sites presenting your company in the best possible light? If not, then you might have some serious work to do. Employees are eventually going to leave you. When they do, you owe it to yourself to make sure they leave happy. That way, they can share the good news about how much they enjoyed working for your company.

Offer more than money for employee referrals. Sure, everyone likes to get cash, but once it's gone, it's soon forgotten. There are plenty of recognition companies out there with programs that allow your employees to choose items from catalogues based on the amount of points they earn. The advantage of this arrangement is that the individual gets an item that they chose – that they can actually use – and it becomes a reminder that they referred a candidate who was ultimately hired by your organization. Make your employee referral program fun and memorable, and you'll make it more effective at the same time.

For Recruiting Senior-Level Talent

Don't sell the steak – sell the sizzle! When Steve Jobs was trying to entice Pepsi executive John Sculley to make a move to Apple, he famously asked, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

After decades in the workforce, many senior-level executives have accomplished most of their goals. They are often looking for something more noble, something that makes a difference in the world and offers an attractive compensation package. So, think about what makes your organization special or unique. How does the work you do make a difference? Consider where your organization is heading and what it's going to take to get there. Then, present the opportunity to the executive talent you are seeking.

Don't Forget to Measure

As you can see, there is no single approach that will magically bring you the top talent that you need. However, you can't do everything. There's just too much, and it can get expensive. So, you owe it to yourself to measure what works for you.

Initially, you can measure the amount of candidates you hire in relation to your hiring sources. For example, if you spent $5,000 hosting an "industry night" at your location and got three good hires out of it, then it was probably well worth the investment. As you move forward, you can measure which hiring sources yield better performers (assuming you have a performance evaluation system in place). You can also measure who stays longer, noting the hiring sources. Over time, this will give you insights into how to make the most of your recruiting resources.

A few years ago, during the depths of the recession, there were plenty of talented people looking for work. These days, with the lowest levels of unemployment in more than 10 years and thousands of baby boomers leaving the workforce each day, it's only going to get tougher to attract and retain top talent.

As the going gets though, the tough really do need to get much more creative!

Kevin Panet has more than 20 years of experience in human resources management and a proven track record of success.