Selecting Your Employment Strategy: Possible Suggestions

Imagine the head of the function that has one of the most strategic impacts on the business not even having a name for their own business strategy? Many employment functions operate strictly on day-by-day ad hoc basis. As a result recruiters and managers often do not know the focus or “theory” behind their firm’s (or their competitors’) employment strategy. If there is an employment “plan,” it is usually headcount-based rather than being focused on giving the firm a competitive talent advantage over its direct competitors. This lack of focus and direction frequently contributes to the “talent” shortage many firms are facing. Having studied dozens of employment functions I’ve compiled a list of the range of corporate-wide strategies that are available to firms. These strategies are seldom used alone and are often part of plan that has 2-5 program elements/ combinations. It is no longer acceptable for an Employment function just to be reactive to open requisitions and being satisfied with putting “butts in chairs hiring.” If an employment department is to be successful it needs to have a strategy that:

    1. Is aligned with the business strategy and it gives us a competitive advantage


  1. Fits the environment that the company operates in
  2. Includes both attraction and retention components
  3. Is communicated and understood by all
  4. Has a corresponding set of metrics to check if the strategy is meeting its goals

Possible Strategies For The Employment Function: The Range of Possible Employment Strategies (or where do we put our focus, resources, and priorities) include (this is a list of the first 10 – part 2 will include 25 more suggestions):

  1. Hire The Best And Brightest – Variations include:
    • Hire “Brain Horsepower” – Selecting individuals with intellectual capabilities clearly above that of others, in order to build up a company’s Intellectual Capital.
    • Hire Talent/Competencies – Find people with the most talent in the broad competencies that our firm has statistically determined lead to individual and corporate success. Then find a position for them or tailor our business strategy around them.
    • Top 10% (from the “top” schools) – Going to the “top schools” almost exclusively for talent. Then you use university admissions, faculty assessment, or grading assessments to identify the very best candidates.
  2. Cost per Hire/”Butts in Chairs” – Selecting “average” employees to fill slots which pay below the midpoint in order to have a low cost per hire. Targets “active” job seekers that are currently sending out their resume (also know as a “coincidence hire”). Assumes most employees are pretty much the same and that we need to hire low cost employees in order to be competitive.
  3. Target “Content/Employed Performers” (Passive job seekers) – Focus on currently employed people. Employed people are harder to recruit than unemployed people. This strategy based on the premise that the very best are almost always employed, are good in their job, they don’t have an updated resume, and they do not read want ads or visit job web sites either. Active job seekers in contrast are often unemployed people (those that have been rejected, laid off, or fired) and people that are unhappy in their job (and are thus looking). This strategy raises our costs but produces better performing hires.
  4. Web and Technology Driven – This strategy puts all/most of its resources into the web and related technology based on the premise that this strategy sends a message to applicants that we are an advanced firm. It also allows us to attract different and “better” candidates because the best also “live on the web’ and change at Internet speed. Technology allows us to do things better and faster than using traditional approaches. Technology is THE competitive advantage. This strategy usually has three variations: (a) Where our web site is the key “attractor,” (b) where we search the part of the web without career or job sites, and (c) where we get candidates off or career/ job sites run by others.
  5. Continuous Relationship Recruiting (vs. Open Requisitions Only)– Traditional strategies focus on the premise that we only recruit when we have an opening and then the applicants are “strangers” (in that we don’t know them). Relationship recruiting is a continuous process of going out and “capturing names” of currently employed people and building longer term relationships with the best in the field before we need them. By courting them over time they become “friends.” A basic premise is that hiring people we have known over time gets us a higher acceptance rate among superstars and stretching out the screening process improves our assessment and thus results in less “bad” hires and retention problems. Because there are periodic shortages of talent we need to keep a constant, proactive look out for great candidates, pre-qualify them and hire the “best athlete” when they become available (sometimes even when we have no current openings).
  6. Employer of Choice (EOC) – By developing an image as “the” great place to work we can attract the best people almost automatically. By getting great “PR” and by developing an employment “brand” we will attract the best people.
  7. Integrated Recruitment and Product Strategy – Related to EOC, this strategy assumes all product advertising is recruitment advertising and vice versa. Marketing and recruiting integrate their efforts. All applicants are treated with special care, as they may be “current or future customers.”
  8. Targeted Hiring – Prioritizing certain jobs as key jobs that “make or break” a firm (often top management, design or IT jobs) and putting a disproportionate percentage of resources to fill these positions.
  9. Competency Based Selection – Targeting individuals based on their broad competencies that go across many jobs. His strategy can also look at future competencies we will need (as opposed to hiring individuals with an eye only on the skills currently needed for one job).
  10. Experience Based Selection – Recruiting and selection based on the number of years of experience a candidate has in this or related jobs (or our industry). The assumption is that more years are better as long as salary caps aren’t exceeded. The quality of the experience needs to be assessed if this strategy is to be successful. In fast changing fields experience often has a diminished value.

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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