Corporate Eye

Talent Acquisition 2009: On the Other Hand . . .

Big 3

This is the third post considering Aberdeen’s recent report, Talent Acquisition Strategies 2009: Cutting through the Clutter and Proactively Managing Quality Candidates,  and the goal is to drill down on a couple of aspects.  Starting off, here’s an essential assumption of the report, based on the drivers defined by respondents:

More companies are competing for the same skills or competencies, but are doing so from a pool of quality candidates that has not grown in proportion to the overall pool of available labor.

That really is an interesting proposition.  I interpret it to mean that (as a simple example) if there were 100 candidates for Job X in 2005, 20 were really top drawer, and if there are 500 candidates for Job X today, fewer than 100 of them would be excellent.  And whereas 10 companies were competing for the top 20 folks in 2005, 20 companies (let’s say) might be going after the fewer-than-100 great catches in 2009.

The seriousness of this problem would depend on the actual shrinkage of the high-quality pool, and the actual increase of the competing-companies quotient.  Let’s say it’s half and twice:  50 of 500 candidates are highly desirable, and 20 companies are competing for them.

This brings up a big question:  Why are there fewer excellent candidates?  The obvious answer would be that the best folks are holding onto their jobs and the candidate pool is filling up with the least successful employees.  And that would make the hunt for passive candidates even more urgent.

But there might also be additional explanations for the presumed decline in candidate quality.  One might be that expectations are rising—so an excellent 2005 candidate would be considered merely adequate today.  That might flow from tighter budgets and increasing scrutiny of new-hire performance, creating pressure to maximize the value of every hire.

Another explanation might be that (incredibly enough) high-value workers are leaving the corporate playing field for entrepreneurial opportunities and even non-profits.  Reverse immigration could also be a factor, along with a retirement differential effect, in which the better-off boomers leave the workforce while the less successful have to remain.

So what does all this argue in terms of online recruitment?  For one thing, this may be a good time for companies to reassess their expectations to make sure “good” candidates are not overlooked while everyone searches for the elusive “best” candidates.  And for another—companies need to be increasingly creative in their recruiting if they want to entice the reluctant and attract the excellent.

The Aberdeen report seems to emphasize a by-the-numbers approach, in which the Best in Class are all doing all the same “right” things.  But sometimes coloring outside the lines is a good way to break away from the pack.

One last contrarian thought.  Aberdeen’s report focuses on strategy, tactics, and tools.  All good.  But there’s something else worth considering.   In How to Harness Instinct and Intuition to Make Better Business and Career Decisions, CIO notes that “When CIOs discuss the worst candidates they’ve ever hired for jobs, as they often do in’s  Hiring Manager Interviews series, their hiring mistakes almost always come down to this: I didn’t trust my gut. The CIO knows deep down that the candidate isn’t right for the position or the IT organization, ignores his instincts and hires the individual anyway.”

Check out the CIO story for some interesting ideas about why the gut-check is an indispensable aspect of successful decision-making.

(Thanks to pastaboysleeps for the BIG Number 3.)

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.