By iCIMS Blogger, Karen Bucks

I always start off my morning the same: get up, take out/feed the dog (Penny), get myself together for work, pour my cereal and coffee and grab my copy of Entertainment Weekly…I mean the New York Times. Yesterday was no different. Cereal was in place, newspaper was in line. All I needed was my coffee and I was good to go. I stood up from my chair, went about seven feet and bam…sneak attack…the dog went for the newspaper. (Oddly enough, not the food…) Even the dog wanted to read all the news that's fit to print! Or, eat it anyway. Slow to react, the dog shred the paper in about 2.53 seconds. In a huff, I got the newspaper away from her, dumped it in the recycling and opted for the entertainment magazine instead. Penny lives and breathes the very definition of troublemaker, but there is one other word that I like to describe her as: a Doer. Penny is proactive. She searches for what she wants and she gets it. I chose to write about this little anecdote because 1) I find any chance I can to talk about my dog and, 2) what Penny did made me think, ironically enough, about my job. By studying my movements and waiting for the exact moment, Penny was one step ahead of me. I was unprepared for her move and thus, she gained an advantage over me. Now, let me subtly link this to Human Resources. It reminds me that HR thinkers need to stay one step ahead in order to develop a competitive advantage in the “war for talent”.

Everyone is competing to become an expert in their position. And, being in an industry that connects directly with Human Resource topics, I, too, find myself on this quest for absolute knowledge. Through research and analyses, HR professionals can stay one step ahead and create a competitive advantage that will lead to a more effective HR department.

Creating a competitive advantage can be process or employee specific. Let’s look at an example:

Company X and Company Y both operate in the Retail Industry. Both have stores in all fifty states and both require 30 employees per store. Company X has a 75-person talent pool to acquire candidates from while Company Y only has a 45-person talent pool. With a larger talent pool, Company X is more likely to source more qualified talent, more quickly; thus lowering time-to-fill and improving employee retention. Obviously, Company X has developed some sort of competitive advantage causing an increase in candidate engagement as compared to Company Y.

The main question is: what did Company X do differently? Well, there are a number of possible answers. For example, Company X has an:

  • Easy-to-complete application process
  • Notably positive corporate culture
  • Correctly targeted recruitment campaigns

But the real answer is they took the knowledge they gained through research and applied it to the challenges they were facing with departmental efficiency.

Human Resources is an age old department with age old processes. What companies CAN do is take those standard processes and learn how to effectively deploy them. And, as time passes, so do techniques. Bigger and better techniques surface (i.e. social media, applicant tracking systems, CRM tools, etc.) enabling companies utilizing them to create larger talent pools, acquire more specialized candidates, lower recruiting expenses and create a competitive advantage in the war for talent.

Here are a few examples (as you know, there are many):

Global Competitive Advantage:
Global firms can focus on a more diverse employee base when targeting top talent. In a SHRM study, more than half of the companies evaluated found a greater competitive advantage after focusing on diversity. The greater the diversity, the larger the scope of backgrounds and skills; thus, companies were able to effectively operate in a more global environment.

Hourly Competitive Advantage:
Companies that rely on hourly hiring can drastically reduce paper expenses and lost document error associated with high application volumes. By installing on-site web-based application kiosks that enable all walk-in candidates to directly send their information to an online database, these companies can eliminate the time and money spent on application data entry and printing. More time can be spent on sourcing top talent.

Employee-Type Competitive Advantage:
Healthcare organizations, for example, require a wide variety of workers often with necessary certifications. These companies can target LinkedIn focus groups to source specialized employee types such as nurse, part-time and volunteer.

So, stay one step ahead by researching, analyzing and implementing. Acknowledge the challenges you face, research solutions, and implement for a more effective department. Create a competitive advantage within your HR department to acquire top talent before your competitor does. As for Penny, I think it is time to practice “Stay”.

iCIMS' blog tries to develop a deeper understanding of a variety of Human Resources topics including workforce planning, candidate engagement, onboarding, employee data management, performance management, security, CSR and much more. Check us out at

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