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Attracting the right talent has lots of steps, but a key one is making sure you are indeed a place that the right talent wants to be.

Ask yourself this question, “Why would anyone want to work for you?” Now be honest and answer it. What’s on your list, you pay well and you have a great career prospects? Now take a look at your exit interviews, assuming you do them. If not, you should! As the sometimes brutal honesty of an exit interview can help shine a light on how to improve your company as a place to work.

Attracting the right talent has lots of steps, but a key one is making sure you are indeed a place that the right talent wants to be. One of the key methods that a company can use is an employee referrals programme. If your people enjoy the working environment you provide, they will be the first to talk about the company to their friends and contacts. With a referral programme you can take that one step further and turn your staff into a hugely powerful and committed channel for new talent. And what better way to convince a top employee, who may be happy elsewhere, to now come and work for you? So in a nutshell, look inwards as well as outwards.

Attracting the right talent can also be done in some clever ways. Remember the film ‘The Social Network’? It showed how Mark Zuckerberg challenged programmers to complete a certain task, and the winners were offered jobs at Facebook, which was an unknown start-up. The point is, it was not a simple application process, and there was a challenge and a fun element. Attracting talent means thinking outside the box sometimes, to cut through everything else going on.

Another key point is to stay ahead of the curve. Know people before you need them. Think of getting closer to the talent by reducing your degrees of separation. Getting your company known in places where you know the right people will be is part of a long term strategy you need to develop. You can’t stay behind the curve, that’s not a strategy; it’s like worrying about the cure all the time but giving no thought to prevention.

One annoyance of all hirers is the dreaded ‘unsuitable’ candidate. The ones that don’t match your criteria but applied anyway, in the hope you may forget the job description and hire them. Again, don’t be afraid to raise some barriers in the process. Get a couple of key requirements from your competency based application form (if you don’t have one then I am lost for words) and add them to the application process as required questions to answer. They will not be able to send an application without answering the questions so that will get rid of those who were not right for the role, and those who were but don’t really want to work for you, not if it means answering two questions on a form.

Not shooting yourself in the foot is also a great idea. What I mean by that is if you don’t have a friendly approach to the application and interview process, with transparency throughout, then applicants will happily tell others how bad you are. In this age of social media they could probably tell 500 people on the way home. Make the experience a positive one, give feedback; they applied and came to the interview so give something back.

When it comes to ensuring the right volume of applicants, getting too many or not enough demonstrates you need to keep better tabs on the talent and skills climate at all times. If there is a skills shortage and you never knew until the low applicant numbers highlighted it, then you are missing so many tricks that this post cannot even begin to go into. If there is a skills shortage, or a shortage of the right people then you need a plan to know this, and a plan to counteract it. That’s a wave you need to be on, no excuses.

Speak to local universities or colleges to discuss pipelines to talent, know the numbers coming into these professions and what your competitors are doing in the hiring space. Get your talent pools delivering results early and steadily so you are not reactive but proactive in your strategy.

Getting too many applicants is also a weakness of understanding your channels. You don’t want to overwork your own team, and ignoring applicants is not an option. It’s a balance of knowing the channels you are using, the skills market for that role and expectations. Be quick to close down channels when you have enough applicants, don’t be lazy about that.

Happy hunting!

Azmat Mohammed will attend the Innovation in Recruitment Summit 2014, join him at this event.


Azmat Mohammed is the Institute of Recruitor's Founder and holds the position of Director General at the IOR.

Understanding people management from the CEO’s perspective, Azmat oversaw the internal recruitment and HR processes of the ID group in the UK and USA for 15 years, as well as studying various aspects of HR management at undergraduate level. He is an innovator and this challenging role sees him creating exciting new IOR partnerships (national and international), creating and managing the IOR’s sector leading technology and infrastructure, as well as working with his team to create a service offering that is ‘best in class’. He also has the daunting task of ensuring the IOR has all the required internal technology, as well as internal expertise in its teams to meet the IOR's exacting operational mission, vision and values. He has the gift of being able to create something exciting, new and innovative from the ground up, a real 'can do' attitude with years of expertise and knowledge, and is a great motivator and leader.

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