The Best Recruiting Strategy Is the "We Find You" Approach
Choosing between - We find You and You find Us
Not many people research or study recruiting strategies, but those who do realize quite quickly
that all recruiting strategies fit into two categories: you find us and we find you.
The you find us category is the most commonly used, where a firm essentially posts a notice
that it is looking for someone to hire and then sorts through those individuals who respond.
The more proactive category, however, is the we find you approach, where a firm instead
attempts to identify the names of top performers as individuals and then contact them directly.
The first approach almost by design attracts the masses, while the other is more targeted to
minimize the volume of applications and maximize the quality of the applicants.
If you were going to attempt to recruit Tiger Woods to play for your golf team, you would
realize early on that it would require the use of a different approach than most corporations
currently use. Tiger certainly wouldn't respond to the traditional approaches, like ads in
newspapers, or and he wouldn't put his resume on Monster.com. It is also unlikely that he
would attend golfing job fairs or respond to a now hiring banner. If by chance Tiger did
respond, it is unlikely that he would endure the hiring process at most firms, because he
wouldn't be treated as special or as a target individual.
The only way to hire top performers is to give up the notion that they are going to find you and
instead adopt a recruiting strategy that proactively finds them. Tiger, much like other top
performers, has so many choices that the only way you could possibly recruit him would be to
target him individually and then build a relationship with him over time in order to eventually
convince him to join your golf team.
This relationship-based recruiting strategy is called the we find you approach, and if you want
to hire the very best, it's the only approach to use.
Why You Find Us Generates a System Stressing Volume
Perhaps an analogy would best highlight the differences between the two categories of
In the media, there are two basic choices to attracting a target audience:
Broadcasting and Narrowcasting.
The broadcasting approach uses far-reaching tools to attract the widest possible audience. It is
the approach used by the major TV networks (e.g. ABC, CBS, NBC, CBC). Another approach,
called narrowcasting, is used by cable TV stations to attract a very narrow but targeted
audience, for example the Sci-Fi or the Golfing channels.
The first approach gets you a large volume of viewers, while the second gets you a smaller but
much more targeted viewership. If you wanted to recruit a golf fanatic, placing an ad on a
broadcast network will get you a huge volume of candidates, most of whom will be unqualified
or under qualified. If you wanted to attract only golf fanatics, you would place an ad on the Golf
channel, and you would certainly get only golf fanatics responding, because no one else would
ever watch a golf channel.
The same holds true for the commonly used you find us approach and the superior, but
unfortunately least used, we find you approach. If you're currently inundated with a high
volume of candidates whom you have little interest in, it's probably because you are using a
you find us approach.
The You Find Us Sourcing Strategy
The you find us sourcing strategy is used by 95% of firms, making it the most common — but,
unfortunately, least effective — of all sourcing strategies. Using this strategy, all attraction
efforts are general and are designed to find anyone who fits the broad category of your search.
It is a broad net strategy, where no proactive effort is made to find people or prospects as
Here are the common you find us sourcing tools, listed in order from least effective
1. Job fairs
2. Ads in newspapers
3. Job boards
4. Billboards or we're hiring banners
5. College hires at on-campus career events
6. Walk in applications at physical locations
7. Corporate career sites (a passive approach where you hope that candidates surfing the
web will find your site and have the interest and patience to follow through and apply)
8. Employment branding (an excellent approach that causes everyone — the best as well
as the rest — to want to work at your firm, which results in your firm's getting on best
place to work lists or having best practices talked about in business, functional, and
As you can readily see, all of the tools that are used under the you find us
approach are aimed at a broad audience. Job boards, for example, are designed to attract a
wide range of candidates, from the barely qualified to the barely interested. Billboards or
we are hiring banners attract anyone who drives by, with no delineation or targeting toward a
specific skill set, performance, or interest level.
Of all of the tools in this category, the employment branding approach is the strongest. It is a
long-term approach designed to make candidates aware of why your company is an excellent
place to work. Although this is an excellent long-term recruiting strategy, since it builds the
interest and knowledge of applicants about your firm, it does, by design, also bring in a very
large volume of every type of candidate.
The next step in the you find us approach is the interview. Since candidates sourced using the
you find us strategy by definition found you, most firms do nothing more than put them
through the standard screening processes. Since they are essentially strangers, the best
candidates can easily get lost in the volume of applicants.
There is no real selling or relationship building, because it is assumed (wrongfully so) that a
candidate's interest is strong, since they found you and they took the time to apply.
The Best Recruiting Strategy Is the "We Find You" Approach
Only 5% of firms focus on this advanced but vastly superior approach as a name identification
strategy. The we find you strategy is targeted toward currently employed top performers.
These individuals are generally not looking for a job and they may not be interested
in (or even aware of) your firm.
(Note: Some many of us call these individuals passive candidates, but that's a misleading label
because these people are generally not passive at all).
This superior sourcing approach is not designed to attract the masses. Instead, it uses a
narrow net approach to identify the very best people and then recruit them. This is
the approach that has been successfully used by executive search firms for decades. It is also
used by recruiting powerhouse FirstMerit and other top firms like EA, GE, and Microsoft, as well
as almost all sports teams and entertainment firms.
The we find you approach is based on the premise that if you start recruiting before need (i.e.,
before you need to fill an open req), you have the time to identify the very best individuals by
name and then build the relationship, so that you can, over time, better assess and sell them on
your firm and the opportunities you can offer them.
The key we find you sourcing tools are listed below, from least effective to most
1. Cold calls. Recruiters identify the best through periodic calls.
2. Mystery shopping. Recruiters identify the best by buying products or asking questions of
other firm's employees (which works best in public-facing jobs).
3. Credit lists. Recruiters find people who precisely fit your target demographics based on
their job title, income, location, and diversity.
4. Public records. Similar to credit lists, public records searches can identify specific
individuals who fit a very narrowly defined demographic.
5. Mentor recruiting. With this method, your recruiters seek out top performers and ask
whether they have mentored others at your targeted firms. You then use the mentor
relationship to recruit the mentees. (A variation tries to get top performing
mentees at your firm to draw away their mentors from other firms.)
6. Intern to hire or temp to hire. Although interns or temps may have been initially
recruited using a broad net approach, converting them to permanent hires requires
a we find you relationship building process to assess them and eventually sell
them on a permanent position.
7. Technical contests. Skills and problem-solving contests, generally online (e.g.
TopCoder), attract and identify those with the best solutions.
8. Scholarship awards. Top prospects are identified based on their scholarship
9. Professional association lists. Recruiters mine these lists to identify potential
candidates based on where they work and their seniority in the field.
10. Internet name generation. Using this approach, recruiters find individuals who write
and speak by using Google type Internet searches based what they write and say.
11. Hire to learn or hurt. Target the best employees working at competitors based on their
ability to bring a targeted skill to your firm.
12. Name generation firms. Pay researchers at vendor firms to identify the names of target
candidates based on titles and firms they work at.
13. Boomerangs. Using this approach, recruiters proactively seek out top former
employees in an effort to get them to return to your firm.
14. Event recruiting. Send employees to identify speakers (as well as those who ask
questions and make comments) at seminars and professional events.
15. Benchmark recruiting. Find the best people while researching best practices at
16. Magnet strategy. Hire the well-known in order to attract other top people,
even in other job families. (Hire Tiger Woods and the rest will come...)
17. Referrals. Proactively ask top employees, former employees, and friends of the firm to
find and refer others like themselves.
18. Most wanted lists. Senior managers identify the best in the industry at the beginning of
the year. Recruiters and managers then sell them on switching firms throughout the year.
The next step in the we find you approach is relationship recruiting.
Unlike the you find us approach, this strategy adds a relationship-building step
where trust building, assessment, and selling occur over a several month period.
After finding prospects, recruiters, managers and employees must build a relationship with
of them in order to increase their interest and trust. Once the recruiter qualifies them, the next
step is to then identify the job switch criteria of the very best and then use that information to
Weaknesses in the Two Different Approaches
A newspaper ad is a good example of the you find us approach. Your firm places an ad in a
newspaper that attracts a broad audience, and people who are looking for a job will find you by
sorting through a number of want ads.
Initially, many recruiters think that the people that find you are superior candidates.
Because they took the time to find you, recruiters assume that these candidates are the ones
who are the most interested in your firm and job. Unfortunately, relying on that assumption
might doom your firm to a endless stream of mediocre candidates and hires. Why?
1. Loyalty and interest. First you need to understand that just because a candidate found
you, that doesn't mean that they haven't simultaneously found a dozen other firms and jobs.
You can not assume any degree of loyalty to, or even knowledge of, your firm.
2. High volume. A second problem with the you find us approach is that it
almost guarantees you will get a large volume of candidates, some of whom will fit your needs
but the majority of whom will not. As almost any recruiter can tell you, want ads will get you a
large percentage of unqualified people and a handful of qualified ones at best.
3. High error probability. Because all broad approaches bring in a large number of barely
qualified candidates, there is a high chance that a few barely qualified candidates
will slip through and a number of highly qualified candidates will be passed over, unless your
screening process is very accurate.
4. Low acceptance rate. Because most applicants know little about your firm other than the
fact that you have job openings, you are likely to get a low offer-acceptance rate. This problem
is further exacerbated by the fact that hiring managers often assume a high degree of interest
and there is little attempt to sell the candidate until the job offer is made. This last-minute
selling effort often fails, because these individuals are essentially strangers, meaning that you
only know them and they only know your firm for the two- or three-week period of the
interview process. Because the candidate was not identified and courted prior to the job
opening, the firm has no long-term relationship, no reservoir of trust, nor even any vital
information about the candidate's job switch or job acceptance criteria.
5. Low quality. The final, and perhaps most significant, difficulty with the you find
us approach is that it cannot excite and thus attract people who are not actively looking
for a job. Because most of the best candidates are top performers who are currently employed,
they seldom have the time or even the interest to respond to you find us approaches. In
addition, broad approaches like newspaper ads, job boards, and job fairs just don't provide
enough targeted information to fit the interests and the specific criteria that top performers
have for switching jobs.
The list of weaknesses inherent in the you find us approach is long, but that doesn't mean the
we find you approach isn't without its own set of weaknesses and challenges. The we find you
approach requires some advanced knowledge of the habits of the target candidates. As a result,
recruiters with no background in marketing, sales, or executive search often shy away from it.
In addition, the we find you approach requires that relationships be built between the firm and
the target candidates, which is a long-term process. Still the most common sourcing strategy by
far is the you find us approach. Firms use it because it's easy and it's traditional. But if you want
a competitive advantage, and also don't want to handle a large number of under qualified and
mildly interested candidates, I recommend you at least partially shift to the we find
This approach does require higher quality recruiters and, because the targeted candidates get
individual attention, more time and resources. Most firms that use this approach also develop a
customer relationship management (CRM) model for the critical step of building and
If you are reluctant to adopt this model, I recommend that you look at how executive search
firms approach their business. They utilize the we find you model almost exclusively, because it
results in higher quality candidates and in higher offer acceptance rates.
If you don't have the courage or resources to apply the model to all positions, I suggest you at
least try it for your mission critical positions, where hiring top performers is essential. Once you
shift to this model, you will wonder why you ever considered any other approach.