Your 2010 Talent Acquisition Dictionary

This year, as you listen to pundits, experts and talking heads tell you about all the changes that need to be made in recruiting to bring respect and admiration for our profession (overhaul your process, embrace every new technology, restructure your department, add a sourcing team, etc.), you will no doubt be intimidated by the scope of these recommended changes in the face of flat or reduced resources. It is my assertion that this “recommending the extreme” has stymied our growth as an industry.

However, sometimes the biggest changes can occur by simply changing the words we use both internally (within our departments) and externally (with our candidates/customers and hiring managers).  Many a book has been written about how changing words leads to changes in perception, performance and promotion.  For example:

What does the word “overwhelmed” represent?

  • “I have little or no power at the office”
  • “My problems are bigger than I am”
  • “There’s no hope for relief and it will never change”

What would you be saying and thinking if you switched to saying “In Demand” instead?

  • “I’m important”
  • “I’m needed”
  • “I’m choosing where to give my time and talents”
  • “I’m proud”

Yes, words matter, so here is your 2010 Talent Acquisition Dictionary.  Start with this and see what changes come simply by changing the words you use every day.

Old: Pipeline
2010: Talent Pool
The word “pipeline” has been many a recruiter’s enemy.  Hiring managers consider a pipeline to mean a bucket of interview-ready candidates you simply toss a net into and pull out a never ending supply of candidate choices.  The word “pipeline” begs the question “who else do you have?” from a hiring manager.  A Talent Pool represents a group of people from which you may be able to find a candidate or two based on the quality of your ongoing relationship with them.

Old: CPH
2010: QOH
Cost-per-hire is a meaningless statistic to anyone who understands the nuances of recruiting.  What goes into this measurement is of great debate and a high CPH is not a bad thing if you are hiring key talent, just as a low CPH is not a good thing if you are keeping costs low at the expense of quality.  QOH is harder to measure but significantly more meaningful to the business.  Simply put, higher quality is better than lower quality regardless of price or time (which is coming next).  If you reward your recruiters on QOH instead of CPH the department will flourish.

Old: TTF (I told you it was coming!)
2010: ROH
Time-to-fill has run its course and is no longer (if it ever was) a meaningful measurement to anyone but a recruiter being measured on it.  ROH (Retention of Hire) actually means something to your business partners.  This should seem self evident yet when you talk about retention with recruiters they are very quick to point fingers at managers, culture etc. (all of which a good recruiter knows about and screens applicants for by the way!).  So let me put these in context; if my recruiters have a very low TTF and the “company” has a high turnover rate, why are we measuring TTF?  Any business person understands that taking longer to hire the RIGHT person (who stays, performs and is promoted) is significantly preferable to hiring the wrong person (who gets trained, complains and quits or is let go) faster.  Really?  You want to argue this one?

Old: Applicant (or Candidate)
2010: Customer
The world is flat.  No, I didn’t write it, but it’s true.  It’s also true that you no longer control your employer brand.  Sure, you can pay for awards (remember, I’ve spent 18 years in this business, I know what “branding” means in most recruiting organizations), publish logos from organizations on your career site and talk a great game, all the while, treating people applying for jobs, interviewing for jobs and even getting jobs like cows in a production dairy farm.  Guess what?  People talk, twitter, Facebook, blog, etc. at increasing rates and what are they talking about?  Your terrible “candidate” experience.  This one is simple – treat every “applicant” (cold call, networking call etc. for you sourcers out there) like a potential customer of your company and all the above is still true but the talk becomes positive.  Again, this one is a no brainer but way too many recruiting departments are “too busy” to attend to the applicant pools they attract and are hurting their companies – watch it, marketing will find out about this as will sales and the C-suite.

And the final entry for today:

Old: Customer (is the hiring manager)
2010: Customer (is the candidate)
In any process development or improvement methodology (I use Tatham) the first step is to define the customer.  Same holds true when you start a business – “who is your customer?” is a fundamental step 1.  Step 2 is that you CAN NOT have more than one customer!  So if you have an existing recruiting process with the “customer” defined as your hiring managers – you cannot be successful in recruiting top talent.  This is a simple fact that, once explored with an open mind, becomes obvious.  Now let me calm your nerves and tell you that I built my career in Corporate America so I understand the idea that recruiting supports the business units they are assigned to.  But let’s not confuse “support” with the definition of “customer”.  Yes, you support the Marketing group in their recruiting efforts but if the marketing team is your “customer” then you must have a process that revolves around their needs and wishes, even if those needs and wishes tie your recruiting efforts to the post. 

Ok, you need an example.  Here’s a poignant one from one of the most respected recruiting leaders in the country today.  At this person’s company, the Sr. Leadership was clamoring that they weren’t seeing enough candidates from one of their top competitors (company A) and the pressure was on for the whole recruiting staff to up the ante in pilfering this competitor of top talent.  However, my well respected colleague took the initiative to do some research and discovered that in the recent year, of the candidates from Company A that were presented, only 22% were actually hired.  And of those, 78% turned over in the first year!  So, if this recruiting leader allowed his department to serve the Hiring Manager as customer, his team would be viewed as a complete failure (especially using our new “words” above).  Serve the candidate as customer and align your hiring managers as partners and you’ll find more success than you can imagine.

Ok, now simply try using some of these new words in your meetings, discussions and plans in your department and the change that so inspired dread in you as you read the pundits’ advice will come much easier this year.


  1. IT Staffing on September 17th, 2010 3:49 pm

    Hey nice to read the post… good job..!!

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