Tapping into the latest on talent

by 01 May 2008

Competition for talent is increasingly fierce. Sarah O Carroll reports on the latest trends and techniques for snaring talent across a variety of sectors

Being held up at gunpoint and candidates stripping off mid-interview are some of the risks involved in recruiting in Second Life. However with virtual recruiting being the future, these innovative experiments are a necessity, according to Keith Dugdale, director of global recruitment at KPMG.

How to get generation Y to work for their organisation was the key question Dugdale addressed at the recent Australasian Talent Conference in Sydney. While Second Life, the 3D virtual world, did not turn out to be the answer for KPMG, innovation and creativity at every stage of the recruitment chain is imperative to remain competitive.

“While we’ll never recruit again in Second Life it was one of the best things we’ve done in the last year,”Dugdale says. “Being creative meant that we recognised that there was huge, huge value in virtual recruitment. But we’d got the wrong platform because we weren’t a crazy, techy outfit doing crazy, crazy things – which would’ve made Second Life a perfect place to recruit.”

Risk taking and innovation will always be the right solution to staying ahead of the competition and Dugdale presented KPMG’s history of developing innovative responses to the recruitment challenges. There is no point on focusing all efforts on one area of the recruitment chain, he says. The real solution, is to focus on continuous innovation at every stage; from attracting and sourcing to the offer and induction stage.

“Recruiters are bombarded with great solutions. The only problem is they are expensive and they don’t work. They don’t work if used in isolation,” he says.


With KMPG’s headcount needing to grow by more than 40 per cent by 2010 to deliver on their business strategy, the first key area to focus on is attraction, according to Dugdale. The most effective way to attract generation Y is to get into their zone and ‘invade their space’. KPMG did this by using the likes of YouTube and social networking tools. But they were still faced with the challenge of getting the right messages across to this group and encourage them to join an organisation like KPMG.

“We’re not Google. We can’t go out to the market and say ‘come and join us, this is a place where you’re going to have fun’ because that’s not our grand proposition; it’s not our grand values. We’re a firm of accountants,” he says.

Instead they ran a new corporate video on YouTube, where they reached about 1,500 people in two days and 700 people per broadcast from one of the senior partners.

“The reach of it has just been fantastic for us because what we’ve been able to do is to take content and put it in a very, very different kind of way to a target audience that is looking for video-rich material and looking for stuff which is far sexier than we would ever put on our corporate site,” he says

Using employees as ambassadors is another key tool in KPMG. And this can be enhanced through social networking.

“We use our young trainees as our ambassadors and we use them to tell their story in their words. We give them a little bit of training, but the key message to them is just tell it as it is because that’s what will convince you to join KPMG,” he says.


Employee referral programs are the most important tool in sourcing for KPMG with 27 per cent of staff in the UK recruited through this method, 40 per cent in the US and 35 per cent in India.

“Probably the single most important thing that you can do at the end of this conference is go away and think about how you can get maximum potential out of employee referral programs,” he says.

Using both recruiters and sourcers to acquire staff is paramount according to Carol Mahoney, vice-president of talent acquisition and mobility at Yahoo! It’s very difficult to find a recruiter who is both good at sales and good at data, and according to Mahoney it is not enough to just have recruiters as your only resource.

“When I started in the business the recruiters were much like the entire government; not the best analogy but true. A lot of smooth talkers and, you know, you got hired as a recruiter because you had a good Rolodex. And that’s just not true any more,” she says.

Sourcers are heavily relied on within Yahoo! in terms of data mining and building relationships. They have one employee in the company, whose specific job is to call product managers all day, ask them how they are and build relationships.

“He makes more hires than all of the sources combined and that’s what he does all day – just develops relationships. It’s extremely effective,” she says.

However Mahoney warns not to hire a sourcer and expect miracles. “They’re not miracle [workers], they don’t make hires, they produce candidates and if your recruiter doesn’t know what to do with them or your company doesn’t hire them, then they’re only going to be as successful as the people that are downstream handling their candidates. But they’re really very important,” she says.

Finance for dummies

Mahoney operates her recruitment function as a separate entity from the rest of the business and operates it as it’s own separate business.

“Yes I am part of Yahoo! and yes I am part of HR, but I like to operate talent acquisitions as if it’s its own business. Because to me, we have to win the business every single day and we have to be accountable as if we were an outsourced function,” she says.

When recruiting, according to Mahoney, HR must work closely with finance. Knowing what your fixed and variable expenses are when hiring 20 people or 1,000 people is very important. Through doing this you can go to finance with a forecast of how many people, how many recruiters, how much money you need in your department.

Once the formula is known it’s easier to win the support of the CFO, Mahoney says. “If you can get this done it’s actually critical – and if you start talking about ‘variable’ versus ‘fixed’ they love that stuff.”

Being accountable for your recruitment and talent acquisition department is also important. Competitive intelligence is one way of doing this, by presenting information from recruiters and resources to the executive staff. Weekly internal operational reviews is another way Yahoo! assesses their recruiters to see how they are measuring against their requirements.

“It keeps them accountable and it keeps the information coming, and I also can start to see if there are trends,” she says.

Systems and offer

The systems used are an important step in the recruitment value chain. Simple, effortless application processes can be very beneficial in attracting generation Y as studies have shown they like minimal effort when applying for a job.

“Gen Y have the attention span of a gnat, so let’s make it simple for them,” he says.

Apply@Text was one strategy KPMG used to attract the young generation, where candidates were encouraged to send KPMG an SMS and recruitment staff called them back, asked them questions and filled out the application form for them. It is a simple but effective method, according to Dugdale.

It’s important to create an experience also for the candidate and this involves feedback at every stage of the process.

“A simple failure to follow up your applicant can create the most negative impression and most damage to your brand,” he says.

Also being creative in the way in which you offer a candidate a position was very effective for Yahoo! Instead of being enclosed in a simple envelope, when the candidate received the offer it arrived in a purple box, which when opened yodelled “Yahoo!”

Who makes the offer to candidates also has a big impact and barriers between HR and recruitment are not a good idea.

“Getting an offer directly from one of the partners instead of from HR can have more of an impact and positive effect on the candidate,” Dugdale says.

Psychometric testing has allowed KPMG to sift through the thousands of applicants every year and eliminate 30 per cent in one day and another 30 per cent in the following week.

“We are recruiters not rejecters, and using technology like this can help massively when dealing with more than 400,000 applicants,” he says.

Being creative and innovative in any one of the stages of recruitment will make a difference. But it’s only as you begin to link them all together and think about the value chain in it’s entirety that you can really make a big difference and stay ahead of the game.


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