Developing a People-Focused Talent Acquisition Philosophy

Truthfulness, cultural considerations, realistic expectations help recruit and retain top talent

By Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP April 25, 2019
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​Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP

​There is more movement than ever before in the job market, and talent acquisition continues to be a challenge for many organizations in the U.S. and throughout the world. As SHRM-certified HR professionals, we can utilize the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK) to ensure that our organizations are doing their best to recruit and retain top talent. 

The talent acquisition process begins with a job posting; onboarding begins when the applicant reviews it. Apply your proficiency in Business Acumen to ensure that the process aligns to the needs of your organization. A well-aligned recruiting philosophy will guide you through a competitive and ever-evolving talent war.

Below are four recommendations for any organization to consider when developing a people-focused philosophy for the recruitment, acquisition and retention of talent. Being disciplined in your approach does make a difference.

  1. It's more than a job. Go beyond a focus on job analysis, job design and job descriptions. While they are all necessary undertakings in recruiting efforts, center in on culture and people. Understand the culture of the organization and how this will impact your recruiting philosophy. Ask meaningful questions. Shadow folks who are doing the job. Find out where people have struggled in the job previously. Embrace the needs of the organization to guide you. Become the leader who moves the organization forward through the process of talent acquisition and retention. The SHRM competencies of Leadership & Navigation, Consultation and Critical Evaluation will all come into play.

  2. Realistic job discussions and previews. This cannot be stressed enough: Ensure that applicants understand the job and the organization's expectations for the role. Truthfulness can make or break your recruiting and retention efforts. Not being truthful in discussions and previews will be detrimental and create continuous problems with turnover. We can lose good people and negatively impact workplace culture by not being realistic up front. It's happened to me: I have held a position for which the job description and discussions noted a travel requirement of 25 percent; in reality, my travel was above 75 percent. Ethical Practice, Relationship Management and Communication apply here.

  3. The "perfect" applicant. Leaders and managers are always looking for the perfect applicant. Is there such a person? Not in my experience. Some applicants are great, some might succeed and some might struggle. That doesn't mean we have to settle for someone who is mediocre or sell a hiring manager on just any warm body. Exercise your Consultation and Relationship Management competencies to have a conversation about the actual applicant pool and create a path forward to do what is best for the organization.

  4. Treat others as you want to be treated. It sounds simple to do in a complex process, but many organizations execute inconsistently. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated throughout the recruitment process. Continuous communication with applicants is necessary to be successful at recruiting and retaining talent; acting otherwise is not an effective strategy in the competitive recruitment landscape. In the past I have received rejection letters 18 months after applying for a job! Totally unacceptable. Besides Communication, the competencies to ensure success are Leadership & Navigation, Relationship Management, as well as the People knowledge domain of HR Expertise. 

Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting, LLC, Elmira, N.Y., is an HR consultant, an assistant professor at Elmira College, and an on-call mediator and fact-finder for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. He holds master's degrees in business administration and in human resources & industrial relations, and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

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