How to Make the Most of Your Recruiting Budget

It was widely predicted last year that hiring was going to increase in 2010, but that budgets for those hires would remain flat from their 2009 levels. How’s that for a hiring conundrum?

I suppose that’s the definition of doing more with less. Or maybe it’s doing more with the same. Regardless, a recent Monster.com article showed that those predictions were correct. At year-end 2010, the private sector experienced 10 consecutive months of employment gains, while a Manpower survey revealed the most optimistic corporate hiring trends in more than two years.

Companies did all of that on recruiting and hiring budgets that were mostly flat from 2009 and much lower than levels of two or three years ago. It can be a challenge, but it’s obviously not impossible. In fact, there are several ways to overcome the hurdle of hiring top talent without boosting your recruiting budget or spending a boatload on recruiting firm fees.

The Talent Buzz posted a great article that focused on themes that the site thought would come in to play in 2010. Most of them did come into play and should still be applicable this year. Here are a few of Talent Buzz’s suggestions:

Self-fund New Initiatives

Inevitably, there are breakdowns and unnecessary steps in almost every company’s hiring processes. The key is to identify and fix them. Companies can save money and increase productivity, putting them in position to keep up with competition by funding new opportunities.

In short, you don’t need new money to be able to spend more on hiring. You may be able to simply relocate inefficiently used resources to make up the difference. Companies may also consider purchasing an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). A good ATS will help streamline the recruiting process, saving time and money.

Reconsider Attendance at Recruiting Events

Even though many companies and job seekers attend them, recruiting events have never been a truly effective way to source talent. Some job or career fairs make sense within some industries, but companies should be very selective in which ones they attend. Know why you want to be there and be realistic about what you’d like to achieve.

Some companies attend those events simply to brand themselves. If that’s the case, the marketing department should incur the cost.

Capitalize on Sourcing Effectiveness

Hiring managers use several sources to find and hire talent. When budgets are tight, those managers must focus on the sources that have provided the highest quality hire or return on investment. Remember, sources like alumni, boomerang, and referral programs can be highly effective and incredibly cost-efficient.

Leverage SEO, SEM, Social Media, and Blogs

Job board traffic has been in decline for years, though the recent surge in unemployment has been a boon to that industry lately. Still, companies can more effectively leverage tools like SEO, SEM, social media, and blogs to better target the candidates they want to hire.

But don’t just limit yourself to a jobs domain or LinkedIn. This article from Inc. Magazine details creative ways to make use of Facebook and Twitter, too. Jessica Lee, an HR manager for APCO, wrote about her own success using Twitter here.

Campus Recruiting is Evolving

Company attendance at on campus recruiting events has declined substantially in the past 12 months according to Talent Buzz. But that decline has created an opportunity for competitive advantage. Companies should take the opportunity to recruit students and graduates, visiting those less populated campus recruiting events and working directly with college and university career counselors and placement departments to identify top potential candidates.

The lesson here is that you can still compete for the best available candidates without overspending to find them.

We’d all love to have infinite resources to hire the absolute best talent. But in today’s economic environment that’s just not realistic — especially for expansion stage companies. That doesn’t mean that you should settle, especially as hiring continues to increase in 2011. If hiring managers think outside of the box to make the most of their recruiting budgets, they might be surprised how far their flat budgets can stretch.

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