Repost, originally published in June 2016
A comprehensive name-capturing guide for identifying who should be in your recruiting pipeline
Let’s get straight to the point: having an external recruiting talent pipeline is a powerful tool but almost no one does it well. You can tell if your pipeline is failing if more than 50 percent of your new hires come from sourcing that began after a job opening occurred. If you’re not familiar with the concept, there are only two recruiting strategy components that focus on the long-term: employer branding and a recruiting talent pipeline. And, although, both are designed to provide a consistent steady stream of future talent, the recruiting talent pipeline is unique because it targets individuals. A recruiting talent pipeline is also known as a talent/candidate pool or network. It is an inventory of qualified individuals who could quickly move into your future job openings.
Why You Need a Broader and More Effective Recruiting Talent Pipeline
Having a recruiting talent pipeline means that when there is a sudden job opening, you don’t need to conduct a panicked just-in-time search for viable candidates. A pipeline will provide better qualified and more interested external candidates because you have been able to slowly build a relationship, more accurately assess, and more effectively sell them. And if you are seeking the most desirable (those not actively looking), a pipeline allows you to act at the precise time when your target prospect becomes interested in leaving their current firm.
Perhaps the most obvious examples of “who” (which groups of people) should be included in your recruiting talent pipeline are members of your corporate alumni group (i.e. former employees who might possibly want to return) and college interns (i.e. who you assess and sell during their internship, so that you can eventually hire the best). The focus of this article is on who should be in your recruiting talent pipeline because you can literally read a hundred different pipeline articles and none of them will cover this topic of who should be included in any detail.
A “Tickler List” to Help You Expand Those in Your Recruiting Pipeline
When I assess most corporate recruiting talent pipelines, I find that the No. 1 error is that their inventory is much too narrow. And that is because they forget to include all of the individuals who are 1) likely to be qualified, and are also 2) likely to know and like your organization. The goal of this article is to get you to scan the following list of groups of individuals, and then realize that you have failed to target many of them who should be included in your recruiting talent inventory. Once you expand those in your recruiting talent pipeline, you can then tackle the No. 2 problem, which is failing to assess and thoroughly sell those in the pipeline.
Consider These Individuals Who “Have Already Applied” for a Job
This first tickler category covers individuals who have previously applied for a job at your firm. They should obviously be considered for your recruiting talent inventory because they have already been assessed and they have also expressed an interest in working at your firm.
The groups with the highest likely impact appear first on the list covering each of the five pipeline categories.
- Past applicants in your ATS database — everyone considers recent applicants, but few reconsider individuals who have been languishing in your ATS database. If you target those who applied even two years ago, they now have two years more of experience, you already know that they like your firm, and by now they might be ready to reenter the job market. Especially target those past applicants who have worked at great firms and have exceptional skills that fit your high-priority jobs.
- Silver medalists — these individuals are quality targets because they came in second for a position. Perhaps they were not hired because they were unlucky enough to be a finalist at the same time that a super candidate applied and was hired.
- Finalists who were offered but didn’t accept — they stayed in the process until you made them an offer, so they were obviously qualified and interested. Because the reasons that they turned you down may have changed, they should be in your recruiting inventory. With more time, you may be able to more effectively build their trust and sell them.
- Finalists for a hard-to-fill job — because they were finalists, they obviously met the qualifications and were interested. They may not have been hired simply because of a quirk of one single hiring manager. And now that time has passed, they are likely even more qualified. Because assessment “for fit” is often inaccurate, those highly qualified who were rejected for not being a precise fit should be reconsidered.
- Referrals from top-performer employees — these individuals were referred by a top performer employee and they were assessed as qualified. Top performer referrals are the highest quality, so you should reconsider the referrals who might have been referred when there was no opening or who were simply missed by an overworked recruiter. Incidentally, you should also ask your top-performer employees for “names only” referrals. Include in your inventory individuals who they know and who they would highly recommend, but the employee has not yet been able to convince the individual to become a formal referral.
- Qualified individuals who dropped out of the interview process — they were good enough to be selected for interviews. They might have been hired if they didn’t drop out during the middle of the process. Their situation may have changed by now, and with more time to sell them, the outcome might be different.
- Qualified applicants who applied when there was no opening — they met both the interested and the qualified requirements but they had the bad luck of applying when there was no opening.
- Applicants who were almost qualified but needed more experience — time has passed since their initial assessment. So those who needed just a little more experience to be considered as qualified likely now have that required experience.
- Members of your active applicant community — if you maintain a community of “actives” who have applied in the past, the fact that members proactively maintain a relationship makes many of them worthy of a second look.
- Applicants to a firm that you acquired — if you still have the records, review highly qualified applicants who applied to a firm that you have merged with. Because your current firm is similar to the one they applied to, they may be interested.
Consider These Individuals Who Have “Previously Worked At Your Firm”
Top-performing ex-employees must be considered for inclusion in your pipeline because you already know their work and they fit. And they may have an interest in returning after they have seen that the grass is not greener at another firm.
- Top performing ex-employees who voluntarily left — the very best are the most likely to be poached away by other firms. So maintain a “corporate alumni group” and periodically ask the best in it if they would consider returning. If they can’t come back, ask them to refer business and to make referrals for your recruiting talent inventory.
- Top-performing ex-employees who you laid off — some of the very best are let go when you close an entire facility or business unit. And as the economy changes, you should reconsider the best who were released. After time has passed, even their unhappiness about being laid off may weaken.
- Your retirees — with changing economic conditions making retirement less affordable, even top-performing retirees might consider returning. Maintain a relationship with them and find out if they’re interested in returning permanently or for part-time or seasonal work. You might also track the most desirable retirees from your competitors on LinkedIn.
- Your best temps — maintaining a relationship with former temps who were exceptional performers and a good fit makes sense. They may have wanted full-time work but it wasn’t available or their situation may have changed so that they are now open for full-time work. Converting temps has an extremely high success rate.
- Interns who you didn’t permanently hire — the conversion rate of interns is only 50 percent, so it makes sense to keep in touch with the interns who you didn’t hire permanently. They may now be disillusioned with the job that they took, so many may be willing to reconsider your firm. Also, consider the names of outstanding intern applicants who you considered but who took an internship position at another firm.
- Employees at strategic partners — you know the work of these individuals as a result of your strategic partnership. Obviously, you don’t want to heavily raid a partner, but an occasional hire is okay. In any case, maintain a relationship because you definitely want to consider them after they have left your strategic partner.
- Employees from business units that your firm sold — you know they are the best employees but you lost them as a result of a business unit sale. Now that time has passed, you should continue the relationship and see if, in the future, they would be interested in returning to the “core firm.”
- Vendor employees, consultants, and contractors — you know the capabilities of these individuals because you have worked side by side with them and they are likely to be fond of your company. So maintain a relationship with the very best so that you can hire them when they are ready for a corporate gig.
Consider These “Already Assessed” Individuals
This tickler list covers individuals who have already been assessed in some way by your firm or its employees.
- The networks of your employees, board members, and executives — in a connected world, it makes sense to ask the best who work for your firm for names to add to your recruiting talent inventory. This approach is different from referrals because you’re only asking for the names of outstanding individuals who someday might consider your firm. When you’re targeting a particular job, ask your best employees in that job to name the five outstanding individuals in that job area that they learn from and admire. If you’re looking for undiscovered talent, ask everyone to name those who are developing and who “will soon be outstanding.”
- Names provided by top recruiters — your best recruiters are true talent scouts, so they likely already know and keep a private list of the names of the best in your industry. You should ask your very best recruiters to maintain and share this list of the names of the truly outstanding individuals who they have run across. You should also include the names of outstanding individuals who have been provided by external search professionals. Over time, you can build a relationship with them and an interest in your firm.
- Names provided by new hires — during onboarding it makes sense to ask all exceptional new-hires “Who else is exceptional at your former firm?” Either target these individuals for immediate hiring or place them in your talent pipeline.
- Names identified through benchmarking — one of the most powerful but least-used talent pipeline approaches is to identify stars while benchmarking best practices. Ask your employees who are benchmarking with the best firms to identify the individuals who know those best practices. In many cases, these individuals are highly desirable because they actually helped develop the best practices and they know how to get new ideas implemented.
- Individuals who produce great work — because of the Internet, it’s often possible to identify little-known talent by viewing their actual work online. Since your employees are continually spotting the works of others, ask your best employees in each functional area to share the names of those who have produced great work.
- Your firm’s “most wanted list” — some firms maintain a “talent map” of stars, executives, and industry icons they want to slowly target. If your firm has a “who’s who list,” include these individuals in your recruiting talent inventory because it will definitely take the time to convince them to join your firm.
- Professional learning community members — a professional talent community is an industry or functional “learning group” that may be independent of your firm. Ask your employees who are members to provide the names of the stars who regularly post outstanding answers. It’s important not to discuss jobs within these communities.
- Employees’ mentees — some of the best individuals who are under the radar are the mentees who your top employees have helped develop. Encourage your employees to add these names for consideration in your pipeline inventory and to help your firm sell the best mentees on joining your firm. Also, ask your employees who are being mentored to share the names of their top mentors for consideration.
- Individuals who have won awards or patents in their functional area — because they have won awards or gotten patents, you already know that these individuals have talent. Ask your employees who are members of professional associations to capture and share the names of award winners and the runners-up. Also, consider college students who have won scholarships and academic awards.
- Individuals who performed well in your contests — one of the best and least discriminatory ways of identifying top talent is to hold anonymous Internet contests and assess individuals on their work. If your firm holds these contests for identifying potential experienced or college hires, include the names of those with the best ideas in your recruiting talent inventory.
- Industry speakers and bloggers — conference and seminar speakers have to be closely vetted, so it is highly likely that these individuals should be in your talent inventory. Bloggers who are constantly coming up with new ideas should also be considered. Attendees at the best conferences and advanced seminars are probably also worthy of consideration, so ask your employees who attended to review attendee lists for top names.
- Impressive individuals who visit your product booth at industry events — the best are always curious and seeking to learn. So it’s not unusual for the best employees at a company to visit the trade booth of a competitor. The best firms station a recruiter at their booths in order to identify these individuals for future consideration. Otherwise, just ask those who work in the booth to capture the names of individuals that ask outstanding questions.
- Get help from “names-only” research firms — if you have the financial resources, there are unbundled search firms that will provide a firm with the names of all of the individuals that hold important positions in your industry. You can then use your own recruiters and employees to build relationships with the ones you want to target. You can also capture the names of those who get promoted at your competitors using LinkedIn.
Consider All “Friends of Your Firm”
- Members of your recruiting talent pipeline — if it’s not immediately obvious. Remember, once a year ask members of your “recruiting inventory” to suggest a handful of names of individuals who they consider being the best in a function or industry. Inventory members can in some cases also be asked to help recruit individuals they know.
- Social media followers — individuals who follow or “like” your firm on social media obviously has some interest in it already. Also, consider those who “follow” your top employees. Also, ask your employees to provide the names of the best who endorse or recommend them on sites like LinkedIn.
- Ask the references of your new-hires for names — after a new hire has proven to be outstanding, contact their references and ask them if they “know anyone else who is as good or better?” Because these individuals have been proven correct in their recommendations at least once, include these individuals in your recruiting talent pipeline. If they give you impressive names who you end up hiring, consider asking them to be a permanent referral source.
- Target the actual references of your new hires — after a new-hire has proven to be outstanding, assume that “their references” are even better than them. Adding reference givers to your recruiting talent pipeline will give you a chance to further assess and sell them.
- Names from family members of employees — in many cases family members know others who work in the same field as employee family members. Make it easy for them to provide names or to make referrals of the outstanding people they know. In some cases, you should also consider any exceptional family members themselves.
- Consider your most knowledgeable customers — your best customers already know and like your firm. In retail, ask your top employees to identify the best and most knowledgeable customers (especially those who hold a loyalty or club card). If you have industrial customers, you can’t raid them, but you can certainly cherry pick a few outstanding ones who your employees have worked closely with.
- Target individuals who hit your web or social media sites — if you capture the names or the email address of those that hit your organization’s sites, you already know they have an interest in your firm. At the very least consider those who have an email address at a top firm or one of your top competitors. Especially focus on those who asked great or insightful questions on your site.
- Target individuals who attend your product events — individuals who attend your product events obviously have some interest in your firm or its products. Ask for help from your marketing and sales employees to identify the names of the best who have great knowledge or passion for your company.
- Target attendees at technical seminars — if your firm holds technical seminars, workshops, or open houses, consider the attendees. Obviously, attendees are trying to learn, so ask your employees to identify the most knowledgeable or the ones who ask the best questions.
- Identify names during candidate interviews — you can’t always end up hiring the best, but it is safe to assume that your very best candidates know many other outstanding individuals in their field. Tell them that part of your assessment during the interview is that “the best know the best,” so ask them to directly name five outstanding individuals in the same job that they learn from and admire. If you ask enough interviewees, you will get a list of top names.
- A “someday you might want to work here” community — the applicant communities of most firms require individuals to apply for a job. That is a turnoff to many who currently have a job and are not actively looking (it makes them feel disloyal). So consider creating a “someday I might want to work at your firm” social media community that doesn’t require them to formally apply. When you’re looking to the future for talent, these so-called “passive prospects” are the ideal people to include in your talent community.
Obviously, Also Consider Current Employees
The focus of this article is on external recruiting, but obviously it also makes sense to have an “intra-placement” recruiter looking at current employees who could also fill important openings. They should target individuals who have completed advanced training, are designated to “backfill” in an important position, those who have completed a successful rotation, those with high performance, those on the succession plan, and individuals who have been designated as a “high potential.”
Fifty six percent of recruiters are hurting for qualified candidates” (Jobvite) so it makes sense to get away from “panic sourcing” and to develop a recruiting talent pipeline. It is the author’s hope that after reviewing all of these possible categories of talent that can be included in a pipeline, you have now realized that the number of individuals in your recruiting talent pipeline is likely to be much too limited. There are invariably many more things wrong with your recruiting talent pipeline execution but I’ll cover those in a later article.
The Many Benefits From A Talent Pipeline – And How It Improves Quality Of Hire
If you’re looking for a powerful strategic recruiting approach that has powerful long-term impacts, you really only have two choices: employer branding, and a “recruiting talent pipeline.” While almost every major corporation is investing heavily in building their employer brand, it’s quite rare for one to actually have a high-performing external recruiting talent pipeline. A recruiting talent pipeline approach is known by a variety of names, including a “recruiting prospect inventory,” a “recruiting pool,” or a recruiting network. It is designed to give you a continuous supply of high-quality and interested external recruiting prospects to choose from. It is strategic because it has a long-term talent-supply focus, which means that critical jobs can be filled faster and with higher quality and more interested prospects.
A recruiting talent pipeline is also known as a talent/candidate pool or network. It is an inventory of qualified individuals who could quickly move into your future job openings.
The Top 12 Business Benefits From Having a Recruiting Talent Pipeline
There are many benefits that result from having a well-executed recruiting talent pipeline or recruiting inventory. When you’re building a business case, for one, be sure and include these business impact factors:
- You will hire better-performing new hires — with more time to find them, you will end up with a large number of high-quality prospects. And once the best are identified, you will have much more time to build a trust relationship, which is required in order to get top prospects to apply. There will also be more time to more accurately assess them and to effectively sell them. And because you keep an open slot for exceptional currently employed inventory members, you can hire them immediately when they consider entering the job market. These factors taken together will result in higher-performing hires. And with more spread out and thorough vetting and reference checking, your percentage of “weak hires” will decrease dramatically (46 percent of hires are failures). And the chance of hiring a complete “hiring catastrophe” who must be released will be almost nonexistent.
- You’ll hire exceptional talent that you couldn’t with standard recruiting — this candidate-centric process makes it possible to hire individuals who literally could never be hired with a traditional hiring process. This type of approach is essential for successfully recruiting innovators, industry icons, and senior executives. With a better candidate experience and extended two-way communications, you’ll be able to customize both the jobs that you offer and your sales pitch to each individual high-value target.
- You will be able to identify more and higher quality recruiting targets — because there is pressure to fill the job immediately, most normal sourcing is so rushed that it misses numerous top prospects. Still other desirable prospects will be missed under the traditional model, because they would not be actively in the job market at the precise time when you’re looking. And with more time to get to know them, extended sourcing gives you time to ensure that they have the right skill set, fit, and to convince the very best to agree to apply. With a high volume of high-quality candidates, managers will no longer have to settle for “butts and chairs” hiring.
- You can identify developing talent early — because there is no rush, you can identify those prospects who are still developing but who have a promising career trajectory. Over time, you can build a relationship and interest (when other firms have no interest in them). So when this developing talent finally reaches the required skill/experience level that you need, you can formally recruit them.
- Higher retention rates among new hires — because the standard hiring process “rushes” candidates into an immediate decision, a significant percentage (over 50 percent) end up regretting their hiring decision. However, because prospects in the recruiting inventory are not rushed into applying and deciding to take a new job, they have more time to thoroughly learn about the company. There will be no surprises after they start because of that deep knowledge and the commitment they had built up over time. This lack of surprises and knowing exactly what they will get will result in a much higher retention rate from new hires who were in the recruiting inventory.
- Higher offer acceptance rates — because those in the inventory have had more time to learn about and like the company, they will be more convinced of the advantages of joining. In addition, because of the two-way communication over a long period of time, the firm is more likely to capture and understand the unique needs of those who they target. As a result, their offers will be sculpted to meet those unique needs. Taken together, this will dramatically increase your offer acceptance rates from those who were in the inventory.
- Lower salary costs — the very best active candidates are in high demand. And because they are often fought over, their salary expectations go up. However, because you hold open slots, you can hire exceptional prospects immediately before they actively enter the job market. The stretched out talent pipeline approach also gives you more time to identify under-the-radar prospects who will be completely missed by other firms. Taken together, this means that there will be fewer head-to-head competitions. This reduced competition and bidding mean that you can land quality prospects without having to offer them higher salaries.
- Critical open positions will be filled more rapidly — critical positions must be filled with exceptional talent. However, under the traditional “rushed sourcing model,” often no qualified candidates can be found, so positions go vacant for extended periods of time. And in cases, positions are literally never filled. Extended vacancies in critical and revenue generating positions directly cost the firm revenue and they also slow progress. The pipeline approach can fill jobs almost immediately because a large volume of talent has already been pre-identified, vetted, and presold. The large volume of talent in your inventory also means that almost no positions will go unfilled.
- You will provide your firm with a competitive advantage — if you’re using a talent pipeline approach, your firm’s managers are undoubtedly highly competitive. Because most firms don’t have an external talent inventory at all, with higher-quality applicants and faster hiring you will be providing your firm with a competitive advantage over their talent competitors.
- Hiring manager satisfaction will increase dramatically — the rush of normal panic sourcing means that there will be some “turkeys” in your candidate mix. However, without the rush and with more time to vet, the pipeline process will deliver candidate slates with a higher average “quality of candidate” and zero disinterested and not-qualified candidates. As a result, hiring managers will waste less time dealing with inferior candidates. And that coupled with a noticeably better quality of hire will dramatically increase hiring manager satisfaction with the recruiting process.
- A superior candidate experience — a talent pipeline process is candidate-centric, meaning that it focuses on identifying and meeting candidate needs. With more time for engagement, answering questions, and two-way communications, candidates will have a better experience both before and during the hiring process.
- More diversity prospects and hires — the best diverse prospects are hard to find and harder to sell. However, because you have more time to find and then convince diverse individuals to apply, you will have more diversity hiring choices. And with less of a rush to assess and sell, more diversity hires will accept your offers.
Seven Recruiting Function Benefits
In addition to the important business impacts that were covered above, there are many ways that a recruiting function directly benefits from having a successful recruiting talent pipeline model. Those benefits that the recruiting function receives include:
- Less stress on recruiters — the rush to hire often requires “panic sourcing” and the rush to accurately assess candidates puts a great deal of stress on recruiters. The pipeline approach meets the reality of overworked recruiters, which is unlikely to change at most corporations. Stretching out the process means less stress on recruiters but better results. Incidentally, there is also less stress on hiring managers, so that they will be less likely to dread the hiring process as much.
- Fewer candidates will drop out during the recruiting process — one of the primary goals of the talent inventory process is to build commitment to the firm. That commitment increases when a prospect is provided with more information, when they have their questions answered and when a trust relationship is built over time. With an increased level of commitment, fewer candidates in the inventory will find reasons to drop out of even a prolonged hiring process. Fewer dropouts will mean better quality hires, less wasted time, and lower hiring costs.
- The talent pipeline approach is ideal for landing the so-called passive — the most desirable and the largest percentages of ideal prospects are currently working and they are not actively looking. As a result, they will not see or be attracted by your firm’s job postings. The pipeline approach allows your recruiters to find them and make contact without ever mentioning an immediate job opening (which might scare employee prospects away). After a relationship of trust is built, the recruiter can gradually raise the possibility of someday joining your firm. This slow and deliberate approach is often the only successful way to hire the so-called passive prospects (they are not passive individuals; they are simply not actively looking for a job).
- A talent pipeline helps to overcome a weak employer brand or location — under the traditional rushed “fill-an-immediate-opening” model, there is little time for the recruiter to sell potential applicants and candidates. This is especially a problem when the firm has a weak employer brand image or if the job is in a less desirable location. Under the pipeline model, recruiters have much more time to sell and to overcome these limitations.
- Recruiters won’t have to rely on “coincidence hiring” — under most hiring, it’s simply a “coincidence” that an exceptional candidate is ready for a new job at the precise time that you have their ideal job open. A pipeline allows you to create “evergreen jobs” or reserved slots that are always open, so you can hire whenever an exceptional candidate become available. This can reduce recruiter frustration because they often find perfect prospects, but they can’t do anything with them because there is no open requisition.
- You will be able to attract better recruiters — the best recruiters prefer the talent pipeline model because just like the executive search approach, it allows them the time to really get to know and to hire truly great individuals. The existence of a large external talent inventory and a stretched-out approach will on its own be enough to attract many exceptional recruiters.
- It’s easy to prove that the pipeline approach is superior — many corporations have no recruiting talent inventory simply because of a lack of funding. Fortunately, it’s easy to make a strong business case for this approach because of the many advantages cited above. But it’s also especially easy to prove that this inventory approach works because some hires will come from the talent inventory while other hires will come from the traditional just-in-time sourcing. And as a result, you have a perfect “split sample.” And when you’re making a business case, the split-sample approach is the most credible method for proving too cynical executives that a program works. This natural split sample allows you to compare the performance of a control group’s hires (normal hires) with the new-hire performance from the experimental group’s hires (those from the talent inventory). With the percentage of increase in on-the-job performance, more diversity, and higher retention rates in hand, you can show and then quantify the many powerful business impacts of the talent inventory approach.
A talent inventory approach provides a firm with an alternative to the standard “fill-an-immediate opening” approach. With its many business impacts in a major corporation, it can produce millions of dollars of additional revenue and productivity by hiring better quality people, faster, and with fewer errors. It provides so many benefits, it’s a crime to have a poor-performing one or not to have one at all.
The Key Operational Components Of An Effective Talent Pipeline
Let’s face reality: most sourcing efforts are extremely rushed. As a result, there is a high probability that in key jobs, your sourcing effort will completely miss a significant number of high-quality external prospects. If you instead want to avoid missing a single top prospect, a superior approach is to stretch out the sourcing process so that you have a complete inventory of already assessed top talent to draw from whenever a key job comes open. This stretched outsourcing and assessment process is known as a talent inventory or talent pipeline. And this approach has an added benefit. Because of this extra time, you can better sell the prospects in your inventory on the advantages of working at your firm.
In the two past articles of this pipeline series (The Many Benefits From a Talent Pipeline – And How It Improves Quality of Hire and Your Talent Pipeline Needs a Roto-Router Because It’s Not Producing), I covered the many benefits of building a talent pipeline and a list of the types of individuals who should be included in your talent pipeline/inventory. This final article in this series covers the key elements that are necessary in order to make a corporation’s talent pipeline/inventory effective.
The 15 Key Features of an Effective External Talent Pipeline/Inventory
If your corporation desires to start up an external talent inventory or if you are just striving to rejuvenate an existing one, here is a list of the key process components and why each one is needed.
- Make the business case — the first step is to convince executives and hiring managers that the traditional just-in-time, or as I prefer to call it “panic sourcing/hiring” is hurting their business results. You can get them to financially support a talent inventory approach when you show them how sourcing is rushed and a limited time for assessing and selling candidates results in lower-quality candidates and lower-performing hires. In addition, you want to convert the cost of those lowered recruiting results into their dollars of revenue loss. To prove the difference, consider running a pilot where you develop a talent pipeline for a single key job and show how this approach produced significantly higher-quality candidates compared to the standard sourcing approach.
- Program goals are clear — the overall goal of an external corporate talent inventory is to identify a large number of qualified and interested talent that can be quickly accessed by recruiters and sourcers when a sudden key job opening occurs. You can also consider this inventory as a “talent map” because it is designed to identify and eventually build relationships with all of the desirable talent in an industry or geographic area. Specific program goals should include higher-quality applicants who are sold on the firm, higher performing hires, critical positions must be filled faster, and there are fewer key jobs that go completely unfilled.
- A focus on external prospects — although there are internal talent inventories (i.e. succession and progression plans) this external talent inventory is focused exclusively on external recruiting prospects. Because the focus is also on filling future jobs, the inventory should focus on individuals who are highly talented but who are not necessarily currently seeking a job. Another option is to include and track rapidly developing “under the radar” individuals who will relatively soon become hirable.
- Prioritize key jobs — your talent inventory should be specifically limited to critical or key jobs that are difficult to fill using the traditional just-in-time sourcing approach. Those listed in the inventory should be able to fill mission-critical positions as well as jobs that require leadership and innovation.
- A long-term recruiting effort — the focus of a talent pipeline/inventory is long-term, so those listed in the inventory might stay in it for several years. This is because top talent takes longer to attract, they might not be in the job market for a while, or because your firm might not have an opening that fits their expectations for several quarters. The focus should be exclusively on top talent, meaning those who are so talented that someday we would definitely want them to work for us.
- Identification of inventory talent list-ees starts pre-need — the first key feature is that you begin identifying talent inventory “list-ees” long before you have a current opening (i.e. pre-need). Identifying potential names for the inventory should be a continuous process that involves both recruiters and employees (as an offshoot of the employee referral program). The goal is to identify or map all of the desirable talent that might someday be a great hire, even if they haven’t yet expressed any interest in working at your firm.
- Assessing their skills and fit — once a desirable individual is listed in your inventory, they need to be further assessed to ensure that they fit your firm and that their skills are clearly superior. This can be done at arm’s length by recruiters and employees assessing their social media profiles and by finding examples of their work online. As time permits, recruiters can make direct assessment calls to the very best on the list in their assigned job family. Those that turn out to have only average skills or fit can be dropped from the inventory.
- A relationship is built over time — because those who remain in your talent inventory might not have expressed any interest in your firm, you must build up their interest. The best way to do that is to build a relationship with them over time. This relationship building might involve commenting on their online work or blogs. You can also purposely meet them at industry events and conferences or even use direct recruiter calls. The goal is to first build their trust and eventually their interest in your firm. Once you have built a relationship you can then get their permission to occasionally send them employer branding information about what makes your firm a desirable place to work.
- Continuous two-way communications is essential — once they have accepted a relationship, you should periodically send them information about your firm in the form of a “friend of the firm” newsletter. You can also invite them to company events. As a relationship gets stronger, you should encourage them to ask questions, to benchmark your firm’s best practices or to talk to your employees. Talent inventories are simply less effective when there are only one-way communications.
- Assessing their interest — after a highly talented individual has been sent a sufficient amount of information about the firm, their interest in “someday working at your firm” should be assessed. Those with the highest skills and interest levels should be labeled as “hot prospects” who should be contacted first when a relevant job opening occurs.
- Learn their expectations — in order to effectively land them when a position opens up, know the expectations of those labeled as “hot prospects.” So over time, you should attempt to identify the job attraction factors of each of these individuals. Recruiters can then use that information to determine which specific jobs that they would be willing to consider.
- Job openings are proactively pushed — obviously when a position is about to open up that is a perfect match for an inventory list-ee, that job should be automatically “pushed” to them, along with a personalized invitation to apply. In some cases, you should even promise them an interview.
- Consider maintaining open slots — traditional hiring relies on the rare chance where an employed list-ee is actively looking at the same time you have an open job that meets their expectations. To avoid this “coincidence hiring,” under the inventory approach, maintain “open slots” or “corporate resource slots.” These are a handful of “always open” preapproved hiring requisitions that allow you to hire truly exceptional individuals at the precise time that they become available.
- Inventory members agree to let you know when they’re available — your firm should know when an inventory “hot prospect” who is currently employed decides to enter the job market. If you built a strong relationship, in many cases you can get them to agree to directly contact a company recruiter whenever they are about to enter the job market. The recruiter can then contact hiring managers to see if they want to act immediately to interview them into an open job, or if they are exceptional, consider hiring them into an open corporate resource slot.
- Performance metrics — the most effective talent pipeline programs operate in a business-like manner. That means that results metrics are developed to determine if the talent inventory/pipeline is meeting each of his goals. Including providing faster and higher quality hires and superior offer acceptance rates than the normal just-in-time hiring process does. Once again it makes sense to quantify in dollars the revenue increase of their results from meeting those goals.
Business leaders are already familiar with the many advantages of a pipeline approach because the approach is already used in sales for slowly developing potential customers and in product development to ensure that product development is not rushed. So in order to get financial support for a talent inventory/pipeline effort, you merely need to show the economic value added by stretching out the sourcing and the assessment process for not-actively-looking prospects. And paradoxically because those in the inventory have already been pre-assessed and presold, show how they can be brought on board almost immediately. That means that critical positions are not vacant for very long and you can hire top talent within 10 days (which is how long top talent remains in the job market). There are few programs in recruiting that are more strategic or that have a higher ROI.