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5 Recruiting Strategies to Find the Best Knowledge Workers

Like everything else in business, technology has revolutionized the number, type, and amount of jobs a firm needs to fill; recruiting strategies and practices need to change too.

Scorecard Example: Good Recruiters versus Great RecruitersThe global talent market looks vastly different to how it did just five years ago. The use of emerging technologies in all parts of a business has caused a steep rise in the demand for new types of knowledge workers and, in particular, people with new, specialized skills such as digital marketing, machine learning, Hadoop, and Web 2.0.

Furthermore, there has been hyper specialization within (slightly) more traditional roles. For instance, in data science, the traditional data scientist role has evolved and grown over 30 times between 2008 and 2014 to include more specialized titles such as big data architects, big data engineers, and data ecologists.

This type of fragmentation is repeated across industries and domains, including digital marketing, where the roles of digital marketing specialists have evolved to include digital strategists, creative directors, and heads of digital.

The Limits of Traditional Recruiting Strategies

The shortages that many firms face for these kinds of skills, and the increasing global competition for such talent are challenging and changing companies’  traditional sourcing strategies. Previously tried-and-tested hiring methods (including crowdsourcing, outsourcing, internal referral, and hiring from competitors and top universities) fail to bring in the right people.

And, as this talent crunch intensifies, the global time-to-hire continues to rise. For instance, CEB data show that the global average number of days to fill a mobile developer position increased from 45 days in the second quarter of 2014 to 55 days in the second quarter of 2015.

Five Pieces of Advice

Against this backdrop, senior managers and their HR teams should reexamine their recruiting processes and put all their focus on finding the right skills, rather than putting more and more effort into what worked in the past. This requires them to understand some important trends affecting today’s market for knowledge workers.

  1. Understand skills taxonomies: Producing detailed job descriptions may sound desirable but it can significantly reduce the amount of people you attract to a job. For instance, adding just two skill filters (e.g., “audit controls,” and “SOX accounting”) to a job post for finance professionals can reduce the amount of available talent from 38,000 to 400 individuals.

    A professional working in audit controls can be trained to understand SOX accounting; they don’t necessarily need to come into the job with these skills. Companies tend to overlook perfectly good talent by rigorously applying skill filters to their job descriptions.

  2. Anticipate emerging “hot skills”: To stay ahead of your competitors for talent, always ensure you track emerging skills and in-demand roles. Look at recent venture capital investments, and the latest start-ups to see what roles they are looking to fill.

  3. Explore new skill and industry adjacencies: While you should be careful not to restrict your search for new talent with too many parameters (see point 1), it helps to experiment with a few. The pool of available talent can be increased (in some cases, even doubled) by looking at indirect but highly suitable potential recruits from adjacent industries. Chart 1 shows people with the right skills from adjacent industries that are available to aerospace firms based in the Seattle area.

    Potential aerospace talent available in the Seattle area

    Chart 1: Potential aerospace talent available in the Seattle area  Source: CEB analysis

  4. Don’t neglect talent availability in your growth plans: Across industries, managers at companies hungry for growth will look at moving into new markets as quickly as possible, but they sometimes focus too much on the potential customers and not enough on the source of potential labor.

    Intelligent managers consider both current and future talent availability, macroeconomic prospects, and geopolitical attributes before honing in on a particular location, and will ensure they integrate a full talent strategy into any broader discussions about future growth.

  5. Question traditional geographic categories: Instead of sticking to traditionally defined geographic locations for talent, HR managers and recruiters should consider expanding to include larger catchment areas. By doing so, companies can increase the talent pool by seeking knowledge workers who want flexible work arrangements and are willing to commute.

    Each major city has a “tipping point” with regards to a catchment area and average commute time. For instance, in some cities, people are willing to commute up to 30 minutes; in others, 90 minutes, and so on.


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