The Value and Use of Best Practices in Recruiting

By Kimberly Do and Dr. John Sullivan

What is a best practice in recruiting?

A best practice is a unique leading-edge solution applied at a noted firm to an emerging recruiting problem. It is “best” because a firm known for its excellence in management is implementing it. It is “a practice” because it has already been successfully implemented in at least one firm. A best practice cannot be an idea that is not been proven or a theory. A best practice is unique because it has been implemented at less than 5% of major firms.

Why you need to know best practices?

Some of the benefits that accrue to a student that is a best practice expert and a solutions person include:

  • You can trade for other best practices – when you’re trying to get detailed benchmark information from another firm or professional, they are more likely to provide it if you have information on the best practices of well-known firms to trade. Best practices in another functional area may be used to trade for a solution to a problem you have.
  • You can look like an expert – knowing best practices makes you appear current and knowledgeable in your field. Colleagues, managers and recruiters will all be impressed with your broad knowledge of “what’s happening” on the leading edge in your field. If you present them as an answer to a major problem on or on a YouTube instructional video, that visibility will impress many, and they may contact you for advice. Also post brief descriptions of them in your LinkedIn profile and on your social media sites. Telling your boss about best practice solutions may even get you a new project assignment, a raise or a promotion.
  • Best practices are great conversation starters – one of the best ways to start any conversation with a professional is “Is your firm facing this problem? And did you know that firm x has already implemented a successful solution to it?” Especially if you’re a student, showing that you have practical solutions will cause people to want to talk to you longer and with more respect. Knowing that you have something that they will want to hear about will build your confidence and you will be more willing to approach professionals and start a conversation. Also being able to provide a verbal list of emerging problems and trends (where many firms are trying solutions), because those are also of interest to most professionals.
  • You can compare your firm’s programs to the best – knowing what the very best firms are doing or beginning to implement can serve as a benchmark that you can compare yourself to. You can tell whether you are providing your firm with a competitive advantage.
  • A lower risk by copying and adapting an existing program – you can lower your risk by waiting until someone else “goes first”. You can therefore use the experience of others to give yourself a head start in developing your own version of a proven program. Because you know the issues and problems, you’re less likely to make a major mistake. And in addition, your executives are likely to be much more willing to adopt a program that has a track record of operating successfully.
  • Benchmark performance numbers help you gauge your progress –knowing best practices can provide you with program performance data and benchmark performance numbers, which can give you some idea of how well your version of the program is performing.
  • You can call yourself a solutions person – if you describe yourself as “a solutions person” in your online profiles, in your elevator speech, on your business card and in your blog, professionals with problems will proactively approach you. Providing answers can help you quickly build your confidence and open up consulting and job opportunities.
  • It may help you academically – professors are always looking for stories and examples that they can use in their work. So revealing best practices, especially where you have followed up and gotten additional information, can be quite valuable in class discussions and on projects. It may even impress your parents so that they see the value in supporting your education.
  • It can be used in presentations – best practices generally add great value and credibility to PowerPoint presentations because it shows that what you are proposing has been already adopted at least one major firm.

An example of a best practice solution PowerPoint slide

The elements of a Best Practice Solution

  1. It is a leading edge talent solution that other firms could reasonably expect to implement. It can’t be so unique that it would only work at one firm.
  2. It is designed to resolve a major problem that “keeps you up at night”. That problem is on your list of KYUAN problems that you have captured from other professionals.
  3. It is used by less than 5% of notable firms. If it is widely used already, you should call it a “common practice”. Is also true that if it is implemented at a firm that is not known or respected for its management capabilities, that you will get a less positive response when presenting it.
  4. There is data showing that it worked or at least the solution has a set of metrics which will eventually show that it works. Sometimes a quote from an executive is enough to show its effectiveness because getting data about a best practice sometimes involves revealing company secrets.
  5. You will be even more credible if you have talked directly to the firm/ source, because you will know more than the public information that is available on the best practice.
  6. You give it a clear self-descriptive name so that the name alone reveals what the solution is trying to do.
  7. There is a 2 to 5 sentence narrative description of the best practice that explains its uniqueness and why it works.
  8. After hearing about the best practice, the majority of those listening agree that it is compelling enough that most say “that practice is worth giving it a try”
  9. If it is available, you provide a link to an article that provides more information about the practice.
  10. You know enough about the practice to field questions and provide more detailed answers.

What are not Best Practice Solutions to recruiting?

It cannot be a best practice solution if it…

  1. It is not a solution to a major current or emerging recruiting problem.
  2. It is a commonly used solution, because more than 50% of firms have already used it.
  3. It is such a unique solution, that it can’t realistically be applied at most other firms.
  4. It is a practice that is more than 10 years old.
  5. It has already been widely publicized, so that everyone already knows about it.
  6. It is a perk or benefit.
  7. It is during and after the onboarding process (when the recruiting process has already occurred).

Tips on identifying best practice solutions in the area of recruiting

Some of the most effective approaches for finding unique best practices include:

  1. Rather than doing daily Internet searches, set up a “Google alert” on both the problem and on “best practice” followed by the word with a + ahead of it (i.e. +referrals). It’s better to set up multiple alerts and then refine them so that they don’t give you false readings.
  2. Read recruiting blogs or
  3. Search where thousands of professionals post their PowerPoint presentations or search YouTube instructional videos.
  4. Ask professionals or recruiters that you meet, including those where you work to reveal the best practices that they know (I’m doing benchmark research on these types of solutions, can you help me…)
  5. Ask family members, everyone on your network and other students both if they know any and if they will help you search them out.
  6. Look for HR, talent management and recruiting awards on the Internet. Companies that win awards are almost always of those with best practices.
  7. Search conference and webinar brochures for presentations on the topic. Companies with best practices are almost always invited to present at conferences and seminars.
  8. Ask or follow a question on Quora or other Internet “answer sites”.
  9. Search out Webinars and whitepapers on recruiting that cover your problem area.
  10. Follow the benchmark firms in recruiting (Google, Sodexo, CACI, Facebook, Zappos, Amazon, Deloitte, Marriott, EY, Tata)
  11. Avoid most academic research because it generally does not contain best practices although it might have data on the effectiveness of some practices.
  12. Schedule phone calls with authors that you’ve read online to find out more information about the best practice and to refer you to their sources.

Frequently asked questions on best practice solutions

Question – how many best practices should I know?

Answer – there is no magic number but I would start with 3 to 5 in a particular problem area. If you know what famous firms like Google, Facebook, GE or Accenture are doing, even one might be enough to start a conversation.

Question – what can I do to make a major impression when discussing a best practice?

Answer – if you have actually talked to someone at that firm about the practice, that really impresses people. Also having some data on its effectiveness, why it works and potential implementation problems impresses most people. Being able to provide a contact name and address allows the individuals to follow up themselves if they need more information.

Question – can I get into trouble revealing confidential information?

Answer – you certainly can, so try not to reveal the names of your sources and if necessary, disguise the name of the company by describing it generically (e.g. a large Internet search firm instead of the name Google).

Question – is there anything else that I can do to really impress professionals and become more visible?

Answer – yes, write a blog post or an article covering both the problem and several best practice solutions. Use a title like “Finally, Practical Solutions To The__________ Problem Revealed” if you want to get a lot of attention.

Question – how can I tell the uniqueness level of the best practices?

Answer – Factors that make up uniqueness – High Impact, no one else does it, proof it works, used by a notable firm, has metrics (quality of hire).

Bio of Kimberly Do

3+ years in recruiting and management in the food service industry. Kimberly has decided to improve her capabilities by continuously learning about recruiting best practices and become a great recruiter at a major high tech firm. Kimberly has made a bold decision to take advantage of her time in college and take a year off from work and accept a position as a recruiting teaching assistant to learn from a recruiting thought leader Dr. John Sullivan. Within the 4 months, Kimberly has already published articles on Electronic Recruiting Exchange.  Kimberly also conducted research on “next practices” in recruiting. Kimberly has even taught advanced recruiting processes to upper level management division students at San Francisco State University.

Connect with me on LinkedIn –

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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