As the name of a recent conference in San Francisco suggests, there’s a war for talent going on right now. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Over the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to many successful entrepreneurs and executives from some of the fastest-growing companies in the world. While the specifics of those conversations remain confidential, I’ve noticed some general trends that seem to separate the winners in the talent war from those who aren’t doing as well.
Here are five I’ve picked up on:
The talent war winners aggressively seek out passive candidates. It’s the heat-seeking missile approach to recruiting and they do it because they know that they have to go find top talent, not the other way around. They do whatever they can to determine where the people they are looking to hire are likely to be. Often this is knowing what company an ideal candidate might have worked for previously, what school they attended, what Meetup they are going to next month or even what online communities they are hanging out on.
To hear them talk about their process is akin to sitting in the “war room” on Draft Day for a professional sports franchise. Who’s looking to move soon? Whose boss just took a new job? Whose just posted a cool new project to Github? They get very good at figuring out how talent is moving and figure out ways to position themselves in the midst of that flow.
The talent war winners obsess about the “top of the funnel.” They know that recruiting is a numbers game and the most important number just might be the number of qualified people at the start of their pipeline. They get obsessive about this, looking for ways to make their process more efficient.
Another part of this is getting very good at qualifying people. They’ll spend the additional time upfront on a candidate knowing that when a candidate does enter the pipeline, things get progressively more expensive.
The talent war winners give candidates a strong reason to engage with the company. Want examples of this? Check out Dropbox’s quirky jobs page and how it appeals to the very engineers who they are trying to recruit. Or how Asana offers an incredible $10K to people to pimp out their work set-up. Or how companies like Google and others do Tech Talks to allow their employees access to some of the brightest minds in the world.
Regardless of what it is, they do their best to blow candidates’ minds and they think about every interaction. The company’s Jobs page is an obvious one but these companies also pay attention to the overall candidate experience (as an aside, candidate experience is such a big deal that there are now startups like Mystery Applicant that will help you to optimize in this area). They obsess around the experience candidates have with their brand like Apple obsesses around the experience that users have with its products.
The talent war winners are obsessed with metrics. They track everything. Sure, a lot of companies track their source of hires in their Applicant Tracking System. But that’s just the starting point for these companies. What’s their response rate for sending LinkedIn InMails vs. sending emails to potential candidates and what subject lines perform the best when reaching out? What percentage of candidates make it to a second round interview across their various sourcing channels?
The best recruiting organizations have answers to these questions and many more and use them to continually improve their processes and better allocate resources.
The talent war winners make recruiting their top priority. Their CEOs spend significant amounts of time recruiting (Vinod Khosla recommends more than 50% of time for new CEOs). They invest in the right tools and make sure their teams are fully staffed for the challenge in front of them. Recruiting high-quality candidates is not a “nice to have” for them. It’s an absolute must have.
This only scratches the surface of what the world’s best recruiting organizations do to pull in top talent but hopefully it’s been helpful in gaining a better understanding and provided some new ideas for ways to build great teams.