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Hiring Success Requires These 3 Things

A man speaking on stage at a smartrecruits event.
​SmartRecruiters founder and CEO Jerome Ternynck.

​SAN FRANCISCO—Achieving the best hiring results depends on a candidate-focused process, accountable hiring managers and recruiters who function more like a sales team.

That's what SmartRecruiters founder and CEO Jerome Ternynck told attendees at the Hiring Success 18 conference for talent acquisition professionals held by the recruiting software company.

He defined successful hiring as the ability to attract and hire the best talent for any role, on demand and on budget. "TA [talent acquisition] delivers business success to your organizations, because you are who you hire. In a world where businesses are being disrupted and all other things being equal, hiring is the last long-term differentiator."

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Ternynck listed three universal elements to a company's hiring success:

1. A focus on candidate experience. "With demand for qualified candidates outstripping supply in certain key professions, it is more important than ever to attract, nurture and engage the best candidates out there," he said. That includes continuously improving the employer brand, recruitment marketing, job advertising, events, the careers site and the application, as well as the conversion stages of the hiring process, such as moving from screening to interviews.

"I don't think we've done enough with candidate experience," said Madeline Laurano, co-founder of Aptitude Research Partners, a Boston-based analyst and advisory firm. "We've done some great things with technology, made it easier to apply, but the basic component of candidate experience is communication. And unless we are communicating with candidates, even those who do not get the job, then we are not providing a good candidate experience."

2. Accountable hiring managers. There is no hiring success without the manager, Ternynck said, referring to the common complaints from recruiters that hiring managers don't prioritize hiring. "Managers need to be accountable for hiring. Recruiters and hiring managers must be working together to share the burden and land the best outcomes."

3. Productive recruiters. "The most effective talent acquisition teams operate more like a sales and marketing function than standard HR departments, with clear processes, good communication and a grasp of data," Ternynck said.

He also suggested that organizations rethink traditional recruitment metrics to measure hiring success. For example, instead of seeing the hiring budget as a cost, view it as an investment. "You should be able to go to the board and ask to increase cost-per-hire," he said. "If you invest in recruitment to get better candidates like you invest in marketing to get more customers, it makes sense—but not if you see recruiting as a cost center."

Not that cost concerns are frivolous. "How can you be an effective strategic function if you're not efficient to begin with?" asked Kyle Lagunas, research manager of emerging trends and technologies in talent acquisition at IDC, a market research and advisory services firm in Framingham, Mass. "We're disdainful of the cost-center piece, but it's essential for gaining credibility, scaling best practices and getting the extra budget you need."

Ternynck recommended that employers consider the company's percentage of positions filled on time in lieu of zeroing in on the amount of time it takes. Being hired on time is not as important as the quality of the hires made, he added. "A poor candidate, even if hired on time, is unlikely to lead your company to hiring success."

The way most organizations currently measure quality of hire is overly complicated or too reactive, he insisted. Most employers don't measure quality at all, or they base it on performance management reviews and turnover.

Instead, he recommended using a scorecard that measures the relative productivity of each new hire. "It is devised in much the same way as the more familiar Net Promoter Score, with the obvious difference that a candidate, not a customer, is the subject. Ranging from -100 to 100, the score is derived from questions asked to both hiring managers and new employees concerning the latter's fit in the role."

Finally, hiring success will depend on the technology you're using. "Unfortunately, most legacy ATS [applicant tracking system] platforms cannot undertake the tasks required," Ternynck said. "Many are still based off the older notions of simply tracking a candidate through the process."

Instead, talent acquisition systems should help find and engage talent across all recruiting channels, be easy to use, provide recruiting insights and integrate well with a variety of other HR systems and recruiting-technology components.

"TA leaders should know the value of the technology and the providers they select," Laurano said. "Ask the tough questions and be a champion for the technology your recruiters will be using, whether that means facing challenges or opposition from IT or procurement."

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