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Cisco sources revealed that the company had a policy of fascinating the ‘top 10-15%’ people in the networking industry. It believed that if it could get the best people in the industry and retain them, it would remain the industry leader. According to Cisco’s vision statement, ‘Attracting, growing and retaining great talent is vital for sustaining Cisco’s competitive benefit’. Therefore, efficient recruitment was used as a powerful strategic weapon by the company. The company starts to use Revolutionary techniques like the ‘build-the-buzz’ strategy, which was centered on the primary market for its products, that is, the Internet.

Cisco’s recruiting team identified the candidates whom they felt the company ‘should hire,’ and then figured out the manner those potential candidates did their job hunting and designed hiring processes to attract them to the company. Cisco recruiters targeted even passive job seekers – people who were happy and successful in their current jobs. Barbara Beck (Beck), Vice President, Human Resources said, “The top 10% are not typically found in the first round of layoffs from other companies, and they usually aren’t cruising through the want ads.” Cisco changed the manner it posted advertisements in newspapers.

Rather than listing specific job openings, the company featured its Internet address in its ads and invited prospective candidates to apply. This move helped Cisco to direct all job seekers to its website where it could cheaply post hundreds of openings and provide information regarding them. It as well advertised its website in cyberspace to reach candidates who surf the net from around the world. The company was therefore able to monitor and measure its recruiting programs via the number of visits to its site. As most people visited Cisco’s website from their jobs, the company could recognize their place of work.

Cisco worked towards removing some of the frustration related with applying for jobs. The company learned to attract happily employed people via focus groups. Such focus groups targeted senior engineers and marketing professionals in other companies and found out how they spent their free time, the websites they visited and the how they felt about job hunting. Such insights helped the recruiters.

For illustration, it was found that most professionals like to watch movies in their free time, websites on ‘corporate cartoon Dilbert’ were very popular and most professionals hated job hunting.

Cisco, therefore, linked its website to the Dilbert web page (, which registered about 2.5 million hits per day, mainly from engineers and Internet-savvy managers; it as well bought space on websites like Travel Quest (, a reservation service provider. Such steps turned Cisco’s website into an extremely helpful recruiting tool. The website as well offered features via which applicants could fill their resumes online or create one with the help of Cisco’s resume builder. In this manner Cisco attracted active and passive job seekers.

The focus group’s exercise made Cisco realize that a candidate would approach the company if he had been informed by a friend regarding better opportunities at Cisco. This led to the launch of the friends program in April 1996. Cisco as well reached out to potential applicants via a variety of routes which were strange in recruiting. It starts frequenting art fairs, beer festivals and certain annual events in which people from Silicon Valley participated. Such places proved to be very ‘fruitful hunting venues’ as they attracted young achievers from different successful InfoTech companies. Cisco recruiters mingled with the crowd collected business cards from prospective candidates and spoke to them informally regarding their careers.

More than 1,000 Cisco employees volunteered for the Friends program, attracted by the referral fee, which began at $ 500 and a lottery ticket for a free trip to Hawaii for each prospect they befriended and who was ultimately hired. In this program, Cisco employees were matched up with people who approached the company as prospects and who shared similar backgrounds and skills. The Cisco employees then called the prospects to inform them in their own words regarding life at the company.

Cisco advertised the friends program in movie theatres in San Jose and received about 100 to 150 applications each week. By 1997, regarding one third of new recruitments were made via the Friends program.

Cisco launched a tool termed Profiler on the employment page of its website to accelerate and standardize online resume submission. The Profiler asked applicants to give educational and Employment information via appropriate selections from pull-down menus. Cisco as well found which applicants and recruiters were not completely comfortable with, the time-consuming recruiting process. To speed up the hiring process, Cisco hired in-house head-hunters to identify qualified candidates for managers. After streamlining its recruitment policies, 1996, Cisco conducted an employee.

Survey to determine how the new recruits felt on their first day at work. The survey showed that some new recruits felt lost on their first day - their phones did not work, their computers had no software and if it did they had no idea how to use it. It was as well found that most of the employees didn’t get their email addresses for two weeks.

To address the above problems, Cisco launched Fast Start, employee orientation initiatives. Cisco installed computer software, which tracked the hiring Process and alerted the team regarding the new recruit’s arrival. As a result, every new Recruit started with a fully functional workspace and a whole day of training in desktop tools.

Cisco believed that its new recruitment philosophy must as well be made a part of the overall corporate culture. By late 1999, Cisco’s job page was recording around 500,000 hits per month. The company generated a stream of reports about who visited the site and fine-tuned its strategy accordingly. By the time the new recruitment initiatives were established, Cisco, which was hiring around 8,000 people a year, received 81% of the resumes were from the web.

Eventually, 66% of the new recruitments were from the candidates who had sent their resumes via the Cisco website. It was as well reported that around 45% of company’s new recruits came from the Amazing People Program.

Cisco’s hiring cycle also came down to 45 days from 68 days. The recruitment costs in this ‘direct mode’ amounted to $6,556 per capita, which was approximately 40% below the industry average.

Referral rates at Cisco were twice the industry norm and that created a performance edge as most recruits were qualified employees with vast experience. By 2001, referrals and the friends program accounted for 50-60% of new employees. Most significantly, the retention rate at the company had as well increased. The employee turnover figure was 6.3% in 1999, a very low rate compared to the industry norms, which varied from 18-28%.

According to company sources on average Cisco employees accessed the corporate e-HR site 16 times a day for information regarding job cuts. Analysts claimed that Cisco’s innovative and aggressive recruiting initiatives were to a large extent responsible for the company’s expansion at 40% per year and recruiting 250 employees every week despite the global dot-com slump.


problem 1: According to Cisco’s vision statement, ‘Attracting, growing and retaining great Talent is critical for sustaining Cisco’s competitive advantage’. Analyze the different Recruitment strategies adopted by Cisco.

problem 2: Cisco believed that its new recruitment philosophy should as well be made a part of the overall corporate culture. Describe the different key aspects that are to be considered in recruitment philosophy by companies such as Cisco. Describe how Cisco is benefitted by adopting innovative recruitment philosophy. 

HR Management, Management Studies

  • Category:- HR Management
  • Reference No.:- M92927

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