The front line of HR has always been recruitment from my perspective.There’s no HR without talent. But talent is a new reality: The workplace is about to span five generations for the first time ever in history. Silents. Boomers. Gen X. Millennials. Gen Z. And we’re back on track with job growth: according to the BLS there were 5.4 million job openings in the U.S. in April, the highest number in 15 years. HR itself is experiencing above-average growth as well: the number of employed human resources and labor relations specialists is expected to increase 13 percent per year, some 2% faster than the average for all occupations. That’s nearly twice the 7 percent rate of growth for all business and finance professions.
Everything about HR — and its leading edge, recruitment, is being profoundly retooled. As Bersin has reported, most companies want to retool their own HR systems from the inside out. Work is global, networked, Cloud-based, inextricably tied to technology, multigenerational, mobile, social and 24/7, 140-character instead of a white paper. There’s a pressing need to fill STEM jobs and not enough candidates for them. There’s diversity. Inclusion. Global labor relations. To recruit in this environment is like being part wizard, part astronaut, part diplomat, part guidance counselor.
New populations, new tools, new culture, new outlooks, new roles for recruiters. Those who acquire and source talent have always worn many hats: shrink, detective, wizard, ship captain, cheerleader and flag-waver. But now, even those roles — what you might call the “soft” skills, though without diminishing their critical importance — are changing.
Here are just two of the top recruiter competencies, and how they’ve changed:
Shrink / Cheerleader / Detective / Closer
Psychology’s at the core of recruiting. I’ve known some top recruiters who even at the peak of the powers remain deeply empathetic, with a well-honed emotional intelligence and an impeccable eye for a good fit. Recruiting takes engaged and active listening, a quickness to pinpoint and tackle concerns, turn potential negatives into positives (the red to green reflex). It takes a sixth sense for a when a passive candidate can be nudged into an active one, an accurate gauge of personal decision making, and a closer’s sense of when to pounce.
That people-centric radar has to be recalibrated to work across an interconnected range of social media channels and multiple platforms, which means being an increasingly effective communicator who can bring a personal touch to an impersonal arena. Bersin describes it as the imperative to redefine recruiting as a network action — not just acquiring for present day positions from specific channels, but reaching out across myriad networks to develop pipelines for the future. What may be lacking in face to face is gained in access and reach, and benefits from the same precision in judgment and negotiating. Moreover the very language has shifted with shifts in the workforce. For instance: turnover: once anathema to the Boomer generation, it’s now accepted among Millennials that changing jobs is part of working. And Millennials now make up the largest percentage of the workforce (34 percent).
Brand Strategist / Candidate Experience Facilitator
The employee brand as always had to be infallible, clear, and palpable, and it has long fallen to the recruiter to be able to convey the culture (and appeal) of an employee brand to candidates. But the issue of brand was less sticky than it is now. Perception was related to more discreet information, and it was perhaps easier to shape that perception.
An employer’s brand is far more pervasive — and also far more influential. The recruiter is still a conduit, but the integrated and multiplatform culture of work means that nothing dwells outside the purview of perception — and the recruiter has to be able to represent that brand, as well as manage its alignment across multiple platforms. According to findings from the 2014 Candidate Experience awards (CandEs), some 41 percent said the most important factor in their decision to apply was a company’s values. Nearly half of all candidates said their first relationship with a company was as a candidate — which means that’s the juncture when employers have to get it right. The recruiter’s role may extend as well to de facto benchmarking, since the CandE findings show that there’s a lag on the part of employers: Three-quarters (75.4 percent) of candidates said they were never asked about their experience by an employer.
The function of aligning talent with employment opportunities is a more multifunctional act than ever. By necessity, a recruiter has to thrive within a new paradox: a well-attuned personal acumen that effectively straddles myriad networks and platforms with a global reach.
This is also a time when HR as a field is taking on a greater importance — moving closer to the inner circle of business strategy. The 260-plus HR-focused undergraduate degree programs at US colleges and universities, as well as certificate and diploma programs offered by organizations such as SHRM and The Sourcing Institute reflect a legitimizing and consolidation. About time. Not only is recruiting still all about talent, there are a whole lot talented future recruiters out there I’m looking forward to watching them work.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.