Attracting and securing best-fit talent for roles that require highly specialized skill sets is a challenge in any industry. As Head of Talent Acquisition (Canada) at global aerospace and defense technology leader L3Harris, Fraser Donnell is up against it every day.
During his time at L3Harris, Donnell has uncovered ways to nurture talent pools, quickly engage top candidates, and shorten the hiring process (his record is four days!) to swiftly fill hyper-niche roles.
Dive into best practices he shared during our Feb. 18 episode of Talent Experience Live, Phenom’s weekly live show covering all the hottest topics in HR today. Donnell covers recruiting pain points, building talent communities, campaign strategy and more!
What It's Like to Recruit for a Global Aerospace Innovator
L3Harris designs systems-level components across air, land, sea, space and cyber domains — think flight training simulators, communications and satellite equipment, airport sensors and other innovative technologies that strengthen safety and security for the aerospace and defense sectors.
Of course, creating these components requires a talented team of individuals with a specific set of skills. And that's where Donnell, who is responsible for recruiting within the company’s Integrated Missions Systems, comes in.
“We develop all the integrated systems that go on much larger systems,” he explained. “It’s a complicated business, but truly fascinating stuff.”
L3Harris's "stuff" includes things like electro-optical systems, electronic warfare, maritime systems, and sonar acoustics. When it comes to filling job roles that support the creation of such complicated technology, L3Harris recruiters typically can’t turn to job boards and external reviews.
Donnell’s recruiting team faces three major challenges in filling open jobs: Strict security clearance requirements; operations in widespread locations; and the need to find candidates with a PhD or master’s level degrees — plus, experience in super-specialized areas of engineering.
“What makes it tough for us is there’s the two main elements of engineering: mechanical and electrical. But we have many different flavors or subsets of that,” Donnell said. “So we could have electrical engineers that focus on systems engineering — but for avionics. Or we have electrical engineers that focus on electronic warfare, or sonar and acoustics.”
Now that is hyper-niche — and requires a very strategic approach to finding the right talent.
Deepening the Candidate Pool through an Active Talent Community
The candidates that L3Harris looks for are often passive job seekers. That’s where building a talent community comes in.
L3Harris uses Phenom's Campaigns to support a thriving talent community. By inviting site visitors to sign up to their email list, they can then easily stay in touch with job seekers, deliver company updates, and share personalized job recommendations for when they're ready to make a career move.
“This is where Phenom plays a really big part for us, in helping to capture those folks who at one point may have expressed interest in joining us,” Donnell said. “Retaining their information has been key for helping us find and recruit them.”
Using Automation to Help Fill the Pipeline
An active talent community empowers recruiters to nurture talent pools — and maintain communication with candidates who have the right skill sets for the hard-to-fill roles the company competes for.
“Just by capturing past applicants from several years ago, curating that talent and segmenting that talent, building up those talent communities, has helped in terms of reintroducing our brand, the roles and positions we have that we think these candidates would be interested in,” Donnell said.
It's part of the recruitment process where Donnell puts HR tech to work. When new candidates with the right criteria enter their CRM, the platform automatically sends a welcome message with an invitation to join the talent community. Once candidates have joined, they can set up a profile and receive automated – but relevant – content and job recommendations.
Then when it’s time to recruit for a specific role, Donnell shifts into one-to-one style campaigns tailored specifically to that job, and to the candidate.
Targeted Campaigns Add Speed to Attract and Convert Talent
Donnell plans and runs campaigns grounded by the basics of sound marketing strategy (recruiting is marketing, as he points out) that is propelled with the rocket fuel of hyper-personalization.
“We use an individualized approach,” Donnell said. “Staying away from generalization, being more direct and relevant to that specific talent group — that’s been the key for us.”
Apparently so. Donnell and his team were able to hire for a niche role in just four days — a success that he attributes to both the stars aligning and a few basic marketing practices. “Part of it was timing, part of it was making sure we were targeting the right audience with the right message,” he said.
The other critical piece? Never being generic, talking directly to the candidate, and strategically infusing campaign content with applicable details.
The Little Things Are the Big Things
In a highly competitive playing field, details matter. As a result, emails must be crafted according to premium standards:
- Subject lines are treated like news headlines
- Engaging imagery catches the eye
- Employee value props (like signing bonuses) are showcased
- Personalized maps even give candidates directions to their office location
“We segment through our Phenom database, and through the use of tagging, we’re able to quite specifically narrow our audience,” Donnell said. “Whatever we can do from a campaign perspective to differentiate, cut through the noise, get more attention … we’re doing what we can from that perspective. Phenom helps exponentially on that journey.”
Artificial intelligence powers tools like a chatbot and CRM, so recruiters can use them to intentionally spark interest from talent with custom content and efficient processes.
Based on their experience, Donnell had a few pro tips to share with viewers:
1. Consider the "So What?" Factor. “When I think about building a campaign, I think about, what’s the “so what” factor? Will the candidate look at the email and go, ‘So what?’”
Donnell said connecting the dots between an open position and how it contributes to the company’s mission is a key way to avoid being just another easy-to-ignore email. He embeds content from the L3Harris newsfeed to give his target audience a clear idea of what the company is doing within their discipline.
2. Use direct reply to drives immediate responses. Making life easier for busy job candidates is a great way to build affinity — and application numbers.
Donnell and his team allow candidates applying for super-niche roles to send their information directly to the recruiter before completing the application process. “We’re finding more and more that if we open the door for direct reply to the recruiter, that seems to pay some dividends,” Donnell noted.
Instead of being asked to apply immediately, candidates are invited to respond directly to a recruiter — a technique that can net responses within minutes of sending, he said. Once mutual interest has been established, going through the application process becomes much more attractive.
Nurturing “Silver Medalist” Candidates
It’s always good to stay in touch with job candidates who were a close second for a particular role.
In niche hiring with elusive skill sets, it’s even more essential to nurture these “silver medalist” candidates and maintain employer brand affinity. Donnell recommends using the ATS to populate the CRM with silver medalist candidates to maintain rapport.
“They may not have been perfect for that one role, but they’re still a great candidate. And that’s part of the general message,” he said. "TA leaders tasked with filling niche roles can use this tactic as well, crafting messages that say: “We remember you. We value our connection with you, and the time you spent in the process. We want to share these new roles with you.”
How Campaigning Has Impacted KPIs
By focusing on their timing, audience, and messaging, Donnell’s TA team has successfully refined their recruitment campaign strategy. And the metrics prove it. Their fastest hire using campaigns? Just 4 days. Check out more of their impressive results below:
- 3.1K hard-to-fill hires in their Integrated Mission Systems segment alone
- 33% influenced hires using campaigns
- 25% reduction in time to fill for influenced hires
- 45% increase in open rates (from 25% to 70%)
- Double-digit click-through rates, up from 2%
When you can build on a sound strategy with technology that enables razor-sharp segmentation and personalization, there’s no reason not to shoot for the stars when it comes to filling your most super-niche roles. Just look at L3Harris.
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