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High-Volume Hiring

Whether as a result of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or just rapid growth, companies quite often need to ramp up their hiring efforts quickly. But high-volume and high-growth hiring requires an entirely different set of tools and strategies than traditional recruiting. It’s actually a lot more similar to a retail promotion or a store opening than it is to everyday recruiting. So start by throwing out your HR textbook and reading up on marketing tactics, because high-volume recruiting is really about mass marketing.

What Makes High-Volume Hiring Unique?

High-volume hiring has as its goal to hire hundreds or even thousands of people within a short period of time (often a calendar quarter). High-growth firms like Cisco refined and upgraded the process that had been used for years to open businesses like stores and hotels (the opening of the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas is a noted example). However, high-volume hiring might also be necessary after a disaster. There are six basic elements in high-volume hiring. They are:

  1. Raising awareness and your company’s profile
  2. Building your company’s image as a desirable place to work
  3. Identifying and exciting qualified candidates
  4. Convincing people to come to your facility or visit your website
  5. Convincing the finalists to say “yes”
  6. Re-engineering your internal recruiting processes

Raising Awareness

The first step in high volume hiring is raising awareness in your community. You want everyone in the general public to know that your company has a large number of openings that it is trying to fill right away. There are many ways to raise general awareness. Some of the best include:

  • Running radio ads announcing your plans (radio stations are particularly effective because the demographic segment reached by each station is relatively narrow)
  • Putting up billboards (especially on local commute routes) and “flyover” banners
  • Running full-page ads (including sympathy ads)
  • Placing a large banner or sign in front of your facility
  • Direct mail (letters and brochures) to the general population
  • A supplemental section in the local paper
  • A targeted TV “infomercial” about your firm
  • Asking local politicians, business leaders, the chamber of commerce, and potential customers to talk up the fact that you are hiring

Building the Company’s Image as a Desirable Place to Work

After you make the public aware of your firm, the next step is to make them aware of the features that make your company a desirable place to work. Building a company’s “brand” or image generally involves doing the following:

  • Getting local newspapers, TV stations and magazines to include stories that highlight your company’s management and people practices
  • Getting your managers to speak at local civic and professional groups
  • Holding meetings with local search firms and professionals to make them aware that you are gearing up your hiring
  • Appearing on local TV and radio talk shows
  • Giving talks at local schools and universities
  • Running “great place to work” at ads in local publications and on TV and radio
  • Holding an open house for the general public
  • Highlighting your firm’s features on your website
  • Registering your jobs at the state employment service
  • Sending notices to local churches and civic organizations
  • Encouraging your current employees to “talk up the firm” as part of an employee referral program

Identifying and Exciting Qualified Candidates

After you make the general public aware of your needs, you need to narrow your message and identify potential candidates that fit your needs. After you have identified the skills you need and the positions you’re trying to fill, the next steps generally include:

  • Identifying internal candidates who can transfer
  • Re-marketing your employee referral program to increase referrals
  • Direct mail to professional association mailing lists (using zip codes within a commuting distance)
  • Placing job ads in local publications and on job boards
  • Utilizing “research only” search firms to identify names
  • Hiring a few candidates from local firms and then asking them to identify other top performers from their former firms
  • Accepting online and in-person applications and resumes
  • Attending other organizations’ job fairs
  • Posting announcements on campuses, speaking at classes, or registering at the career office
  • Holding an open house at your facility
  • Holding your own job fair
  • Having managers discuss your salaries (if they are high for the local economy)
  • Targeting recently laid off (or soon-to-be laid off) employees in the area
  • Asking potential customers and politicians for referrals
  • Placing “exciting” job descriptions on your website
  • Offering a bonus to non-employees that refer names and candidates
  • Identifying other regions and countries that might have excess talent that is willing to transfer
  • Increasing product and “great-place-to-work” cross-advertising
  • Identifying local firms with superior talent: have your recruiters “hang out” at bars and restaurants frequented by their employees, and consider offering a monetary “bounty” to recruiters (and employee referrals) for hires from these firms

Convincing People To Come to Your Facility or Visit Your Website

After potential candidates are aware of your firm and your jobs, you need to convince them to actually apply. Some of the most effective tools include:

  • Doing a demographic profile of your “target” (passives and actives) and finding out what they read, where they go online, and which conferences they attend and associations they belong to. Use that information to identify the best media to advertise in.
  • Holding an “invited” open house for targeted candidates
  • Offering a small reward for showing up to an interview
  • Guaranteeing applicants an interview (for key positions)
  • Cold-calling targeted candidates
  • Building a “wow” website that’s the “talk of the town” (or your industry)
  • Using robots to search the web for great personal web pages and resumes
  • Emailing or direct mailing “sales” letters or brochures to candidates
  • Asking your top performers to post answers to technical questions and company best practices in technical chat rooms and list servers in order to impress other professionals
  • Offering flex time, extensive training and work-at-home options to excite potential applicants

Making the “Sale”

Once you have identified your finalists, begin to develop an effective offer strategy. Some of most effective tools include:

  • Benchmarking your competitors in order to find out what they’re offering
  • Training your hiring managers on how to sell the job and the company
  • Making a list of company “wow” features and providing it to employees and managers
  • Providing managers with side-by-side comparison offer sheets
  • Conducting market research in order to identify job acceptance criteria
  • Initially offering significant sign-on bonuses to the top candidates
  • Offering “exploding” offers to encourage candidates to accept right away
  • When feasible, offering higher than competitive pay, with a significant portion “at risk,” that is, based on performance

Improve Your Internal Recruiting Processes and Strategies

All hiring is complex, but rapid-growth hiring has its own set of unique difficulties. If high-volume recruiting is to be successful, internal recruiting practices and procedures need to be streamlined. Start by reassessing your employment systems. Do a process map of the current recruiting hiring process and look for strong and weak points. Drop redundancies, approvals, and low-value employment processes and steps. Next develop an overall recruiting plan and have it reviewed by your top employees, managers as well as by the marketing and PR departments. Your goal is to excite managers about this new approach, and to reduce hiring times from months to days! Next up is to develop a program to train, measure, and reward managers for great hiring. It’s also necessary to make managers aware of the need to pre-schedule time and resources for this volume hiring. Some other administrative approaches to consider include:

  • Running data to see what sources are working (and not working) to bring in the top candidates
  • Considering hiring executive search firms on retainer to help and advise you
  • Developing special volume hiring tools like one-day interview/offers as well as telephone and computer interviews
  • Building a “talent database” and continually updating it. Your company should be building relationships with people in the database long before you need to hire them
  • Searching out and hiring the best recruiters (especially from local talent competitor firms) you can afford
  • Calculating your budget…and then doubling it
  • Developing an “advisory” board (or hiring committee) of local employees to help you develop and refine your recruiting plan
  • Developing “instant” hiring processes for key jobs and top talent
  • Developing metrics to assess your progress
  • Developing customer service metrics to ensure candidates leave “as customers”
  • Hiring the best market research firm you can afford to identify candidate “wants”
  • Hiring the best PR firm you can afford to insure that your company’s name gets widespread exposure
  • Hiring the best marketing firm you can afford to help you develop “sales” strategies and build your image
  • Doing market research to assess your employment image in the local community
  • Adding a “performance feedback loop” to ensure that your hiring system improves after you have hired high or low performing employees

Finding large numbers of applicants almost always means you will get a high volume of under-qualified candidates. The key to success is not to use every tool, but rather to overuse the tools that bring in the highest ratio of qualified to under-qualified candidates ? and that also effectively screen out the under-qualified. This generally means trying different approaches and “running the numbers” to see what works best.


Disasters, whether natural or man-made, can be traumatic to an organization. Rapid re-staffing is difficult but doable if you are disciplined and follow the approach outlined here. Firms like Cisco have hired as many as 2,500 high quality people per quarter, so it can be done. It takes the right tools, but more importantly, it takes an aggressive marketing approach. Remember, as always: “Recruiting is just sales with a crummy budget.”

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