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Recruiting ‘Trends’ Are Not Trends At All: Beware of Impractical Advice, and Remember Effective Metrics

by Aug 21, 2013, 5:48 am ET

I keep seeing articles about the “hottest trends in recruiting” that are, in reality, of little value to the recruiting community.

These articles list “new” recruiting concepts and ideas, but there’s a hitch: most of the “trends” listed have been talked about for years. What’s more, the kinds of ideas that are named must actually be paired with traditional practices and are not enough to effectively drive results on their own. This kind of misinformation can be dangerous for recruiters, particularly those who are just starting out and looking for guidance.

Let me explain a couple of the “trends” mentioned in these types of articles that are most bothersome to me and make note on why they aren’t really trends or, if they are, how to take advantage of them.

Social Sourcing

Is sourcing candidates over the web really newsworthy? As I said when this was the hottest trend a few years back, it still seems that relying heavily on social media as the next silver bullet, just like we did when the job board first came on the scene, could be disastrous for many recruiters.

With the ongoing buzz about social media, it’s become easy to forget about building real relationships — simple concepts have gotten lost in translation. How many times has the receiving party of your text or email misinterpreted the tone or intent of your message? It’s difficult to convey feelings through tweets, wall posts, and InMails.

At least the latest articles on social sourcing do mention that LinkedIn is no longer seen as a competitive advantage because everyone else is using it. Although it can be a wonderful tool for building relationships, LinkedIn has been abused by many a recruiter. The initial purpose of LinkedIn was to open us up to two-way relationships, not a one-way database, but it has become flooded with pushy recruiters and much of it is now an overfished-pond.

The point is to encourage authentic, organic interactions with talent — but can you really do this through social media platforms? Realistically, recruiters should already be actively involved with candidates and using more effective reach- out methodologies. Social media is not a crutch.

A Great Candidate Experience

This “trend” bothers me most of all. Calling the candidate experience a trend makes it sound like it’s a dismissive idea rather than a crucial part of recruiting. The candidate experience should be ingrained in every recruiter no matter what changes come along. Unfortunately, many recruiters today don’t see this as a top priority.

According to a recent survey by Mystery Applicant, almost half (40 percent) of candidates experience an unacceptable time lapse between initial conversation regarding a position and a follow-up conversation. Over half (52 percent) of candidates complained they didn’t feel like they were treated as an individual at all.

I can’t tell you how many recruiters today have told me they “don’t have time” to build and maintain emotional connections with their candidates — in other words, they don’t have time to do their job! We need to keep in mind that it’s not actually about us as recruiters, it’s about the candidate.

Embrace the best available tools and technologies, not just the newest ones, and take advantage of them all in order to have true success in recruiting.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Ken Salinas

    Interesting article, Mr. Lowisz. Validating the basics.

    However, you missed one trend never failing a true recruiter. The telephone conversation.

    Although as you inferred, the telephone and other social media trends are simply “tools” used to convey information. Not the be-all-end-all.

    Has there been a study conducted correlating LinkedIn connections and actual real-time communication and personal relationships?

  • Renee Afshar

    I can’t agree more! Many clients ask – what is the hot new trend to get those hard to fill folks? Many times I advise them on improving their fundamentals first before trying the “hot” new trends. The basics are – uncover and communicate your employer brand, responsive design careers site with great useability, promote an employee referral, recruiter training, and optimize/benchmark the ROI of all the tools you have before you jump on the next big thing. There are no magic pills. Just sharpening of your recruiting skills and tools.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Stephen. You raise some good points. At the same time, if we only considered advice which passed the practicality and workability tests, there’d be hardly anything here at all!
    ;) As I frequently point out in his column, one of my fellow commentator’s advice is so far-removed from the day-to-day reality of the *typical recruiter as to be largely useless to the vast majority of recruiters.

    “Social recruiting”: I agree with you. It’s a great way to make money selling the concept to desperate and solvent recruiters and their bosses, but a lousy way to quickly and affordably put quality butts in chairs.

    “A Great Candidate Experience”: IMHO, most companies don’t care, and a relatively small number competing to win a gold star for doing what every company should do won’t change things much or soon.

    “…’don’t have time’ to build and maintain emotional connections with their candidates”. We contract recruiters have a saying: “If you have time to have relationships with candidates, you don’t have enough reqs.”

    Cheers,

    Keith “Not the Most Practical, Either” Halperin

    *Though in his defense, he says he does not write for “the typical recruiter”.

  • http://meritagetalent.com Kara Yarnot

    Stephen — The title of your post is “Recruiting ‘Trends’ Are Not Trends At All: Beware of Impractical Advice, and Remember Effective Metrics,” however, you didn’t tell us which effective metrics to remember. What metrics do you recommend for measuring sourcing and the candidate experience?

  • http://www.pjmconsulting.com.au Peter Macdonald

    I’m in agreement with Keith about the “candidate experience”. If I receive 50 applications for a position. 15 are so off the mark and are just applying for anything, 10 are excellent and I could possibly place them in other roles and 25 are good candidates for something, they are just not competitive with the good 10 and won’t make it to interview and I probably won’t be able to help them in the future, just where do I draw the line on emotional attachment? If I stop at the 10 then up to 40 will say the experience was poor or unsatisfactory even if I kept them informed by email as to the progress of their application. In your stated view I am not doing my job if I don’t connect emotionally with all 50! Unfortunately I am paid to fill a role not be a social worker and believe me it grates that I can’t help everyone I meet but that is life, and if I counted the number of placements I have made where the successful candidate never said “thanks” afterwards despite getting great service!!

  • http://www.qualigence.com Stephen Lowisz

    Ken – I agree that the phone conversation is an absolutely critical tool for every recruiter however it should not be considered a trend. The phone discussion is more of a building block that cannot be avoided.

    Im not sure I understand your actual question, but let me try and answer it this way. I personally know of many recruiters who have thousands and thousands of LinkedIn connections, yet can only attribute a small percentage of their total hires to the tool – In one instance it is about 2%.

    In another case, I know of a recruiter who has less that 2500 connections, yet is active in LinkedIn groups, provides tips, and eventually directly calls many of her connections. In her case, LinkedIn provides more than 42% of her total hours.

    Bear in mind that the position types these two recruit for are very similiar. My point in all of this is that the total number of connections is meaningless if the recruiter cannot engage or uses LinkedIn as his/her database without engaging in the community.

  • http://www.qualigence.com Stephen Lowisz

    Renee – very well said. All to ofetn we look for the “silver bullet” as apposed to adding a great tool to our tool belts. Trends come and go, fads come and go, and each of us should look hard at the value each new product, tool or service can bring us. However we run the risk of ourselves becoming a phased out trend if we do not have certain values and activites that form the foundation of our recruiting core. How we interact with a candidate and our effective communication with them should never be a trend!

  • http://www.qualigence.com Stephen Lowisz

    Kara – you bring up a great point! I am in process of crafting another article that will hopefully adress your question of what to measure as well as how. Stay tuned…..

  • http://www.qualigence.com Stephen Lowisz

    Keith – thanks for the comment and trying to bring reality into the picture. Let me say that I have been recruiting now for more than 2 decades and the comments and advice I give are based on real word, in the trenches recruiting that I still do today :)

    Unfortunately it seems that many recruiters would rather say many thing just do not apply to them as opposed to really looking at how to implement some of these ideas and test if they work in the real world.

    “Social Recruiting” – I agree that it is a money selling concept, however I also believe that if used correctly and for the right reasons, it can be very successful over a long period of time. For a contract recruiter that jumps after every project it is a useless investment unless they focus on one type of position for many clients. For organizations that look at Social Media as a tool for branding, driving traffic and having a mechanism to engage, it can be very effective. It is not a quick hit, cheap fix.

    “A Great Candidate Experience” – I disagree that companies do not care – they care but not enough to address the situation. We look at Candidate Experience as this big new idea that takes hundreds of hours of strategy and systems to implement. When you talk with a candidate, what’s the impression you leave? When they apply to your open req, does your ATS automatically respond with a personalized note that thanks them for applying and promises them that they will be contacted if they have the right skills and the position is still open? When your candidate takes an online pre-questionnaire, does it tell them they do not qualify? Being honest with our candidates, following through when we promise something, and acknowledging them when they apply makes a world of difference – this is real candidate experience.
    “If you have time to have relationships with candidates, you don’t have enough reqs” – this is a serious problem that is all too true with recruiters today but it’s bigger than simple opinion. As a contract recruiter or other agency recruiter you are only as good as your last placement. If you are an inside recruiter you are generally measured by the number of fills and the number of open reqs. Building relationships takes time, effort and energy and means that you have to have the best interest of both the hiring manager and the candidate in mind. Who am I kidding? Do recruiters really care about the match or filling the req and ticking off another transaction? We talk about quality, but to your point, most think like your statement clearly points out – its about the transaction. You just validated my comments.
    Thanks Keith!

  • http://www.qualigence.com Stephen Lowisz

    Peter – I appreciate your thoughts on the candidate experience topic. Lets look at from a different angle as well. Why do so many applicants apply for multiple jobs that they do not fit for – clogging up your time? There are many reason but one is that recruiters have trained them to bulk apply and job placement agencies teach applicants the same in hopes of getting a response from someone. When you close a job do you send an automated reply to let applicant know the position is filled? Most just want some type of answer.
    Let me address this another way. One particular fortune 100 company now mandates that each recruiter disposition all candidates on every req within 3 days of the candidate the applying. The recruiting organization went ballistic and screamed that they did not have the time, there were just too many applicant. 120 days after this was implemented a few things happened:
    • The recruiter reported a 31% increase in their own available time after the first 90 days of cleaning up the reqs and getting into a routine.
    • Candidate satisfaction increased 51% – yet most were still dispositioned.
    • Recruiters indicated that they uncovered a greater percentage of quality candidates than ever before since they rarely reviewed any more than the first 10-15 applicants.
    • Sourcing of hire from their own ATS increased by 37% because they fully reviewed each candidate – in many instances they created a so-called pipeline of talent (Im not addressing this one here)
    My point is that we so focused on how we have always done things that we often create unjustified reasons why something won’t or can’t work. This is an example of exactly the opposite.
    In terms of your comment: “if I counted the number of placements I have made where the successful candidate never said “thanks” afterwards despite getting great service.” Although some candidates will never say thank you, I think you are putting the cart before the horse. If the candidate felt that the recruiter actually cared about them most would say thank you and often become a third party recruiter’s next client. After interviewing hundreds if not thousands of placed candidates over the past 5 years I can tell you that many say very negative things about the recruiter they used – internal or third party.

  • http://www.pjmconsulting.com.au Peter Macdonald

    Hi Stephen

    I aim to send acknowledgement emails to all candidates within 24 hours of receipt and i send all unsuccessful candidates an email informing them of this as soon as i can after the decision to not proceed with their application is made. I get many positive responses from this and I will continue to do this as I respect the effort someone puts in to applying. I am also representing my clients so I want to make sure it is a good experience.

    However I don’t believe recruiters have encouraged bulk applications. Unfortunately there is no way of stopping the numerous applications from 3rd world countries for people wanting a better life from applying, even when the adverts clearly state they can not apply unless eligible to work in Australia. Also you won’t stop people punting on the minuscule chance someone will be interested in their resume if they send it in. No recruiter encourages this it just happens. Should I respond just to provide a good candidate experience?

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Stephen: You’re very welcome. You do seem to express a realistic (a bit “rosy”, relative my experience) approach.

    “Social Recruiting”: again, I think it COULD work in conjunction with a pipeline strategy, but most companies I’ve worked for aren’t able to set aside the resources to develop an effective pipeline strategy. One company I interviewed with some months ago had the rather crazy idea of having recruiters responsible for both immediate AND long term needs.

    “Candidate Experience”: “they care but not enough to address the situation. ” Feelings without actions are meaningless IMHO. If they won’t even pay $2.00/hr for a Virtual Candidate Care Assistant to make sure each and every candidate has a professional if not pleasant experience while permitting recruiters to concentrate on high-value add activities, then in my book: THEY DON’T CARE. If you don’t positively reinforce good behavior or extinguish negative behavior, nothing changes.

    As far as building relationships and that it requires time that most of us (recruiters) don’t have- many recruiting problems are like that. Unfortunately, most of the time we’re either “drinking from a fire hose” or wondering when we’ll be laid off. Also, as a job seeker: I don’t want to take the time to build a relationship with a recruiter, company, etc.- I want a job NOW!

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Sylvia Dahlby

    LOVE the comment “Social media is not a crutch.” Social “networks” are not new and neither is “social sourcing” – recruiters use these resources all the time even if they just pick up the phone or show up at a conference. Social media is just a TOOL to leverage your professional network. The only thing about it that’s trending is that more companies are adding social media to their media mix.