While recruitment is all about filling an immediate vacancy, talent acquisition is a longer-term strategy designed to attract the best candidates with outstanding skill sets. And because human resources are the key to developing a company, we asked experts to share their best strategy in sourcing the best talents to grow the business.
Here are 25 effective talent acquisition strategies from the pros.
1. Establish a Solid Apprenticeship Program
Ximena Hartsock, Co-Founder and President, Phone2Action
The best talent acquisition strategy for Phone2Action has been to have a very structured and well-funded apprenticeship program. We partner with local organizations like the Washington Economic Club and local high schools and universities to recruit youth who are interested in the intersection of civic engagement and technology. We have been doing this for four years and our internship program has now reached a point where we do not need to proactively search for candidates, as we receive hundreds of applicants each year, many of whom are minorities. Selected candidates are offered a three-month, paid fellowship summer program with an option to extend for an additional nine months (with our approval).
It is very hard to hire great tech talent and this program attracts bright youth who come back to us in their holiday breaks and often join us full-time after graduation. Our interns not only bring energy and contribute to real projects, but in terms of STEM pipeline, this has become the most effective talent strategy we have.
2. Combine Technology with a Referral System
Matt Tant, CEO and Founder, Relode
I think that the number one thing that recruiters and companies can do to improve their recruiting strategy is to embrace technology to attract and manage candidates. Whether it’s thinking about a crowdsourced model, investing in an employee referral program, or using a tech-enabled applicant tracking system, using the right tools to hire smarter and faster is essential. What I’ve found works best in the long run is combining technology with using referrals from industry professionals who know your market, or referrals from your existing employees. You’ll get employees who want to stay longer and believe in your mission.
3. Highlight the Advantages and Potential of Working with Your Company
James McGrath, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Yoreevo LLC
When we’re looking for agents, we make sure to highlight the opportunity today as well as the opportunity in the future. Especially for a job like a real estate agent where the typical career is just a series of transactions, being able to present a more significant role down the road is a differentiating factor. It can be as simple the ability to build a team or grow into a managerial role. We also offer benefits to our agents, which is rare in this industry and further differentiates us. In general, I believe the less focus on pure compensation, the better positioned you’ll be.
4. Be Competitive
Jason Keeley, Manager, MountainJobs.com
Recruit the best talent for your small business by getting competitive. Compete with other brands for potential employees by using unique benefit programs and offering remote options. Target the right people by taking your search social. Social recruiting is a cost-effective way to find passive talent that may not be on job seeking sites. Be clear and direct about the needs you have for the position right from the beginning. Most of all, speak to the hearts of the candidates, not their heads.
5. Be Open to Recruiting for Top In-House and Freelance Talent
Connor Gillivan, CMO, FreeeUp
A recent report shows that 35 percent of the U.S. workforce is already involved in the freelance economy. Within the next 10 years, it’s projected that over 50 percent will be involved in freelance working arrangements. As a company, you should be looking at each role you’re looking to fill and determining who is the best fit—in-house or remote. Having a balance between the two will increase work output and efficiency and will optimize your spending on talent. In the long run, you’ll have a strong balance between the two, providing you with the flexibility to increase and decrease payroll based on your business is performing.
6. Develop a Strong, Identifiable Company Culture
Andrew Jennings, CCO, Transcend
One of the best ways for an organization to attract top talent is to develop a culture that reflects its values and sets it apart from other organizations in the same space. Appealing to everyone fails to set a high enough bar for entry. A strong, identifiable culture will attract high performing, like-minded people who share the same values. These people will seek you out, resulting in a much higher quality pool of candidates for every job in your organization.
7. Utilize Personal Referral Sources
Jared Weitz, CEO and Founder, United Capital Source Inc.
I’ve had success in building my core team utilizing personal referral sources. From there, those employees have others they know, and it creates a spider effect. I think as you work with people longer, you start to see what their long-term potential is. It’s tough to see that from the outset. On the outset, I look for someone who will fit in to our culture, work hard, and be honest. I also believe 50 percent of having someone stay long term is to be a good employer by offering a positive work environment and competitive wages.
8. Develop Your Company’s LinkedIn Profile
Syed Farhan Raza, Founder, The Inbound Crew
How can you miss out on leveraging a community of 473 million professionals? You can just publish a well-optimized post on LinkedIn if you are well-connected with the industry there. Alternatively, use LinkedIn’s premium tool (starts at $59.99 per month), which gives you access to advanced search filters. You can target based on keyword, demographics, industry, seniority, and many other filters.
9. Participate in Local Networking Events
Richard Pummell, Human Resources Lead, DevelopIntelligence
Instead of blending in with the crowd during on campus recruiting events, look for local meetup events where likely candidates may be in attendance, even though it’s not a specific recruiting event (great for networking with passive candidates). Be constantly recruiting, not just when you have an opening, and keep potential new hires warm with outreach about company successes and planned events. Schedule a happy hour on site or at a popular local spot and invite people in your network to attend. Use the event to spread the word that you’re a great place to work and always open to chatting with possible candidates.
10. Review Your Hiring Process for Candidate Experience
Melina Gillies, CHRP, HR Specialist, Salesup!
The quality of the candidate experience cannot be taken for granted in a successful talent acquisition program. The advice I give employers is to complete the application process themselves. Chances are, if you find it impersonal, monotonous, or lacking in communication, potential employees will as well. Closing the feedback loop and communicating with candidates throughout the process is no longer an optional bonus. Even automated communication can be personalized in this day and age and is an essential building block to success. In this vein, talent acquisition needs to take a page out of the marketing book and measure results. Likely this will be a mixture of A/B testing, candidate experience audits, and feedback from top performers. Ultimately, any data that’s collected during the application process should be used to refine and improve the end-to-end experience.
11. Engage with State Employment Programs
Will Craig, Managing Director, LeaseFetcher
It might sound a bit of a cliché, but investing in young people is the key to the long-term viability of your business. Young people can be easier to train, teach, and develop. If you treat them right, they can also save your business a lot in the long term through reduced hiring costs.
Many states offer employment programs where they work with local businesses to help them source potential recruits for their business, so my top tip would be to get in touch with your nearest one and try to work together. These programs will often give you a grant for each young person you employ to go towards developing their talents.
12. Conduct Market Visits to Discover Local Groups
Cole Gade, Health Care, Business Consultant, Talent Plus, Inc.
One of the common themes of market visits was learning about local job boards and/or niche groups we would not have otherwise known about if we hadn’t sat down with the local Chamber of Commerce or someone from a local college or university. While sending over a job description and link to apply is great, providing more information surrounding the type of individual, experience, and role specifics helps them help you. They may even have someone in mind for the role once they learn more. This would not work if you were hiring for one targeted role, but it does work if you are hiring for a handful of the same roles.
13. Know Your Company’s Succession Plan
Wayne Strickland, Business Consultant, Wayne Strickland
A leader should know what their succession plan for their team looks like for at least the next 24 months. Leaders know who has earned the right to be promoted, who needs more development, and who needs a new position outside the team. Leaders should not wait for the corporate HR team to deliver a list of candidates when a position becomes available. They need their own list. A leader needs to have their candidate list because they are always recruiting. Leaders should be having lunches with high potential candidates, putting potential candidates on their toughest projects and observing their performance, and working with leaders outside their company to find fresh talent. Bottom line—leaders should always be recruiting because the team with the best talent outperforms all others over time.
14. Reach Out to Overlooked Talent Pools
Le Anne Harper, Chief Talent Officer and Chief Operating Officer, Katalyst Group
One of the most compelling opportunities I see is the use of frequently overlooked and under-leveraged talent pools, including stay-at-home moms/dads, retirees/near-retirees, veterans, and non-profit organizations with career services (such as Chrysalis, Homeboy Industries, and Working Wardrobes). Another mutually beneficial option for talent acquisition professionals that taps into often underrepresented communities is cultivating relationships with professional associations that serve a particular demographic (e.g., Association of Latino Professionals for America, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment). This is the somewhat modern twist on the traditional approach of leveraging university career centers at colleges with strong programs in something relevant to your industry/function.
15. Pool Talent for Future Requirements
Ryan O’Neil, Founder, Curate.co
One of the best long-term strategies is to look at the opportunities that are coming in now. We were looking for a marketing position nine months ago and spoke with a candidate who wasn’t a fit at the time, but we had a great and enjoyable conversation. Roll forward nine months—he’s looking for a new opportunity and we’re interviewing him. We’ve completely transformed our interviewing process to ensure that we’re considering the fact that the great candidates we’re speaking with right now might be a better fit in the future.
16. Hire Based on Potential
Francois Byrne, Project Director, Hybrid Power Solutions Inc.
I think most businesses lose focus when hiring. They are so consumed with the thought of acquiring an individual with certain skills and specific years of experience that they completely forgo searching for an employee who will actually grow into what they need. Most people can be taught a new skill set or be trained into a new position.
Finding someone who has an attitude that meshes well with your company culture and that promotes a healthy work environment should be an employer’s main goal. We hire based on an individual’s potential, not where they stand in the interview. Most importantly, we have the high-potential candidates sit down with the team they are going to work with in a very informal, relaxed, coffee shop-style discussion. The hiring process is very much a challenge for your entire team, yet most employers never introduce candidates to coworkers until they are hired.
17. Avoid a Lengthy Initial Application Process
Chris Willatt, Owner, Alpine Maids
Being a maid service in a city with a sub-3 percent unemployment rate, we are forced to experiment daily to attract top talent. When the unemployment rate was in our favor, we would force applicants through a 30-minute or more application process that resulted in great applicants but cost us thousands of potential applicants who didn’t take the time to go through our lengthy process.
Given the current employment climate, we now have a 30-second application consisting of just name, phone number, and email address. We follow up quickly with a phone screen and set up an interview from there. This has resulted in a lot more unqualified candidates that we must filter out, but we are now getting the same number of qualified applicants that we did before the unemployment rate crashed below 3 percent and are able to continue to attract top talent.
18. Use a Unique Approach in Writing Job Advertisements
Dave Lane, CEO, Inventiv
Highly-skilled job candidates want interesting and challenging work they can feel good about. The best way to recruit great talent is to promote your company’s mission or purpose. Too many job ads begin with job-specific skill requirements instead of explaining why and how your ideal candidate is going to make a huge impact within your company. When you write a job ad, start with your company’s purpose in the ad title. In your job description, explain how this position will help the company fulfill its purpose. For example, a school district’s IT specialist job ad that speaks about empowering teachers is going to be more eye-catching than an ad that tells candidates which versions of Windows they have to support.
19. Learn from Your Best Team Members
Jason Patel, Founder, Transizion
We keep track of what our best team members do, how they communicate, what their educational and professional backgrounds are, and technologies they prefer, among other data. This helps us find the right people to hire and lets us know our blind spots. As we craft and iterate on this data, we go through personal channels and online platforms to recruit talent by asking them to write content pieces for us. This helps us see their knowledge in this field and gauge their professional skills, such as hitting deadlines and communicating with their managers. Last, when we have talent but can’t bring them on board just yet, we keep in touch with them over the next few weeks and months. This is a show of goodwill and professionalism—that we are about their possible contributions to our team and value their expertise, which makes hiring them that much more of a smooth process.
20. Leverage the Unique Nature of Your Industry
Doug Warner, CEO, Align
After raising capital to fund our SaaS startup, recruiting talent was a top priority, and we knew it would be important to lead with company culture. We wanted to leverage the excitement and opportunity that come with the startup world—you get to build and grow a product that could impact the way people work, and regardless of the position you are hired for, you can have a direct influence on the vision, roadmap and success of our business. We are very results-driven, and we hired smart people that we need to be accountable for achieving the results that will move the needle for us.
With results at the core of each individual’s performance evaluations, we were able to take a very laissez-faire approach to each individual’s working style—giving our employees more autonomy, which they like. In addition, we made sure to put together an awesome benefits package with healthcare covered 100 percent, unlimited PTO, and stock options. We also schedule regular team happy hours to reward all the hard work that goes into being part of a startup.
21. Invest in Developing Your Employer Brand
Nicole Dorskind, Managing Director – North America, ThirtyThree
Brands that understand and can speak confidently about who they are will attract the right people and deter the wrong ones. To do this, businesses must invest in developing their employer brand and ensuring that it is communicated across every touch point in the employment life cycle. The more authentically the organization’s culture and values are conveyed, as well as the challenges and rewards of the role itself, the easier it is for potential candidates to self-select themselves in or out of the application process.
While research plays an essential role in uncovering what makes you different and special as an employer, the creative expression of the employer brand and the channels used to tell that story are just as important as the messaging itself. It’s crucial to know your target audience—find out where they are consuming and sharing information and speak directly to them in a way that connects emotionally.
22. Focus on AI-Powered Tools for Efficient, Long-Term Outreach
Alexandra Zelenko, Marketer and Technical Writer, DDI Development
Modern recruiters and HR leaders have incredible tools that are getting smarter to find and connect with top talents. According to the 2017 Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey, about 15 percent of HR team leaders say AI-based tools have already impacted their workforce plans, and another 40 percent surveyed expect them to be a major factor in the next five years.
AI-fueled tools simplify the process of predicting human behavior. With this technology, you can even identify things like how likely a candidate is to respond to an inquiry. The tools help to determine how a current company is performing, how often they are updating social profiles, and how long prior employees stayed in that candidate’s role to help HR professionals and recruiters screen and prioritize the candidates who are almost ready and or will be ready for new job opportunities.
23. Include Your Best Employees in Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy
Katrina Kibben, CEO and Founder, Three Ears Media
Finding top talent is about listening first. Interview your best employees and identify trends in how they use media, what they value most, and how they talk about their work. Then, model those trends into your recruitment marketing strategy. Tell the stories of your best people because those stories are the most attractive to people with similar interests and talents. Place your ads and information on the channels people like them use.
Talent acquisition is a long-term plan, which makes Reddit a perfect platform to nurture your employer brand. Reddit is known to younger audience looking for a very straight-forward approach on discussing topics that matter to them. It’s easy to identify interests and topics that would attract your ideal employees. They provide a variety of options to help you hyper-target your ads, such as adding a location or device, and even specifying exclusions. More information and helpful links in this article.
This article explains how design thinking used to solve complex problems can be applied to recruitment and talent acquisition. By using this approach, creative solutions are formed for a more streamlined strategy that gets you ahead of your competitors. Want to know the best interview approach or how to prioritize talent acquisition goals in a very limited budget? Read this interview of design leader Chad MacRae as he explains the concept of designing a talent acquisition strategy that adds value to your business
Over to You
Having the right employees helps your business perform better, so it’s important to have a long-term recruitment strategy. Take a page from our list of tips from the experts and never miss out on the quality talent you need to improve your business.
Want to add more to our list of talent acquisition strategies? Share it with us in the comments.