recruitment strategies

20 recruitment strategies to win the war for talent in 2021

Irene McConnell
3 Jun
Reading time: 10 minutes
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McKinsey coined the phrase “the war for talent” in 1997 when the Internet first began to creep its tendrils out into the world of job search. Despite the foundational truth behind the saying, the metaphor of suiting up for battle to make hires feels outdated, arduous and counter-productive.

Today the job search landscape demands not so much a war, but a whole-hearted embrace of the digital revolution and its transparency.

Heading into 2021, it’s more about choice.

Meaning, you don’t just choose talent anymore. Talent also chooses you.

But then, why should you listen to me?

The fact that I have over a decade of executive and corporate recruiting experience likely won’t persuade you.

Perhaps this will.

Nearly a decade ago I co-founded Arielle Executive—an executive branding firm that specialises in helping senior talent stand out in a crowded job market. In our work, my team is privileged to view the recruitment landscape from the candidate’s perspective every day.

We have unique insight into how the top candidates’ habits and mindsets have changed over the years. We know what they’re feeling and thinking when they go to market. We know what appeals to them. And we know what they complain about, and appreciate, when it comes to recruiters!

Which means I have a keen awareness of your missed opportunities, such as the two examples below:

  • The perfectly matched candidate who never makes it past the ATS into the “yes” pile.
  • The leadership candidate seeking a career change, whose experience isn’t a straight line to your requisition, and is hence passed over.

In my quest to put an end to the stories about the great candidate “who got away”, I’m offering my personal compilation of top recruitment strategies to prepare you for 2021.

Let’s get started.

1. Define quality of hire

This holy grail of talent acquisition metrics is too often relegated to capturing how happy the hiring manager was with the recruiting process. Consider instead measuring the success of your hires over two years in four areas: retention, performance, potential and promotion or pay.

Once this has gained respectable momentum, consider weaving the results into a narrative as former CPO of Netflix Patty McCord did. Her quality of hire mantra? Making great hires is about recognising great matches. What’s yours?

2. Hire for culture forward, not culture fit

Hire for culture fit, and you’re awash in a sea of unconscious biases. Think Google in the early days, who hired themselves into an echo chamber of Stanford grads. Instead, ask how each hire can add to the culture in a unique way versus perpetuating the “me too” mentality.

Again, as with quality of hire, it’s important to define what your culture of tomorrow looks like ahead of time versus feeling your way through it on the fly.

3. Offer employee referral bonuses

In a well-balanced recruitment strategy, employee referrals should account for about 40% of your hires. The benefits are incredible – lower cost per hire, a nice boost to employee morale, and a hire that has an insider view into the positives and negatives of your culture.

ERPS can be used with equal success with hard-to-fill and high-volume roles across your enterprise. The trick is to market it and dedicate resources for administration.

4. Spotlight your best and brightest

Video testimonials are great ways to engage your candidates both on social media and on your career site.

But don’t stop there. Send those stellar employees out to career fairs, college recruiting events and any community event where your company is visible. Want to get really creative?

Take a cue from Deloitte and invite your people to make their own short films about why they work for you. Talk about an authentic recruitment strategy.

5. Keep your boomerangs warm

When someone talented leaves your company, make sure you have a formal strategy to keep in touch. Check in with them 30-60-90 days and then one year after they’ve left. Send them a hand-written card. Take them to coffee. Are they happy? Is there a new role they’ll be ideal for?

At Microsoft, roughly 15% of their employees have worked there in the past and returned. Consider working with your analytics team to see where your numbers are and create a recruitment strategy to improve them.

6. Write job descriptions that describe

Take the candidate on a journey versus loading up your job posting with internal mumbo jumbo that even you are bored reading, and no one outside your company could possibly understand.

Toptal is a leader in this space. Their job descriptions clearly outline what you will do in the first week, month, 3 months, 6 months so the candidate gets a feel for what impact they will have in the role.

7. Go mobile

Yes, ensuring your career site and job application are both mobile-friendly is a well-worn recruitment strategy. But the use of texting for streamlined candidate communication continues to expand.

Besides being a response-friendly way to schedule and confirm assessments and interviews, chat bots can also enable you to “text screen” versus spending your time phone screening.

8. Build your employer brand

Too many recruiters, and companies, regard their employer brand as a bland rehash of their corporate mission, vision and values.

Remember that your employer brand is a dynamic relationship and your candidate is the consumer. And while videos, taglines and a color palette are awesome assets, what happens when the rubber meets the road?

Look at your candidate experience honestly. Because one communication misstep can land your brand a bad review on or Indeed. Not to mention, alienate a candidate permanently.

9. Monitor your online reviews

Staying on top of candidate and employee comments on the online forums mentioned above will offer you a wealth of information about the authenticity of your recruitment marketing. In my experience, one of the biggest challenges with this task is how to respond.

Talent acquisition professionals are notoriously overworked and crafting a thoughtful response to an online rant may be beyond your capacity. Find a partner in your organisation who can actively support this effort in employer brand building.

10. Creative sourcing

Your brand draws them in, but how are you reaching out? Beyond using LinkedIn Recruiter (which is an amazing tool, right?), try sourcing in unique places.

Some innovative options include conference speaker lists, app stores (seek out the talent behind the technology), Amazon book reviews (look for insightful commenters) and Quora. What new options can you add to your recruitment strategy?

11. Look inside

If you haven’t already, make internal hires a key part of your recruitment strategy. Is there someone in your company with an interest in doing the role you’re tasked with filling? Don’t underestimate the power of passion over experience.

Consider turning it into a rotation and you might find that your internal candidate possesses two key advantages: they know your culture and company, yet their alternative background gives them a fresh take on deep-seated business challenges.

12. VR

Don your goggles. VR can be used on a basic level for employer brand touch points such as showing candidates your headquarters, as General Mills did. But it can also be used to offer your candidate real-life insight into a highly technical role.

Lest you think this is oh-so bleeding-edge, the British Army began using VR recruitment techniques in 2015.

13. Hang out where your candidates are

Passive talent can be an elusive bunch, often not responding to nudges on LinkedIn. The solution is to meet them where they live online. Amazon’s posting of its AWS jobs on the controversial dating site Tinder is an extreme case in point. Below are some more examples:

McDonald’s + Snapchat

McDonald’s are using the social platform to recruit Gen Z, who, according to SnapChat, access the app 20 times a day.

McDonalds Snapchat application

Goldman Sachs + Spotify

The firm is advertising on the music streaming app, linking back to a career quiz that helps candidates explore the areas of the company best suited to them.

Goldman Sachs using Spotify for recruitment campaign

14. Hiring happy hours

Generate buzz by having a regular hiring happy hour at your office for anyone who is interested in employment at your company.

Salesforce combines this strategy with their employee referral program with impressive success. A bonus to this approach is that recruiters have the chance to meet with potential talent in a relaxed, fun environment.

15. Reduce candidate stress

Interviews are intimidating much in the way that first dates are. Do your best to make candidates feel at ease.

While you may not want to offer them a drink, be upfront with them from the start and get to know them as people. For instance, let them know how long the interview will take, how long the entire process will be and every person they’ll meet along the way.

16. Dig around in your ATS

Those great candidates who didn’t work out for a previous role? Keep them in mind for a future fit. Know the capabilities of your ATS when it comes to searching for specific skills and backgrounds.

Let the technology do the heavy lifting for you, so that you’re freed up for the high-touch aspects of your work. This recruitment strategy is a no-brainer.

17. Train your ATS

Of course, you want technology to screen resumes so you don’t have to. But remember that the choices you make influence how the technology works in the future.

Think twice before you inflict your human biases on your trusty machine. Wondering how candidates prepare their resumes to beat the bots? Check out our post on the topic.

18. Ride the silver tsunami

Include your experienced workers in your hiring strategies. Ask top performers to delay their retirement – possibly under slightly different terms – and, most importantly, create some kind of mentoring program. Pair your older high potentials with your younger new hires. A two-way mentoring/teaching program is likely to boost engagement as well.

19. Cultivate a dream hire pipeline

Red 5 Studios, an app developer, identified “100 dream prospects” and then they spent many months researching, building relationships, assessing and selling them.

This innovative recruitment strategy allowed them to land fully employed top quality prospects that could never have been successfully hired using traditional active sourcing approaches. Most of the prospects are recommended by internal staff, which helps reduce the number of mis-hires.

20. ABR

According to (again) Patty McCord, it stands for Always Be Recruiting! This means that if a recruiter is truly a business partner and not an order taker, they inspire every single person in their organisation to also be on the hunt for talent.

This big picture approach fueled Netflix’s explosive growth and elevated the role of HR. It also sparked creativity and flexibility in hiring practices. So, if you choose to ABR, get ready for an exciting ride.

Alright, that’s it from me for now. It’s a fascinating time to be in the talent space. If we work together to evolve our recruitment strategies and practices, maybe we can put an end to this war once and for all.

Happy talent hunting!

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