How to hire talents – sourcing and marketing

Welcome to a second round on Hiring. In the first part of the “How to hire talents” series, we took a look at the basic roles in hiring. In this we will deal with how we draw the candidates’ attention to our open position and how we set up the interview process. 

Don’t waste for time for finding seniors, make your own

We need the best!” – You hear this a lot and it sounds logical, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But do I have to hire the best, or is there another way to have the best employees in the company?

A classic situation, which can be observed again and again, is the frustrated hiring manager, who blames the recruitment, because since 8 months the three senior positions are still open. Yet they have not been idle. Numerous hours were spent in interviews, countless networks tapped, umpteen candidates sent back home. Most of them were really good, stable mid-levels, but there was no senior among them. But you need one so urgently in the team. Hiring managers and recruiters are blaming each other, and the team, which is urgently waiting for additional support, is already running on fumes. Pressure is high and there is still no senior in sight.

As I said, it’s a classic and a sad one at that. Even if the right candidate can be found soon, there is usually another 3 months notice period and, if necessary, visa and relocation times. So you have spent a whole year trying to get the best for the team. And you still come up empty-handed.  Couldn’t this time have been better spent?

Yes, of course it could have. Because if you’re lucky, you can make someone at a good mid-level position a senior in one year. In that time, he is already established in the team, gets tasks done, relieves the other team members and helps the company to move forward.

And if he is not a senior after one year? Well, it doesn’t matter, as long as your team is healthy and manages its tasks. As a lead, you will usually still have enough expertise to compensate for the experience of a senior. If that’s not the case, then hire a freelancer for 6 months to take over the task and specifically support and train your employees.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t specifically look for a senior if it fits into your team strategy in the long run. But it can help to consider with each candidate if that little certain something that is missing at the moment might not be something you can train in a few months.

So the next time you think it always has to be the seniors, just think about the cost again for a second. Your team, your recruiter, and your direct manager will thank you.

And just by the way: Where are all the seniors supposed to come from if no one trains them? Wanting to have the best in your company is important and right, but instead of hiring them, you can train them. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

What do I need now?

And exactly such considerations are important before you start the process, because they significantly influence how you write job postings or address applicants. Because a good mix makes the team. Plan for the long term and always try to think in generations. If you manage a team for a longer period of time, employees will come and go. Hiring only mid-level employees won’t do you any good, because at some point you will have developed them into seniors. And then? You’ll have a team full of seniors, and you might not be able to offer them all a development perspective. And before you know it, the seniors are up and gone and you’re on your own.

Doesn’t sound so great either, does it?

So again, plan for the long term. The juniors you hire today will be the mid-level employees of tomorrow, right at that time when your current mid-levels become seniors. This way, you make sure you’re building a continuously functioning team instead of hiring in waves.

Because as said above: A good mix makes the team.

But whatever you need, make sure you know it before you start posting jobs. Because if you’ve waited three months in vain for decent applications for your “senior engineer” position and suddenly realize that maybe a few more junior employees would fit your concept betterl, you’ve lost a whole quarter.

The job posting

Speaking of job postings. After you have made yourself aware of how your team is to be built up or expanded, you must of course draw the attention of suitable candidates to you. You have already done the first important step of preparation. If you know which levels you want to have in your team, you can design the headlines in such a way that they appeal to the right candidates.

A good tip is to separate the job descriptions. Instead of “(Senior) Engineer”, it’s better to have one with “Senior Engineer” and one with “Engineer”. Why? You set the expectations between you and the applicant clear from the beginning. If you apply for a senior position, you will be tested accordingly. This creates more transparency and avoids unnecessary frustration.

By the way, these clear divisions in job postings also make salary expectations simple. With mixed job postings, you never know to which level the applicant has adjusted his or her salary expectations. And this clarity also helps the interviewers to prepare better and to assess the candidate accordingly. We will go into this in more detail in the third part.

An equally common mistake in practice – both in job postings and interviews – is to promise candidates the moon just to get them into the company. This will fire back at the latest when the frustrated new employee quits during the probationary period and you have to start the whole application process all over again. So when you write your job description be honest and describe what you have to offer, because you want to have employees who fit exactly to your team.

This is similar to uploading optimized photos of yourself on a dating platform and telling things that are not true about you, just because you think the other person might be more interested in you. During the first meeting (the interview) or at the latest after a few weeks (during the probationary period) the untruths will be discovered. So stay on the ground and don’t tell your candidates fairy tales. Because honesty is sexy, even in job interviews.

Since you have already thought about how you want to fill your positions, it also makes sense to adapt your job posting accordingly. For example, if you have a surplus of male employees in your team and want to increase diversity, it makes sense to write the jobs and the wording in such a way that female candidates will also find them attractive.

There are little helpers on the web that can help you optimize your job posting. And of course this is only the beginning, because diversity is much bigger. To go into all the details here would go beyond the scope of this article, and we’ll come back to this topic in more detail later.

At this point, I just want to send the message that you should think carefully about what you write in the job posting so that the right candidates will contact you. If they do not match your profile, you will waste a lot of time in the interview process.

But it doesn’t matter whether it’s diverse or not. The experts for good job postings are on your own team. After all, your employees are the very people who were attracted to your job posting. Talk to them. Ask them why they applied for the job. If you make changes to the text, ask them if they would feel addressed by it as a woman/man. Find out how job postings (and even application processes) work in their cultures. All this knowledge can only make you better. And all this knowledge is just a 1o1 away. Use it!

The platforms

If you have now finished your job posting and it is tailored to the candidate, you must of course bring it to the people. It helps if you have your own website on which you can post the job posting. Because job postings on your own platform give the candidate the opportunity to get an overview of the company, and to check directly in advance whether candidate and company could fit together. Assuming, of course, that you also have a decent online presence that is appealing to the candidates, and does not scare them away.

Of course, having your own platform isn’t the be-all and end-all, because what you’re concerned with here now is reach. That is, you want as many potential candidates as possible to see your job posting. Especially if you have just started your business or are not yet so well known, you may still lack this reach. But for this there are (as everyone knows of course) relevant portals, for which I do not want to advertise here. Some are big and established, others are pronounced dead but still alive. It does not matter. Best you use them all.

But besides the established portals that are known to you, think about the not known portals, because they can significantly increase your reach. This is especially important if you are searching internationally. Ask yourself if you know local portals in Brazil, Russia or India (unless you are from Brazil, Russia or India, then look for other countries). If the answer is “no”, then look for them. Because on local portals you have the opportunity to reach candidates who may not have thought about leaving their country yet. Consequently, they will not look at the job postings of all your local competitors. This can give you an advantage. In addition, this gives you the opportunity to selectively herd more internationally in order to build a more diverse team.

If you have thought about the composition of your team, it could be important for you to search in certain cultures, because there the probability is higher that you will find certain qualities that you might need for your team.

It is also worth mentioning here that the topic of cultural composition of teams is so complex that it would go beyond the scope of this article and I will address this topic in detail in a future article.

Where are they still?

In addition to the relevant job portals, there are of course other ways to get in touch with potential candidates. Be creative. For example, you can contact universities and post a classic notice there. Maybe there is a promising candidate who is about to finish his master thesis. Or you can find a working student who you can later develop into a strong employee.

And of course it can also make sense to look around your own company. No, you should not start actively cannibalizing the other teams, because this would damage your company. But maybe there is a frustrated employee on a team who is thinking about leaving the company but would be a perfect fit for your team. This could be a rewarding opportunity. And in addition, you’re helping to keep down the number of people in your company. So there’s no harm in simply talking to other managers.

And since we are already talking about the own company, it can also be quite worthwhile to ask the own coworkers whether in their friend circle or your network potential candidates are to be found. As a rule, such relationships result in quicker hires because the employees can already give the potential candidates an insight into the new job.

Make your company known

In addition to the platforms where you post your jobs, of course, you also need to make your company known. Show the world why you are the best employer and why everyone should come to you.

To achieve this, there are no limits to your imagination. Use your network, for example, to report about positive things from your company. In other words, take care of employer branding in order to build up a good reputation in the long term and make yourself known as an employer. Larger companies usually have specialized employees or departments that take care of this on an ongoing basis. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work with them to support it. If your company is smaller, you will have to do it yourself.

Another good way to get yourself and your company known is to go to conferences and give talks or link up with people. Pick a topic you are good at and then check if there are conferences in the area where you can speak. If it fits the topic, you can include anecdotes from your work life in the talk, giving the audience a chance to learn what values you live by in your company.

In doing so, please do yourself and the audience a favor and leave out the usual “We are hiring” at the beginning and end of the presentation. Remember, we are in a war for talents. The fact that you are looking for new employees is obvious to everyone. Explicitly mentioning this again seems clumsy. If you were able to convince a listener about you and your company through your presentation, they will come to you on their own.

Not everyone likes to stand on stage or can inspire an audience with great presentations. This is not a bad thing, because there are many ways to get attention. For example, you can start blogging about certain topics and thus attract the attention of future candidates to you and your company in the long run. As I said, there are no limits to your imagination. But don’t just start when you need to fill new positions, think long-term and strategically. Employer branding is not an ad-hoc matter.

You see, hiring is a real back-breaking job.

Pool hiring

In addition to classic hiring, where a hiring manager takes care of a few positions for a team, there are also other forms, such as pool hiring.

And of course, pool hiring is great: you’re floating comfortably on an air mattress in your local pool, your laptop on your knees, your cocktail is in reach, and you’re trying to land a few new candidates for your department while the sun sizzles the warmth on your stomach – it’s a dream.

Unfortunately, pool hiring is something different. Simplified, pool hiring creates a large, common funnel and then divides the applicants among the open positions at the end of the process. The new hires are effectively distributed from a pool of candidates who have accepted the job. The interviewers don’t need to know any details about the teams, they just conduct the interviews according to the same guidelines. In pool hiring, several hiring managers usually work together. Together they make the decision on which team the new employees will work in.

The advantage of Pool Hiring is that you can often fill large numbers of positions faster, because job postings and funnels are open for a longer period of time and you can distribute candidates more flexibly. This is also the advantage compared to smaller scope hiring. There, the funnel is usually closed and the job posting is taken offline when a candidate is found. Candidates still in the pipeline are then rejected, or pushed to other jobs where they may not be the right fit or have to go through all (or more) interviews again.

With pool hiring, you stay in the process and the assignment is made at the end. However, it doesn’t work in all circumstances because pool hiring assumes that all jobs are the same or similar to fill. For example, if you need to fill a lot of positions in several teams that all have the same requirements for applicants, then it would work. If, on the other hand, you have very different profiles, it won’t work.

Another disadvantage of pool hiring is that it works poorly in competitive environments. If individual hiring managers try to gain an advantage for themselves, then conflicts can arise. Pool hiring requires a collaborative focused mindset. A “my project is the most important and therefore my positions must be filled first” attitude is one reason why pool hiring often fails. This usually leads to higher workloads and possibly layoffs in other teams (that are ot filled/back-filled), which can then swing the pendulum quite quickly. “Strategic equal distribution” is the magic word here to be able to carry out pool hiring in a healthy way.

Additionally, Pool hiring makes it difficult to build teams in a targeted manner. As described in the first article, you have thought about what kind of employee you want to have in your team in the future and what the team should look like. Splitting up candidates, depending on how it is played, makes it more difficult for you to influence this decision and develop the team as you see fit. At the latest, if you have no say at all and are just assigned employees, you lose control of the process.

That said, pool hiring can be a great way to fill your open positions quickly (given the right amount of luck, of course). But always check if your environment is right for it, or if you are willing to accept the drawbacks. The key to success here is a collaborative hiring manager team that has everyone’s best interests at heart.

In the end

So, if everything has worked out, we have now attracted enough candidates. Now we have to conduct the interviews to finally turn one (or more) of the applicants into a new employee. We will take a look at this in the third part of the series “How to hire talents – On the way to the interviews“.

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