Now is the time to get ready for the recovery. It may sound strange, but if you have been in recruiting for any period of time, you know that hiring fluctuates—it goes up and down, expands and pauses. These cycles come with the territory. Some shifts are more dramatic than others, and currently it appears we are in a more profound slowdown than we would like. The signs are all around us with the housing crisis, gas prices, and layoffs recently announced in some industries. Some leaders may be quick to question what recruiters are doing when there is little or no recruiting going on. Be ready with this answer: creating a proactive pipeline of great candidates for future openings.
If you let applicant flow slow down, it will be difficult to ramp up quickly when the time comes. It is all about control. In times like this, you need to be in control of applicant flow. Creating an external candidate pipeline gives you that control. It also allows you to educate your company’s hiring leaders on how you are continuously adding value and taking a proactive position for future open positions.
When the market conditions change, leaders will be ready to hire since, in many cases, they will have been working with open positions or in an understaffed situation for a while. You will immediately be put in a difficult situation, so by taking a proactive position now you will be ready when the circumstances change. You will be a star when you are able to provide leaders with a qualified slate of candidates in record time to fill their positions.
Take advantage of the time you have now to build or refine your job profiles, create compelling copy, and build your networking channels. These are all techniques that you can hear more about at one of our Recruiter Boot Camp training sessions on the Performance-based Hiringsm process. These components provide a solid foundation for building your pipeline.
Before we review an approach to creating a proactive pipeline, there is one critical message to share with your management team. Don’t be quick to put the word on the street that there is a job freeze at your company. Call it a slowdown, a pause, anything but a "freeze" or a reference that will shut down your applicant flow. In some cases it may be unavoidable if you are going through layoffs, but if not, avoid using the term "hiring freeze." You know the hard work and time it takes to build the recruiting brand, attract top candidates, and generate a flow of quality candidates. Once the message changes to one of a hiring freeze, it causes candidates to pause and question the stability of the company and the opportunities for career growth. Top candidates will look elsewhere rather than take a chance on a company that may be in trouble.
Now to the business of building a proactive external talent pipeline. In order to build a talent pipeline, it’s important to define what that means to you and your organization. You have probably heard many references to "pipelines" over the years, but I would venture to say that if you probe for a definition, each person will put a slightly different spin on what a pipeline is to them. There are a few different ways to look at it, but the definition that offers the most robust approach is this: a pipeline is a group of pre-qualified, pre-screened candidates that are ready for referral to hiring leaders when the right career opportunity occurs.
The above takes into account that you will be very selective with who you allow into the pipeline. This is about pre-qualifying top talent, building relationships, and selling the opportunity with the company. These are candidates you will be comfortable calling and presenting to your hiring managers when the right opportunity opens. You will build and maintain relationships with this group by marketing information about the company, awards, benefits, other open positions, and relevant information that will get them excited about the company. This is much different than a pipeline that refers candidates based on a review of their resume only, a pipeline that is created when a job is posted and candidates respond, or an internal pipeline that is generated as a result of development and succession planning.
Once you are comfortable with your definition, gain buy-in from your leadership team that they see a value in a proactive approach to talent and agree with the pipeline definition. This is important because you want their help in identifying candidates for the pipeline—this may come in the form of referrals or candidates previously interviewed. You also want your hiring managers open to spend a few minutes with candidates if they have some specific questions.
While pipelines can be a valuable asset to a recruiting department, there are a few things to remember: candidates may find other positions, the jobs you expect do not materialize, and requirements for the position may change. And keep in mind that the relationships you build carry forward in the future, and if they do take another position, they may find that they need a change in a few years. Also, you still have an opportunity to connect with them for other referrals at their new organization. With the current state of the market and the uncertainty it brings, many top candidates are waiting it out rather than making a move. So this will work in your favor. But at this point of uncertainty in the market, with layoffs and a slowdown in hiring, there is a better chance that the top candidates are not anxious to move right now until things settle down.
So, what should your pipeline look like?
A few of the benefits you will reap from pipeline development are:
If you take advantage of these uncertain times and build your proactive external talent pipeline, you will be ahead of the rest when the market changes. You will have a powerful pipeline process in place that you can continue to build upon moving forward even in good times.
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