5 Steps to Strategic Talent Advisement

What does it take for a recruiter to go from order-filler to strategic talent advisor?

Microsoft recruiter Amy Miller, a veteran with both agency and in-house experience, has made the transition. She’s currently aligned with the Bing business unit within Microsoft, where she focuses on recruiting data scientists and machine learning engineers.

Miller said transforming into a strategic talent advisor includes these five steps:

Step 1: Maintain an External Focus

In Microsoft and other companies, many leaders have been there a long time—which means they haven’t personally been in the job market for years.

Recruiters’ knowledge of the employment market, including competitors’ cultures, compensation, and talent pools can fill that knowledge void. Build your expertise by talking with candidates and being active in the talent landscape.

When it comes to candidates, Miller also recommended thinking broadly about diversity—not just ethnic and gender diversity, but also diversity of thought and experience.

Step 2: Advocate for Differentiated Hiring

The understanding that the best talent doesn’t always fit the usual mold is what Microsoft calls Differentiated Hiring. “It’s very easy to fall back on that same profile: ‘I want an engineer who knows C+, has been writing code for five years, and comes from a big competitor.’” Miller said. “But a talent advisor is going to push back on that and say, ‘Yes, that’s one way, but what about looking at talent that doesn’t fit that usual framework?’ That can be such an impactful conversation.”

Examples of mold-breaking Microsoft initiatives include a program that actively seeks candidates with autism by helping them overcome social barriers such as interviewing. Another is the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, a training program geared toward attracting military veterans to tech jobs with the company.

Step 3: Create a Foundational Recruiting Culture

“Everyone is a recruiter,” Miller said. Tap into the entire team’s connections and personal networks. Encourage hiring managers and team members to share what they like about working for your client or company, and use their stories to recruit others. Make sure it’s organic and authentic. Ask employees to write like they speak and share their experiences in an honest and captivating way, perhaps even on a corporate blog.

Step 4: Use Your Scale and Impact

For national and global companies, tap into resources beyond your location. “We have a lot of openings, and a lot of recruiters who are spread out over the world. Leverage those networks,” she said. An example: Microsoft tapped into business partners in Russia and Eastern Europe to tell their own stories and help the company find talented employees in those regions.

Step 5: Collect and Share Data

Collect data on what doesn’t work and share that with your team. “If you’re getting good ROI from something like Dice Open Web, you want to know that so you can continue to invest in the areas that are getting the return you need,” she said. “By tracking hires and tracking the data, you know what to keep and what to let go of.”

When it comes to making hiring more efficient, Miller suggested spending six months tracking each step of the hiring process to establish baselines. Your tracking will reveal which steps take the longest to complete, so you know where to improve.

Be Prepared to be Unpopular

Miller mentioned some of the best advice she ever received: “Sometimes good consulting looks like bad customer service.”

“Sometimes you have to push back,” she added. “Sometimes you have to be the one that doesn’t make people feel good. Either by doing the right thing for candidates, or on behalf of business, or staying ethical, or staying in compliance, or whatever it is. Good consulting can sometimes look like bad customer service, and that’s ok.”

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