Choose your language:

Hong Kong
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

Blending Art and Science to Perfect Your Recruiting Process

One of the world’s most recognizable works of art is Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic drawing, the Vitruvian Man. The significance of this piece is da Vinci’s skill in blending art and science to illustrate how two traditionally separate disciplines can actually work together in producing a profoundly harmonic effect.

Similarly, when it comes to developing an effective recruiting model for your organization, it is critical to find the right balance between the objective and the subjective success factors. An organization exists within the context of a market; thus, the science of understanding local labor markets is a key recruiting success factor. Moreover, recruiters are not dealing with commodities or standardized sterile products; they are managing the skills, goals, interests and expectations of people. Consequently, successful recruiting necessitates a high degree of artful humanity.

Art and Science in Recruiting

Too often organizations fall into the trap of an “either or” approach to recruiting. In these scenarios, hiring managers base their recruiting efforts exclusively on either one of the following considerations:

Objective Factors: The Scientific Approach

The scientific approach, or use of objective methods to gather and process information, provides a factual context for decision making. Through a recruiting lens, some objective considerations for hiring managers include:

  • Analysis of marketplace demographics: What technology trends are growing? What is the supply of different skill sets? What skill sets are “hot” or in high demand? Who are the top employers of various skill sets?
  • Identification of compensation levels: What is the fair market rate for different skill sets in this market relative to others? Who pays closer to the high range? Who pays closer to the low range? What are other compensation variables that should be considered (401(k) plans, sign on or merit bonuses, healthcare coverage, other perks)?
  • Establishment of formal recruiting performance metrics: What sources are the most effective to find various skill sets? What is the length of the hiring process for different skill sets and levels? What is the interview-to-hire ratio? What is the time to productivity and retention ratios for different roles?

Subjective Factors: The Artistic Approach

In some cases, the logical reasoning of science only goes so far. Within recruiting, the artistic approach allows for subjective interpretation of the gaps in information that are undetected or unexplained by facts alone. As reality is often subject to perspective, recruiters must be able to tactfully navigate the gray areas.

Some subjective considerations for hiring managers:

  • Understanding what is most important: Employers often provide job descriptions that are closer to wish lists than requirements. Moreover, candidates evaluate their employment opportunities against a variety of personal and professional factors. Recruiters must help both parties determine the “non-negotiatables” to make the perfect match of talent and opportunity.
  • Communicating the job details: Many recruiters call prospective candidates and focus their conversation on the requirement they are attempting to fill. A far more effective approach to attract top talent is to start seeking to understand candidates first, and then discuss the job description if and when relevant. 
  • Assessing a candidate’s overall “fit:” While there are tests that can partially measure a candidate’s technical skills, how well a candidate truly connects with a company, manager and role is subjective. Best practices introduce behavioral interviewing, allowing more than one person to interview the candidate and check references for information about the environment in which the person thrives.

Steps to a Balanced Recruiting Model

Achieving a healthy blend of art and science is not an easy task. However, by making strides to implement the steps below, clients can build a high-performing recruiting process encompassing the tangible and intangible requirements for success.

Analyze Your Local Market

When you begin the hiring process, it is essential to first understand the labor market dynamics that impact recruiting efforts. Specifically, organizations should:

  • Analyze density levels of particular skill sets within select locations. (If considering embarking on a strategic workforce planning effort, this task should reach beyond national borders to assess talent in global markets.)
  • Gauge fair market rates for each skill set and skill set level.
  • Proactively gather resumes and talk to people with target skill sets to understand their current pay rates and career aspirations.
  • Identify top employers of target skills in select markets.

This type of data does not remain static, so I recommend employers assess or refresh key data points at least once a quarter. By leveraging market intelligence, your organization can anticipate and address important complexities involved in sourcing talent before the process begins. Additionally, you can proactively identify any current skill sets that may be retention risks and act accordingly.

Know your Role

In defining your talent needs, be realistic about compromises and clarify the “must haves” from the “nice to haves” for each open position. To determine the non-negotiables, talk to members of your current team and other organizational stakeholders about what technical and soft skills are critical for the success of a new hire in this position. During this process, consider the top and bottom performers in similar roles at your organization; attempt to determine what specific skills and characteristics distinguish these two groups.

As you gather various perspectives, be sure to consider your future needs and initiatives. Evaluate how your open positions will fit into your operations today and how the job may evolve in tandem with the strategy. When finally writing a job description, this analysis will help you to articulate the skills needed by your organization today, as well as those required to meet your future business demands.

Consider the Candidate

Too often the perspectives of potential employees are afterthoughts in the recruiting process. By considering and prioritizing candidate needs and motivations upfront, organizations can avoid wasting recruiting efforts pursuing the wrong people on the wrong terms. Evaluate how your open positions will fit into your operations today and how the job may evolve in tandem with the strategy.

A best practice is to begin the recruiting process by asking current employees what they love about working at your organization, what they believe they can accomplish long term by working there, and what makes them stay versus leave to join another company. This information can then be consolidated into a succinct Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that recruiters can use to differentiate your position and attract top talent in the market.

Upon sharing the EVP during sourcing calls to establish credibility and garner attention, recruiters should then seek to understand what each candidate truly brings to the table. Many recruiters immediately share details around the job description. However, this allows candidates to tailor their answers to fit the role. To the contrary, best practice allows recruiters to engage candidates in a series of probing questions that enable them to assess the candidates’ skills, goals, and interests, as well as what is most important to them in a position and employer. As the cost of a poor hire is too much to risk in most cases, I recommend a comprehensive approach to screening, including multiple interviews with multiple stakeholders; detailed, supervisory reference checks; and when appropriate, an evaluation of relevant work samples.

Build a Multi-Channel Sourcing Strategy

Since the job-board revolution, I have heard countless hiring managers express their belief that all recruiters fish from the same pond of talent. Unfortunately, it is true that many recruiters rely heavily on job boards and employ a “post and coast” strategy to sourcing candidates. Such an approach, however, is largely ineffective at sourcing high-quality candidates. It does nothing to access passive job seekers and limits the candidate pool to strangers, rather than proven talent recommended by referrals or a trusted network.

The most successful recruiters utilize a variety of channels to build a strong candidate network. They research competitors, focus on referrals, target specific skill sets, maintain relationships with past placements, utilize social media and attend local trade organizations and user groups. Executing this type of multi-faceted recruiting strategy casts a wide net and therefore, increases selectivity when identifying the right match of talent for open positions. It is important to note, however, that a wide net alone is not a competitive advantage. Organizations need to have the recruiting manpower required to vet a large candidate pool and qualify who possesses the right technical skills, soft skills and work experience required of a new hire.

Define Success

A successful recruiting model is just as much about process as the outcome—as one inforces the other. For example, a long, convoluted process will frustrate high-quality candidates (who are typically employed and taking time off work to interview), meanwhile a skimpy screening process can lead to an unproductive use of your manager’s time reviewing the “resumemess” or ultimately dealing with the cost of a poor hire. Therefore, it is critical to predefine process and outcome standards to measure recruiting success. Some sample metrics include: percentage of candidate submissions with detailed reference checks performed; source of hire; length of time to submit and time-to-fill positions; interview-to-hire rates; retention rates; and hiring manager satisfaction. By establishing these metrics upfront, organizations can streamline their approach to the hiring process without sacrificing critical quality standards.

The Balancing Act of Recruiting

Top performing organizations have the right people in the right positions. Given the critical role human capital plays in building a competitive advantage, companies are wise to focus on optimizing their recruiting strategy. To evolve from “good to great” or to remain on top, organizations must source, screen, hire, develop, and retain talent like no other.

As you work to improve your recruiting efforts, consider da Vinci’s portrayal of the Vitruvian Man: there is beauty in balancing artistic subjectivity with objective science. By blending these seemingly opposite factors together within the recruiting process, your organization will be on its way to developing a comprehensive strategy that effectively attracts quality candidates to support your current and future initiatives.