4 Tips to Build a More Strategic Recruitment Function

Ninety percent of HR leaders know they need to be more strategic, but 49 percent don’t know what they need to do to get there. Your people are the biggest factors in your organization’s success, and the biggest line item in your company’s budget. That’s why Lever partnered with Hired on a webinar titled, Breaking Down Barriers: Taking Talent Acquisition from Reactive to Strategic. In it, Mike Bailen, VP of People at Lever, and Michelle Weaver, CFO at Hired, discussed actionable ideas to help your organization build a more forward-thinking talent acquisition program. If you identify with the 73 percent of attendees who said they are largely reactive when it comes to hiring, read on for 4 tips to build a more strategic recruitment strategy.

1. Hold strategic conversations with your leadership team

The most important step toward becoming more strategic is to meet regularly with your company’s leadership team. You need to understand your company goals over the next 12-24 months, and how those translate to hiring. Then, you can begin to think about which skill sets you will need long-term, and whether you will be able to develop them or buy them.

Learn which roles are a priority for the business, and how to sequence them. Every hiring manager thinks their role is the most important, but some are more critical to the success of the business. Some should also be sequenced based on the long-term hiring plan. If you’re building out an entire team, for instance, you may want to hire the manager first.

2. Utilize data to inform realistic hiring goals

When meeting with company leadership, utilize data around your team’s capacity and velocity to set realistic expectations. Mike shared that a recruiter can only fill three or four technical, niche, or highly specialized roles per quarter. However, a recruiter may be able to fill eight to 15 non-technical, high-volume, or evergreen roles each quarter. He also shared that typical velocity is around three months for management or technical positions, but 30-45 days for other roles. If you don’t have access to your own hiring data, benchmark data can help fill the gap.

Keep in mind, however, that company stage can impact your hiring plan. Mike noted that, as you scale, you will move from generalist roles to specialist roles, which will require you to develop new recruiting muscles. The same holds true for ramping up new departments. Michelle shared how Stitch Fix had nailed hiring stylists, but needed to develop new muscles to build up a marketing team. The impact is that everything can take a little longer than you want it to, so it’s important to account for that with your team’s expected velocity.

3. Start candidate sourcing and pipelining

With a forward-thinking hiring plan, you can begin to proactively source and nurture talent, so you have a warm pipeline when you’re ready to hire. Mike shared how his team at Zappos had a lot of job openings, and a lot of inbound candidates. Because of this, they filled positions slowly and rejected many candidates—causing a poor candidate experience. In order to build a more strategic recruiting function, they decided to shut down job postings in favor of a proactive candidate sourcing model. Candidates would then apply to be a Zappos Insider, and the candidates and employees could get to know one another before taking the leap. The end result was a high-quality candidate pipeline.

Mike is also a big advocate of employee referrals as a way to proactively build a talent pipeline. However, he warns against rules of engagement that may hinder participation, such as requiring employees to share how they know a candidate, or requiring that a referral be tied to an open position. Instead, you should allow anybody to submit a referral at any time, even if you don’t know them personally, and even if there’s not currently an open role for them.

Finally, include internal candidates in your talent pipeline. Michelle pointed out that natural attrition is between 18-24 months for tech talent. Mike agreed, adding that there are a lot of great opportunities out there, and that people want new skills. Think about career pathing, professional development, and succession planning to retain talent longer.

4. Stay in lockstep with your finance team

Mike suggests meeting with your finance team daily at the early stage, and to speak the language of ROI. As an example, Mike is a big believer in the power of recruitment marketing and the value it provides to the business. However, a CFO doesn’t necessarily understand that value. If he wants to get an investment, he knows he needs to share how he can increase hiring velocity with things like targeted ads, or how he can reduce the cost of getting a lead into the talent pipeline by producing employer branding content. Michelle agrees, saying that she knows the recruitment pipeline is critical to the business’ success, but that she wants to see the information and data that will support an investment.

Talent acquisition teams can also take a strategic role in helping organizations plan for attrition. Understand your annual retention rate, break it down quarterly and monthly, and bake it into your hiring plan. Mike suggests identifying the mission-critical roles in your organization, and working with your CFO to build in budget for some redundancies that will provide a buffer for natural attrition. While quota-carrying roles are the easiest to quantify and justify, Michelle adds that every role has a contribution that can be quantified in some way. For instance, an engineer creates the product that the sales team needs to hit their targets.

Final thoughts

As Michelle pointed out, the C-suite has always had a focus on sales pipeline—and it’s equally important to focus on the recruiting pipeline to drive long-term shareholder value. The hiring plan needs to ladder up to the overall strategy, and it should also inform the company strategy. There is a tremendous opportunity for HR and Talent Acquisition to shift away from a reactive, service-oriented function, to become more proactive. As Mike said, it’s an exciting time to be in this field, as organizations are beginning to think of recruiting as a strategic function.


To hear the full conversation around building a more proactive recruitment function, view our on-demand webinar:

Breaking Down Barriers: Taking Talent Acquisition from Reactive to Strategic