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The ‘Are You Nuts?’ Recruitment Strategies


I just want you to picture the following conversation I have had with four companies over the last two weeks ( and more recently). It has prompted the same response from me on each occasion - “Are you nuts?”.

Me: So you have been having issues attracting and recruiting the skills you need?

Company: Yes, we have been struggling for months (which is why we are talking to you today)

Me: So take me through your various methods for recruiting….

Company: Place adverts on our career site,  job boards (clarification: job specs!),  press adverts (magazines and newspapers), some basic searching on LinkedIn ( two or three words in the top search bar only) if they have time, and recruitment agencies.

Me: So what have you done differently over the last 6 months to try and improve your hiring (and presumably keep your internal clients happy)?

<You know what is coming next> Company: Nothing. These methods have always worked for us in the past…….

Me: So, let me get this right. You have had outstanding positions for months, all the recruitment methods you are using are not delivering for you and you haven’t thought of trying something different? Have you not considered why thy are not working?

Company: Insert one of a variety of non-excuses, they all came up with. One company even said to me they were going to give it to the end of the year because they believed the candidate shortage was  ‘just a blip’! But basically, they all said no.

Me (to all of them): ARE YOU NUTS? (obviously said with a smile on my face!)

Does this sound familiar? Is it making you feel a little uncomfortable when you read it like this?

Me: The candidate marketplace has been changing quickly this year, as businesses across the UK have started to do well and predict growth figures again. This has caused candidate shortages in the sought-after skills, in a number of sectors. This is causing many companies to report talent shortages and problems recruiting. As a further problem, many companies are losing employees, as competitors are coming in for them with bigger salary offers.
In short, recruitment is becoming a challenge again to find the right candidates and skills for companies like yours.

Three of the four companies then said this ……..

Company: I didn’t realise that  (or words to that effect!).

Me: …………………. Seriously?

Cue an interlude, while I express my surprise and question what planet they have been living on for the last six months!! 

The serious conversation now resumes again….

Company: So what can we do to improve our attraction and recruitment?

Me: Here are the things we can start with (this is obviously an abridged version):

  1. Do you still need all the jobs you are looking to fill? If they have been open then maybe the business is coping without the head count? Just an idea, worth checking!
  2. Take a look at how your jobs are appearing on your careers website. Do they look appealing - are you just posting your job specs? Would it make you apply for the role? If not change the way you present them - focussing on the important skills and competencies you need, not the whole spec. 
  3. Do you use your employees to help you find people, via a referral scheme? They are your best advocates, you should be using them.
  4. Understand which ,if any, of the existing methods are actually delivering candidates. Not just numbers, but the ones that make it to interview and (ultimately) get hired. You do have that data don’t you? 
    • Check your hires via the job boards (not via the ‘clicks’ data they give you). No hires from certain boards, cancel them, don’t waste your money. Maybe there are some industry/skill niche boards you should be using?
    • Which agencies are delivering candidates? Cold hard facts here, not which ones take you out the most often to different events! No candidate interviews and placements, then stop using them.
    • Paying for expensive magazine and newspaper advertising needs to be seriously questioned! For a start how are you tracking success from them? I suspect you have no idea whatsoever if they are delivering candidates for you, have you?
    • Stop playing with LinkedIn and do it properly. Just for the record, it is probably where your agencies are getting their candidates from. Check your last few months hires and see if your hires were on LinkedIn. You will be gutted when you find them there!
  5. Take some time to talk to the your colleagues in the company to do some recruiting homework. Find out where the similar people you are trying to recruit spend their time online, what they did to find the job in the first place, which social networks they use to talk to their peer groups,  which job boards they look at, which recruiters they have had experience of etc. This will help considerably with giving you a feel for where you should be focussing your efforts.
  6. Take LinkedIn seriously. Get your recruiters skilled up properly on all aspects - attraction and searching.
  7. Once they have done that then start thinking about social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus etc. They have huge amounts of candidates on. This will be particularly relevant if your responses from your colleagues start referring to different social sites. If you don’t have social expertise, take advice here, as it takes some getting used to and training to get it right, from the content marketing, engagement and sourcing angles.
  8. What about your database? Have you got one? When was the last time you messaged them? They are a potentially valuable asset both for direct hires and referrals. Think carefully about the message, especially if it is a database of people you have never made contact with for a long time!
  9. Data. Is your reporting able to give you the data to help you make your decisions? Make sure you are getting meaningful data reports out of your ATS or recruiting system. Without them you are doing all of this blind. You are reliant on the external parties to give you the performance information  - and you know that will be biased!
  10. Make a point of raising your head above the parapet more often to make sure you are staying more current with the marketplace. You need to be more aware of the recruitment landscape so you can react better to the needs of your business.

Company: Uhmmm ……….. is that all?

Me: No, but it will do for starters 🙂

This may sound like a parody conversation, but they were all serious discussions. Just because many people are talking, writing and sharing presentations at conferences galore on different recruitment strategies, technologies and methods, it really doesn’t mean everyone are adopting them. It is definitely more common for me to speak to companies who are just getting started looking more seriously at their recruitment.

Don’t worry, if this represents your organisation, you are not alone! 

If this has got you thinking and you want a sanity check on your recruitment methods, send me an email

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  • Matt Pontin

    Nice blog Andy. Too often organisations treat hiring in such a haphazard way. I often ask managers - if you were in market to procure high cost and high risk products or services - would you undertake this task with a robust process? Would you undertake extensive research? Would you set tangible goals and monitor and report on ROI? Would you empower networks and employee intelligence to help?
    If organisations applied the same vigour that they do (should do) before investing in new products or services into recruitment - then perhaps they would see an impact!