Do You Have the Proper Perspective in Recruiting?

Perception and PerspectiveIt is all too easy for sourcers, recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers/teams to develop a skewed, distorted, and decidedly one-way view of the world. Perhaps spending 99% of the time on only one side of the recruiting process is to blame.

Regardless of the cause, it is absolutely critical to regularly take the time and think about, understand, and appreciate the recruiting life cycle from the candidate’s side – the job seeker, the passive candidate, the non-job seeker, and the elusive “A+ player.”

In this article I’m going to walk you through over 10 different scenarios in which I think recruiters and hiring teams can benefit greatly by taking the candidate’s perspective into careful consideration.

If you don’t take well to being challenged to think differently from time to time, or if you don’t like long blog posts, you may not want to read any further. This one clocks in at 3700+ words.

Consider yourself warned. :-)

The “Fantastic” Opportunity

How often do recruiters contact potential candidates about a “great opportunity?”

How can a recruiter know if it is a great opportunity without first finding out what the candidate would define as a great opportunity?

Assuming you have a “great opportunity” for someone you’ve never spoken to is presumptuous at best.

At worst – insulting.

I strongly suggest you check out this blog post – “Why are technical recruiters so clueless?“, including the 140+ comments (some not for the faint of heart).

If you perform just a little Internet research, you can find forums in which professionals express their disdain (to put it kindly) for this kind of approach from recruiters, precisely because a recruiter can’t know if their opportunity is a “fantastic match” for the them without first finding out what their current situation is and what they believe is the next step in their career.

Sourcers and recruiters – do your research before approaching candidates and be sure to only approach potential candidates with opportunities that would actually be relevant to them, in their opinion, and not just yours.

Social Recruiting

With all of the buzz surrounding social recruiting, I find it important to take a moment to recognize where all of the buzz is coming from.

It’s coming mostly from people who are in some way, shape or form selling social media/recruiting services and advice, and also from people in HR/recruiting roles.

What about the people being “socially recruited? Shouldn’t we care about what they think?

What does “social recruiting” look like from their perspective? How does it differ for active, passive, and non-job seekers?

Do they think that Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook are more effective at getting them matched to the right opportunity at the right time than any other method?

Do they even want to be approached via sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+?

If you want to find out the real answers and not just the ones you like – don’t send out social recruiting-related polls solely using social media. It will yield a non-representative sample with skewed results favoring social media (hello!) – use a real random sample and multiple delivery mediumto get a more accurate representation.

As sexy as many people and organizations apparently believe social recruiting to be, there are at least some indicators that it isn’t so sexy from the perspective of the people you’re trying to recruit.

For example, when Steve Boese has asked the Gen Y/Z students in his Human Resources Technology classes about learning about organizations and engaging with company recruiters on social networks like Facebook or Twitter, almost all of them recoil – they say no way, “Facebook is for me and my friends only.”

Shouldn’t we be spending more time worrying about what our target talent pools think of using social media for employment and less time talking (and tweeting) with other recruiters about how social recruiting is “the future of all recruiting?”

Referrals

Yes, yes – we all know that employee referrals are the “holy grail” of talent acquisition.

However, have you ever been solicited for referrals? How did it feel? Do you think everyone feels the same way when being approached by a recruiter or manager for referrals? Have you always provided referrals to people asking you for them? Why or why not?

Have you ever been offered a referral bonus to refer people?

Some organizations pay for referrals – even for referrals from non core employees. Incentivizing people to provide you with referrals isn’t intrinsically a bad idea – but does anyone care about how people feel about being paid for referring their friends and peers to your organization?

I’ve heard of some people being quite offended by referral bonuses – they did not like the idea of “selling” their friends or people in their professional network.

Ultimately, I think that most people provide referrals primarily to help the person they are referring – not just (or at all, in some cases) to help the recruiter, manager, or company.

What do you think?

More importantly, what do the people you solicit referrals from think?

Messaging/Talent Engagement

How many recruiters do you think have ever wondered about what it’s like to get a 5 calls, voicemails, emails, and/or messages via social media from recruiters?

How about 10 a day? 20?

It’s a good exercise to take a moment and think about what it must be like to constantly under assault by sourcers and recruiters.

Sure, most active job seekers will return your call, respond to your email, and even pick up when their phone rings from a number they don’t recognize.

What about passive job seekers? How about non-job seekers? Why would someone who isn’t looking for a job even call you back?

Can we really blame non-job seekers for not picking up the phone or not responding to a voice mails and emails?

Do you know what most recruiters sound like in their voice mail messages and what the emails most recruiters send look like?

Do you realize how awkward it is for someone to receive an unsolicited call from a recruiter while they’re at work? In a cube? Sitting next to their lead/manager?

Do you think the highlight of anyone’s day is talking to another recruiter?

Making phone calls and sending emails and messages to potential candidates are among the highest volume activities that recruiters and some sourcers perform on a daily basis. As such, it seems to become one of the things that the least amount of thought is put into.

It is important to realize that people who don’t know you don’t call you back just because you left them a message. As I am fond of saying, “If they don’t know you, they don’t owe you.”

All Recruiters are Not Created Equal

While you might be a great sourcer or recruiter – many are not.

In fact, some very talented and good natured people view recruiters on the same level as used car salesmen (again, a little Internet research will yield a lot of information you may not want to see).

This is because some recruiters do not do the recruiting profession justice.

It’s important to realize that on any given day, you might be the 10th recruiter to try and contact the person you’re calling. Realize that the last 10 recruiters they spoke to may not have been very good at what they do.

On any given call, you may have to overcome an opinion of recruiters that’s been deservedly earned through multiple bad experiences with horrible recruiters.

You may have to fight an uphill battle to prove that you actually are better than all of the other recruiters who over-promise and under-deliver, don’t take the time to appreciate and understand the candidate’s experience and motivators, only push jobs, and never follow up.

In fact, you should assume it – you might just alter your approach a bit and get a higher response/success rate.

A little empathy goes a long way.

A Players

What defines an “A” player anyway?

The reality is that one person’s or organization’s “A” player is another’s “B” player, and vice versa – it’s all a subjective matter of perspective, and who is to judge?

It should also be recognized that specific corporate and team environments can play a huge role in whether or not someone even has the opportunity to be an “A” player.

And let’s not too hastily forget that companies are quite literally built on and by “B” players. “Research by Harvard professor Tom DeLong has shown that while A players can make enormous contributions to performance, companies’ long-term performance, even survival, depends far more on the unsung commitment and contributions of their B players.

On the retention side – focusing heavily on retaining “A” players can give solid “B” players the feeling that they are not valued, making them more likely to leave, and certainly more easily “recruitable.”

Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles

Sourcers, recruiters, HR pros, hiring managers are quite often guilty of committing the age-old error of judging a book by its cover.

When your job consists of reviewing tons of resumes, it’s easy to get picky and judgmental, and equally easy to forget that the resumes represent real people who simply cannot be effectively represented in a resume.

That Java software engineer you’re recruiting/hiring for? Remember that you’re hiring for a Java software engineer and not a professional resume writer.

Ditto for every other role/skill that could ever be hired for.

It’s important to keep in mind that the resumes of the people you’re reviewing may be the 2nd or 3rd resume they’ve ever had to write.

How good are you at anything when you’ve only had to do it 2-3 times?

Don’t see a particular skill or experience in a resume or social media profile?

Don’t assume the person lacks the skill or experience. While the idea that everyone should have a 1 page resume (2 pages max) is still perpetuated amongst job seekers and employers alike, have you ever stopped to think about what someone is actually doing when they have more than 1-2 pages’ worth of experience?

That’s right – consciously deciding to remove information in order to reduce the length of the resume – information you can no longer search for or use to determine whether or not the person might have the skills and experience you’re looking for.

The next time you or someone you work with is getting a tad overzealous with the resumes they’re reviewing, remember that there is a real human being attached to those resumes, and that it’s better to rule people IN rather than OUT.

You’re not judging a resume writing contest – you’re trying to identify top talent. You don’t know anything about a person until you talk to them.

Talent Pipelines

We all know it’s important for recruiters to build up talent pipelines, but how many recruiters have ever wondered what it must feel like to actually be a “pipeline candidate?”

Is it some kind of an honor or a privilege?

What do they get out of it?

Would you like to be continually contacted and screened by recruiters who never actually produced any well-matched opportunities for you, but liked to stay in touch with you regularly anyway, if for no other reason than to solicit you for referrals and leads?

If so, how many recruiters would you or could you entertain in this fashion?

Recruiting Relationships

What is the ultimate value that a recruiter can provide a potential candidate?

Wait – before you answer, it really doesn’t matter what you think.

Only the candidate can truly answer that question, because value can only be evaluated from the perspective of the customer of a service or product.

It’s one thing for people in the recruiting profession to talk about the value of relationships – but it’s ultimately the candidate who defines the value.

So why don’t you ask them?

A while back I wrote an article that challenged the value of the traditional “relationship” between recruiters and potential candidates- I urge you to read it and let me know your thoughts.

Do we really believe that all active, passive, and non-job seekers really need another recruiter to have a relationship with? How many “relationships” can any given job seeker have and maintain anyway?

The reality is that the vast majority of people ultimately want a job that is a great fit with what they are looking for – one that is the critical next step in their career, not another “relationship.”

Talent Communities

If one of your company’s talent acquisition strategies involves building and maintaining talent communities, the theoretical value that a talent community could provide a company is obvious.

However, have you ever wondered what real value a talent community provides the people in the community? Do they even perceive it to be a community?

Perhaps you saw it coming this time, but I have to remind you that it really doesn’t matter what you think. What really matters is what the people in your talent community and the ones you are trying to attract think.

Have you asked them? Probably not.

The idea of building talent communities is a deceptively logical approach to the need of proactively identifying talent. I say “deceptively logical” because what is good in theory may actually not be in practice.

The talent community concept has issues. For example – have you ever wondered about how many talent communities the people you are looking to identify, attract and perhaps hire at some point can possibly belong to?

It may feel as if the talent universe revolves around your company, but chances are you aren’t the only company of your kind. That means your competitors and other companies are vying for the same talent you are. Your talent community is one of many that the talent you so covet can chose from.

How many talent communities can a person realistically belong to? Actually participate in? Actually want to belong to and participate in?

Bear in mind that having an interest in your corporate brand does not necessarily equate to someone’s interest in becoming a part of your “talent community.”

Gareth Jones wrote a spot-on piece about the myth of the talent community – I urge you to read it if you haven’t already. Gareth astutely points out that “Job seeking is an event, not an interest,” and that fact alone will render many corporate branded talent communities into pit stops along the career highway, frequented mostly by transients and passers-by.

My guess is that isn’t how most companies would like to view their talent communities.

While “talent community” seems to be quite the sexy term in HR and recruiting circles these days, it is important to realize that “community” is defined as “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.

That means that if your “talent community” doesn’t have an interacting population, by definition, it isn’t a talent community.

If you have anything to do with a company’s development of a “talent community,” please make sure it provides some real value to the people who join and that it fosters interaction, and that it doesn’t function more like a talent collection point, farm or holding pen.

A good start in that direction would be to ask the talent you are trying to attract and serve what they would like to be able to get out of the talent community.

Either that, or just stop calling it a “community” if it really isn’t one.

Effective Job Posting and Response

You may think your job postings look good, but you’re not a neutral party. What really matters is what they look like to the average job seeker.

Do they accurately reflect the opportunity? Do they have enough real content (as opposed to boilerplate mumbo-jumbo) and are they interesting and compelling enough to get a response from the right people? From a passive job seeker that doesn’t have to or need to make a change? Can a potential candidate really get a sense of what they would be doing in the role?

Even if you have the most fantastic and compelling job postings, as I recently wrote, passive and non-job seekers typically don’t even “see” job postings or employer branding content even if it’s on the same web page they’re reviewing (think Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).

Take the time to look at your job posting/socialization strategy from the perspective of a discriminating active and/or passive job seeker who has many choices to choose from and who will only respond and take action on a select few. How can you ensure that you and your organization are among the select few? If you take the time to understand your target talent pool, you headed in the right direction. It’s not what you think is interesting and effective – it’s what they think is interesting and effective.

Last in this category, but certainly not least, is the response provided to applicants who take the often considerable time and effort to jump through the numerous flaming hoops of your applicant tracking system to respond to one of your postings.

How would you like to apply for a position that you feel you are well qualified for and never get a response? Would you be impressed with an auto-response sent via email confirming your resume/application has been received? How about the same snail-mail postcard that you know everyone else who applied also received?

The bar for what is “acceptable” has been set incredibly and embarrassingly low.

Interview Process and Feedback

Imagine you’re a job seeker for a moment.

You successfully landed an interview with a prestigious and well-respected company and arrive on time and fully prepared. How would you feel if no one who interviewed you was on time or prepared? Yes, this actually happens.

What if all the interviewers seemed interested in was how well you fit into their predefined job description, rather than looking for ways to fully leverage your talent, skills, and experience? How would you feel if the only questions you were asked were the “standard” interview questions?

How would you feel about not being selected for a role you interviewed for, and all you were given in response was that “you were not a fit for the role,” with no further explanation?

My guess is that you wouldn’t like it. So please make an effort to treat others as you would like to treated.

Active/Passive Candidates

Active candidates are okay, but passive candidates are better, right?

We all know that as soon as someone posts their resume on a job board or responds to a job posting, they can magically transform from a highly sought after “A” player passive candidate to just another “B” player active job seeker.

After all, “A” players don’t need to post their resume anywhere, right?

Ridiculous. The reality is that the subjective perception of any particular job-seeking status has nothing to do with the objective quality of candidate.

Nothing.

Active candidates are not plague-stricken, desperate “unemployables.”

Active, passive, not looking – who cares?!?! Let’s stop labeling/classifying people – anyone can be a candidate for the right opportunity.

Non-Competitive Offers

If you and your organization are looking to hire top talent, make sure that your offers and total compensation packages accurately and directly reflect that desire to the people to whom it matters most – the candidates.

When you’re dealing with people who don’t need to leave their current employer, you’re not going to get ”A” players and not even solid “B” players with significant talent, skills, and experience who can make a large positive impact on your team and in your company to leave without some incentive.

Don’t get too comfortable with your prestigious employer/company brand and assume anyone would be honored to work for your company for a lateral compensation move.

It is critical for hiring managers and HR to always keep in mind what it’s like to be on the other side of the hiring process, but it seems that not enough do. I’ve seen hiring managers that get so confident with their corporate/employment brand that they will extend offers under a very good candidate’s current pay.

I have a few questions for managers who extent these kinds of offers – how would you feel receiving such an offer, what kind of message does that send to you, and what would you do/how would you react? Would you seek to interview elsewhere?

Take the time to think (and care!) about how your offers will be received and perceived by the top talent you are trying to acquire. The best candidates invariably have choices in the market, and no one likes to feel undervalued and unappreciated.

And they talk.

Do you care if the word on the street about your company is that you’re a good employer to work for, but you don’t pay competitively? How about developing a reputation as a “cheap” employer?

Gen Y/Millennials

I daresay that the amount of time spent writing and talking about recruiting and managing Gen Y candidates comes close to the amount of time spent writing and talking about Social Recruiting.

I know and understand (and loathe) the human need for labels and categorization, but the fact of the matter is that you simply cannot generalize and stereotype everyone that’s been born in the 80′s or 90′s.

There are Gen Y people who actually think and behave more like Gen X, and vice versa. There are even Gen Y’ers who are more like Baby Boomers than the traditional “Trophy Kid.”

I know I don’t like being lumped in with anyone or any group simply because of when I was born – it’s absurd and insulting. I’m pretty sure most “Millennials” feel the same way.

Each person is a unique individual.

Take the care to recruit and manage people for who they are as individuals, not as a member of any particular generation.

Final Thoughts

Sitting on one side of the recruiting and hiring process can lead to the development of a distorted and disconnected view of the talent identification and acquisition process.

I strongly urge you to take the time and think about, understand, and appreciate the recruiting life cycle from the candidate’s side – the job seeker, the passive candidate, the non-job seeker, and the elusive “A+ player.”

I don’t think you can be a top recruiter or employer without the desire and ability to understand and appreciate the perspective of the people you are trying to recruit.

That’s the human element to the recruiting process.

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About Glen Cathey

Glen Cathey is a sourcing and recruiting thought leader with over 16 years of experience working in large staffing agency and global RPO environments (>1,000 recruiters and nearly 100,000 hires annually). Starting out his career as a top producing recruiter, he quickly advanced into senior management roles and now currently serves as the SVP of Strategic Talent Acquisition and Innovation for Kforce, working out of their renowned National Recruiting Center with over 300 recruiters. Often requested to speak on sourcing and recruiting best practices, trends and strategies, Glen has traveled internationally to present at many talent acquisition conferences (5X LinkedIn Talent Connect - U.S. '10, '11, '12, Toronto '12, London '12, 2X Australasian Talent Conference - Sydney & Melbourne '11, '12, 6X SourceCon, 2X TruLondon, 2X HCI) and is regularly requested to present to companies (e.g., PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen Hamilton, Citigroup, etc.). This blog is his personal passion and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone other than himself.

  • Joe Minaudo

    Well done Glen. Very thorough and your perspective on viewing things through the eyes of a candidate is bang on. Anyone in the HR and recruiting space should take note..

    On a related point, I both have successfully sourced candidates using Facebook and Twitter (of course LinkedIn). To a large degree, they are finicky sourcing tools to work with. One has to take them for what they are worth: an option, not a solution. More importantly, SM tools are great to expand on brand presence and getting a message out there. That is something all organizations should keep in mind.

    @joeminaudo

  • Chris

    What exactly is the point of this article, other than to absolutely slam members of an industry which improves people’s lives on a daily basis? Sounds to me like this person has been turned down by multiple recruiters and has an axe to grind…

  • Tom Bolt

    Excellent article, Glen! There is so much here to stimulate a meaningful dialog about recruiting in general and several specific points that need to be stated over and over. The process must have recruiters walking in the candidates’ shoes and vice versa. 

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  • http://www.booleanblackbelt.com Glen Cathey

    Thanks Tom! I worried that there might actually be TOO much content, but I always feel cheap even thinking about chopping up 1 post into many just to string people along over time so I’ve never done it nor will I ever. However, I know I lose some readers with such long posts. I’d still rather get it all out in one place for people to reference. Do you think it’s too much for a single post?

  • http://www.booleanblackbelt.com Glen Cathey

    Chris – thanks for dropping by and leaving your thoughts.

    I don’t have an axe to grind, nor have I been turned down by multiple recruiters – I haven’t looked for a job in 15 years. If I were grinding an axe – it would be on behalf of everyone who has ever been negatively affected by mindless and inconsiderate recruiting practices. Unfortunately, that’s a large group of people.

    The purpose of this article is to get people – specifically recruiters and hiring managers – to think about what it is like to be on the other side of the recruiting process. Much of the content in the article has come from things I have gleaned directly from candidates I’ve worked with over the years. I don’t think I slammed an industry at all – the only people who could possibly be slammed by what I wrote would be people who committed every error possible in the recruitment process and could care less about what job seekers and candidates think, feel, or want.

  • http://www.booleanblackbelt.com Glen Cathey

    Much appreciated Joe!

    I’ve sourced and hired from Twitter, and have trained and directed recruiters on how to recruit using Facebook – resulting in many hires. Just because it works doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile exercise to actually ask people how they feel about being sourced and messaged on Facebook. However, I agree that they are finicky – you’re dealing with so little professional data, if any, in some cases, it’s hard to craft a compelling and relevant message without more info to ensure relevance. And the searchability of Facebook is laughable.

    I can’t argue on the point of branding and attraction – it’s tough to match the power and reach of social media, and it would be a mistake to not fully explore all applicable options.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Brad

    Outstanding article!

  • http://twitter.com/garelaos Gareth Jones

    Hi Glen, some great points here and thanks for the mention regarding talent communities.  I particularly like the points you make about the active/passive candidate issue and also non competitive offers.

    When McKinsey delivered their now famous paper on the war for talent, an awful lot of people misrepresented what it was saying, over simplifying its message to say that there was a shortage of talent and that you had to get into a ‘war’ to get it. Total hogwash.  I doubt if many people actually read it because one of the key points they made was that a company has to have a really compelling proposition to offer, which should include a really strong compensation package.  

    to your point, brand arrogance is one of the many poor habits that kills a new hire initiative dead in its tracks when the organisation feels it can pluck the best and offer them the same or less.  

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/garelaos Gareth Jones

    Hi Glen, some great points here and thanks for the mention regarding talent communities.  I particularly like the points you make about the active/passive candidate issue and also non competitive offers.

    When McKinsey delivered their now famous paper on the war for talent, an awful lot of people misrepresented what it was saying, over simplifying its message to say that there was a shortage of talent and that you had to get into a ‘war’ to get it. Total hogwash.  I doubt if many people actually read it because one of the key points they made was that a company has to have a really compelling proposition to offer, which should include a really strong compensation package.  

    to your point, brand arrogance is one of the many poor habits that kills a new hire initiative dead in its tracks when the organisation feels it can pluck the best and offer them the same or less.  

    Thanks for sharing.

  • HCIT Recruiter

    As a recruiter in a high volume industry I think most of your thoughts are spot on.  Recruiters must learn to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to be successful.  In this virtual word where face to face is usually not an option, learning to develop relationships over the phone and taking the time to show the candidate you truly care for them as a person and want to introduce them to job opportunties that will make them happy is paramount.  (yes I said “make them happy”… because in the long run, you’ll have more success viewing the candidate as a human being than as a dollar sign)

  • HCIT Recruiter

    As a recruiter in a high volume industry I think most of your thoughts are spot on.  Recruiters must learn to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to be successful.  In this virtual word where face to face is usually not an option, learning to develop relationships over the phone and taking the time to show the candidate you truly care for them as a person and want to introduce them to job opportunties that will make them happy is paramount.  (yes I said “make them happy”… because in the long run, you’ll have more success viewing the candidate as a human being than as a dollar sign)

  • HCIT Recruiter

    As a recruiter in a high volume industry I think most of your thoughts are spot on.  Recruiters must learn to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to be successful.  In this virtual word where face to face is usually not an option, learning to develop relationships over the phone and taking the time to show the candidate you truly care for them as a person and want to introduce them to job opportunties that will make them happy is paramount.  (yes I said “make them happy”… because in the long run, you’ll have more success viewing the candidate as a human being than as a dollar sign)

  • Anonymous

    Great article, Glen. As recruiters and hiring managers, we always need to be thinking about our hiring process from the candidate’s point of view. We do this all of the time but the candidate may only do it once or twice in a career. We need to have empathy with the candidate and humility about what we have to offer.

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