This question, worth millions to organizations that compete in a world where human capital is key, has a simple answer: be efficient and be personal. In order to do so, a company might have to re-evaluate its whole recruiting process, but the results are worth it!
It’s tough to attract the best talent, and a lot of effort goes into finding them. However, you should be aware that not every talent will have an academic background or culture that fits into your organization. As a consequence, the first step towards attracting relevant talent is defining who they are. This might sound trivial to companies that have been recruiting similar profiles for many years, but in the long run, it can save both time and money. It allows focused and more effective recruiting, so don’t take anything for granted! Some jobs, for instance, require technical know-how that is mostly learned at the office, so why focus on people with a specific degree if what you really need are fast learners? Many Consulting, Banking, and Tech companies use this approach, by not limiting to Finance, Business or Engineering profiles specifically.
Once the desired profile is defined, the next step is deciding where to find it. New degrees are created every year, some get better or worse after time, and globalization makes it possible to attract talent from all around the globe. Maybe the school that was so successful years ago has not maintained its high standards of education, or a new degree that seems designed specifically for one of your positions has been created. Who knows, perhaps other countries have a stronger focus on the areas you are looking to hire in. So for these reasons, it might be time to reconsider where your recruiting efforts should be focused, as some of the old ways are no longer good for you, while others are better.
Once you have a specific profile in mind and you think you know where to find it, your focus should be on becoming different, on standing out. Talent are not attracted by generic LinkedIn messages or by you standing at university career fairs with free pens. Talent is attracted to companies they feel they have something in common with, and here differentiation is key. In a very interesting TED talk about the “Mathematics of Love”, Dr. Hannah Fry explains how people who differentiate themselves are more likely to be successful in dating. The logic explanation is: when someone is perceived as a 7 by everyone, fewer people will actually be very interested in them. However, if a person is perceived as a 9 by some and barely a 3 by others, they have better results dating, even if the overall population would not consider them as attractive as the first.
The same logic Dr. Fry used for people looking for love can be applied for companies looking for talent. Don’t try to appeal the overall population, rather, try to be “the 9” for the profiles you defined. To do so, you will have to differentiate yourself from the approach they receive from other companies, and the easiest way to do this is to be personal. Events, for instance, are a great way of letting talent get to know you, and a great way for you to showcase your best talent and the most attractive initiatives your company has. Talent get attracted by other talent, challenges, and disruption, so if you are able to show that your company will give them access to these things, they are more likely to want to work for you. Other examples of good ways to get into contact with talent is to organize case competitions, trips, dinners with some of your top employees or even office tours.
So when should you do this? A good practice is to engage talent as early as possible. Companies often disregard students in the first years of university and focus only on the best seniors. This makes sense in the short term, but battling only for last year talent means more competition and less chance to cause a lasting impression. Cherish younger talent, who are easier to access and impress, and they will still remember you when they are looking for a job. Companies such as McKinsey have programs designed for these students and the results are superb, attracting top talent years after their first contact.
In a nutshell, being efficient and personal can bring better results with a more lean use of resources. Identify what you are looking for and where to find it, then look for ways to engage and impress it by being personal and coming in early. If you manage to do this you will be on the path of much more effective and successful recruiting!