While this was my second time attending this conference, it was my first time as a speaker/presenter.  I was surprised by the rather unique format this time around.  The conference producer, HR Executive, decided to host two separate conferences at the same location on the same dates – The Talent Acquisition Technology Conference and the Recruiting Trends Conference. After navigating a bit of confusion at the shared registration desk, perusing the conference agenda booklet and shared expo hall, I soon learned through word of mouth that we were able to attend sessions at both conferences!  

My session topic was “If you want to hire veterans, you need to change your strategy” and I facilitated a discussion with a very engaged audience of about 50 people with my two panelists, Emily Garrity of TalentRISE and founder of ConnectVETS.org and Laura Mitchell of Jackson Lewis.  We had an Q&A session that generated several key takeaways for veteran recruiting and compliance success:

    1. Start with a plan.  Don’t just jump in and start spending dollars on veteran career fairs and job postings. First, identify your executive sponsors and the roles in the organization that offer the best opportunity to translate military skills into civilian jobs.
    2. Approach your strategy like you would a marketing strategy.  Identify your targets, do market research to locate where talent with the skills you desire resides within the military (rank, level and titles) and then build your strategy and recruiting plan accordingly.
    3. Identify and leverage your existing veteran employees to help you recruit, onboard, develop and retain new veteran talent. They speak the same language, can offer a sense of community that veterans need and often want to be “of service” to your organization. Establish a veteran employee resource group as a first step to formally engage this population’s support.
    4. Build a business case and promote small wins. Promote early successes to gain additional support and financial backing to expand your initiatives. It’s statistically proven that companies who employ a high number of veterans reap a higher bottom line. Veterans are also loyal, dedicated employees.


The overall conference theme was focused on the Candidate Experience, and of the many sessions I attended, a few stood out for their innovative perspectives:

  • A presentation by Mercer on the use of gamification in their hiring process to improve diversity hiring.  They shared their successes using a custom-built series of online games to eliminate recruiter and hiring manager bias in their recruiting process. By having prospective job candidates anonymously complete a series of brief, online games using their “MercerMatch” assessment tool, they were able to assess career and culture match attributes of job candidates against 40 pre-built talent profiles. Those who scored high were considered formally and their resumes with contact information were then reviewed and queued for a phone screen by a recruiter. The results correlated to a significant improvement in equalizing gender and racial diversity hiring and, ultimately, improved veteran hiring statistics by doing a better job mapping transferable skills and competencies to potential Mercer jobs and company culture BEFORE revealing the candidate’s name and contact information.  Mercer found this worked extremely well for pipeline sourcing and talent pooling in advance of need and for veteran recruitment. Lastly, this approach minimized compliance risk concerns as people were not applying to specific roles when first engaged in the process.
  • A session on “Transforming the Candidate Experience” by Chris Hester of Capital One, a Candidate Experience Award winner. Chris highlighted some interesting research and best practices starting with an understanding of how the job candidate experience linked to his organization’s business relationship success. Key takeaways included:
  • Over the past five years, candidates surveyed reported that 41% are likely to take their business elsewhere when they have experienced a poor candidate experience.
  • Conversely, 64% who report a great candidate experience say they will increase their business relationship with the company/employer.

Chris stated that his success relied on personalizing the candidate experience by ensuring that his team is regularly listening to candidates’ needs and adapting the recruitment approach accordingly. He noted several things to keep in mind when optimizing a candidate’s experience:

  • Define and communicate company wide WHO the customer is. Everyone needs to know that the CANDIDATE is the customer, not the hiring manager, leadership team or recruiter.
  • Offer a centralized way to regularly train recruiters in three areas: (1) process (2) interpersonal skills and (3) how to pitch the EVP. These are needed to ensure a consistent, high touch experience is delivered consistently for all candidates.
  • Invest in tools and empower recruiters and hiring managers to hold each other accountable using candidate satisfaction survey data as the driver of change.
  • Focus performance metrics on measuring quality of candidate over volume / quantity of candidates presented for each job opening. This ensures alignment and minimizes the risk of candidate experience being sacrificed to achieve a speed or quantity metric goal.
  • Treat people how you would like to be treated.  Own mistakes and apologize immediately. You will find people are very forgiving.

Switching it up a bit, I also attended several sessions at the Talent Acquisition Technology conference in the same venue. By far, my favorites were the Ignite Sessions in which 8 presenters spoke on an impactful topic for five minutes each, using a self progressing slide deck of 20 slides.  Topics ranged from the “Evolution of the Gig Economy” to “Engaging Millennial Talent” and “The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Recruiting”.   Takeaways included information from the following presenters:

  • Erin Peterson VP of Talent at NFP cited that 35% of US workers are working “gigs” today and this is increasing exponentially each year. Employability is the new area of focus for how talent leaders assess full time versus gig talent hiring needs. If generalized knowledge is needed, according to Erin, it’s okay to use gig workers. On the other hand, when specialized or industry expertise is needed, she makes a strong case for using full time employees.
  • John Karsten Baum of Talent Tech labs predicted that in the future, recruiters will become “agents” for the best talent, shifting their value proposition to being candidate career brokers, connectors and advisors, as opposed to employer’s agents who spend their time hunting for candidates.
  • Alex Cavoulacos of theMuse.com shared several innovative ways to communicate an authentic company culture. Claiming that “your vibe IS your tribe”, she stated that 89% of new hire failures are linked to poor culture fit. The key to success is to link your brand to your culture through action. As an example of that, Alex mentioned that Starbucks sends friends and family gift cards to new hires before their start to establish that bond early.

Lastly, Shally Steckerl, CEO of The Sourcing Institute, conducted several sessions on the latest tips and tricks to ensure online sourcing success. The two most innovative sourcing tips and tools he shared were:

  • Search google images (http://images.google.com) by job title, target company name, job keywords and/or location to find bios of people and resumes posted on company, association and conference websites that you may not otherwise find on LinkedIn. It’s also a powerful way to search for (or confirm) diverse candidates  – visually.
  • Search on www.millionshort.com to find pages in the deep web that aren’t typically generated on the top search result web pages on the major search engines. Each search engine indexes the web differently and this one provides a way to eliminate the more popular results everyone sees so that only lesser known or hidden sites and resources are returned for your review. For example, search on candidate names of your ideal current employee or a sample resume you want to clone and the search will bring back people like that person. Use advanced filters to remove jobs, popular media sites and e-commerce sites to focus mainly resumes, bios and profiles for consideration.

For any employer interested in empowering their recruiters and sourcers with the latest sourcing tips and strategies, check out Shally’s online university courses, webinars and custom live training at The Sourcing Institute.

In summary, while there were some kinks to work out in the format of this joint conference,  I really liked the variety and content of the sessions I attended.  Unfortunately, a prior commitment kept me from attending the Candidate Experience Awards Gala hosted by the Talent Board, however now I have a reason to attend next year!  To see this year’s winners, CLICK HERE.

Carl Kutsmode

About the Author

Carl Kutsmode has over 20 years expertise in talent acquisition transformation — assessing and optimizing corporate recruiting capabilities for greater efficiency and performance.

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