How a Talent Acquisition Strategy Impacts Much More Than Talent Acquisition

As a girl, I always wanted an ice cream cake for my birthday. Despite my numerous and extremely concentrated efforts, I was never able to convince my mother to get one. Last year I visited home for my birthday and much to my surprise, nearly 30 years later, I still was unable to convince my mother to buy an ice cream cake. I do not have a dairy allergy nor does my mother have any aversions to ice cream cakes. Thirty years ago, my sister interviewed for a job at the local dairy bar, and despite my mother’s impressive coaching and preparation, and my sister’s professional approach (if that’s possibly at 16 years old), the manager of the dairy bar hired his niece instead. In my mother’s defense, her issue was not that they didn’t hire my sister per se, but that the management was “riddled with nepotism, ” and that clearly meant there were bigger issues at the top. For the life of me, I cannot imagine how those issues might have affected their ice cream cakes, but nonetheless, the brand was forever ruined for my mother.

I was painfully reminded of my mother’s ruined ice cream cake brand again recently when I visited a corporate interview review site and found that an organization whose brand I respect and admire was highlighted with a less-than-stellar review of their interview process. For years, we’ve attempted to evangelize to our clients the importance of a strong talent acquisition strategy. With the advent of social media and sites that focus purely on providing candidates an outlet for their review of a company based purely on their interview experience, employers are subject to a level of transparency never before anticipated.

With new levels of transparency and unimaginable speeds at which information is hitting the market, it is imperative that organizations take their talent acquisition strategy beyond HR and Recruiting. The positive impacts throughout the acquisition process are often clear, but they are also indirect. For instance, a new hire can take up to 18 months to show a solid return on investment. More importantly, if the interviewing and on-boarding process is successful, it will take years to prove the complete positive impact on retention. While we can undoubtedly correlate that process directly to the retention and engagement of the best candidates, the negative impacts of the process are equally as obvious, but unfortunately, they are often immediate and much more direct. For that reason, a talent acquisition strategy is far more than a strategy for acquiring talent – it is a brand builder.

Technology and social media have provided new levels of productivity to reach candidates. What they have not changed is that every employer wants to hire the best possible candidate in the market. Unfortunately, those candidates are most often not ON the market. Identifying and attracting those (the best of the best) potential candidates requires a respected brand and a talent acquisition strategy that goes far beyond the capabilities of even the most sophisticated applicant tracking system (ATS). While they certainly make us more productive and serve an indispensible purpose, if not leveraged appropriately, the ATS can unknowingly diminish our ability to create positive and meaningful interactions with our candidates. Those are the same candidates posting negative experiences to every website they can find that will listen. In essence, the candidates have become the customers, and their feedback matters. The days of talent being a commodity are over.

Once the best candidates in the market are identified and attracted, the real challenge begins. Whatever the outcome of the interview process, you want the perception of the organization to be positive. This is not an easy challenge with each interview representing a possible land mine. One interview too many, and the employer appears indecisive, clumsy and possibly even inept. One interview too few and you risk seeming hasty, thoughtless, or even overly eager (farewell negotiating power). Insert process. It should be thorough yet agile and represent who you are as an organization. Consistency is key. Without consistency, it’s best to abandon the interview process entirely, and wait until you’ve established it. Remember, it’s not one potential hire at risk – it is your brand. Data is equally as important as consistency. Each decision you make should be driven by data, so that you may replicate the right process to hire the best possible talent each time you make a hire.

Fortunately, if you have executed the process well, the impacts of your talent acquisition strategy do not stop there. Researchers have proven that the candidates you on-board will have higher levels of retention and engagement if they have had a positive interview experience. On the other hand, those you have not hired will not jump at the chance to brutally attack you and your brand at every opportunity as long as they feel the process was relevant. More importantly (and this happens more often than you would expect), if that candidate is someday in the position to be your client, they will have a respected opinion of your brand. In a recent Avancos survey, the single largest complaint from candidates who were rejected from the interview process was a lack of feedback. Once you have decided the candidate is not a fit, it is always best to at least let them know. While they may not immediately appreciate the outcome, they will respect that you have been decisive and allowed them the opportunity for closure.

Ultimately, the decision to hire a potential candidate should be yours to make. Your trusted and trained team of interviewers should have provided the candidate with an experience that made them want to join the organization at each step in the process. Salary negotiations aside, your brand should be so highly regarded at the final stage in the process that the only decision left to make is the start date. If you have done really well, the only concern will be that the start date cannot possibly come soon enough.

Like anything, if this were easy, everyone would do it well. It takes time, but a focused talent acquisition strategy and a few major “don’ts” can save you a lot of pain along the way:

  1. Don’t settle for the best talent on the market. Be exhaustive in your efforts to find the best overall talent IN the market. The investment you make now will be worth it.
  2. Don’t think of your interview process as an interview process. Abandon the outdated mindset; instead, develop and adopt a process that is representative of your brand. If you have invested the time and resources to identify the best, pursue that investment with a comprehensive strategy that engages, rather than isolates, your candidates.
  3. Don’t delay. Candidate experience surveys unanimously prove that delays in the interview process are guaranteed to negatively impact the candidate’s impression of your organization. Be decisive and respectful of the investments you are both making in this exchange.
  4. Don’t rely on technology. Use it, yes, but do not rely on it. Technology is a tool...one of many in your repertoire. While it allows us to be more productive, it diminishes your reputation if you rely on it for interactions. In the end, the relationships that are established will propel your reputation to the high level of regard you desire.
  5. Don’t stop evangelizing your brand. If you decide not to hire the candidate, you will want them to walk away from the experience with a positive impression of who you are as an organization. Even better, if you do on-board the candidate, you will want to make sure they are engaged in the company. Your brand is also a retention tool.
  6. Don’t stop making investments. The best talent acquisition strategy you have is your human capital. Invest in them first, and they will be your top resource for new talent.
  7. Don’t go it alone. Get an outsider’s perspective. It can be painful, but the harsh reality of what a candidate experiences during interviewing and on-boarding will give you insight far beyond just your talent acquisition strategy. Get a professional to show you that perspective and to give you a strategy to protect your investments. Your return will be exponential.

A powerful talent acquisition strategy is imperative in identifying, attracting and cultivating the right talent at the right time. In our increasingly social world, the impact of not doing so is more far-reaching than talent acquisition alone. Many organizations are already embracing this, and using it to their advantage. Those who are not will simply be competing for inferior talent.

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