The “Perfect” Candidate Doesn’t Exist So…Stop Looking!

convince-employers-perfect-candidateIt happens each and every time…

A manager needs to replace an employee that left or wants to find “new talent” and they dream up what they envision as the perfect employee.  They begin to write a whole long list, not of duties, but of “needed” experience and qualifications for their next hire.  They submit their “wish list” to Human Resources to start recruiting this person and stress that candidates MUST have these specific qualifications in order to even be considered.

HR knows that the specific qualifications or experience they are demanding are going to be difficult to find so they try to convince the manager to look at candidates that have some, but can be trained to learn the rest.  The manager insists that the perfect candidate does exist out there and sticks to their demands.

Weeks go by and little to no candidates are uncovered that have all of these qualifications.  The manager blames the recruiting method for why those perfect candidates aren’t applying to their company…“They are out there, you just aren’t advertising in the right places.”  So instead of re-visiting the expectations of the candidates they are willing to talk to, the manager starts giving “ideas” of how HR should be trying to find these candidates.

Truth is – to find the “perfect candidate” is literally a needle in the haystack.

And there is no guarantee that even with the qualifications and experience a manager expects that they will be able to transfer that into this new role.  What the manager is wanting is a “plug and play” employee that they don’t have to spend time bringing up to speed when they are hired or have to train.  What they are really doing is potentially shooting themselves in the foot!

You have a completely different pool of candidates these days.

Gone are the days where employees focused on just one job and stayed at a company for decades.  Today, it is expected that employees will not only change jobs but even careers at least 3-4 times in their lifetime.  They are more open and eager to learn new skills to add to their personal toolbox.  And they are more successful in transferring those skills into new positions because of their creativity, problem-solving skills and desire to learn more than just what is needed.  Many candidates come into job interviews wanting to know what training opportunities exist with the company, will the company support them (financially as well) in improving the skills they already have for their assigned job and will the company allow them to cross-train with other departments.  They are gauging their future happiness and success with a company based on this not just salary anymore.

7 out of 10 approach

What jobseekers are being told is that after reviewing the company’s job posting if you have at least 70% of the requirements they are looking for, go ahead and apply.  Anything less than that and your resume won’t be considered.

The same should be applied to the employer side.  If the candidate has the main requirements you are looking for, bring them in for an interview and see if they are transferable and if they can be a quick learner for those things they don’t have.

”But then we have to train them and we don’t have the time.  I need someone just ready to go.”

How many times I have heard a manager say this only to watch them become disenchanted with their view of the “perfect employee” when that employee is still “stuck in their old ways” and wanting to do things their way because they feel its better rather than the way the manager wants it done.  This is an even better example of why you don’t want to limit yourself to a candidate that meets all your requirements.  It takes time and effort to fully integrate any new employee into an organization so looking for the perfect candidate so they can simply just “go to work” removes that aspect from the equation – the manager doesn’t take the time to get them acclimated or lay down the requirements and expectations in the new role.

By giving a candidate with most of the requirements the manager is looking for a chance at the job, the company has the opportunity to mold that employee into the perfect employee that they REALLY do want – both skills and culture-wise.  You never know what additional skills or ideas this type of candidate may bring to the table as well.

Time to revisit your recruiting strategy and expand the possible candidate base…you may be surprised at what you uncover.

There Are Times NOT To Market Your Organization

rightwaywrongway-e1331260885728Anyone responsible for marketing will say, right off the bat, that I’m wrong.

They will tell you that an organization should use every opportunity to market itself, especially if it can be done for free.  The only way you grow and attract people is by letting them know you exist…right?

Wrong.

Trying to market yourself at the wrong time can actually backfire on you…it will put a tarnish on the public’s view on your organization as “opportunistic.”

Let me share an example…

Recently, I read an article about a soldier that had died in a training accident.  The “press release” issued read like an obituary, talking about her whole life story and the people and organizations that molded her into the soldier she became.  It was a wonderful tribute to this fallen hero.  And one of the organizations is listed that she had been a part of as a youth was one that I was as well…which gave me some pride to read.

However, once I got down to the “comment” section where so many others were posting their condolences, I saw a comment posted by a media representative of that organization that upset me.  What he had simply posted as a comment was the organization’s marketing boilerplate.

No condolences on behalf of the organization – just the boilerplate.

Okay – before I get too ahead of myself: What is a boilerplate?
A boilerplate is a paragraph usually found at the end of a press release by the organization that originated it which briefly describes the company or organization and contact information, such as a website, inviting people to learn more.

Now, think about it….

If you had just read an article that talked about the life – and death – of someone, even if you didn’t know them, would you think it was an appropriate time or place to market your organization?

Would you be inclined to “contact for more information” an organization that had been mentioned just once in the article?

How would you view an organization that dismissed the content and purpose of an article because all they saw was an opportunity to tell you more about them?  Would it be an organization you would want to be associated with?

What could this person have done to make the situation better?
Well, start out the comment by offering condolences on behalf of the entire organization!

This person could have then added a very abbreviated version of the boilerplate (the original also didn’t follow guidelines for being short and concise) with a web address and left off the “to find out more…” line.

It would have simply been viewed as a comment from a representative of the organization offering condolences…putting them into a positive light and then the public may want to “click” on the website to find out more about this organization that still shows concern and support for someone that was a former member…they “care.”

Social Media has created many opportunities for organizations to advertise themselves and to now reach a larger audience, however for an organization be seen in a positive light it should not be jumping at every chance to do so.  There are times, such as the example I shared, that you should steer clear of doing so.  It is no different than “spamming” someone’s email box.  Remember, your organization’s reputation will be based on instances like this and, regardless of how much good you do, it only takes one negative to taint that reputation.

You’re Doing It All Wrong – Don’t Focus on Retention!

happy-employeesAs you start to look around this year, you will see a lot of articles and comments about how companies need to create retention plans.  Yes, the market has changed and is now a “jobseeker’s market” and that has some companies concerned that they will loose some of their higher caliber employees but focusing on retention is not the solution.

Think about the word itself: Retention.

When you ask someone what “retention” means, they will tell you it means working on keeping the employees that you already have.  In my head, I picture managers trying to attach shackles to their employees’ feet to keep them from leaving!

The definition of retention itself supports this: “the continued possession, use, or control of something.”  Don’t believe me?  Go to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary and it will tell you: “the act of keeping someone or something.”  Doesn’t restrictive, doesn’t it?  And what do most people do when they feel pressured or controlled? – they do the opposite of what you are trying to do…in this case, the more you focus on trying to keep employees from leaving, the more they will start looking for an exit.

But even more than that, creating a “retention plan” only accomplishes one thing – trying to keep people from leaving.  It doesn’t create a happy environment for them to work in.  It doesn’t give them that spark of enthusiasm that they first had when the joined.  It doesn’t get their creative juices flowing again so they are doing more than simply carrying out the job you hired them for.  A retention plan may help stabilize your employee base, but does it benefit the company or the employee in the long run?

Too many think that a retention plan is simply making sure the company provides a positive atmosphere or provides attractive benefits that will make employees want to stay with them.  What they don’t realize is that those same actions will keep the employees that have no desire to expand themselves or grow the company – they are only there for the paycheck.

Companies then start to complain about lack of motivation, lack of ideas, lack of growth both with the company and the employees so they start looking for new candidates with fresh ideas or different experiences to “shake it up.”  Sometimes, this means having to create a whole new position in order to accommodate this need.  Suddenly, the company is spending more and more money on just keeping employees from quitting and attracting new talent without ever really taking a look inward to what they are already have to work with.

Everyone needs motivation…and the need to feel needed and appreciated…so if what you are offering them isn’t hitting those points with them, even the happiest employees will become complacent or begin to look for new “challenges” or opportunities.

Instead, focus on “Re-Recruiting.”

What’s the difference? You aren’t just trying to get everyone to stay – you are trying to re-engage those employees that you know have the drive and ideas your company needs to continue to grow.  You aren’t just creating a “happy and comfortable” environment but one that gives them that reason to get excited about coming to work again every day.

Still don’t get it?  Okay – adding an attractive benefits package or employee activities/programs works to create your cultural environment…and what your company will become “known” for when its time to start looking for new talent.  But, when the same thing is offered to everyone, everyone starts to produce the same output.  Why? Because there is nothing enticing to the employee that gives more than 100% or has all kinds of ideas for improvement if their reward will be the same as everyone else.  Those employees are the ones that you have to take a different approach with.

Take yourself back to when you were first hired. 

You were full of excitement and ideas.  You wanted to learn all you could about the job and show how you could do it better or share ideas to make the company better.  When did that all stop or start to die down?  Did it stop after the company stopped pursing you and hired you?  Or did it stop when the excitement of those first six months on the job died down and the company only became concerned with you showing up to work and doing the job they hired you for?

Now, imagine a company full of people feeling the same way.

Your complacent employees will want the added benefits and perks to make their daily lives happier.  They don’t want to switch jobs because that means having to look and risk rejection if they don’t have the education or skills.  They want you to think only about the job they are doing for you and how you would be at a loss if they leave.  More than likely, they also aren’t the ones contributing ideas but complaining about every little thing that the company isn’t doing or is doing wrong.

Your high caliber employees like the added benefits and perks, but that isn’t what is keeping them employed with you.  If they don’t feel respected or appreciated, they start working on an exit strategy.  They start engaging in outside activities where they can network and they start sending out resumes.  They still do their jobs, because they aren’t the type to slack off, but the same drive and enthusiasm that they once had is missing now.

So, how do you “Re-Recruit?”  Simple: Make employee engagement a priority again!

When was the last time you made the time to sit down and talk to your employees? I’m not talking about holding a meeting to talk about where the company is right now, what you’re working on or what you want the employee to be doing to contribute.  I’m talking about having a discussion, one-on-one, with your employees to simply ask them how they are doing, what ideas or suggestions have they been thinking about, what ideas they have for new products/services/improvements.  Bring them back to that feeling they had when they first accepted the job offer – that feeling of their employer wanting to hear their thoughts for how they would carry out their job and what new ideas they had to propose to change things…that feeling that they were being welcomed in as a part of the team and not just an employee to fill a position.

Stop being so busy managing your employees that you don’t make time to engage them.  Schedule quarterly meetings with the employees in your department to talk about how they like their job, what personal goals they may have set for themselves and how you, as a representative of the company, want to help them.  Monthly meetings would  be too much and come across as insincere…and bi-annual or annual meetings let too much time pass if a problem or frustration is brewing.  And don’t limit yourself to just sitting in your office to talk to them.  Take them to lunch – get both of you out of the office for an hour in a relaxed environment where the employee will feel more at ease about talking.  That simple show of appreciation will go a long way.  They will come back from the meeting feeling good – they matter to their manager/they are appreciated – and that feeling will rejuvenate them to start coming up with ideas again and giving that 110% that they did in the beginning.

You have now “retained” your employees – minus the shackles…and saved on recruiting costs because now there’s no need to seek outside the company for something you had as a resource already on the payroll…that just needed the dust cleaned off of it to be bright and shiny again.

HR Would Be Better If….

670px-Stop-Thinking-of-Something-or-Someone-Step-9My friend Steve Browne (@sbrownehr) posed a question and a challenge to all HR professionals to answer this simple question: “HR would be better if ______________.”

So, here is my response:

HR would be better if “human” was put back into Human Resources.

Back in the day, we were known as the Personnel Department.  Why? Well, my thought is that the perception is that all people in our position did was processing employee paperwork – you know, new hire documents, benefit enrollments, payroll, etc.

When the switch in title was made to Human Resources is was to bring attention to the fact that our employees are just as much a resource in the company as the equipment we use…and those of us in those roles were their “spokesperson.”  Suddenly, HR folks were getting involved in much more than just paperwork.  We were involved in performance reviews, disciplinary meetings, creating recruiting strategies, conducting employee training…all kinds of things that got us away from just being known as the “paperwork” department.

We jokingly started being called the company’s “police officer” for enforcing the Employee Handbook or the “counselor” because of our open door policy welcoming employees to come to us with their problems or issues.  We were the “go between” for the employees and their managers where we played referee during problems and career coach during motivational sessions.

Suddenly, the fact that we weren’t a “profit center” for the company didn’t matter – managers were seeking our opinions and upper management was inviting us to participate in planning sessions.  As a result, HR pros dove into ideas and strategies to improve their day-to-day responsibilities and position within the company.  We sought out new technology to utilize, setup new procedures for recruiting, welcomed Internet-based applications to help with benefit enrollments…and so much more.  And it made sense as the rest of the world around us was embracing automation thanks to email, the Internet and smartphones.

And that’s where we went off course…

The personal touch that we had become to be known for started to fade.

> When it came to recruiting, we began to rely heavily on the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that we setup to help us sift through candidate resumes so that we didn’t have to read them anymore….and potentially lost out on some great candidates who didn’t know how to “use the system” to make sure their submissions were considered.

> We sat back and let LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Bullhorn….all these social media sites where we could post jobs do the legwork for us to find new employees.  After all, everyone is on social media right? And if they want to work for us, they will see it and reach out to us, right?

> We stopped using our email’s automated response option to send a “thank you” to candidates when they forwarded their resume to us because we didn’t want them to have our direct contact information and start reaching out to us.

> We stopped following up on interviews after the fact to let candidates know that we had chosen to pass on them.

> We stopped requesting to hold company-wide meetings to talk about new benefits or open enrollment and opted for email blasts with links to websites for “any questions” and to enroll directly.

> We pulled back from asking our employees their thoughts and opinions on improvements to their job.  Why? Either we’ve been too busy with other things that have become a “higher priority” (meaning, will help US look good in our jobs) or we have a better idea what they need anyway because of all the suggestions we see from our peers on social media.

> We worried more about cost to the company than overall benefit to the employee because we wanted upper management to keep viewing us a team player rather than an employee advocate.  We knew better…we knew what we should be suggesting to help attract higher caliber candidates and increase retention of our current employees but we feared loosing that relationship with the boss that we were enjoying.

> We focused so much on “getting a seat at the table” that we forgot that its the employees that should be our first concern…and our focus.

We forgot about the “human” side of Human Resources that we were supposed to be known for.

So, its not a matter of what would make HR better in my eyes – its a matter of getting back to the core of who we are and why we became so good at our jobs: the communication and the personal touch we had with our employees.   Let’s face it: HR plays a key role in an employee’s happiness on the job and longevity with the company.  We bridge the gap between the employee and management.  We keep the communication lines open and build up trust & loyalty with the employees.

And we shouldn’t be afraid to loose our status as “Strategic Partners” simply because we push for better for our employees.  A Department Manager will go to his boss when he feels a new piece or equipment or upgrade will help improve production.  Our argument should be no different.  We represent the “human” equipment of the company – without which there wouldn’t need a need for the physical equipment.  Our position is of more importance when we put it that way.

HR Professionals everywhere! Get back in touch with your employees and candidates. Now more than ever that personal touch can have the greatest impact: at branding the company, at building its reputation, and at building a strong employee base…and you are a huge part of that!

How to Lead Your Team to Success: From a Veteran

Remarkable Woman Jill MorgenthalerWhen Jill Morgenthaler arrived at boot camp in 1975, she was part of the inaugural class of women in the Army.  She was one of 83 female cadets on a base of 50,000 men. 

Colonel Jill Morgenthaler (Ret.) went on to serve three decades in the U.S. Army in positions such as: the first female military intelligence commander in the DMZ in South Korea and Germany (West Berlin), the first female battalion commander of the 88th Division, and the first female brigade commander in the 84th Division.

In her book “The Courage to Take Command,” Col. Morgenthaler talks about how the military taught her that leadership isn’t about “command and control.” Rather, it requires a fine balance of reason and emotion, distance and familiarity, hard and soft power.

She lists the lessons she learned about being an effective leader as:

  • Being true to your vision—but being open to new ideas
  • Tackling obstacles head-on—but using finesse to arrive at solutions
  • Focusing on the mission—while protecting your people
  • Projecting strong leadership presence—but serving every member of your team, especially the weakest and most vulnerable
  • Maintaining team spirit—but refusing to tolerate mediocrity
  • Accepting and embracing your fears—but never letting them control you
  • Always having a plan—but also trusting your gut
  • Expressing a healthy self-confidence—with a side of humility

It is assumed that leading in the military means just giving and following orders.  The reality is that the same leadership skills are needed to motivate troops as you need to motivate employees.  This is one of the reasons why there are so many companies interested in hiring our Veterans these days…not for a particular skill they acquired while serving but their experience in leadership.

One thing you will notice from her list is that she talks about focusing on her team rather than her own personal success.  The reason: her success will come as a result of her team’s success.

In combat, every soldier knows they have a job to do but that they must also be able to depend on each other for safety and survival.  This is not unlike the corporate world where an employee is hired to carry out a certain job but must also participate as part of a team – their personal “job security” is also based on the success of their department.

Most managers, especially new managers, have the assumption that all employees should do what they are told.  Think about how many ideas may go unheard when an employee doesn’t feel their manager appreciates them.  How many mistakes happen or go uncorrected because employees don’t think their manager cares or they are too afraid to speak up and say anything.  How much harder is it to motivate an employee that you dictate to then an employee who you have made feel a “part of the team”.

Not every situation will be perfect.  There will always be those troublesome employees or unexpected hiccups during a project or in the market that will affect “how” you lead, but if you have made it a goal for yourself to be a truly effective leader then take the list above and give yourself a performance review.  If you are already encompassing these traits, don’t forget to help teach them to others especially your own employees that you hope to groom for leadership roles.

What if you own manager doesn’t follow these suggestions?

Don’t let that stop you from creating change in your own department!  Sometimes, there are those that need to see the success of others before they embark on trying the change themselves.  Be the example.  If will help you go a long way in carrying out your job and building morale among your employees.

Like Attracts Like: Why Leaders Attract Certain Followers

Back on November 16, 2014, I came across an article written by Brigette Hyacinth on LinkedIn that caught my eye: “Leaders: Beware of Followers.”  In her article, she talked about how every Leader needs Followers and that the conclusion of her research into the subject lead her to categorize 7 types of Followers:

1) Sycophants – The flatterers, “yes people”. They cannot be relied upon to give critical feedback if the leader is heading in a direction that conflict with the purpose or values of the organization. They never point out problems, raise objections; they will avoid any resistance and will defer to the leader. 

2) Critics – The opposition. The detractor’s goal is to challenge and question the leader’s every behavior and policy. They can be classified as disgruntled, perhaps for some reason they were not recognized, awarded a promotion they felt they deserved.

3) Realists provide constructive critical thinking and interact with the group and the leader. If they agree with the current course of action, they will back the leader 100%. Alternatively, if they disagree, they will challenge the leader, offering constructive alternatives to help the leader and organization achieve their aims. 

4) Loyalists – The genuine supporters. They are highly engaged and work hard to support the leader. Although you can count on Loyalists to get the job done, due to their biased admiration for the leader, they can provide the leader with misguided feedback in their assessment of his / her talents and abilities.

5) Traitors – The silent haters and conspirators. They have strong negative emotional feelings about the leader and secretly work to undermine him/her.

6) Spectators – The observers. They just work for their salary and don’t get involved. They are disengaged with the organization or task and hold a position of neutrality about the leader. 

7) Opportunists -The freebooters. They have a price and can easily be bought. They like to be close to the powerful and their allegiance is to whoever is on top at the moment. Opportunists do everything openly to get noticed and love to be rewarded. They see the leader as a means to an end (promotion).

And it got me thinking…

How many Leaders actually stop to think that their personality and actions are attracting these types of Followers to them?

In my opinion….”Like attracts like.”

When they start having problems with employees, Managers automatically say “they have an attitude problem,” “they aren’t applying themselves,” or “they just don’t listen.”  It becomes a “pass the buck” blame game and this has always seemed to be acceptable in the workplace.

People in management positions are held to a higher regard and therefore viewed as infallible.  Yet, managers are also tasked with creating a working environment with their employees…they have to guide and motivate them.  So, if a manager is having issues within his ranks, shouldn’t he/she include themselves in the “cause”?

So, let’s breakdown these 7 types of Followers to explore some hard questions about your Leadership style that may be attracting them:

1) Sycophants – The “yes people”.  

Do you tend to seek the counsel of those employees that always agree with you and carry out your directives?  Do you put down and speak negatively about those that are “always challenging” you instead of taking time to listen to what they have to say?  Do you always have to be right?  Do you always have to be the one with the right answer?

2) Critics – Those that challenge and question the leader’s every behavior and policy.

Do you quote the handbook all the time? Do you let some employees “get away with” some things but not others?  Do you yourself feel that you don’t have to follow the same rules as your employees?  Have you ever took the time to compliment or publicly recognize the efforts of your employees or do you think its just “their job”?

3) Realists provide constructive critical thinking and interact with the group and the leader.

Do you treat your employees as “team members” where you encourage communication and exchange of ideas?  Do you hold regular department meetings? Do you challenge your employees to “think outside the box” and come up with new procedures or projects?

4) Loyalists – The “genuine supporters.

Are you your employees’ Manager or their Friend?  Is being accepted by your employees mean more to you than having to criticize or discipline them when needed or when it can help their personal growth?

5) Traitors – Those that have strong negative emotional feelings about the leader and secretly work to undermine him/ her.

Do you take credit for others achievements because they work for you?  Have you ever dismissed an idea presented by one of your employees but later used it and didn’t give them credit for it?  Do you know how to do the job of each of the employees you manage or do you direct them based on your outside experience or personal opinions?  Do you feel that the rules you impose on your employees don’t apply to you as the manager because you have more responsibility?

6) Spectators – Those only engaged to do their job and nothing more.

Do you have regular meetings with your employees one-on-one to discuss goals and goal setting or do you feel they should approach you about that?  Do you encourage cross-training for an employee’s growth or focus only on the job they are being paid to carry out?  Are you yourself disgruntled and doing your job to simply collect a paycheck?

7) Opportunists –Those that do everything openly to get noticed and love to be rewarded.

Do you publicly acknowledge or reward (maybe with time off) your employees during different stages of a project rather than after its complete?  Do you talk to your employees about how much time you spend updating the boss during a project?  Do you jump in and help on a project, working along side them, or do you only make the time when the boss comes to visit and starts asking questions?

If you talk to any Career or Life Coach, they will tell you that before you can change the environment around you – you have to change yourself: how you interact with others, how you view the situation and yourself as a result, and how you respond to your environment.  So, if a manager feels he/she keeps having to deal with the same type of employees or loosing employees that it may be time to stop and take a look at themselves.  Which category do you think you fall into based on the type of employees you attract to you?  There is nothing to feel ashamed of in doing so – we all go through growth changes as we evolve in our careers and move onto more responsibility.

New Year = Time to Revisit Your Recruiting Strategy

action-planRemember the days when you needed to fill a position and all you had to do was post a job ad?
You would sit back and wait as hundreds of resumes came flying in.
All you had to do was sift through all of them looking for those few top quality candidates to begin a conversation with.

Those days are certainly over!

Similar to the Real Estate market, the Recruiting market goes through changes depending on current conditions.  From 2008 until the start of 2013, it was very much an Employer’s Market – meaning, there were more candidates seeking jobs than their were jobs to fill.  What we started to see in 2014 is that this shifted to a Candidate’s market.

Candidates have learned a lot of lessons from the recent recession…but companies are still practicing the same recruiting methods. Resumes are not coming in like they used to.  Where one job posting might net about 100 resumes a day, now most are lucky if they are netting 10-20 a week!

So what has changed?  Candidates have been getting advice during their job search, researching companies more closely and not jumping at every opportunity presented to them because now they have their own “criteria” for what is acceptable as their next job.

36% of all jobseekers last year were Millenials – candidates born between 1980-1994, most of which have recently graduated college.  For these jobseekers, a position that provides career growth is what attracts them…not just landing a job.  They are the candidates less interested in the bottom line salary and more interested in their personal growth through company benefits that allow them to achieve that.

But Millenials aren’t the only ones that have changed their job search approach.  Even the most seasoned jobseeker or executive has realized that a title and a paycheck don’t carry the weight in their lives that it once did.  For many of these jobseekers, its all about work-life balance now.  And, thanks to Social Media, they are also concerned about their personal reputation based on what company they associate themselves with.

What are jobseekers today being taught?

1) Research employers before applying to a job.  What is the financial standing of the company? What is there culture like? What benefits and perks does the company offer? Is the company active in the community?

2) Create a “wish list” for your next job.  Jobseekers are taught to sit down and write out exactly what they want in their “ideal” job – position, title, location, salary, benefits, size of company, type of office culture, etc.  They then use this wish list in the same manner that companies use when narrowing down candidates – if you don’t fulfill the majority of their criteria, they move on.

3) Network.  Networking for jobseekers is not only to build relationships with potential employers but also to do research on a company.  They will reach out to previous employees to ask what the company was like.  They will contact the person who used to hold the position to find out the real reason why they left.  They also use networking to help uncover the “non-public” positions so they can connect direct with the Hiring Manager.  They have been told that some companies will post job positions just to “see” what is out in the market without actually having a position open, so they turn to networking to check validity of job openings.

Why haven’t companies changed their recruiting strategy?

In some cases, its simply a matter of not knowing what to try differently.  Many managers still believe that was has worked in the past will still work simply because people need jobs.  They don’t focus on selling the company to the candidate.  “Employer Branding” is only something the big multi-million dollar companies do.

According to a 2011 US Census study, there are 16,455,191 employer-firms (meaning, those that employees on payroll) but only 17,671 were companies with 501+ employees.  99% of companies in the marketplace have less than 500 employees that are all vying for the same talent!  While companies may think that means more jobseekers in the market, the truth is many have gone on to pursue their passion and start their own companies.    There are 3,532,058 firms with 0-4 employees listed.

What have companies tried in the past?

When Social Media began to gain steam, many companies tried jumping on the train but not many really knew what they were doing.  That led to the creation of Social Media Managers in many companies as these individuals, many in their 20s and 30s, used their creative marketing to help “brand” a company.  Many recruiters and HR managers also jumped on to create job-focused accounts in attempts to reach candidates using Twitter and Facebook.  But what many failed to realize is that use of Social Media isn’t about just advertising – its about building relationships with other users.  So while some had success, many others didn’t and hence gave up.

The introduction of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) was another approach many companies turned to as an easier way to categorize applicants and weed out those that weren’t qualified.  Using an ATS can do just that, if you have it set up properly and don’t have it so complicated that jobseekers pass on applying because of it.  While many have tried to advise and warn companies about this, many haven’t changed anything because they still believe “if the candidate wants the job, they will do it.”

Most companies still rely on the “post and wait” approach to recruiting.  They just believe that candidates aren’t looking at the more popular job boards like Careerbuilder and Monster so they started expanding into LinkedIn, Bullhorn and others.  Yes, jobseekers most definitely still use all those job boards in their research, but they aren’t just blindly applying anymore so while a company may see a small uptick in applicants, it still isn’t the number they were expecting.

So how should you change your recruiting strategy for 2015?

Start by figuring out what kind of candidates you want to attract to your company.  Too many times, we recruit to find a fit for the position.  Focus on finding the “fit” for the company…that is how you will be able to foster new ideas from your employees and extent tenure.  Candidates that may have the background and experience to carry out the position but if they aren’t happy working for you, they will be back on the job hunt.

For example, some companies are recognizing that by 2022, 46% of those jobseekers in the market will be Millenials…and are looking for ways now to attract them to their company.  What that means is that these companies also have to stop and take a look at themselves – their makeup, what they offer, what they need to offer, etc.  Sometimes, you won’t have to do much but slight tweeks to your offerings package….sometimes, its an awakening that you need a major overhaul!

Talk to your current employees.  Just because they work for you doesn’t mean they can’t offer you new insight.  Find out from your top performers what they like about their jobs, what they don’t like and what ideas they would like to see put into action. A happy work environment is contagious.  Candidates will pick up on that when interviewing and your employees will talk about your company in a positive light to others who may be in the market for a new job.

Centralize your recruiting.  Are you letting each manager hire their own person? Keep in mind – your managers are focused on “filling a role” not finding a fit.  If you don’t have an in-house recruiter, let your HR person handle this.  For smaller companies that don’t have an HR person, your Office Manager is usually the next best choice.  When you are trying to find a fit for the company, its best to have someone with a “outside” point-of-view from the department so they can focus on looking at the whole picture and not just whether or not they fit the job itself.  After the candidates have been narrowed down by fit, then bring your manager in to see if they are a fit for the role.

Finally….How are your going to market your open positions?  Yes, market – not just post.  Don’t dismiss the job boards, but you need to also incorporate other methods to reach those jobseekers you really want.  This is where having an HR person on staff really comes into play.  Remember, candidates today are doing more research into companies and looking to develop relationships.  Sponsor your HR person to attend local networking events, encourage them join in on Twitter and LinkedIn group discussions as a representative of your company, allow them paid time off to volunteering at jobseeker events at local colleges such as resume writing workshops and mock interviews…the point is to let them act as your Employment Marketing Specialist.  Jobseekers will be more drawn to companies that are active in their circles than ones that sit back and wait for you to apply based on their “market reputation” or because they just need a job.

Don’t wait until you need to start recruiting your next employee – start the New Year with a new plan in place.  Taking the steps to brand the employee-side of your company will help you when it comes time to fill that role with the best candidate.  You never know, they may be watching you and waiting in the wings for when you start looking for them.