One of the P&L Staffing Managers asked me for help on this topic in the past. It's funny how often hiring managers pass all candidate identification responsibility to recruiting and how often recruiters let that happen (we need to talk about partnership, people!). I don't think there's some evil intent. It's just that if you aren't a "recruiter" you don't think of yourself as a recruiter. It's the responsibility of your staffing partner to help you (the hiring manager or team member) understand your role in the hiring process (hint: it doesn't start the day of the interview). So anyway, here are my suggestions for how folks in the hiring community can partner to identify talent (and some of these are good ideas for extending your network in general):
1) Give your recruiter names of companies. Let's say that you are in the widget making business. Your team is responsible for widget wheels, you need a new widget architect and you meet with your recruiter to discuss specs. You know the competitive landscape for widget wheels and you want the best candidates. Tell your recruiter where they are. Give her the names of the companies with the best widget wheels. This doesn't just mean the big dogs...think about those wiry new competitors and also think about horizontal competitors (sometimes you can find great folks in the supply chain that don't sit in what you would normally think of as a competitor).
2) Write a compelling job description. The job description is the key tool that your recruiter uses to attract broad interest in your open position. I think many hiring managers are under the mistaken impression that the job description is only important in telling the recruiter what to look for. Not so. It's a marketing tool. It can be the hook that turns a passive candidate into an active candidate and an active candidate into someone who is extremely excited by the position. It shouldn't just list requirements, it should talk about the job responsibilities, scope of the role, cross group interdependencies, expected results. I've blogged quite a bit about the need to use the right keywords in writing a resume...ditto for the job description. As the hiring manager, think about the words that your intended hire might be searching on and may have on their resume. And never, ever start a job description with a question (ooops, sorry that is just personal bias...it drives me nuts!).
3) Give your recruiter names. Most people think that an employee referral involves a resume. Not if your recruiter is great. We know how to find people. Think about the person you read about at XYZ Widget Enterprises. You remember that his name is Bob and he went to Purdue. Tell your recruiter. She can find him! And if she's really good, she'll make these people part of her own network and continue to stay in touch with them until they are ready to move and you have a role for them.
4) Ask people on your team for referrals...remember, not just resumes but names. It is so simple, results in great hires and we forget to do it. If you don't want to do it, tell your recruiter to do it. Also, make sure that you have some kind of reward system for this. We don't pay for employee referrals here, so I am not talking about money. Think about what would motivate people on your team...food, recognition, time off. Recruiters need to think about this too. If I reach out to people at Microsoft asking for referrals for a specific type of role, I'll guarantee the referrers that I will follow up with them and the candidate every time (of course, this is only when I go out a pursue these kinds of referrals...otherwise couldn't keep up with the volume). Sometimes all the referring employee wants is to know someone will follow up and treat their contact professionally and that's pretty easy to accommodate.
5) Network internally. Make sure that your peers an business partners know that you are hiring.
6) Join your alumni organization and make sure that your contact info is current and visible. Not just MBA, but undergrad. There are also a number of company alumni organizations that you can join. Since most are virtual, there's little, if any, commitment required.
7) When you speak at events and conferences, let people know you are hiring and provide a contact e-mail for interested people in your presentation (sometimes people feel uncomfortable approaching you if they are attending with co-workers). They shouldn't have to write it down. Put it on your cover slide. In my opinion, this should be part of every presentation that we do, but my soap box is starting to creak under my feet.
8) Be visible/relevant/professional in user and discussion groups (or delegate that to someone on your team). When I post in user groups, I paste in my auto signature. It goes everywhere I go online (at least in a business context because I don't think that Overstock.com really gives a hoot).
9) Bring speaker and attendee lists back from all events you attend and give them to your recruiter. We may use them now, we may use them later. Highlight the people you met that you thought might be good. If you are a Microsoft employee and you are reading this, feel free to send them directly to me anytime and I'll get them into the hands of the right recruiter(s).
10) Carry your recruiter's card. If you meet people you think could be good (regardless of whether they are a fit for your opening), give them your recruiter's card. We'll do the vetting and routing.
I guess the lesson here for recruiters is to leverage the information you already have available to you. It's inside your company so you should exploit your internal network for talent before going outside because your internal network will be able to identify quality or fit as defined by your company. The lesson for employees is to always be a recruiter...you are our greatest recruiting advertisement.