How to Crush Planning Season, Recruiter-Style: 6 Tips from the Pros

Hello Q4! As we roll into a new quarter, many of us are embroiled in 2016 planning. I say ‘embroiled’ because while planning for the year ahead is a time for inspiration and excitement about future opportunity, it can also be stressful, iterative, and downright gnarly. Especially for recruiting leaders in the eye of the storm (or rather, thick of the spreadsheet) around headcount planning and growth.

planning season

If this sounds familiar, read on for great tips from accomplished talent acquisition leaders who’ve made it through multiple planning seasons in style.

  1. Get into the long-term details – all of them. To build the right recruiting plan, you need to think beyond the upcoming year and get comfortable with cross functional details. “It’s your job to get up to speed on “EVERYTHING,” says Ed Nathanson, Founder of Red Pill Talent. “Think longer-term hiring forecasts, geographies (new and existing), skill sets needed, levels of experience required (senior vs. entry level, for instance).”

    To get to this information, you’ll need to be in heavy discovery mode. “Ask tons of questions and really partner with Leadership and Finance (they typically have lots of insight into this from forecasting exercises.”   
  2. Try to predict attrition. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of growth potential, but make sure you factor in churn, advises Sarah Smith, VP, HR and User Operations at Quora. “We’ve planned every year to be able to predict how much attrition there will be and hire assuming that rate. You might come out a little bit ahead, but you’re definitely not going to come out way behind, so you’re not fighting fires throughout the year.”  
  3. Bring fresh thinking and measure so you can adjust. Rather than just recycling last year’s so-so plan, start fresh and cast a critical eye, recommends Mike Bailen, Director of Recruiting at Eventbrite. “Audit your products and plans every year. If you can’t measure success, don’t renew your plan.” Additionally, Bailen says it’s important to build some flexibility: “Leave wiggle room in your budget for changing business and technology needs.” No matter how good you are, you can’t predict everything in advance.

  4. Solicit feedback. As Nathanson warns, “Don’t make all decisions in a vacuum as other’s input and feedback will give you a balanced view of solutions.” This is especially important with regard to recruiting technology, which touches so many others in the organization. On that note, Nathanson says,  “Particularly with an ATS purchase, solicit hiring manager and other stakeholder feedback as they are also active users and you need them as champions.” 
  5. Disrupt the annual cycle. In a world of agile everything, who says planning should be annual? Smith has a top recommendation for earlier stage companies: consider a rolling 12 month cycle. “Every six months create your 12-month plan. This is really helpful for startups with evolving needs.”  
  6. Innovate. The recruiting space is a hotbed of innovation; take the time to explore. Bailen challenges you to “Commit to and invest in a new, low cost product or service each year. You may discover a powerful tool, be ahead of the curve, and have the opportunity to shape the product’s development. Your early adoption will reap rewards for years to come!”

So with that, it’s game on. Good luck with crushing planning season! And if you have additional planning tips you’d like to share, tweet them to @Lever with the hashtag #planfortalent.

A special thanks to our panel of experts: Mike Bailen of Eventbrite; Sarah Smith of Quora; and Ed Nathanson of Red Pill Talent.