The tools, technologies and techniques we use to attract potential employees keep evolving, but a great recruiting program is still all about basic "blocking and tackling."

The best you can hire is only the best of those who apply

For starters, if you only recruit when you have a job opening, you cannot get the best. Waiting to recruit until you need someone is like grocery shopping when you're hungry — you'll buy the first thing that looks good that you can open and eat right away. Feeling pressured to hire someone causes you to be less selective and, more often than not, results in a poor hiring decision.

Most of the best people are working

If you want to hire the best, it's imperative to make it easy for busy, working people to apply. If you accept phone calls and applications only during normal working hours, you discourage the very people you most want to recruit.

Although your website may accept applications 24/7, working people won’t invest much time filling out your lengthy, online form on the chance they might get a call from you someday. Whatever you can do to make it easy to apply will put you miles ahead of your competition.

For example, one employer received only two responses in three weeks of online advertising for convenience store clerks. When the company installed a 24-hour, voice-activated job hotline, it received 26 qualified responses in the first week.

Fish where the fish are

The following are the best, proven resources for finding top-caliber prospects:

  • The best of your former employees. The grass is not always greener elsewhere. Reach out and invite them back. Roughly 20 percent of all employees once left the employer they now work for.
  • Referrals from current employees. If hired, employee-referred workers fit in faster and stay on the job longer than recruits from most other sources. Ask your people if anyone they've worked with elsewhere or anyone they know might be interested in applying.
  • Every applicant is worth three more. Simply ask: "Do you know anyone else who may be interested in working here?"
  • Turn your managers into recruiters. Frequently remind them to scout their business and social networks and report back.

Finally, everyone with recruiting responsibilities needs to make their personal mantra: "Not quantity, but quality." Do not judge results by the number of applicants attracted, but by the productivity and longevity of those who are hired.