How to build a strong talent acquisition team

When companies are still in their infancy, building a talent acquisition team mightn’t be a priority. But, as they grow, the need for people who can recruit, manage talent pipelines and create a strong employer brand, becomes critical.

The quality of your talent acquisition team will set the standards for your other employees and hiring managers. Hiring the wrong recruiters will result in bad hires everywhere in your company, spurring a disastrous domino effect.

Related: How to spot a good recruiter

Many HR professionals and employers have faced this challenge. Especially in startups where people like Kim Rohrer, now Head of People Operations at Disqus, had to build their entire talent acquisition team from scratch.

What is a talent acquisition team?

The first thing to consider is who you want to hire (and who to hire first). A talent acquisition team could include:

Imagine your ideal talent acquisition team. Sourcers could provide a constant flow of candidates to junior recruiters. Junior recruiters would do initial screening and hand successful candidates to more senior recruiters who would contact candidates. Recruiting coordinators would schedule interviews. Talent acquisition managers could negotiate salaries and close candidates. You should form your strategy according to what your ‘dream team’ looks like.

Generally, it’d be a good idea to start by hiring a recruiter. As you’ll want someone who’ll manage all recruiting efforts, a generalist is your best bet; someone who can take on every aspect of the process from sourcing to onboarding to maintaining talent pools for future hires. You don’t have to hire a senior recruiter. Junior recruiters or sourcers who have potential and commitment can do the job too. Once your team has its generalist recruiter, you can fortify it with specialists.

Of course, who you hire first depends on the company’s needs. Kim Rohrer started by hiring a recruiting coordinator, who could support her and help organize the recruiting process. Other companies might hire external or internal sourcers who can supply candidates to hiring managers (although this approach won’t free up hiring managers’ time).

Once your company starts growing beyond a certain number of employees, you should also hire professionals who focus on the broader aspects of talent acquisition. Talent acquisition isn’t only about recruiting. It’s about employee retention, happiness and succession planning. A talent acquisition manager will help shape your company’s people strategy and employer branding efforts.

How do I find talent for my talent acquisition team?

Dig into social networks

Great recruiters and sourcers have a strong presence on social networks. Let your network know you’re looking for talent acquisition professionals. Post job ads on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms. Look at recruiting groups on LinkedIn and pay attention to people with large networks, with more than 500 connections.

Download our free guide to learn how to source on various social networks.

Ask your external recruiters

If you’ve engaged a recruiting firm in the past, you can ask them for referrals. If you’re satisfied with a specific recruiter’s services, you could even make them an offer. If they decline, ask them to refer recruiters who might be interested.

Engage recruiters who are trying to recruit your people

It’s possible that many of your employees receive sourcing messages from recruiters. Through these messages, you can actually see successful recruiters in action and choose the ones who send the most enthusiastic and personalized emails. Of course, if your employees are interested in the new offer, they probably won’t let you know they received the message. But, if they’re not interested, they could forward those emails to you or send a template reply to let them know you’re looking for recruiters. Have a short discussion with your employees about how they could respond in these kinds of cases.

Try it the traditional way

Posting a job ad on job boards might seem unimaginative. But many job seekers rely on job boards. Although recruiters are likely to turn to their network while looking for a job, they might still be found looking at job ads. Create compelling job descriptions to attract the right people.

How do I select the best among the candidates?

If your company is growing and changing fast, it needs a flexible talent acquisition team. People in your team should be able to make do with a relatively small budget. They should also be able to attract candidates without the benefit of an established brand. So, recruiters with experience in large companies might not be the best choices for you, unless they show they’re adaptable and creative. You can also look for those who have experience in a startup environment.

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Your talent acquisition team could come from all backgrounds. For example, you could hire an IT recruiter, who’s used to hiring engineers and could be IT professionals themselves. Especially if you’re a software company, you’ll want recruiters who understand the technical aspect of your business. Be careful though. In the end, you’ll have to expand other teams like sales and marketing too. Select recruiters who show they can easily grasp requirements for various professions.

Generally, here are some characteristics that all people in your talent acquisition team should share:

  • Project management skills
  • An inquisitive nature
  • People skills
  • Persistency
  • Sales skills
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity

You’ll also want your team members to have great sourcing skills and an ability to think proactively about future recruiting needs.

Of course, culture fit is very important for your talent acquisition team. If they’re not good fits, they won’t be able to hire good fits.

How do I evaluate candidates?

The initial recruiting process for recruiters isn’t unique. You can do an initial screening call and then ask candidates to complete an assignment and a couple of pre-employment tests. Then your interviews will decide the outcome.

A large part of a recruiter’s job is to sell their company to candidates. Whether they’re composing attractive sourcing messages or negotiating compensation, they have to have sales and relationship management skills. For this reason, a simulation of a screening call or short interview, during their own interview, is a good idea. You can see how they think on their feet and approach candidates.

Asking the right interview questions is also important. Ask your candidates about their sourcing strategies and how successful they’ve been in the past. Ask questions that evaluate important general qualities to determine whether they’re a good culture fit, too. Being experts in social media, being open to new technologies and being familiar with applicant tracking systems (ATSs) is vital.

Great recruiters should also follow important hiring trends. For example, explore how they approach and promote workplace diversity through recruiting techniques (like blind hiring). The best recruiters will also be familiar with legal changes and how they affect hiring practices.

Your talent acquisition team should be familiar with employer branding and onboarding. Since they’ll help your company transition from a loose and dynamic form to a more formal structure, they need to be familiar with metrics and policies. Ask them what metrics they use or what they did in their previous company to create scalable processes.

Once you’ve made the first right hire, you’ll be on the right track for building a strong talent acquisition team.

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