How to Hire 50,000 People in One Day

By Kris Dunn

Apr. 7, 2011

McDonald’s is looking to hire 50,000 people across America on April 19.

Before you get snarky and start brainstorming the ad campaign they need, you have to ask the obvious question: Why set a goal as an employer to hire 50,000 people in a single day?

The answer is equal parts need, call to action, PR and production line. Follow along as I use McDonald’s to break down when it makes sense for a company to draw a line in the sand and hire 50 (or 50,000) people in a single day. I use 50 as an alternative to 50,000 because most of us will never have a goal of 50,000 hires. But 50 in a day can be as intimidating as 50,000.

Simply put, hiring 50 (or 50,000) in a single day makes sense when:

1. You need to make a bunch of hires but your time-to-fill has died out in recent months. You’ve got open positions, but the sense of urgency across your recruiting organization resembles the look you get when you ask a Kmart worker for help. That line in the sand looks like a good way to get your recruiting team’s attention.

2. You have multiple openings for the same position to set your focus. Lots of openings across the same position means you use the same hiring funnel to make multiple hires. That’s called economy of scale by folks who understand production.

3. Your hiring managers have de-prioritized recruiting and you need a call to action (the risk of public humiliation) to get them motivated. Time to fill/hire is the metric for which you are held accountable, and managers tend to use it to point the finger at you. There’s no better way to create accountability among line managers for hiring than with a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) that’s supported by your C-suite.

4. By focusing on a single day for hiring, you can create a sense of urgency with candidates and maximize your PR/advertising spend. If you have to hire a bunch of people by a specific day, it makes sense that you can maximize your awareness among candidates by putting a perishable date on your process. Raise awareness regarding the date by advertising and working traditional PR channels for media coverage.

5. You’ve got the discipline, recruiting skills and infrastructure to execute on the plan once established. Ah yes. It’s easy to create a date, but you can only use the “big day” approach if you’ve got the recruiting infrastructure and ability to deal with the volume hiring 50 (or 50,000) people in one day can create.

Not sure what infrastructure is needed to pull off that many hires in a single day? Here’s your cheat sheet of what you’ll need as a talent/HR/recruiting function to make it happen:

1. A big fishing net across all digital sources of hire. You need applicant volume to hit your goal—and lots of it. Have a detailed plan for your use of big and small job boards, job board aggregators and search engine optimization to ensure you have the top-level volume (candidates) to work through the hiring funnel and get to your goal (hires).

2. An analog promotion and sourcing plan. If you’re planning on hiring 50 or 50,000 people at once, simply spraying all digital sources with postings isn’t going to give you all the flow you need. You’ll need feet on the street to hit job fairs, community sources and to also source candidates via the phone who don’t directly apply to your company. You cast the net through the job board and aggregators; this is the part where you go find the candidates. Track your success and have an idea related to what percentage of your prospect flow will come from the analog side/hunting.

3. A PR/advertising presence to help you get the word out. You’ve created an event, so it makes sense that you’ll also try to develop candidate flow by having a PR person or firm work the local media on your behalf, and don’t forget that a hiring day like the one you’re pondering is one of the actual times that the old model of traditional media advertising actually can work.

4. Technology to help you handle all the flow that’s going to spill into your organization. Don’t try to hire 50 or 50,000 people in one day without an advanced applicant tracking system, and don’t attempt it without a comprehensive review of how candidates come in, are categorized and handled during the process. Optimize the system for what you’re about to experience.

5. Pipeline management that looks more like than anything you’ve seen out of your current HR/recruiting setup. Your sales organization handles forecasting through an activity known as “pipeline management,” which places all incoming leads at the top of a funnel and then starts eliminating leads deemed as nonviable through a five- or six-stage process. Your volume in this type of recruiting process is going to be so high that, unless you think like a director of sales, you’ll fail. You need to know how many applicants/prospects it takes to get one phone screen, one live interview and one actual hire. Only by knowing your pipeline like you know your pets or kids will you hit the number you’ve promised on the day in question. Be ruthless in your projections.

6. Early stage assessment tools to weed out candidates who will waste your time. You’re dealing with enough volume that it makes sense to use assessment tools designed to help eliminate candidates who don’t fit. Find the right tool and put it in play. The tool is cheaper than an hour of the hiring manager’s time.

7. Reporting that forecasts whether you’re going to make your goal. Got a month until the big day? Use the pipeline described in No. 5 to let everyone know where the company stands versus the goal. Use the reporting to embarrass those who won’t commit to the process. Your applicant tracking system described in No. 4 should be optimized to do that reporting for you.

8. Recruiters with the ability to confront and negotiate quick outcomes. There’s going to be a lot of volume flowing through the system with this type of hiring initiative. It’s no place for a passive, farming recruiter. Your recruiting team is going to have to drive the post-interview conversations with the hiring manager to close—getting to a yes/no, go/no-go decision on every candidate. Your volume is going to be so high you don’t have a choice; force the organization to make the hiring decisions quickly and on the fly.

Still want to hire 50 (or 50,000) people in a single day or within a one-month window? Start thinking more like a director of sales; monitor the volume in your sales funnel and close candidates quickly—and you’ve got a chance.

Workforce Management Online, April 2011Register Now!

Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer at Kinetix, is a Workforce contributing editor.

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