Don’t Run Out of ‘Breath’

Make recruiting part of everything your firm does.

February 21, 2008
by Geremy Cepin

Recruiting is a lot like breathing. If your firm stops doing it — even for a short time — it’ll run out of the human resources it needs to thrive and survive. Yet, for many firms, recruiting is like putting gas in a car. They do it only when they’re running on empty. And believe it or not, sometimes, firms run out of talent fuel.

Baby Steps in Creating a Recruitment Program

How do you make recruiting an integral part of your firm’s regular activities, so you do it continuously , not just when you’re short on talent?

Consider these practical steps to develop a firm-wide recruitment program.

1. Plan It

Starting with your firm’s current situation, strategic goals and average attrition rate, try to project your hiring needs over the next two years. Multiply that number by 10, since you’ll typically have to interview about 10 candidates to find a candidate worth hiring.

Then, identify your strategies to reach your hiring goal. These may include:

  • Participating in college career days and job fairs,
  • Conducting a recruitment drive or contest,
  • Developing ads, Web pages and recruitment materials,
  • Providing incentives or rewards to firm members who provide names of potential recruits, and
  • Using a professional search firm.

Most importantly, develop a recruitment action plan that specifies who at your organization will do which tasks over the course of the year to identify qualified candidates. For example, the HR director will create job descriptions, the marketing director will develop ads and recruitment materials and the managing partner will conduct a recruitment-training program for partners and managers.

2. Prioritize It

To make sure your recruitment plan doesn’t just sit on the shelf, your firm’s leadership needs to support it and make implementing it a firm-wide priority. To this end, carrying out recruitment action plans need to be made a part of everyone’s goals, and leadership needs to monitor progress and report on it regularly.

For example, each month have your HR director or managing partner send out e-mails reminding firm members about openings and staffing needs. At a company-wide meeting, the HR director can make a presentation about recruitment efforts and recognize firm members who referred qualified candidates. Reward the referrer with a cash award or gift card when referrals result in hires.

3. Give It Time

Finding qualified candidates takes time. You may need to court college students for several years and allow months to find a senior-level professional — even when you engage a headhunter or professional search firm. If you don’t start recruiting until you have a position to fill, you may be playing short-handed for some time.

You also need to allow time for your people to network, talk to potential candidates and do the other things necessary to carry out their recruitment action plans. If recruitment is left only to after work or after everything else is done, it may simply not happen.

4. Remember Who’s in Charge

Many accounting and consulting firms — especially those with a human resources director — think that they, not the candidates, are in charge of the hiring process. This may be true for some administrative or entry-level positions. But the reality is that higher-level candidates are interviewing your firm, not the other way around. They already have good jobs, so they don’t need you. You need them.

Too often, though, a firm’s hiring process is set up to screen candidates, not recruit them. Rather than putting candidates directly in touch with the people they want to talk to, the HR director becomes the intermediary who relays questions to the partners and answers back to the candidates.

Instead of making candidates jump through hoops and telling them what you think they want to know, give candidates access to the person they’ll report to. Allow candidates to ask the questions they want of the people who can give them direct answers. Prospective recruits are more interested in knowing what a specific position offers them in terms of benefits and opportunities for professional and income growth than in how much your firm plans to grow or how wonderful its clients are.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Unless your firm already has an effective recruitment program, you may find it beneficial to consult a recruitment professional. A recruiter takes pains to qualify candidates and match them with openings well before referring them to you. This way the candidate will have already been thoroughly screened and evaluated for a specific position and given enough information about the job to be “sold” on talking to you and about coming aboard.

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Geremy Cepin is National Director, Executive Search & Placement Services, at PDI Global, Inc. He can be reached directly at 312-245-1755.