Liz Warren Executive Vice President of Human Resources
Liz Warren
Executive Vice President of Human Resources

It’s All About the People:  There Is No Magic Wand
A Two Part Series
Part I:  Strategic Recruiting

The war for talent is paramount to most organizations today; it provides the only true competitive advantage. Fairly often business owners and managers ask, “Why can’t I find talented employees?”, or “What is the secret to becoming an employer of choice and a high performing company?” Many are looking for a magic wand, and though most of the secrets are simple, it takes commitment and consistency to implement and live each and every day. The key to finding talent and achieving results is to look at the big picture when addressing these concerns. If you think about how culture, engagement, and retention all effect recruitment, you will more readily be able to create significant improvements in recruiting talent.

A Written Recruitment Plan

At Employer Services Corporation (ESC), we work with many of our clients on strategic HR initiatives. Recruitment and talent acquisition is one of those. A written recruitment plan is a good starting point. In a room full of one hundred business owners and managers, typically only one or two have a written HR strategy plan. In contrast, almost all of them have a documented marketing, IT, and business plan. A recruitment plan is a vital part of an HR strategic plan. Employers who lack one are starting the process with a disadvantage. The plan does not have to be elaborate but should detail the sources that an organization will engage when an opening becomes available.

Cultivate Your Sources

Once the sources are identified, it is important to develop relationships with representatives at those sources. Many professionals state that they will contact colleges and universities when they have an opening but don’t develop relationships with someone in the career services office. Imagine having a relationship where a representative from the college toured your organization, learned your values, and learned the characteristics are important to you in perspective candidates. An opening becomes available. Instead of simply completing an automated form on the school’s website detailing your opening, you call your contact and they become your recruiter, contacting their best students and alumni who match your opening. This is a simple step to take but most managers state that they don’t have time for it. Being proactive and investing time upfront is key. It will have long lasting positive impacts on both time saved and productivity in the long-term.

Document Your Process

A documented strategic recruitment and interviewing process will assist with recruitment. At ESC, we worked with one client that focused only on the skills needed for the position and didn’t even consider a values-based interview. They had high turnover and asked us to examine it. What we discovered was a flaw in the recruitment and interview stage of the ‘people cycle’. We conducted focus groups to develop values and ensured that we included a cross section of employees. Next, behavioral questions were developed based upon those values and the decision was made to conduct the values-based interview first and the skills-based interview afterwards. High performing companies know that if they choose candidates who match from a cultural standpoint, the retention and success of the employee will be greater.


Hiring fast is a short term solution which typically brings many more concerns in the long run. Additionally, sometimes interviewers do all the talking. This can give too many clues to the candidate as to how they should answer the question. Communication in an interview should certainly be two-way but the interviewer should be listening, rather than talking, the majority of the time.

Year-Round Activity

We suggest to our clients that recruitment should be a year-round activity whether or not they have openings to fill. Just as business development professionals have a pipeline, so should managers who are responsible for hiring. At ESC, our entire organization acts as recruiters. When an employee identifies someone at a networking event or simply out in the community that may be a good fit for ESC, they talk to them and introduce me to the candidate if there is a mutual interest. We have a casual conversation and a coffee meeting. Subsequently, when we have openings, we look to our pipeline first. This method of recruitment cuts down our ‘time to fill’ metric. We have also determined that it leads to improved retention.


Part II of this series will cover becoming an Employer of Choice (EOC).

Liz Warren is Executive Vice President of HR at Employer Services Corporation, based in Amherst, New York