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Planning for a Recruiting Operation

Recruiting Special Ops III: The Recruiter's Patrol Order 
By Peter Weddle
Courtesy, Weddle's Newsletter

Rangers are the elite of America's fighting forces. Their motto says it all: Rangers lead the way. What does that have to do with recruiting? The tactics and strategies that Rangers use to accomplish their missions on the battlefield can be equally as effective in helping recruiters win the War for the Best Talent. This column explains how.

Rangers do a great deal of their work on patrol. You've probably seen them, for example, in news reports from Afghanistan, moving through a village on foot meeting the local population and looking for the bad guys. Rangers are often called the "tip of the spear" - they're out in front of the Army's main forces looking for targets of opportunity and ways to give American troops the advantage.

That foot patrol, however, doesn't happen on an impulse. Even in the fiercest combat, it's not a haphazard undertaking. Rangers are action oriented; they want to get on with the mission. But they also know that launching off without proper planning sets them up for disaster in the field. And, the same is true with recruiting.

When a requisition arrives, it's normal to want to get started right away. You know that other reqs are likely coming along and that the hiring manager is undoubtedly anxious to have the opening filled right away. Besides, you've probably recruited for such a position before, so it's reasonable to think that even a little upfront planning would be a waste of time. As Nike opines, the best way to proceed is to "Just do it!"

And, that would be a mistake. The workforce has now splintered into a multitude of segments, and those segments are themselves now constantly morphing. People are incessantly splintering into new associations, visiting new locations online and off, and developing new preferences for content and content providers. The talent marketplace - like the enemy on a battlefield - is never standing still, so figuring out where to probe and how best to do so are prerequisites for success. It is the only sure way to find and recruit the best talent effectively and efficiently.

The Recruiter's Patrol Order

The planning for a Ranger patrol is always done with a written patrol order. The planning for a recruiting operation should be accomplished with a similar document. It needn't be an elaborate corporate memo, but it must address all of the factors that will determine the success or failure of the initiative and be circulated to all of the parties involved with an opening, including the hiring manager and external as well as internal sourcers and recruiters.

A Ranger patrol order has just five paragraphs. It's a template that can work for Recruiter's Patrol Order, as well.

  • Paragraph 1: Situation - What is the local and national supply of talent for the career field at the skill level specified in the req? Can the position reasonably be filled from the local market or must a national search be performed and with what timeline for success?
  • Paragraph 2: Mission - What are the "Must Have" and "Nice to Have" requirements for the position and the optimum candidate? Are the "Must Haves" truly essential for optimum individual performance and is the salary to be offered appropriate for the market reality?
  • Paragraph 3: Execution - What are likely to be the most effective and efficient sourcing techniques for reaching the best talent in the target demographic? Are there any budget or staff skill shortfalls that would impede the optimum use of those techniques?
  • Paragraph 4: Administration and Logistics - What fees must be paid, contracts signed or other resources allocated to implement Paragraph 3? Out of whose budget will funds be dispersed and/or out of which office(s) will approvals be issued for timely execution?
  • Paragraph 5: Command and Signal - Who is responsible for the execution of which actions during the recruiting process? What will constitute the measures of success and who will collect and review them to determine the status of the outcome?

Rangers have a lot of experience in combat operations. They're well trained and highly skilled in the best techniques of modern warfare. Nevertheless, they never begin a mission without pausing to plan for success. There are too many variables, the "fog of war" creates too many uncertainties for them to go into action without first ensuring that each and every member of the team is aware of and fully understands their personal assignment. They know that such preparation is the only way they can perform at their peak and that peak performance is the only way they can prevail.

The same is true in the War for the Best Talent. More often than not, recruiters have plenty of experience in sourcing and selling candidates. They are also well versed in the best practices of modern recruitment. Those are prerequisites for success, to be sure, but they are not sufficient. Achieving universal understanding and agreement on the answers to the questions in the Recruiter's Patrol Order (and any others that may be appropriate for your organization) enable you to focus the full recruiting power of your organization on each specific opening. And, it's that planning-based concentration of effort which gives you the best prospects of success.