Six Best Practices in Recruiting

Recruiting Leader of the Year, Best Use of Metrics, and Best Recruiting Process: Dan Hilbert, Valero Energy

What Dan Hilbert and his team at Valero Energy have accomplished will forever change the strategic options that recruiting directors must consider. They have developed what may be the world's most strategic staffing approach, one that emphasizes using metrics to refine "talent pipelines" to produce a talent supply chain.

Leveraging technology, advanced analytics, and process design/integration, Valero has built a talent supply chain that is virtually automated and proactive. It is clearly the most business-like recruiting approach anywhere and Hilbert is a courageous leader to even attempt it.

Best practices include:

  • Predictive labor needs system. Algorithms analyze historical data that is combined with data on planned capital projects to predict future talent needs as far as three years' out.
  • Automated sourcing. Labor needs are automatically communicated to defined sources (both internal and external) based on each individual source's efficiency (cost, time) and effectiveness (quality of hire, reliability).
  • Candidate mining. Rather than have recruiters crawling through job boards and posting job advertisements, web spiders are programmed to crawl, retrieve, and upload candidates into the applicant tracking system based on both current and projected needs. Advertisements are automatically broadcast as part of the automated sourcing approach.
  • Multi-dimensional performance monitoring. The system relies on metrics at four defined levels to monitor system health and performance, as well as to diagnose problems or issues that arise. Levels include forecasts, macro-level (sourcing channel effectiveness, costs, etc.), micro-level (efficiency, cost, speed, quality, retention, customer service, and dependability per transaction), and human capital metrics (impacts of staffing best practices on the bottom line).
  • Integrated processes to create a talent supply chain.
  • Predictive modeling functionality enables the effective use of both short/long term sources.
  • University recruiting that leverages teaching assistants as talent scouts on targeted campuses, allowing Valero to secure interns and new grads prior to on-campus career events.

More details on Valero's approach can be found in the five-part case study published via this column in 2005.

Most Innovative Employee Referral Program: Quicken Loans

Quicken Loans might just have the best and most aggressive recruiting team in the world (honest).

Michael Homula, clearly the most sales- and marketing-focused recruiter on the planet, has helped Quicken Loans to create an employee referral program that turns every employee into a "talent scout." If recruiting has a Tiger Woods, he would be it! The referral program relies on frequent refreshing, creative approaches, and extensive promotion to drive high-volume participation.

The program is so effective that 61 percent of hires come from the ERP each month.

Best practices:

  • All referrals are contacted by a live program coordinator within 48 hours of submission.
  • Referring team members are kept in the loop through a web portal that allows them to track the status of referrals online and by emails that update them when:
    • The referral has been initially contacted.
    • An interview is scheduled.
    • A post-interview decision has been reached. To move forward, the system advises recruiters and managers of the next steps.
    • A hire is actually completed.
  • Utilizes highly branded contests (example — a contest for finding the best salesperson in the Detroit area), in addition to bonuses to drive participation. Such contests offer unique and highly valued prizes.
  • Surveys are periodically conducted internally to measure:
    • Employee satisfaction with the program.
    • Ease of process.
    • Referral "experience."
    • Employee motivation and their willingness to refer.
  • Focus groups are held periodically to generate new ideas for contests and promotions and to gather feedback on the current process.
  • They provide training to employees on how to better make referrals.
  • In addition to process metrics, Quicken Loans tracks retention by source, quality of hire, and cost per hire.
  • Bonuses are grossed up to cover taxes.
  • A proactive referral process approaches key individuals directly for high-quality referrals.
  • Extensive e-mail marketing is delivered to the target employee population to:
    • Educate them on current hiring needs.
    • Drive referral for specific types of jobs.

Best Corporate Careers Website: Deloitte

Deloitte has long been a leader in both recruiting and retention, and now it has broken new ground by building a global careers website designed from the ground up to focus on the candidate experience. Unlike most corporate sites, which are dull and serve as nothing more than "front-ends" to applicant tracking systems, the Deloitte solution uses cutting-edge marketing approaches and the latest technology to serve candidates consistently around the world.

Quick facts:

  • The site is a living example of "a global strategy executed locally."
  • It leverages both localization and personalization engines to dynamically deliver content relevant to the site visitor.
  • It is a single site supporting more than 80 country-specific recruiting strategies.
  • Deloitte delivers a consistent brand message around the world in 10 languages.

Best practices:

  • Target audience research. Deloitte conducted extensive usability research with two external candidate groups — students and experienced professionals — to help create the original design specifications. Ongoing surveys and focus groups with candidates sourced both inside and outside the organization help to guide refinements and changes. (This research led Deloitte not to follow a trend of using extensive flash and graphic-heavy page design, as their target candidates found such elements a barrier to usability.)
  • Use of localization and customization. The use of these two technologies ensures that candidates are presented with information unique to their specific needs. College students in France, for example, are presented with different information than college students in Australia and both are presented with different information than professional hires. Extensive research is conducted to help determine what type of content each target demographic needs/wants.
  • Employment brand measurement. The messaging of the site is adapted continuously based on input from candidate surveys and third-party market research which details how Deloitte is perceived in the talent market.
  • Localized content management. Deloitte custom-built a content management tool to allow local HR professionals — who are not technical experts — to manage local content.
  • Robust analytics. Because the global site is truly one site versus a portal that forwards users on to local sites, all movement throughout the more than 7,000 web pages can be monitored and analyzed.
  • Multiple presentation formats. Because the site is powered by a robust content management tool, the same type of content can be delivered in multiple ways. For instance, a day "in the life" story maybe be presented as text, short video clip, or in-depth dynamic video.
  • Web-based screening. Candidates who move from the site into the recruitment management application are screened using questionnaires tailored to each position.
  • Introduces an online network for interns.
  • The employee referral program offers a $30 reward just for the first referral, even if the person is not hired. Deloitte includes corporate alumni in the referral program.

Best Employer Brand: PacifiCare

PacifiCare realizes the tremendous impact that a great brand can have on recruiting in a healthcare industry that has all but ignored employment branding.

As a result, it has developed a formally managed employer brand that is fully integrated with the core business strategy and brand. The core business tagline is "Caring is good, doing something is better." This is supported by an employment brand tagline of "Envision, Innovate, and Accomplish."

Quick facts:

  • More than 85 percent of the candidates who received an in-person interview responded positively to the statement that PacifiCare was a "good place to work." This score is 26 percentage points higher than the norm.
  • When employees were ask to rate PacifiCare, as compared to other companies, 81 percent responded either "one of the best" or above average.

Best practices:

  • Full-time HR representatives work in the branding department and they drive internal branding and employment brand integration.
  • Full-time HR representatives in the talent acquisition department help to oversee all programs and messaging that affects the employment brand.
  • They negotiated a partnership between the brand team, the advertising team and the talent acquisition team.
  • They use external market research to gauge target candidates' perceptions in the marketplace in order to drive adjustments in program design and messaging.
  • Executives do not rely on the hard sell; they communicate honestly, disclosing that PacifiCare is sometimes "not an easy place to work."
  • The branding team participates in programs that demonstrate the brand by demonstrating results. A prime example of this approach is PacifiCare's development of the first-ever Quality Index of Hospitals.

Best College Recruiting Program: Whirlpool

Whirlpool has redesigned its university recruiting program to ensure a consistent pipeline of mid-level management talent through the Whirlpool Leadership Development Program.

Quick facts:

  • Global rotation programs are developed along functional lines to ensure skill development according to the functions' pre-defined performance criteria. More than seven separate programs exist, covering everything from brand portfolio leadership to global supply chain management.
  • Each leadership-program participant receives frequent feedback, a senior-level mentor, a tiered compensation package and a defined career path.

Best practices:

  • Identified employment brand obstacles that would prevent them from hiring the volume and quality of top graduates that they needed. They then developed a strategy to "call out" negative perceptions, such as those of the appliance industry itself.
  • Leveraged the brand identity of Ben Stein, a known and trusted celebrity, to reach out directly to the target audience by including him in all recruitment communications.
  • Designed highly visible recruiting events at target schools that leverage partnerships with local organizations, entertainment venues and elsewhere.
  • Developed a web-based portal specific to campus recruitment that focuses on the candidate experience versus administrative functionality.
  • Highly selective leadership development mentor program. Managers selected to participate as mentors must go through a rigorous selection process and are then monitored closely to ensure that only managers who consistently produce results remain in the program.

Most Strategic Use of Recruiting Technology: Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett-Packard has been a pioneer in the adoption of a truly global HR strategy and in using technology in order to transform HR for more than 20 years. In its latest move, HP has integrated all recruitment technologies via the @HP portal to support a global HR self-service model.

The recruitment elements are just one component of the Global Human Resource Management System, which supports 147,000 employees in 178 countries. It provides content in 11 languages and provides self-service for 36 manager and employee transactions and nine additional standard HR transactions.

Quick facts:

  • Global staffing practices and technologies were streamlined to support a global strategy and consistent staffing methodology worldwide.
  • The approach does provide some degree of flexibility to support variations in staffing approaches and perspectives across geographic regions (Americas, Asia Pacific and Japan, and EMEA).

Best practices:

  • Staffing methodology across all four regions is supported by a global workforce planning and staffing leadership team.
  • Specific technology plans exist to drive the use of technology in:
    • Experienced candidate recruitment
    • University recruitment
    • Intern recruitment
    • Diversity recruitment


It's obvious from both the tone and the attendance of the conference that the "war for talent" is back with a vengeance.

Target even set up a vendor booth among the vendors just to recruit recruiters. The Godfather of recruiting, Michael McNeal (who created the recruiting machine of the 1990s at Cisco), also made a rare appearance with the goal of recruiting world-class recruiters for his emerging Intuit team.

Because there were attendees from Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia, it is clear that the need for continuous improvement in recruiting is a worldwide phenomenon. Increased turnover, the aging workforce, the acceptance of "remote work" and global competition for talent means that pressure will increase on the recruiting function to find new ways to provide their firms with a competitive advantage.

Don't be left behind, because the War for Talent II has already begun in earnest and "the smell of napalm in the morning" can't be far away.

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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