Tag Archives: candidates

Recruiting is Not Like Dating – More Like House Hunting

In the mid 1990’s a prolonged discussion between myself and a hiring manager was going on about why he should select his top candidate. He had interviewed five candidates and told me he had a top choice so I felt that there was not a need to see additional candidates. I quickly thought of a comeback after he stated that his reason for wanting additional candidates was just to be sure he was making the right choice. Seeing his wedding ring I commented “…so, when you proposed to your wife did you tell her that she is the one but that to be sure you need some time to search the market?” His response was a friendly explicative then the ok to extend an offer to our top candidate.

From that point I had compared recruiting and dating off and on with hiring managers over the years. When blogging became popular within the recruitment space I read several articles/posts also making this comparison and wish I had started blogging sooner to trump those that had written and broadcasted my shared comparison.

I now disagree with this comparison. I think a better analogy to the job search for candidates and recruiters trying to find candidates is the house hunting (or apartment shopping) experience. Consider these:

  • People start their house hunting search by going to the internet and either doing a general Google search or going to a site like realtor.com
  • People have specific wants when trying to find a home – location, size, local amenities, school district, culture of the neighborhood
  • People conduct research on the home and neighborhood by viewing the potential residence on-line, reading reviews of the neighborhood (or builder), asking their friends or family members if they know anything about the  neighborhood
  • New listings receive a good bit of activity when first posted then the activity slows considerably with only serious shoppers taking a look

Recruiters and candidates are using similar tools to find, research and gauge if they want to learn more about each other in ways that house hunters and realtors operate.

There is also one other factor that many people forget during both types of searches. The little annoying detail that gets glossed over by company reputation, salary, benefits or that the little annoyance can be fixed once they start (think move in).

What most people do not realize is that the little annoyance becomes a major frustration because just like in an interview or house hunt it only showed up for a brief moment. It could be a light switch in an odd place, or a squeaky stair only stepped on once or twice – it could be a clunky application process or a quick comment that changes were made recently. In these cases the savvy seeker will question what they noticed and typically the recruiter will have their response prepared to put any concerns at bay. However, just like in a home, once within the company that little annoyance is now with you all the time, it grows into a major frustration.

As recruiters we try to brush over the annoyances that might turn a candidate off or away from our opportunity. Sometimes we are confused on why a top talent candidate did not stay with the organization for very long and when asked they state what appeared to be small concerns during the interview ended up becoming major distractions. When boiled down it is that classic “fit” argument. The recruiter should recognize if the fit is not there and the job seeker should as well and be willing to pass on the opportunity.

Candidates are becoming more and more savvy around the job search process and can find out information about organizations through many channels. As recruiters we are typically prepared to answer questions around the small annoyances and are just as savvy in convincing the top talent to join our organizations. My advice is that when a seeker does bring up minor points to treat them as major because those are the ones that will make or break their decision and if you are honest with the candidate it will help move your organization forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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Recruiting – It Has (almost) Come Full Circle

The last four years has brought on a change within the recruitment industry – corporate and third party – that at the minimum has sparked conversation around brand, candidate experience, how candidates are sourced or how they find open positions. Several articles have been posted stating how much recruiting has changed and that certain aspects of it will fade away or (gasp) are already dead. To me, it appears to have come full circle – almost.

During the pre-internet/applicant tracking (ATS) timeframe the strategy to find top talent included:

  • targeted campaigns in print advertising with select outlets that would drive the right talent to mail or fax in a resume to the organization
  • partnerships with schools and career service centers for the intern and entry level roles that included campus visits, presentations, interview days, meetings with professors and campus groups
  • research of key professional associations, industry conferences, and either attending events or finding a way to receive a directory of members
  • effective employee referral programs

These were typically done through manual processes, phone calls, letters and monotonous work of opening each paper resume and quickly scanning for fit. I remember spending hours with hiring managers developing recruitment strategies around finding the right talent to apply to our print ads in various niche magazines and newspapers. We did not want hundreds of people to apply because that meant a large amount of work going through the responses.

When the internet and ATS usage gained speed and exploded in the late ’90’s the strategy changed a little but the core points above were still a strong foundation within recruitment plans. With the advent of key word search (boolean) on job boards and in ATS’s the mindset moved from ensuring the right talent applied to bring in as many as possible because maybe our methods before missed some really good talent. These systems could hold thousands of resumes and in time millions. Recruiters would brag to hiring managers that XX number of candidates applied to a posting and that number was typically in the hundreds. They would then add to their bragging that due to the internet or ATS technology they could whittle down the number to a select few and screen them for the role.

The use of the internet and ATS tools built a wall between the recruiter and the applicant. No longer was a fax number, mailing address or email address contained in postings. They were replaced with web site addresses or generic email addresses and phrases like “no phone calls please” or “no faxed or paper resumes accepted”. Recruiters (mostly corporate) were now behind a curtain that only privileged candidates who were contacted would be able to see behind it.

However, as the internet evolved and it moved from one-way communication to two way (web 2.0) recruiters were being exposed via tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google searches, or other on-line communities. Those that started in recruiting behind the curtain realized they needed to gain certain skills or use the skills they learned during college in social media settings to effectively communicate with candidates. The recruiters that started pre-internet spouted that the changes were not silver bullets but just another communication tool and recruiting is still the same thing as it was 15, 20, or 25 years ago.

I think it has evolved and is similar but a recruiter can be much more effective than pre-internet. The same foundation remains as my bullet points above. Take those points in today’s terms:

  • develop an employment branding campaign that will attract the right talent to your company – this could include social media, job boards, niche industry sites, video, mobile and believe it or not – print
  • university relations and campus programs that can now be managed through on-line tools directly with the school or through other tools that have significantly reduced the workload on building those partnerships but increasing the effectiveness of on-site visits
  • research of specific industry associations, contact lists and networking events can now be done in minutes instead of hours or days
  • automated employee referral campaigns making it easier for tracking, reporting and payments/recognition

There is a mantra I use in managing recruiters today that I know grates their nerves because it goes against the mindset of the “post and pray” days between 1999 – 2008. Less resumes, less interviews, more offers. That is how recruiting has almost come full circle. In 1995 I did not want 200 resumes mailed or faxed to me and today I do not want 200 resumes submitted to a non-high volume role. I want to make sure the role is marketed to the right candidate pool, enticing enough to have them apply and given today’s tools I can quickly and effectively identify top talent through the use of various internet resources. In addition, I want top talent to find me and connect with me about opportunities within my organization, no more curtain to stand behind.

As recruiters we have always adapted to new technologies and in some cases blown out the use of a tool that was not considered as it’s original intent. When developing a recruitment plan are you relying on spray and pray that will create a habit of sit and wait recruiting, or is it an active program that drives the right talent to your organization and a go out and seek mindset? I believe the latter will move your organization forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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I’ve Heard This Before…

Recently we moved into a house where the previous owners had left a very nice set of Encyclopedias and a special edition Philadelphia Inquirer “America: What went wrong?” from 1991. It was a nine part series that touched on everything from the “dismantling of the middle class” to jobs going to Mexico (now China) and the lack of salaries keeping pace with the rich, to big business tax breaks, the expansion of a global economy,  to health insurance, the decline of pensions and how Capitol Hill is influenced by lobbyists. The article states on the front page it will “…show how millions of Americans have fallen victim to a combination of rulemakers in Washington and dealmakers on Wall Street.”

Does this sound familiar? Have you heard this before?

I have. Do not expect me to present my opinion on these hot button topics or try to explain them. If it took two Pulitzer Prize winning reporters two years and thousands of miles of travel to conduct interviews, research and write their series, there is no chance I can present mine in a single post.

In reading the series and reflecting on those times I remember it was not much better then than it is now. In the early ’90’s we were in a serious recession and though I was in college I read article after article about how it was the worst time in recorded history for college graduates to find a job. Several of my friends who had graduated in ’90 – ’93 spent months looking for work. Most ended up in fields outside of their major. Several moved back home and some never could get their careers started and remained in entry level roles for years.

My first job out of college did not pay enough for me to live on my own and remember buying groceries on my credit card knowing full well I would not be able to pay the monthly bill. It was tough seeing the bank account always around zero. I wanted to make it on my own, I wanted to live independently but my main motivation came from my parents who informed me that if I moved home I would have to pay rent. Who wants to pay rent to their parents AND live by their rules?

I do agree that this recession is worse, and it is much tougher on people to find jobs in their chosen careers or just viable work. Especially those recent or new graduates. There are plenty of stories of how people have been creative in finding work, landing that perfect job, or having an extremely short job search. However, for every success I have a feeling there are five to ten stories of no success. This sounds so familiar to the early 90’s and 00’s recessions.

A key difference this time around…social media. People being able to reach out to friends from several years ago and reconnecting. The ability to find a job, a network connection, a reference check all through various sites that have given candidates a great opportunity to connect. Candidates have access to recruiters and hiring managers like never before and that is helping.

As with the job search in the ’90’s and about 10 years ago the job search is still about connections. Whether it is old school networking or if it is the new way through social media channels it pays dividends to build your connections/network before, during and after your job search.

Recruiters have access to an abundance of information on candidates through the same channels and that makes the search for talent that much easier and yet that much more complicated. Appreciate the fact that we impact people’s lives everyday and that by being smart about our recruitment techniques and identifying the best fit for our organization (and not just dropping a candidate because of how long they have been out of work) we will move our companies forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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Heisman In The Workplace?

Over the last few years I have read plenty about “top talent” and how to recruit for these elusive candidates or organizations will go into a death spiral never to recover and fall off the face of the earth. While I agree that companies can fail because of poor talent in the ranks or the lack of leadership within the top ranks, I disagree with the notion that certain sources or certain types of candidates are the best available.

Unlike the sports and entertainment world where there are a finite number of players with a very formal funnel process in place to ensure that the best of the best win awards and supposedly make it on our TV screens, ipods or tablets, the “working world” does not have such a process. We do not have the Heisman, Golden Glove, MVP, All-Star, Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Tony awards. We have an infinite pool of workers and it is nearly impossible to determine who the best of the best is and even then it is subjective. There is not an annual awards show that comes on during prime time viewing to go through the various categories. Business magazines and blogs may try to rank individuals but each one has their own method of ranking and usually there is some kind of flaw or a “pay to play” nomination process.

The common question I see out on LinkedIn group discussions, or blog sites is “how do I know I am attracting top talent”? In my opinion the question comes from those that lack confidence in their ability to recruit effectively, or feel that they are somehow missing out on something, believing the hype about passive vs active or secret sources versus common candidate pools.

As a recruiter if you know your company culture, understand the business/industry, believe in where the organization is going and can identify a solid slate of candidates that meet the requirements, have documented success in their field and fit the culture then you have identified top talent. Keep in mind how many Heisman trophy winners failed miserably at the NFL level. Sure some have gone on and done great things and the point is that though someone may have top talent within their organization it does not mean they will be in yours.

When I conduct a search I look for key things on the resume that will give me insight but I keep in mind the candidate created the resume. Therefore, when I pre-screen them I challenge them on points, make them explain the projects or claims of success listed and rarely accept answers at face value. It is my role to investigate the candidate and flush them out. I pick up on nuances while they explain their answers to determine fit or see if there is something I should ask to ensure I have as complete a picture of the candidate as possible.

It would be great if when someone applied they were ranked like tennis or golf players by looking at a central list of every player. Our roles would be very different. We would be more like sports and entertainment scouts with contracts and exclusivity and less like investigators with a sales twist. We do not have the rankings on every accountant, sales person, call center rep, or recruiter.

So, we do our best to source, screen and identify the best available talent for our organizations. This means that I will evaluate candidates from any source, keep abreast of industry trends, not dismiss a candidate because of the source or status and not get caught up in hype but evaluate its fit into my sourcing strategy. By doing this I will move my organization forward confident I have identified great talent.

I welcome your thoughts.

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“It depends…”

Those wonderful two words people hear when they have asked a well thought out question either during the interview process, offer stage, at a conference, or sitting in a studio being interviewed by a famous talking head. We hear these words and in my opinion they are almost as bad as “but”, “however”, and “you should”.

Most people briefly tune out when they hear “it depends…” because it is a signal that A) a long winded answer is coming or B) they are about to be snowballed into confusion with multiple answers suddenly thrown at them. As recruiters we say these two words a good bit during the process because two candidates are never exactly alike. Sure the positions may be exactly alike but the people in those roles are not. So when we are asked questions about career paths, long term growth or managers ask why their roles are not filled faster than their peers, our minds immediately bring forth the hundreds (if not thousands) of different scenarios we have handled in the past. And then it comes out “It depends…”

“It depends on the timing within the department but we have seen a few employees promoted within their first year and some after five years….”

“It depends, we are in heavy growth right now and who knows what may be available two years…”

“It depends on whether you are willing to work the extra hours to meet….”

“It depends on what you ideally are looking for and what is your main priority – salary? benefits? location? challenging work? awesome culture?”

“It depends on the event, if the hosting firm does not do a good job marketing or with site selection then we could end up paying a large fee for minimal return…”

“It depends on the role we are trying to fill, your positions are highly skilled and sought after industry wide, and most of them do not live in our far flung small town…”

“It depends if those type of candidates actually use social media or not, we would have to research them…”

“It depends on what type of employee you are seeking because what may work for a start-up may not fit the beaurecratic culture here…”

“It depends on the salary range we are willing to pay…”

These are obviously not actual quotes but probably pretty close. People know they are about to be told a generalized answer that may satisfy immediate concerns and it gives the recruiter the opportunity to somewhat address it and quickly move on. The problem is when the candidate or manager ask for details. Be prepared to address their specific situation and do not hesitate to be upfront. It may save you time and help identify that the candidate is not a good fit or that the hiring manager may realize they have set unrealistic expectations. Reducing the use of “it depends” and giving clear straightforward answers I have moved companies forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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No One Is Going To Read This

It never fails, December is one of the busiest months for me and has been throughout my career. Since my first job in recruiting I have heard it every year from hiring managers, clients, candidates and co-workers. No one hires in December, candidates stop looking, and December is the slowest month of the year.

To those claims I say BAH HUMBUG!!

My first year in recruiting was spent working for an agency placing mostly contract labor with some direct hire placements. Back then we called them perm placements but over the years we have had to drop the word “perm or permanent” because someone might sue us for not really permanently employing them. I digress. I was told that first year to not expect any placements in December and yet I finished out the month with double digit placements and one direct hire. My own personal Christmas bonus! The same was said the second year and yep double digit placements again. But it wasn’t just me, everyone in our office had a solid month.

When I became a Corporate recruiter I was told that no one will hire in December. Yeah right. Then why was I working like the young Ebenezer Scrooge (you know, when he was a happy guy, working hard because he loved it and still had a soul) in the office while everyone else was kicking off for the holiday, doing their on-line shopping or spending the day socializing and trading cookies/gifts?

I know why, because even though the business may slow down during December recruiting never stops. It could be that these managers need to fill the open job of 200 days before 12/31 or lose it in their budget, or that they need to have someone start right after the first of the year when the budget opens up and they can start work on their projects. It is also because people resigned in order to start their new year off with a new employer and now the manager is in a bind and needs someone asap. I could go on but you all know and have heard the reasons.

Every year as the holiday approaches I fall for it, I start believing what is being repeated over and over, and begin to think that maybe I too can do some holiday shopping on-line, or socialize a day away but it never comes.

When I pulled into the parking garage this morning and saw it practically empty I figured maybe this year will be different. Nope – I have taken 15 minutes to write and post this blog that no one will read because you are not in the office or you are like me and my team, slammed with reqs to fill, interviews to schedule, offers to extend all the while stressing if you can get to a certain store to buy that last minute gift.

I will agree that there is one week when those claims do come true and that is the week between Christmas and New Years. That’s when I witness peace on earth.

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!

Stock Photos from 123RF

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