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The Most Important Number for Recruiters

We live in a world guided by numbers. They tell us which keywords generate the most traffic to our organization's career site, where we're most likely to connect with highly skilled candidates online, and how much it will cost to participate in a career fair for our target demographic. As useful as these metrics are, however, there's another that's more important and often overlooked. It's the number that tells us what we should be doing to source and recruit top talent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16 percent of the workforce is in transition at any point in time. They are the people we typically describe as "active job seekers." They don't require a lot of convincing to visit our organizational career sites, they flock to job boards and social media sites by the millions, and they steadfastly endure even the most obtuse application forms on our applicant tracking systems.

To put it bluntly, we don't have to worry about the 16 percent. They're motivated to come to us. It's the other 84 percent of the workforce that represents the greatest potential upside and the greatest challenge for recruiters. And, that's the number on which we should always be focused.


First, we have a higher probability of acquiring top talent in the 84 percent. Since it represents over four-fifths of all workers, there are simply more top performers in that group than in the 16 percent. To put it another way, the 84 percent gives us better odds that we'll find the talent for which we're looking.

Second, the Golden Rule of Recruiting is as true today as it was a decade ago. It goes like this: What you do to recruit the best talent will also recruit mediocre talent, but the converse is not true.

We give ourselves the best chance of acquiring the "A" and "B" level performers we need, if we tailor our sourcing and recruiting efforts to the unique goals and attributes of the 84 percent (where there are more top performers). If, on the other hand, we design our recruiting process for the 16 percent, we'll almost certainly acquire fewer top performers because there are fewer of them in that group.

The 84 Percent Solution

The 84 percent solution in a sourcing and recruiting strategy recognizes that individuals in that group:

  • are NOT actively looking for a job;


  • do NOT think of themselves as a job seeker.

Therefore, every aspect the candidate experience is designed to convince them that the organization understands and respects those defining attributes.

For example, an organization's recruitment ads should be written to describe (and sell) a career advancement opportunity, not a job. They should provide as much information about its values and culture as they do about the opening's requirements and responsibilities.

Similarly, visitors to the organization's Web site should be directed to its online career center with a term such as "Careers," rather than "Employment" or Jobs". And, once in that area, they should be addressed with an inclusive term such as "candidate," rather than "job seeker."

Finally, because the 84 percent are the quintessential "passive" prospects, it's unlikely that they will be drawn to an online career center by jobs alone. Therefore, the content in that area should include career advancement features such as employee blogs on developments in their field, the transcripts of employee presentations at conferences and links to important news stories about the workplace and business.

We should, of course, search 100 percent of the workforce when recruiting. The focus of our efforts, however, should be on the 84 percent that are not actively looking for a job. They are our most important number because they tell us what we should do to optimize our yield of top talent.

Thanks for reading,

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

September 2012
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