HR Manager’s Guide to Recruitment Planning: Everything you need to know to hire top talent

by Employers Council Staff

Arizona,  California,  Colorado,  DEI,  Hiring,  HR Expertise and Support,  Nevada,  Retention,  Utah

At Employers Council, our focus is on creating exceptional workplaces—and we know the only way to do that is to consistently hire (and retain) exceptional people. A strong recruitment plan is foundational for your organization’s current and future staffing needs. That plan should cover full lifecycle recruiting, rooted in a clear brand message and carried all the way through an onboarding process that inspires confidence and loyalty in new hires. 

“It’s marketing for employees,” said Kristen Borrego (MSM, CPP, SPHR, SHRM-CP), Director of Outsourced Consulting Services. “You are presenting yourself as an organization in a similar way that you market your services.  You are trying to attract talent…talent that stays.” 

This guide will cover the core principles of recruitment planning, offer today’s best recruiting strategies, and point you toward recruiting resources to help your organization thrive.


  1. Common recruiting challenges
  2. Benefits of a solid recruiting plan
  3. The recruitment process   
  4. Current recruiting strategies
  5. Recruiting and DEI
  6. What to look for in outsourced recruiting services
  7. What do recruiting services cost?
  8. Three reasons to choose Employers Council as your recruiting consultant

Common Recruiting Challenges for HR Professionals

It’s one of the most important tasks for an organization to master, but recruiting is a sticking point for many businesses. Unresolved recruiting challenges can lead to talent gaps,  expensive employee turnovers and unfilled positions. 

Weak or non-existent company branding is the most often overlooked cause of recruiting issues. It’s almost impossible to attract like-minded employees if an organization doesn’t know who they are—or can’t communicate who they are clearly.  

“They get frustrated they aren’t finding cultural fits, [but] they aren’t projecting who they are and what their culture is,” said Kristen. Organizations who spend the up-front time on branding (and making sure their recruitment plan is aligned with that brand) are much more likely to end up with an applicant pool of bullseye matches. 

Secondly, lack of time can ruin the best-laid recruiting intentions. Whether the schedule crunch is because of an HR staff shortage or pressure to “get someone in the seat” as fast as possible, rushed recruitment always yields non-optimal results. Not only will you not achieve your hiring goals, but you can also give future potential employees a long-lasting bad impression. 

“[Lack of time] shows in the posting, it shows in the process, it shows in how they treat the person once they are offered the job” said Kristen. “When we talk to members, I always tell them it’s better to pause and not do a recruiting process if you don’t have the time or resources to invest to do it correctly.” 

Finally, being slow to adapt to changes in the employment landscape can also scuttle recruitment strategies. For example, when the pandemic permanently shifted employee expectations and options, organizations who held onto their status quo recruitment plans found themselves flailing in the tight labor market. More responsive businesses were able to woo top talent looking for positions that fit their current needs and lifestyles. 

The Benefits of a Solid Recruiting Plan

A thoughtful, comprehensive recruiting plan can help organizations overcome these challenges, but many businesses haven’t created one.

“Most of our members are on the smaller side,” said Kristen, “so they typically don’t have a process. Or their process is very basic…typically developed by someone who is wearing multiple hats.” 

Taking the time to create a plan, or outsourcing plan development, results in much faster, more efficient recruiting down the line. These time savings are especially beneficial when it comes to posting, one of the most time-consuming parts of hiring. 

Having a recruitment plan that leaders have agreed to ahead of time can also standardize hiring across the organization. Without a formal recruitment process, managers will often ask for separate strategies for their departments, adding research work, time and expense. 

“Every position becomes a much more difficult conversation because it’s this person’s preference versus this person’s preference,” said Kristen. “When you have a process, a lot of that is gone.” 

Other benefits of building a well-thought-out and closely followed recruiting plan include: 

  • Better adherence to employment laws 
  • Stronger defense against hiring discrimination suits
  • Lower recruitment costs overall
  • Higher reputation among job seekers in your community or industry

“If people have a bad taste, when you have another position, they aren’t going to [apply],”said Kristen, noting that an inefficient interview process and poor communication can hurt your future hiring prospects.  “It’s not a good reputation, and not one that’s easily overcome.” 

5 Steps to the Recruitment Process   

An organization’s recruitment process should include both strategic and tactical elements. Before any job is posted or applications accepted, businesses should understand how recruiting fits into the bigger picture. The recruitment process should be holistically designed to help both the business and the applicant determine quickly if they are a good fit. 

“It’s really more of a match than sometimes people think,” said Kristen. “You are both courting each other to some extent. Make sure each part of the process has validity to it and logic behind it.” 

Pre-planning should include: 

  • Linking recruiting objectives to your business goals
  • Analyzing past staffing patterns
  • Projecting future staffing needs
  • Establishing a recruiting budget
  • Conducting  a recruiting SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis
  • Integrating employee branding into recruiting practices
  • Identifying positions’ requirements and opportunities
  • Writing job descriptions
  • Targeting the best sources of candidates, including both internal and external

Once that higher-level thinking has been accomplished, your team can dig into the weeds of your recruitment process execution. Detail how you’ll accomplish every step of  the recruiting lifecycle, and don’t forget to assign key team members, estimated hours needed, and final decision-makers to each task. 

“Everyone needs to know what their role is,” said Kristen. “And they need to be onboard to be able to do it!” 

A comprehensive, tactical recruiting plan should cover 5 essential steps:

1. Posting & reviewing applications

“I typically recommend a threshold of candidates versus a timeframe, because timeframes are ambiguous,” Kristen said. “I typically say, if you get 20, for example, and you haven’t had time to get through them, pause your posting, get through them and relaunch if necessary.” 

2. Conducting interviews and tests

“Really be honed into what you want to accomplish with each piece,” said Kristen, noting that smaller employers will sometimes get stuck into overly complex interview routines. “Dig into what this step is for [and] what you are trying to figure out here.” 

3. Making a selection

Remember to note how you’ll communicate with candidates you don’t choose. “You need to have a personal touch even for the people you’re not going to work with,” said Kristen. “It may not be the right position for them now, but there may be one in the future.” 

4. Completing background checks

Kristen recommends having a couple good candidates before closing out your selection process in case something comes up in a background check.  Your team should consistently apply what background check information triggers a restart and what is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. 

5. Onboarding new employees

Successful onboarding, not hiring a candidate, is the last step of the recruitment process. “They could always start and then drop out,” said Kristen. “They aren’t bonded to you at that point.”

Members, login and download a free whitepaper detailing how to create a comprehensive recruiting plan. 

Current Recruiting Strategies

When labor markets are tight, and qualified candidates are hard to come by, there are some tried and true recruiting strategies that can keep your organization on top. 

1. Stick to your brand.

Knowing who you are can help you make hard decisions. Kristen shared that sometimes organizations will stay with a candidate even if a concern comes up in the final stages of hiring. They don’t want to waste the time they already put into the recruiting process, so they downplay incompatibilities that can lead to big problems in the future. “It’s ok to say this isn’t a good match,” said Kristen. “It’s better to say no now than have to fire them 90 days in.” 

2. Maximize responsiveness and efficiency.

“The more efficient you are in your process—that’s going to yield you the best candidates,” said Kristen, reminding organizations that top talent will move on rather than suffer through a long review process. “The days of people waiting on you—we’re not in that situation right now. Your good candidates are getting 10 calls a day, and they are likely going to go with the highest offer and the quickest turn around.”  

3. Streamline the onboarding process.

Kristen says there is not much tolerance left for companies who are unprepared to welcome new employees. “Everything should feel smooth and seamless,” said Kristen. “The recruiting doesn’t end.” This is especially important when acclimating remote employees; training, tech and communication systems should be locked in from day one to help new hires settle in quickly.

Put employee referral programs to work.

Learn how to integrate employee referral programs into your recruiting process with this Employers Council white paper. The exclusive resource for members includes key strategies for crafting an effective program and a customizable referral form. 

  • Lower your recruiting costs
  • Find high quality applicants who fit your culture
  • Boost employee retention rates

Login to download or become a member.



Recruiting and DEI

Organizations often run into two roadblocks when trying to align their recruiting and diversity, equity and inclusion goals, Kristen said. 

First, the same laws that prevent discrimination can also make it legally tricky for companies to directly target any specifiic category of candidate, even if the intent is to foster a more diverse workforce. Instead, organizations should look at their recruitment process through a DEI lens. 

Carefully consider what explicit and implicit biases may exist in recruitment materials, job ad language, job requirements, and more. Are there small process improvements you can make (such as removing identifying information from résumés during the screening process) to help reduce the effect of unconscious bias? Is there anything in your recruitment plan that is keeping diverse candidates from applying—or finding your posting? 

Organizations should also pay close attention to where they are looking for new employees. “The best advice we’ve been giving is to make sure you’re posting to places that yield a diverse audience,” said Kristen. 

Secondly, organizations need to actually build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. If your workplace talks a good DEI game when recruiting but doesn’t actually walk the walk in the workplace, you’ll lose new hires from underrepresented groups quickly.

“I can tell you where to post…and you can post to all of these cool places, but that’s not going to be your problem,” said Kristen. “A lot of organizations don’t want to tackle the DEI nut because it gets really uncomfortable at certain stages.”  

Want more ways to boost diversity in your recruitment process? Members: Login and download our free whitepaper on “Recruiting for Diversity.” 

What to Look for in Outsourced Recruiting Services

If your organization is struggling to find time to create and execute a high quality recruiting plan, outsourced recruiting services are a good solution. But not all recruiting service organizations are created equal. How do you find one that fits your particular needs? Ask a lot of questions, Kristen said, to make sure it’s a match. Here are several to start with:

1. Do your recruiting processes align?

 “If you spent the time thinking about your own process, don’t throw it out the window because you want to use this contractor,” said Kristen. Confirm that either they can work with your recruiting plan or that your processes complement each other. 

2. Does your point person understand and support your goals? 

“Do they get what you’re trying to accomplish with this hire?” asked Kristen. Find someone you’re comfortable working closely with who shares your objectives. 

3. Do they have a good track record? 

Are they known for delivering great candidates? Are you able to call their references? Do they have a good reputation in your field?

4. Are they active in your industry? 

Recruitment experience in one area might not translate to another. Check to make sure their network, contacts and knowledge of your industry is strong enough to deliver results. 

5. Do they know how to work with organizations of your size? 

Recruiting for a 500+ employee organization—with deeper pockets, bigger HR departments and more resources—is a much different game than guiding small start-ups through the recruitment process. Find an outsourced recruiting services consultant who knows how to work with you.  

6. Is their applicant pool relevant and updated? 

Do they have a constantly  updated list of possible candidates, or are they working from old information? “I haven’t put a résumé out into the world in 12 years, and I still get calls from [certain] headhunters,” said Kristen. “That tells me that their bucket is not always the freshest.” Look for a recruiting company with timely contacts in your area of business. 

7. Do they offer the solutions you need right now?

Get clear on your recruiting goals and which parts of the process you need help with to find the most appropriate outsourcing match. 

What do recruiting services cost?

The recruitment process is notoriously expensive. Some estimates put the total cost of replacing an employee (and getting the new one up to speed) at around 1 to 2 times the position’s salary. 

Outsourced recruitment services can be an efficient way to enhance your recruiting process, as long as the return on your investment (in time, quality candidates, and excellent hires) is favorable. 

Keep in mind that headhunters and some recruiters tend to charge a flat fee: anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of the position’s salary. (Because of that pricing structure, many won’t take on lower salary, entry-level positions.) Organizations that offer more holistic recruiting services, like Employers Council, usually work on an hourly rate. Both flat hose fees and hourly rates can vary based on several factors, including:

  • Location and Industry: How much do outsourced recruiting services cost in your area and in your line of work? Check with some of your peer organizations and compare quotes from several different outsourcing candidates.
  • Complexity: Is the recruiting task you need help with simple or difficult? Are you looking for a C-suite candidate with a niche set of skills or entry-level employees who can learn on the job? Are you revamping your entire recruiting process or just needing tweaks? Know that you’ll generally pay more for complex tasks, whether in flat fees or hourly rates.
  • Current employment rates: Outsourced recruiting services are more in-demand when everyone is trying to fill open positions. Expect rates to go up accordingly. 

Organizations should look closely compare bids to find recruiting services that match long-term workplace goals and their budgets. 

3 Reasons to Choose Employers Council as Your Recruiting Consultant

1. Employers Council offers a holistic menu of services that covers the entire lifecycle of recruitment.  

Unlike headhunters who usually focus on the hiring portion of recruiting, Employers Council can help organizations with everything from recruiting strategy to new employee training.

“We are multidisciplinary,” said Kristen, “from compliance to state laws to HR strategy to brand strategy. If you work with just a recruiter, they may or may not be familiar, comfortable, or knowledgeable in any of those areas.”

Employers Council’s recruiting consultants not only have a wide range of real-world experience managing all parts of a recruiting plan, but they also have the resources of the Council available to fill in any additional member needs. 

2. Employers Council partners with clients in a collaborative, cost-efficient recruitment process. 

Employers Council comes alongside your process to enhance it, not replace it. (Employers Council can also help you build a recruitment plan if you don’t have one.) Organizations who hire Employers Council are able to customize outsourced recruiting services to fit their exact needs, fill specific gaps, and find the very best candidates for their open positions. Employers Council charges hourly rates, so you only pay for what you use.

“We can take as little or as much [of the recruitment process] as you want,” said Kristen. “That can be more cost-effective for small organizations because if they have a budget of, say, $2,000, they can say, ‘Get me as far as you can for that.’”

3. Employers Council shares their behind-the-scenes recruiting secrets. 

When you work with Employers Council, you’ll see exactly how they found your favorite candidates. From posting metrics to time-to-fill data, everything you’d want to examine from a best practices HR perspective is open to clients. Employers Council can not only debrief you on your recruiting results, but consultants are also available to train your own staff to replicate the consultant’s methods. 

Ready to build and execute a stellar recruiting plan with Employers Council? SEE OUR SERVICES 

Start collaborating with experienced recruiting consultants. GET IN TOUCH

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Employers Council Staff