Job seekers these days have few advantages when applying for jobs if they don’t have an inside contact to smooth the path. The best recruiters make it easy to connect and make it possible to forge a working relationship with the brand. A recruiters job is to find top talent, yes, but a big part of that job is defending the brand against bad hires – think of Zappos’ practice of buying out employees who don’t “fit” quickly. And they continue to innovate. Zappos’ is currently doing a great job of spotlighting their recruiters. A brand win, win. This means, as with in-the-trenches HR, a large part of their job is risk management. It’s not that they’re against you, candidates; it’s more that they’re for the company and culture first. If you turn out to be the ideal candidate that’s a bonus, but it’s not job #1.
I think a lot of people – both recruiters and candidates – thought HR tech, in the form of job microsites, job boards, and HR technologies, would help rebuild the shaky bridge between employer brand, internal recruiter/external recruiter and the candidate experience. And for some companies it has done the job, principally because the brand awareness is so strong. (TOMS Shoes, Apple, and Google come to mind.) For these companies, candidates self-select before they enter the recruiting pipeline. This candidate-centric approach requires a very strong brand and equally strong recruiting practices.
For companies without a strong brand, or with a lot of heavyweight process in recruiting, the balance needs to shift back to a talent-centric focus, away from heavy process. How does that happen? One way is through brand visibility and online social learning.
Recruiting As A Social Reality Show
Thinking about training may send a shiver down your spine. Chain hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms; meh food; endless PowerPoint presentations given by tedious speakers. Anxious attendees, desperately networking. It’s hardly a recipe for learning, let alone success. Here, as elsewhere, we can learn a lot from technology, even 80-year-old technology.
So I encourage you to add a dose of reality (and fun) by watching the Top Recruiter Miami social show and competition. Executive Producer Chris Lavoie has done a great job borrowing the “top chef” model and applying it to the world of social and recruiting. This year’s event, scheduled for three weeks from now in Miami, will be more than entertaining TV (no Snooki, alas) – it’s a master class in how to be a top recruiter, one who puts the candidate and the brand first.
As Chris points out, an estimated $140 billion dollars are spent on recruiting every year. That is a huge amount of money, and some employers may question the ROI on the investment. Chris also notes a world-class recruiter has to have multiple skill sets, what he calls “the right combination of people, business and street smarts”.
So put the show on your radar, and in the meantime let’s think about what the top recruiter skill set really is.
Five Candidate and Brand-Centric Recruiting Skills:
Be Curious: this is table stakes but worth mentioning. For example, recruiters don’t have to be technologists, but they must be conversant with tech terminology if they hope to attract the best tech candidates. If you don’t know the difference between Java and C#, you won’t have much success lining up the right candidate. Be a student of the market for which you’re recruiting. Know the influencers, read the news, follow the investments.
Be Focused: more table stakes, but it’s been amazing to me, in my years as a recruiter, how many recruiters I meet who lack simple focus. They move from opportunity to opportunity; they neglect to build relationships with brands and candidates. They’re robo-recruiters, robo-calling or trolling LinkedIn with the most minimal level of commitment and effort. They aren’t candidate or job seeker advocates: they are working on their retirement strategies. Don’t be this person, or if you are, rethink about your career calling as a recruiter.
Be Intuitive: intuition is pure gold. It will tell you when a candidate isn’t quite as presented in his or her resume, and when a CEO is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you rely entirely on HR tech to recruit, your intuition muscle will atrophy and you’ll be at risk of making bad hires. Mix it up: use technology to make your life easier, and intuition to make the hiring process more effective.
Be People-focused: technology and process are necessary but not sufficient. You need to know and genuinely like people. Be a student of human nature, know how to read body language, how to catch little hesitations in speech and spot a too-quick shift of the eye. You need to be friendly and open to put people at ease, and savvy enough to know when you’re being played.
Be Brand-aware: don’t work for brands you don’t believe in. Don’t work for managers who are clearly toxic. Keep your ear tuned for dissonance when you speak to candidates: What worked at their last job? What were the barriers? What were the things, if changed, that would have kept them in the job? Why did they leave?
We need, as an industry, to restore the balance between classic, candidate-centric recruiting and technology-assisted, process-driven recruiting. We need to help the companies we work with improve candidate experience while hiring the right person. In some ways we have to be two things at the same time: a brand advocate, for sure, and a candidate advocate. It’s not a Jekyll-Hyde thing. You can do it. Just focus on people first, and the rest will follow.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.