In this digital age, a hiring manager may think he or she can be a recruiting pro with a few LinkedIn searches and connect requests; but that is a misperception of all that a recruiter does. The recruiting process requires expert research skills to identify potential candidates who will fit the defined qualifications, often requiring targeted approaches and connections to industry-specific circles.
Additionally, Dave Jensen, managing director of CTI Executive Search, a unit of CareerTrax Inc. (careertrax.com), explains, “That’s [LinkedIn searching] such a small part of the job of being a recruiter. Our work goes far beyond that—it goes into understanding how a person thinks and what makes them tick, what decisions they have made in the past, and what decisions they would make in the future.”
Recruiters are experienced in sourcing and identifying top talent who will also be a good match culturally for the company, because they know what traits to look for and what questions to ask of references. As Jensen elaborates, “You know what kind of person is going to work and not work. You have to be a good student of human nature to be able to figure that out. But that’s what companies count on when they’re paying that bill. They want to have that kind of antenna on the part of the recruiter.”
John Pender, global program director with Korn Ferry Futurestep (kornferry.com), points out that more and more organizations are turning to recruiting project outsourcing because it is a cost-effective model that delivers the best talent in the end. This model includes access to the latest technology in the recruiting industry. Pender highlights that his company offers a number of web-based applications to streamline the recruiting process, including research-based assessment tools and targeted job-posting services.
In terms of cost effectiveness, Jensen says a recruiter becomes the “champion” for a position to be filled and moves the process along. Oftentimes, he can have a new hire secured in as little as two or three months, expediting the time to productivity for his clients by hiring sooner. Reputable recruiting firms also have a placement guarantee, which typically ranges from six months to one year, and will source a replacement for free if the initial hire does not work out.
As Jensen remarks, “People think of recruiters as only being interested in making a placement and then going away.” However, he further explains, “We’re involved in that person’s indoctrination as a new employee, checking in regularly and making sure everything is smooth.” Therefore, recruiters are committed to helping new hires transition into their new roles and promote overall retention efforts. This benefit is a huge savings in the long run because it is expensive to start over and retrain a new person.
An alternative to the traditional recruiting model is the use of an online, community-based job-listing service. For example, Bio Careers® (biocareers.com) offers employers access to a database of highly qualified job seekers with graduate degrees from top institutions across a breadth of disciplines in the life sciences.
Employers can request updated information directly from registrants and target candidates in specific scientific niches. Companies can further engage with potential candidates through virtual events (e.g., career fairs, webinars) hosted by the site. Nick Folger, founder of Bio Careers, notes that this type of platform can provide employers an intermediary option that is less expensive but still “offers a tailored approach to the best science talent in the market.”
Overall, recruiters are at the forefront of hiring trends within their respective industries, and thus they possess a wealth of knowledge related to best practices in recruiting. It’s worth every hiring manager’s time to connect with recruiters on a regular basis to stay updated on the latest trends.
Here are a few pro tips that the recruiting experts featured in this article had to share with lab managers based on recent trends in the field.
Tip #1: Showcase your company culture and people
Pender points out that a powerful trend in the recruiting world is a renewed focus on company culture. As he explains, “This [trend] is being driven by younger generations in the workforce who are more motivated by culture, environment, and ‘me’ than the almighty dollar. Compounded with the prevalence of [employer] rating sites like Glassdoor, companies are taking a new and fresh look at their image to ensure they are attractive to millennials and will be perceived as an employer of choice.”
Another area of importance is attracting a diverse pool of applicants for positions, which is in line with recent hiring initiatives. Therefore, companies need to take an introspective look at their work environment to make sure it is welcoming and supportive of differing needs.
To attract diverse and talented applicants, Jensen emphasizes the need for companies to maintain a continuous web and social media presence. As he explains, “For example, a lab can use a LinkedIn page to talk about why it’s a great place to work. Perhaps the organization’s home page on the web can feature stories about individuals who have succeeded there, and the different kinds of roles they are in. Pay special attention to diversity recruitment and gender in those stories.”
Tip #2: Add some marketing flare to the job description
Another marketing aspect is how well the job description is written to appeal to the interests of potential candidates. As Jensen notes, “There’s an art to writing a good job description—it’s almost as if you have to get the job away from human resources and into the hands of a marketing person.”
While human resource departments have specific requirements to include in a description, Jensen advises that the boring “humdrum” qualifications be left off and included in a supplemental document that can be provided during the interview process. To jazz it up a bit, he suggests, “Talk about why it’s a good career opportunity, and make sure you emphasize some of the most interesting aspects of the work. You can also write up that job description in a way that will attract diverse applicants.”
Likewise, Pender encourages employers to think about what would attract top talent to the position and develop a script that really speaks to the passions of the potential candidate. It is especially important to have an engaging and well-written job description that can be easily passed along during referrals and for targeting passive job seekers to pique their interest, even if they aren’t actively seeking out new opportunities.
Tip #3: Practice business basics in the hiring process
Jensen mentions that employers would be surprised by just how much practicing “business basics” can improve the image of a company to future prospects. This means treating applicants with respect throughout the hiring process, from acknowledging receipt of an application to providing constructive feedback on why a person wasn’t hired or a good fit for the company. As Jensen explains, “Word of mouth about employers, what they’re like and what kind of reception they gave people, goes a long way, especially negative comments. They just have such a long-term effect in the market place.”
Tip #4: Be realistic about job qualifications
In any field, there are positions that are hard to fill due to competition from other industries and/or a lack of qualified individuals. As further compounding the problem, Pender sees employers excluding large pools of potential candidates by making job qualifications too restrictive. For instance, a four-year degree is rarely necessary for entry-level positions, and the organizational knowledge gained on the job is invaluable. In this case, he advises, “You can land some wonderfully talented people for entry-level work with a two-year degree, and then proceed to groom them internally as they work toward a four-year degree.”
Likewise, Jensen notes, “Sometimes your hiring manager will actually make it much more difficult to find a hire because he or she will go through their shopping list of everything they need for that department and add those things to the job description. You end up looking for 10 hard-to-find skills when only six or seven [are] all you really need for the job.” Thus, being realistic about expectations will make it easier to find a diverse group of candidates from which to choose.
Tip #5: Implement talent management strategies to fill niche positions
In addition, Jensen references that there are some “old-school jobs” for which many universities are no longer training graduates in these traditional fields of study. For example, genetic engineering of crops has taken center stage with graduates trained in molecular biology and genetic techniques. However, this is creating an issue for agricultural companies still looking to hire scientists trained in classical plant-breeding methodologies.
To address this mismatch, Jensen encourages companies to consider using a recruiting firm that is well connected in this scientific niche. Additionally companies can stay connected to professors at institutions (e.g., invite them to be on an advisory board) who are still training graduates in these fields so employers can have their pick of the crop of talent.
Jensen suggests another solution is to develop internal mentoring programs to train new hires in needed skills. As he states, “Sometimes you have to grow your own, so to speak, so you hire them young. Treat them right and foster their careers, and they will become key players in your organization.”