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First Step in Proactive Hiring: Build a Talent Pool

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” This critical bit of truth from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great is the wisdom that guides our most successful companies. When you’re developing your recruitment strategies, it’s important to remember that the talented people you need to achieve your vision and growth goals rarely show up at your door. You have to work proactively to find and keep them.

The anchor for proactive hiring is a pipeline, or pool, of qualified candidates who fit your culture. By being proactive, you’ve already learned a lot about these people, and they know about your company. Familiarity speeds the hiring process and boosts confidence in both offer and acceptance decisions.

On the other hand, inviting the wrong candidate into your community is costly in many ways other than those you see on your balance sheet. “Bad hires” can devastate morale, trust, team relationships, and productivity. Your pipeline provides a broad choice of “right” people for whenever the need arises.

How to Fill Your Pool

Your pipeline should create an exclusive pool; you don’t want just anyone in it. The goal is to avoid making costly hiring mistakes by selecting the right person—one with the skills for the specific role and culture fit.

Having a tailor-made pool of qualified candidates to choose from allows you to quickly fill open positions or plan for future growth. Here are the steps you should take to ensure your pipeline does the job:

  • Broaden your conception of who makes a viable candidate: Consider current employees first and rethink policies about people you have eliminated from consideration in the past, like former employees, job hoppers, and those with gaps in their resumes. Times have changed and with them, what defines a quality candidate.
  • Incorporate cutting-edge technologies in your recruiting practices and in your culture to attract younger generations and speed hiring.
  • Use tech tools where it makes sense and make sure candidates know there are humans behind the technology. Integrate tools with your applicant tracking system where possible for greater speed and convenience. For example, reach out and engage with candidates and schedule interviews via text, screen with video tools, and incorporate analytics to measure the effectiveness of your processes. Make sure technologies don’t filter out your “right” people.
  • Expand search capabilities to niche associations or forums to find candidates with specific skills or certifications. Use social media to reach out broadly to your networks for referrals.
  • Create a friends & family employee referral program that rewards generously, not just for hires but for referrals themselves.
  • Be inclusive. Years of research on workplaces shows that diverse teams are more innovative, enhance decision making and problem solving, and lift performance, among many other benefits.
  • Ensure your candidate engagement process serves as a promise for the positive employee experience to come.
  • Assess each candidate for the ability to create intimacy and deep connection in customer relationships, for cultural fit, and for the components most important to your industry and clients.
  • Establish a people-first mindset and incorporate respect, kindness, fairness, flexibility, transparency, and opportunity to grow into your culture.
  • Communicate continually with candidates and employees, get feedback, and act on it.
  • Show people some love. Offer training and development and provide opportunity and the resources to succeed. Recognize effort and even small successes, not just achieved revenue and goals.

Companies that are miles ahead in winning and retaining the best-of-the-best are doing what the competition is not doing. They build a positive and authentic employer brand, maintain a people-first mindset and culture, and create a pipeline of qualified candidates they can tap into at any moment. The combination marks the winners in both recruitment and retention.


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