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Successful Talent Acquisition

Author: Anne Heron for The Personnel Perspective
September, 2012 Issue
The dictionary definition of “hire” is “to obtain the services of a person by giving them a job.” The word “acquire” is defined as “to gain, usually by one’s own exertions; to get as one’s own; to earn; to win.” Acquiring talent is an ongoing process that has as much to do with how you run your business as how you search for a candidate to fill an opening. It recognizes that you have a unique culture and specific core competency requirements that drive your success.

To become successful at talent acquisition, you must understand that success at finding and attracting the best employees requires attention long before you have a job opening to fill. Recognize that, to be successful, your efforts must include activities that will make you attractive as a prospective employer, ensure there’s a plan for maximizing the value of new talent and quickly integrate new employees into your organization.

Here are some successful initiatives.

Build a “Best Place to Work.” In today’s marketplace, talented individuals are choosing more than a job. They’re looking to join an organization that will provide a well-rounded, supportive environment where they’ll have the opportunity to hone their skills and make a strong contribution.

To attract these candidates, your employment brand is as important to talent acquisition as your product brand is to market success. What does it take to become one of the best employers? The criteria are similar to those we see in well-managed businesses:

• Credibility built through open, honest communication;

• Respect demonstrated by valuing employee opinions, supporting career objectives and understanding personal goals;

• Fairness in employment practices such as pay, benefits and recognition, as well as handling employee concerns and complaints;

• Teamwork and a friendly work atmosphere; and

• Pride in the contribution that each individual makes to the success of the business.

Manage your human capital. Businesses that are successful in this area are skilled at staff planning and development. Some of them conduct a staff assessment, or “human capital review.” They ask questions such as: Are we organized effectively for success? What talent do we have in each function? How are they performing? Are they in the right jobs? Do we have the technical, business, interpersonal skills and experience needed to achieve our goals? If so, how can we develop these resources to be even more valuable to the organization? If we don’t have what we need, how shall we address this gap?

This process, from a talent acquisition perspective, ensures that the skills and abilities needed in potential candidates are identified and linked to organizational goals. It also creates a work environment that actively encourages contribution and development, both of which are important to attracting talented individuals.

Become skilled at talent assessment.
Successful talent acquisition requires that you become skilled in identifying your needs and being able to discern whether or not a candidate possesses them.

Create a candidate profile to define your search criteria.
Look at your organizational structure and determine the job you need to fill. Define the responsibilities and results you expect from this position and the attributes a candidate must possess to be successful. Include a thorough description of the position and a complete list of skills and experience needed.

Conduct interviews that demonstrate the candidate’s abilities.
Skilled interviewers ask questions that require thoughtful responses and reveal how candidates approach their work and use their experiences. They ask for examples that deepen their understanding of a candidate’s thought process. Questions may include asking for a description of past behavior (“Tell me about a challenging assignment you worked on and how you completed it.”); encouraging value judgments (“What made you select ‘x’ as your life career?”); revealing attitudes (“Describe your most difficult boss and how you worked together.”); or require problem solving (“What would you say to an angry customer?”).

Obtain background and reference checks. It’s common for employers to conduct third-party background and reference checks on their final candidates. These services might include verification of employment history, educational degrees, social security numbers, as well as screening of credit history, criminal records or driver’s license records. Each type of search has value and may also have legal limitations or requirements. It’s important to have any background checks completed by a knowledgeable company that can guide you through any compliance issues.

Practice rigorous talent integration. Once you’ve identified the talented individual you’d like to acquire for your team, consider treating that person from the beginning as a partner. Here are several steps to ensure a successful start.

1. Develop a detailed offer letter, describing the position, what you’ll provide (salary, benefits and so on) and what you expect from them (contingencies such as I-9, a physical exam and any unusual requirements such as an atypical work schedule or extensive travel).

2. Conduct a thorough on-boarding process that provides guidance through the first 90 days of employment. This critical phase of the talent acquisition process consists of the initial orientation to the organization, department, position and co-workers. It also includes a discussion of the specific expectations for 30, 60 and 90 days on the job, as well as general results expected at six months and one year. For each expectation, describe the specific outcome desired, how it will be measured and why it’s important

3. Assign a mentor who can help the new employee learn the language and norms of your business’ culture, someone who’s savvy about the organization’s culture and has a big-picture perspective on the workplace.

Talent acquisition is the process of building attractive opportunities for people who will add value to your organization while achieving a common goal: the success of your business.

The Personnel Perspective is a human resources consulting, training and recruiting firm in Santa Rosa, with 25 years of experience working with North Bay businesses. You can contact it at (707) 576-7653.


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