Preparing for the Upcoming Hiring Boom: A Checklist for Leaders in Recruiting

You might disagree with me about exactly when the next hiring boom is coming ó but there can be no doubt about the fact that it is most certainly coming. At some point soon, the economy will turn around and large scale hiring will begin again. The real question to be answered is, how many recruiting departments will be ready for the upturn? We all know that recruiting budgets have been cut dramatically and many excellent recruiters have been let go during the last few years. If your firm’s director of recruiting or chief talent officer hasn’t yet begun working on a comprehensive plan to handle the upcoming hiring boom, now is the time to encourage them to begin. 44 Steps for Preparing for the Next Hiring BoomThe following is a checklist that can be used by recruiting management as a guide during the rebuilding process. Recruitment Strategy Most recruiting departments have only a vague idea about their recruiting strategy, and even fewer have a written recruiting plan. Start rebuilding your recruiting function by ensuring you have a plan that assures success.

    1. Review the overall business and HR strategies and plans. Then identify where recruiting can impact those plans and their related strategic goals.


  1. Benchmark the very best firms in recruiting to learn the best techniques and strategies. That benchmarking list should include Cisco, T-Mobile, Wachovia, UPS, FedEx, Intel, Intuit, Starbucks, Merrill Lynch, Corning, Google and SAS.
  2. Revise your recruiting strategy and goals to make sure that the recruiting strategy easily meshes or integrates into overall business and HR strategies. Select the appropriate recruiting strategy for your business from the list of the most successful ones.
  3. Prioritize your key business units, jobs, and managers based on your overall business plan and strategy. Then focus your recruiters and resources on the most important business units and jobs.
  4. Develop a global mindset and globalize your recruiting process, so that you can identify and successfully recruit the very best talent anywhere in the world. You must also make sure that your recruiters have global recruiting knowledge and experience if you expect to be successful in global recruiting.
  5. If you don’t already have one, develop a written recruiting plan to fit the increased hiring needs. Distribute it widely to ensure that everyone understands where you’re going and how to get there.
  6. Revisit the successes and mistakes you made during the last boom period (the war for talent) in order to avoid the same mistakes this time. For example, consider developing a “headcount fat ratio” metric and a contingent workforce plan to ensure that you don’t over-hire again and later need to do massive layoffs.
  7. Consider shifting your recruiting focus toward currently employed top performers (some call them passive candidates) and away from the easier-to-find, but less qualified, “active” candidates.
  8. Do a competitive analysis. Assess each of your competitors’ employment functions (sourcing, interviewing, college, etc.) and programs. Do a side-by-side comparison with your programs and determine areas where you need to improve

Forecasting and Workforce Planning You can’t have excellence in recruiting without excellent workforce planning. Start by forecasting future needs.

  1. Develop a forecast of the available supply of top talent for the next 18 months.
  2. Develop a workforce forecast that identifies potential vacancies and growth areas where recruiting will be necessary. Next, develop forecasts of hiring needs by upcoming time periods. Also forecast during which time periods you can expect increased difficulty in attracting top talent and when you will likely have high turnover and retention issues.
  3. Reassess and rebuild your succession plan in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your managerial “bench.”

Improving Recruiting Metrics and the Business Case The cornerstone of any great recruiting effort is utilizing metrics to continually improve everything you do. It’s essential that you focus on the right metrics from the start.

  1. Rebuild your business case and recalculate the benefits of excellent hiring in order to acquire more resources for recruiting. Be sure and demonstrate to senior management the likelihood of the need for large-scale future hiring.
  2. Develop or improve your metrics for assessing the overall effectiveness of your recruiting efforts. Don’t forget to include measures of the on-the-job performance of new hires (quality of hire), because it is the most important metric for assessing business impact.
  3. Develop or improve customer service assessment systems to ensure that your processes are satisfying applicants, finalists, and hiring managers.
  4. Develop processes for identifying the most effective sources, candidate job acceptance criteria, and assessment approaches. Use that information to improve your sourcing, closing, and candidate screening processes.

Rewards Rewards are an essential part of getting managers to pay attention to great recruiting, so make them an integral part of your recruiting plan.

  1. Take steps to convince compensation to include great recruiting and retention as part of all manager’s bonus criteria.
  2. Develop systems for rewarding individual recruiters and recruitment teams for great hiring. Bonuses are what make external executive search recruiters work so hard and they are equally effective internally. Where feasible, offer rewards for effective diversity recruiting.

Employment Brand The best long-term approach for building a continuous pipeline of quality candidates is to build a strong employment brand. Since the process of building or rebuilding a brand takes awhile, it’s important to make building a brand an early step in your recruiting plan.

  1. Begin building or rebuilding your external employment brand (especially if you’ve had negative events such as layoffs). Assess what potential candidates think about your firm, as well as what current employees say about your firm.
  2. Begin building an inventory of your firm’s people programs and your best management practices. Use them in all of your recruiting advertising and to educate your employees about your best practices, so that you’ll get increased referrals.
  3. Develop a plan to gain or improve your recognition on best-place-to-work lists.

Finding and Developing Recruiters More than 50% of the success of any recruiting department depends on hiring and retaining great recruiters. Make sure that you have a plan and a process to attract and retain the very best.

  1. Assume that at least initially you’ll have to recruit a large number of people without any additional recruiting headcount. As a result, consider cross-training people from sales and marketing or cross-training HR people to help with the overload.
  2. Realize that managers will have to initially bear more of the recruiting burden. As a result, you need to develop a recruiting toolkit for your hiring managers that will in essence make a good deal of recruiting “self-service.”
  3. Identify the very best recruiters, develop a database of them, and begin to build relationships with them, with the eventual goal being to hire them when you get an increase in funding.
  4. Decide if some of your current recruiters and managers need retraining in order to successfully recruit in the new realities of recruiting.
  5. When you do get a chance to hire additional recruiters, focus on the more aggressive executive-search-type recruiters. Develop training to increase their skills and to keep them on top of their game.

Sourcing The next most significant factor in successful recruiting is great sourcing. Make sure that you have processes for identifying and utilizing sources that produce the best on-the-job performers.

  1. Start tracking source effectiveness, and make sure that all hiring managers and recruiters know and use the sources that produce top performers. Distribute data on source usage to remind recruiters and managers which sources they are actually using effectively.
  2. Rebuild and reinvigorate your employee referral program, since it produces high quality hires and frees up significant recruiting resources. Strengthen it so it produces at least 40% of your hires.
  3. Develop a continuous sourcing program so that you are continually identifying top talent and entering them into your database for future hiring.
  4. Develop a proactive sourcing approach that identifies target candidates at the beginning of the year. Compile a target list of the “most wanted” individuals from competitor firms and begin building a relationship with them so that you can rapidly hire them when they become available.
  5. Focus on identifying top performers at industry and functional conferences because this is one of the most effective sources of top performers.
  6. Reinvigorate your diversity recruiting program and identify the most effective approaches and sources for diversity hiring.

Retention The recruiting function can be easily overloaded if the retention effort is weak. As a result, recruiting must work closely with retention to minimize preventable turnover.

  1. Don’t forget the retention component. Make sure that the retention plan is effective so that you won’t have to be continually recruiting as a result of high turnover.
  2. Because you are experts in recruiting, work with the retention department to develop a “blocking” strategy to inhibit other firms’ recruiters from poaching your best talent.

Recruiting Department Structure and Processes The internal processes and structure of the recruiting department must also be updated and improved if you are to be successful.

  1. Develop all recruiting systems so that they have the capacity to handle high-volume hiring with fewer recruiters and recruiting resources. It’s a fact of life that, at least initially, you’ll have to learn to do more with less.
  2. Bring in consultants and benchmark against other firms in order to identify the best recruiting structure, tools, and approaches.
  3. Develop ways of speeding up the hiring process, because speed will become essential when you’re trying to attract high-demand candidates in a boom market.
  4. Revisit your recruiting technology to see if it is up to handling a double or triple load of resumes and hires.
  5. Consider bringing executive search in-house and outsourcing hourly and temps. Determine other areas where outsourcing should be increased or decreased.

The Corporate Recruiting Website and Intranet Unfortunately, most corporate websites have gone from okay to very weak during the downturn. But a great recruiting website is essential, because it reinforces your employment brand and cuts down on paper resumes.

  1. Build a strong corporate intranet that allows managers to get online everything they need related to hiring. Develop a paperless administrative employment system that includes all employment training, forms, requisitions, and manuals. Make employment administration self service.
  2. Rebuild the corporate recruiting website so that it is compelling and exciting. Make sure that it effectively answers the most common candidate questions.
  3. Rewrite your dull online job descriptions so that they better sell the candidate.

Integrate and Coordinate Diverse Functions Even the very best recruitment efforts fail when each unit operates independently. As a result, it’s essential that recruiting work closely with other business functions so that there’s a coordinated effort.

  1. Begin a program to coordinate your recruitment branding efforts with the PR and corporate branding departments to ensure that each program supports the other.
  2. Develop a process for building coordination and cooperation between related (but independent) HR functions, including compensation (for offers), orientation (for effective on-boarding) and training (to ensure new hires get the training they need right away).

Conclusion Recruiting managers can choose to wait until the next boom stares them in the face in order to take action, but I recommend a more aggressive and proactive approach that rebuilds and upgrades recruitment strategies and systems before they are actually needed. This approach demonstrates to senior management that you are forward looking, and it allows you to complete the upgrades well before the frantic boom times return. It’s your choice ó but remember that in most cases, it’s better to be prepared than to be surprised!

*There’s insufficient space in this article to provide details on each of these 44 steps, but you can find many “how to” articles by me covering nearly every step in both the archives of the ERE website or at

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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