Sourcing: The Hunger Games Edition

Presented by: Doug Douglas – National Engagement Manager at Stark

Virtual Conference for (5/3/12)

Our topic today is “Sourcing: The Hunger Games Edition.” Katniss and Peeta will not be joining us personally today, but we can learn some very important things from the book/movie as it relates to our sourcing and recruiting efforts. A phrase that it used often in the movie is - “May the odds be ever in your favor.” That’s what I hope to accomplish today, placing the odds of sourcing and attracting the very best talent to your organizations in your favor.

The Hunger Games – Are you sick of hearing about it yet? I guess if you’re on this webcast, you still have a little bit of an appetite for it. In this movie, children from each region (Tributes) are forced to fight to the death until there is one person remaining. This is set as a reality TV show with a studio audience, and then also shown on screens in the various regions. If a Tribute is well liked, or makes an impression, then people from the audience (Sponsors) can send them something that will help them during their battles (food, medicine, etc.).

So, let’s get started and dig in to what I believe is a fascinating topic. Sourcing/recruiting is transitioning into a new approach – a new way of doing things. It’s already happening. Those who refuse to make these changes, can stand pat and say, “Well, if they want to work here then they’ll do things MY way, the way I want to do it.” That’s your right. You can do that. But understand that others will be changing their approach to attract the very best talent on their terms, leaving the rest to come to you.

Finding a great candidate that is not only qualified, but someone that we like, or that make a great impression, is what recruiters live for! Believe me, I have spoken with some on the opposite end of that spectrum who were rude, arrogant, disinterested, and abrasive – and I LOVED getting the opportunity to work with candidates who were polite, engaging, self-confident, and personable much, much more.

When I speak of “sourcing,” you probably have some pre-conceived ideas about what I’m going to discuss. You likely thought of:

  • posting online ads
  • newspaper ads
  • sending an announcement to a group or an association
  • maybe tweeting a link out to your followers
  • seeking out passive candidates who work at a competitor’s office

I mean, that’s what we, as recruiters, have been doing for many years now. Why would we not think of those things?

But in our session today, I want to discuss the next variation of sourcing. I am convinced that the way we have approached recruiting is about to undergo a radical transformation over the next 3-5 years. In my opinion, the days of:

  • posting a vague job description on a job board
  • having a candidate submit a resume into a black hole where they will never hear from you again
  • sending emails to candidates to see if they are interested in a new role

I believe those days will soon end. Or at least they will end for the companies who are forward-thinking and successfully winning the war for the very best talent.

We are undergoing a generational shift in our workforce. The Baby Boomers are retiring. Generation X is moving into management and executive level roles. And behind them, we now have Gen Y, Net Geners, or Millennials coming into the workforce. Over the course of the next 5 years, 60% of the workers in the US Federal Government will reach retirement age. Those kinds of numbers will be true in other industries as well. What worked in reaching Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers won’t work with Gen Y. What makes them so different? Well, they are the first generation to grow up online. They are very tech savvy, collaborative, and they care deeply about issues like work/life balance, career progression, and making the world around them a better place. They see things differently. They expect more. They look way beyond just the surface.

I’d like to point you in the direction of a resource that you might find interesting, and the basis for my interest in topics like we’ll discuss today. It’s a book called, “Grown Up Digital” by Don Tapscott. In it, he looks at this first generation that has grown entirely in a digital world with the internet accessible to them throughout their entire lives. He identifies 8 norms for the Gen Y generation. They are:

  1. Freedom – Social time with friends and family is a high priority when they consider where they will work. Most of us asked, “How will my social life fit into this job?” They ask, “How will this job fit into my social life?”
  2. Customization – They have grown up with customization as a way of life. If you want to buy a computer – do you want red, green, blue, silver, black, hot pink, lime green, white? Even the credit card that you use can be customized with your favorite picture on it! They want to customize their jobs as well, picking this is where I do really well and what I enjoy doing.
  3. Scrutinizers – They are pros at online comparative analysis. They know how to research and find information. With this in mind, the messaging, layout, and processes on your corporate website matters greatly!
  4. Integrity – This generation wants to work for a cause bigger than themselves. If your company promotes a certain cause or claims to have a social consciousness – you can’t just have that stated in a mission statement or on your website somewhere. They want to see action and enthusiasm for that cause each day and know that they are helping to achieve something worthwhile.
  5. Collaboration – This is the generation who has grown up on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging, Wikis. They are extremely collaborative and they feel obligated to share their thoughts on topics anytime to anyone.
  6. Entertainment – Not only do they want to enjoy their work, but they want to be challenged in their work and asked to do new things so they can develop new skills. They will work hard, but they also want to decompress throughout the day through things like blogging, surfing, chatting, checking Facebook, or playing an online game.
  7. Speed – They constantly look for ways to speed up productivity and response time. Things like email and phone calls are too slow for them. Why do you think they text all of the time…because the average response time to a text is 4 minutes, where a return phone call may take an hour, a day, or even longer.
  8. Innovation – They will be creative and they will understand technology very easily. They want to be a part of the next great thing!

Google does an excellent job of reaching out to that generation. The messaging on their website hits all of the things that this generation values most. When they want to recruit in a certain part of the world, they have someone go there and speak about technology, or something that would be of interest, and then use that as a way to reach out to those who are interested. They hold open houses so potential candidates can envision themselves working there. They have blogs, Twitter feeds, and You Tube channels. It’s both high-tech and high-touch. In return, 25% of all young professionals say that if they could work at any company anywhere in the world, they choose Google. That’s more than twice the amount who say they would want to work at Facebook or Apple.

So, the goal today is to place the odds ever in your favor, or at least until another generation comes along that demands something else.


Be Memorable

Advantages came to the contestants in The Hunger Games who were the most memorable out of the 24 who were competing. They had huge advantages. In this war for the very best talent, what sets you apart? What do you have to offer that another company may not? What will make you “memorable?”

Let’s face it, if you are trying to recruit the same people that Google, Facebook, or Apple wants – it’s a tough hill to climb. They are all brands that Gen Y can identify with easily – they are known. When you read the “About Google” portion of their website, it is 100% geared towards Gen Y. They’ve done an excellent job at marketing themselves and setting up a culture that is very appealing. They also have the resources to be able to offer an incredible array of perks to their employees – something that not every organization can realistically do. So, how can you make yourself memorable when you are going against a well-known, well-funded brand?

Here are a few suggestions for things that could appeal to Gen Y and make you “memorable” when compared to others trying to recruit them:

  • Collaboration – Give them the opportunity to be heard, to network with other segments of the business, and to strategize about process improvements. Help them to see the “big picture” of your organization and what impact they can make.
  • Mentoring Me – Believe it or not, Gen Y values the knowledge and experience of existing workers. They don’t want to waste time trying things that don’t work. Create a mentoring initiative that helps them to learn and be productive more quickly. This not only helps the Gen Y worker to adapt more quickly, but it builds cross-generational relationships and respect, and gives those more experienced workers sought after respect for acknowledging their wisdom in aspects of the business.
  • Increased Access – Gen Y lives in a culture where they can share thoughts, feelings, emotions, and information instantly for all to see and hear (check out Facebook or Twitter for evidence). Consider minimizing time spent in a physical office and go to huddle spaces, “Lunch & Learn” events during the lunch hour, and go to Happy Hour with your team after work. Invest in your team personally as well as professionally.
  • Help Me Lead – Offer opportunities for your workers to develop their leadership abilities. Interested in investigating how a certain policy, technology, or position would impact your organization as a whole? Put together a small team to analyze it and make a recommendation – and include those Gen Y workers in the team to add their perspective.
  • Variety – Give them the opportunity to do several things over the course of their week, not just the same things repeatedly. Gen Y thrives on being able to do multiple things and do them well.
  • Flextime/Remote Work – Decide, as an organization, what matters most. Does it matter that the work gets done, done well, and on schedule? Or does it matter that the work gets done (at the office), done well (at the office), and on schedule (at the office between 8:00-5:00)? Providing them with the option of working in the office or from home, and when they will work, goes a long way in appealing to Gen Y. Family and friends are a HUGE priority to this generation. So giving them deadlines for work to be completed, but the freedom to work at 2:00 a.m. from their apartment vs 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in the office is a big difference maker.
  • Attraction Pay – Offer financial incentives for the recruitment, relocation and/or retention of workers. Might consider staggering these so they won’t all hit you at the same time.
  • Pay for Performance – This is becoming very dominant in both the public and private sectors. Reward your top performers with some type of incentive – extra pay, gift cards, vacation trips, etc.
  • Student Loan Repayment – If you are worried about investing in a Gen Y employee, only to lose them after a year, then creatively think of ways to retain them. One such way is to offer to pay down a certain percentage of their student loans after they have completed a pre-determined length of service with your organization.
  • Tuition Reimbursement for Continuing Education – This shows that you are interested in their future and having other opportunities for them down the road.
  • Child/Elder Care – An issue that comes up that can be very stressful is when an employee has kids that need care throughout the work day, or if that employee has parents who are older and in need of care. If your organization can offer assistance in these areas, the investment into the personal aspects of your employees could build trust and loyalty at a much higher level.

Please note that not everything on this list costs money. These “perks” can help make you memorable though when compared to 3-4 other companies who may be pursuing the same candidates as you. All of these types of things need to be established before the sourcing or recruiting of candidates ever begins.


Alliances Get You Further

As with any good movie, you have the good guys and the bad guys. The Hunger Games was no different. Once the battles began, the bad guys formed an alliance and together, they would hunt down and kill those who tried to go it alone. The good guys, a much smaller group, also protected each other and helped each other to go further in the game. And we all know that the eventual winner will always come from the good guy alliance.

The process and strategy of recruiting is changing. It will be a balance of both technology, as well as human touch. The most successful at striking the right balance between the two will make the candidate feel as though they are in an alliance with you. The human element and relationships/trust built between the recruiter and the candidate will be the emphasis in this model. So, let’s take a look at how this looks.


There has been a trend in the past few years to try to automate as much of the recruiting process as possible and actually speak with as few people as necessary. This methodology will not work with Gen Y. Technology will still play a major role though. Corporate websites need to be well written and targeted towards Gen Y. Job Descriptions need to be more than just bullet points listing responsibilities – they need to include who the company is, what they stand for, why this job matters, and why someone would want to join you. Application processes need to be quick and easy. Automated responses need to be generated at key steps in the application process to let them know they have successfully applied, resume is being reviewed, didn’t reach the minimum requirements for that role but another might be a good fit, etc. Text messaging capabilities from your applicant tracking system should be included. Online scheduling tools should also be available so a recruiter can enter days/times when they are available and a candidate can schedule a time to speak (allowing the candidate the freedom to respond and schedule something at night or on the weekend instead of trying to reach the recruiter during normal business hours and playing phone tag for 3 days). You Tube channels, Twitter feeds, social networking, and landing pages specifically for recruiting – these are necessary forms of marketing. Technology should be seen as a tool to offer accessibility and speed to various aspects of the recruiting process, but not as something to automate the recruiting process. The human element is vital in recruiting Gen Y.


As mentioned earlier, when Google wants to recruit in a certain area of the world, they send someone to go speak on an interesting topic at a university campus, networking group, or an association. This is done primarily as a recruiting activity.

  • Strike up conversations with those who seem to be most interested. Exchange contact info and places on the web where they can continue to connect and dialogue about the company and opportunities there.
  • Sending a text from time to time, just to check in.
  • Being available to answer questions, or run an idea by the other person.
  • Meeting new people at job specific networking gatherings will replace job postings to some degree.
  • Reaching out to referrals through social media sites instead of attempting to get past a gate keeper who monitors calls coming into the company.
  • Consider having regularly scheduled Open Houses at your office for potential employees to come and see your environment, speak with your employees, meet the management, hear about the kind of work that you do there, and envision what it would be like to work there. Of course, have your other Gen Y employees out front and center.
  • Get to the college campuses – and get there now! If 60% of the workforce will be retiring within the next 5 years – that means their replacements are enrolling in college right now. Start building those relationships now – identifying who the best and brightest are – and start getting them thinking about you!
  • Ditch the suits! Is it required that an employee have a suit on to be successful in your company? Many employees never see a client face to face. Why can’t they be comfortable and casual?
  • Advertise where they are. Consider placing banner ads on blogs, social media sites, news sites and places online where Gen Y congregates.

I believe the days of posting a job on Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, or Craigslist, and that being the primary way to reach the most candidates, are coming to a close. The role of Recruiter is morphing into more of a Guidance Counselor. It’s less about a sales job by the Recruiter, and more about the corporate opportunities, integrity of the leadership, and the ability for the Gen Y person to fit that job into their desired lifestyle. Those companies who can position themselves in an alliance with the best candidates – they win.


Your Mentor Changes Everything

In the movie, each Tribute had a Mentor assigned to them. The Tributes had no experience from which to draw from, but the Mentor – they had not only been there before, but by the fact that they were still living and breathing – meant they won The Hunger Games in their season! Who better to advise the newbies than a seasoned veteran?

Please understand that as I researched for this presentation, and I started seeing the various aspects of what it’s going to take for companies to be successful in hiring the best talent available, I started accounting for time, resources, and money. While some organizations may have the technologies in place to accommodate the automation needed to keep things moving smoothly and efficiently, others will either have to invest in it or outsource it to a recruiting organization that does. Some have internal recruiting teams that can have methodologies, strategies, and job descriptions changed to take advantage of the things we have discussed here today, but others will either have to add more resources to accomplish the recruiting tasks or outsource it to a recruiting organization that can take on your identity and function as your internal team.

For most organizations, this is going to take a shift in the allocations of people and money. You may save money from not having to do as many traditional job postings online or in newspapers or on radio or even billboards – but you may have to increase the dollars spent on travel so you can have recruiters go to various parts of the country to speak about your company, or to add text messaging abilities to your communications plan. You may not need as much office space if most of your team is on the road or works “off hours” attending networking events in the evening, but you’ll likely spend more to get real-time online scheduling capabilities or adding a marketing communications leader to your recruiting team to handle all messaging.


Three Options for Morphing Your Sourcing/Recruiting Efforts

  1. Grow your current recruiting team. Of course, when you do this, you need more office space, more computers, phones, printers, desks, etc. You’d also need to upgrade current technologies to accommodate some of the automation issues we have discussed and making your recruiting efforts smooth as silk.
  2. Partner with a recruiting firm through a RPO engagement. This firm would then provide all of the people, processes and technologies needed to be successful.
  3. Stay just as you are. Use your current technologies, current staff, and maybe change a few processes to do what you can with what you have.

Outsourcing these efforts to a RPO firm might be the best option for your organization, although not in all cases. These engagements would address all of your technology concerns as many firms already have tools in place that handle automation issues, text messaging, real-time online scheduling, etc. Your SLAs can specifically address college recruiting initiatives, social media recruiting, networking events, even having a MarCom person who works on all of your messaging. The recruiters engaged can take on your brand – having business cards with your info and their contact info, having a 800 phone number for people to contact that is dedicated to your company (even the Caller ID would read your company name), they can wear your shirts when at career fairs – the candidate will have no idea they are working with someone outside of the company. This could be paid for with a monthly retainer so you can budget accordingly, or engage seasonally as needed. To offset this, less office space is needed – fewer computers, phones, salaries, benefits, insurance, etc.

But this type of engagement isn’t for everyone. If you only plan to do a handful of hires per year – it might not be worth it. Instead of having things that are automated, you may have a light enough load that your in-house recruiters can personally send emails confirming someone has applied successfully. Your recruiters would then likely be more available for candidates to connect with them and schedule interviews.

I would suggest that you consider bringing in a consultant (Mentor) to help you map out where you are today, where you feel you need to be tomorrow, and how best to get there. This needs to be someone who is familiar with Gen Y and the unique aspects of reaching them, but also someone who has successfully set up new processes and strategies that have successfully impacted other organizations.


Big Dramatic Ending

Near the end of The Hunger Games, it became evident that one of the two remaining good guys would have to turn on the other – there could only be one person who survives and wins. But then, oh so unexpectedly, the rules were changed! Because the two main characters had fallen in love, they changed the rules so that they both could live happily ever after.

You may be wondering how in the world I’m going to spin this back to Recruiting….do not fret…I can!

The rules to successfully recruiting the people that your organization needs to be successful, and thrive in the future, have changed. Keep in mind that your people ARE your business. If you place people into various roles that are average at their jobs, you’ll likely get average results. If you place people who simply want to draw a paycheck and don’t really care about the company’s reputation or results – then that causes problems for your entire organization. We are looking at talent shortages coming up in the next few years. The candidates will have many options before them on where to invest their careers. There will be a battle – a Hunger Games of sorts. If it’s true that the company who hires average people will get average results, and the company who hires underperformers will likely underperform – then the one who hires the very best talent will likely thrive. Places like Google are already in full Gen Y mode – every element of their recruiting strategies targets Gen Y.

You don’t have to be the biggest company. You don’t have to have to most resources. You DO, however, need a plan that makes sense and appeals to your key target.  That plan should be a priority, and begin executing on it as soon as possible. When your company has the right strategies, and the right people are implementing them, you’ll be hiring the best talent available – and the odds will be forever in your favor.

Views: 256

Comment by Noel Cocca on May 10, 2012 at 10:10am

Excellent post Doug, thank you!


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