This is one of those stories I have been saving away in the vault for some time, knowing that while I worked as the head of talent acquisition for a large branded company, I could never tell it. keep reading…
So with an article like this, I have to write a disclaimer up front:
It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to climb the corporate ladder in a talent leadership role.
You are not less of an asset to a company if you are perfectly content being a specialized individual contributor.
Being an agency recruiter, consultant, or contractor can be just as rewarding (maybe even more so) versus running a recruitment department.
It’s OK to use a recruiting role as a stepping stone to something else in HR, the business, or a totally different line of work.
And finally, my journey is mine alone, so what you might read not everything might resonate with you, but I am hoping that if you just pull one helpful nugget out of this article, then that is the reward I was personally after.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way let’s get started. This might be one of those long articles, but heck, this is nearly 20 years of experience below. :)
I have not prioritized these into a stack ranked order of importance, but rather let’s call this a list of things that in my opinion have come up as foundational common themes over my career: keep reading…
If you ask most CEOs who don’t work for a non-profit what is most important to them, they will reply, “whatever makes the company money (revenue) or whatever saves the company money (margin/profit).” The primary marching orders from most CHROs for HR and recruiting functions will be about continuous improvement to reduce cost.
I know most recruiting leaders are nodding their heads as they read that statement.
Don’t worry. This is not another dull dry article about cost per hire.
As we should all know by now, from an acquiring talent perspective, as an industry we generally focus on two other major KPIs: speed and quality — beyond just cost.
The funny thing is when you really boil down these and other major KPIs, they all relate back to money anyway. Hold on, I will explain. keep reading…
I have recently joined ERE Media as Chief Analyst. One of my goals is to improve the quality of information that is disseminated within the talent acquisition space. As a former talent acquisition leader, I know that there is a lot of, well, crap out there. I am going to do this better! So, I need your help. I need you to fill out ERE Media’s 2015 State of Talent Acquisition Survey. keep reading…
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rob McIntosh, and I am the new Chief Analyst with ERE Media (which includes ERE, SourceCon, TLNT, and the Fordyce Letter). I have been a sourcing and recruiting leader for more than 18 years (covering 30+ countries), most recently as head of talent acquisition with McKesson.
Some of you might be scratching your heads wondering … why would a guy trade corporate life with the likes of McKesson, Avanade, Deloitte, and Microsoft to join ERE Media as its Chief Analyst? keep reading…
The foundation of recruiting performance has been built historically on three core business metrics:
1) Cost Per Hire = Can you recruit and do it with optimal financial investment?
2) Quality of Hire = Can you recruit an optimal or better performer?
3) Time to Fill = Can you fill the position quickly?
For this discussion I am going to concentrate on the third one, time to fill, which is historically a calculation from the clock starting once the business comes to recruiting with a need, and then stops once the candidate is hired/or onboarded. I want to share with you the journey that the Avanade team and myself have gone on, and how we arrived at the conclusions that it was time to blow up the time-to-fill metric. keep reading…
You might know me from my many years of contribution here on ERE or seen me present at previous ERE and Sourcecon conferences. After 16+ years of working in the recruiting industry across many different continents, I have decided to auction off my knowledge for a day to the highest bidder on EBay and donate the winnings to a worthy cause.
So why am I doing this?
I receive calls all the time from colleagues in the industry wanting to share best practices and pick my brain given my background and experience. When I got approached by the Muscular Dystrophy Association through a friend to donate some time to help raise money for children in need, I thought to help, by not only giving back to a worthy cause but also helping our industry as well.
I challenge you all to represent our industry and make a substantial donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Association through this initiative.
If you would like to read more about my eBay Brain auction and potentially put in your own 501(c)(3) charity tax deduction donation bid, see the EBay Auction Site. If you feel you cannot afford my brain, but you would like to help such a worthy cause, then please make a small tax-deductible donation here.
Howard Adamsky penned an interesting article the other day that struck a raw nerve with me. So much so that not only did I take the time to respond (which I do not do a lot of these days), but it actually lured me out of the darkness to jump on my soapbox with an article.
For those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), I will give you the abridged version so you can all get back to busily juggling your day. Further on, I will give you the larger, contextual version from a recruiting leader who has learned some hard lessons over the last five years.
A few people have wondered if I might be dead. They have not seen any activity from me on ERE lately (no articles; no postings; I wasn’t at ERE’s Boston conference). The fact is, I’ve been heads down since my presentation at ERE’s March conference in San Diego (entitled “Central Sourcing: Developing a New Recruiting Model”) trying to deliver on building a world-class central sourcing model, which was the focus of my presentation. Since then, my team at Microsoft has made headway in implementing some interesting sourcing strategies and tactics that have helped us identify key passive talent for the organizations we support. Rather than doing a deep-dive, long article on all of the key strategies we have implemented (after all, I might be convinced to present again in San Diego next year), I will touch on a few of the strategies that, with a little bit of love and care, you can start creating in your own organization today. So let me cut to the chase and outline some of the creative programs we have implemented so far this year:
Conquering and Dividing
Given my sales background, it occurred to me many years ago that recruitment is not that different from sales. In most cases, unfortunately, our business models do not reflect the similarities. If you look at sales, most organizations have “hunters” and “farmers” who hold very different roles in the organization and possess very different skill sets. In my mind, a sourcing structure within an organization is no different. You have experts in leveraging primary and secondary intelligence (i.e., “researchers” — a role on my team) and another group of individuals who romance candidates, build relationships, and sell the talent (i.e., “callers”). I have even taken this model to a level where it includes a function that most staffing leaders agree is important but often allow to get pushed to the side given the other priorities of a reactionary model: I employ dedicated individuals who focus solely on account management, providing proactive, high-level strategic sourcing consulting to the staffing businesses we support. This way I now have individuals who find the talent, individuals romance and sell the talent, and finally individuals who focus on the business issues and solutions that map back to the sourcing strategies, thus allowing the other two functions to focus on what they do best.
My team now operates with a mindset that is more akin to a sales and marketing function, which creates strategies around market segmentation, relationships, and strategic selling and deploys permission and viral based marketing programs.
Seeing the Forest for the Trees
One of the key problems we initially hit as a sourcing team, given that we do not operate at the requisition level, was trying to provide talent that is relevant and directly targeted to the recruiters we support. Additionally, we found that given the size and complexities of a company like Microsoft, one inherent problem historically existed: Not all recruiters know exactly where a great candidate might fit beyond the business they supported, given that most recruiters do no go deep into every business in the company. So we embarked on an exercise of understanding how all the core tech roles at Microsoft might “bucket” into like requirements, thus enabling us to also understand the unique, but similar, core requirements of each of our businesses. We now have a global map of all development profiles, domains, and the business groups they role up into. The bottom line: 80% of the candidates we supply to the P&L recruiters we support are now accepted, a definite increase. This has also allowed us to focus on what I know a lot of great agency recruiters do, which is to identify a great candidate and shop him or her around to several clients, acting as a “talent broker” for the businesses that have the greatest appetite and need for that person. By being able to step up one level above the requisition and see the similarities of the development profiles across the company, we have removed the issue of playing “go fetch” on multiple reqs from multiple clients. We now have a model that allows us to push candidates into the inboxes of the recruiters who need them the most.
An elevator pitch is an exciting and enticing story or opportunity that can be told in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the top floor to the lobby. Given that my team had embarked on a exercise of understanding all the development profiles at Microsoft, it made sense that we also must create elevator pitches on our candidates so our “callers” would be at there most effective in selling potential passive candidates on the cool opportunities that Microsoft has to offer. If you are like me and you do not subscribe to the “blah, blah, blah” help wanted ads on most job boards and corporate websites — which mostly inspire candidates (especially passive) to do nothing more than flee in horror — then you certainly understand where I’m coming from. Most good recruiters create elevator pitches naturally in their heads after working in a space they support for some time. But I wanted to ensure there was some corporate memory for any new people who came on to the team, so we would be able to confidently and quickly reach out to passive candidates with a common and sexy story to tell. Using elevator pitches to describe opportunities at Microsoft allows all team members to understand the bigger picture around all core technical profiles and adjust to sell other opportunities outside of the business they support. This small adjunct project has gained a lot of traction in the rest of the staffing organization, who are looking to use our elevator pitches for their own P&L recruiters to help sell candidates.
Automating the Web
I recognized long ago that there was a need to work out how to most effectively separate qualified and interested candidates from the high volume of candidates out there in the global talent pool. This was even more apparent in building a high-volume sourcing model, given that we needed to do achieve quantity while maintaining quality, even if we only spend 5% of our time on active candidate identification (vs. the 95% we spend on passive talent identification). Thanks to people like Shally Steckerl, who I hired as a Microsoftie to specifically help me architect such a solution, we have been able to turn this vision into a reality. We have now created a system that allows us to automate the identification and pre-screening of active and semi-active candidates by leveraging “bots” that run every 15 minutes, 24/7, against the core technical profiles we support. We then automated a process by which we personally reach out to these individuals to ascertain their interest and validate their expertise. The approach is one of smart, targeted, direct email contact initiating one-on-one conversations with hundreds of individuals simultaneously. The end result is that we can quickly and ethically identify a very large volume of leads, reach out to a targeted subset of that number, and produce interested and pre-qualified prospects yielding an acceptance of 80% by the business units we support.
This strategy also allows us to track deep metrics against each of the core technical profiles, which show us critical throughput on how many people opened the emails, read them, deleted them, forwarded them, responded, and ultimately made it through to the recruiters we support. With this type of data it makes it a whole lot easier to adjust targeted communications real-time to ensure we get maximum effect and throughput for out efforts. Such automation also allows us to dig deeply into hidden information and process it in such a way as to be able to identify patterns and pools of talent previously untapped. One of the most critical aspects of this is Peer Regression Analysis (Shally and I plan to co-author a joint article on PRA shortly), by which we are able to regress successful industry luminaries and identify the single pivotal point where they “became” or were recognized as a luminary. Once we locate that point, we then analyze their relationships at the time and find other individuals who were influenced by them (or who in turn influenced them), thus revealing a source of potential prospects previously unexplored.
Yesterday Is Not Today
One area that I noticed that usually gets put on the bottom of the to-do list — even though all recruiters agree it is important — is reaching out to candidates who might have been considered years ago but who at the time turned down a job offer or opportunity to interview. My team decided to revisit all candidates who had previously been made offers or declined interviews to see if they would be interested in discussing a career path again. Lo and behold, the majority of people were interested and surprised that an organization had taken the time to reconnect with them. This program has been so successful that is has become part of my team’s recurring core sourcing strategies.
Outsourcing the Administrivia
One of the things that I and most recruiters hate about our jobs is the amount of administration associated with the role. To me, it was critical to remove or greatly reduce this aspect of the role so that talented individuals could focus on what they do best: identify talent and sell that talent on a great career opportunity. To solve the problem I formed a strong relationship with a RPO partner who handles all of our adminsitrivia. I know my team thanks me for it.
We could not effectively manage many of the strategies above if we did not use a solid customer relationship management solution that helps us not only proactively capture talent and market to it, but also drive real time metrics and reporting to identify the flaws and holes in our business on call. I could spend just this article alone covering the value that CRM has to play in any model, not just sourcing. I’m sure that if my team is reading this article, they’ll get a chuckle — as they hear this from me almost daily. When you can produce reporting and metrics at will on every part of your business, from individual to team level, that everybody can see real time, you have reached a level of transparency in your business where everyone is accountable (including your customers), everyone knows what needs to be done, and everyone gets solutions quickly and easily. I will leave you with a final thought on CRM that to me this year has resonated louder than any other: Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability.
If your process, tools, systems, and strategy are transparent, then your customers better understand the challenges and opportunities you collectively face, allowing you to move past the “how to hold both parties accountable” phase and focus on what is really important: spending the time removing the roadblocks and delivering on results. It’s a win/win proposition. I intentionally did not get down into the weeds in this article around how to make all these programs and strategies come to life, because the reality is that what is originally dreamed up or white-boarded takes a large amount of effort to realize. More importantly, it takes a very passionate group of individuals coming together and sharing a collective vision. Without such a team, none of these programs and strategies would ever have been born in the first place.
Let’s first agree that no staffing model is solely based on identifying and finding only passive candidates. It makes sense to have a solid strategy built around quick hits, such as candidates in your own ATS or candidates on job boards. Most companies still need an active component to their hiring process, even as they attempt to identify and hire passive candidates. We have seen many an article about passive candidates, semi-passive candidates, and semi-active candidates, and how the overall passive talent pool (90%) is made up of candidates that are not actively looking. But has anyone taken the time to actually sit down and capture the pre-ATS activities and metrics here?
- Identifying prospects. How many prospects (to steal a sales term that refers to people before they become candidates) actually need to be identified through primary and secondary research? This could be through personal networking, name-generation services, cold calling, etc. These are basically candidates who are not in your ATS or active on job boards.
A few recent discussions with fellow recruiters made me want to write an article around the philosophical debate of the general sharing and swapping of tips, tricks, and strategies between recruiters. ERE itself is a great forum for the sharing of knowledge and the exchange of best practices, so I felt that it was an appropriate location to throw this topic out to a broader audience. The Question: How much information do you share with other recruiters within your own organization or your colleagues in the industry on the whole? Is it good to share the wealth, or is it potentially dangerous to give away your ‘secret sauce’ on how you recruit? When is a little too much or not enough? When is it right or when is it wrong? Is what you share a company’s intellectual property or is it yours? As you can see this is not a cut-and-dry issue. There are many paths you can take, and depending on who you are, you’re likely to look at the world a little differently. As we all know there are many people and companies out there that make a living out of training recruiters on strategies, tips, and tricks around all facets of the recruitment profession. But these people are getting paid to share their knowledge. For the rest of us, we generally have in-house programs, mentors, and training that cover a lot of these things as well, but we also gain the greatest insight learning from other successful recruiters on how and why they do what they do. In many cases, the sharing of this information is an informal process of networking in the right places, or asking the right questions of the right people at the right time. People seem to fall into two main camps, but for the purposes of this article, rather than aligning my personal opinion in one space versus another, I want to try and take an objective view on both sides of the debate. I am not prescribing a magical answer on when to share or when not to share, but rather wanted to raise more questions for you to ponder as opposed to giving my own personal opinions, which are not necessarily a reflection of the recruitment community’s. As always, I will add my little disclaimer now. No recruiter needs to be in just one of these camps. In most cases, we all have or have had a foot in both camps, either right now or at different points in our career. First, the “give away the farm” camp:
- They share the knowledge and wealth as if it raises the overall ability of staffing within a company and the industry on the whole.
In my previous article, Build a World-Class Network in 30 Days, I talked about how to create a new network from scratch. But now that we have started to create our network, we face the biggest challenge of all: maintaining and regularly communicating to our network. If all we did was just collect names, then the important function of leveraging our network going forward would be irrelevant. But the whole point of capturing these names in the first place is not only to get us to the people we want to ultimately hire now, but also to enable us to go to the “well” numerous times to gain maximum effectiveness from our networks. Any of you who come from the pre-PC days of card files and reminders in diaries will agree that keeping in touch with a network was a full-time job. In some cases, this wasn’t such a big deal ó particularly if your job was an account management function and you focused on repeat business with a defined market segment. But most of us have to wear many more hats beyond just account management these days, regardless of whether we’re corporate recruiters or TPRs. The Challenge The world has changed from those card file days, and technology now allows us to do many more things in less time ó but we still only have 24 hours in a day. Technology has allowed us to be more productive, but there also seems to be so much more to do. Often, recruiters need as many of those 24 hours to just find candidates, screen them, manage our hiring manager relationships, and in the case of TPRs, handle business development as well. Things like maintaining and communicating with our networks take a back seat, as most of us only see the large amount of time it takes to regularly keep in touch with a network. Then there are also the pressures from management and business, which are usually about making the “now hire” versus building for the future. We all know maintaining our network needs to be done, but we can’t ever seem to find or justify the time it takes to do it. The Technology Before we jump into a potential solution, we have to understand that if all applicant tracking systems had an effective CRM component (including things like reminders on our desktops to call specific candidates that day, the ability to send out broad, reoccurring communication in a one-to-one capacity versus one-to-many, the ability to break up the demographics of our market or network into very targeted and relevant segments, etc.) then this article would be null and void. But as you might recall in my previous article, I mentioned that if you were to take anything away from your first contact it should be the person’s email address. You will now see why. For the purposes of this article I will show you how you can at least automate reminders and mass personalized communication (without it being spam) with some simple solutions available to the majority of us now. This could potentially be achieved with a few different technologies that are not true CRM solutions, but for this example I will explain how this is possible with a simple product like Microsoft Outlook. Apologies to those of you using other solutions, but you should be able to duplicate the main intent here with other technologies besides Outlook. (Please don’t beat me up because I work for Microsoft and leverage my own technologies!). How To Do It Outlook as most people know it is a way of sending and receiving email, but by leveraging the “contacts” section in Outlook we can now automate some of the heavy lifting that comes with tracking and communicating with our new and existing networks. Each time we want to add someone new to our network we can simply create a new contact record (like a card file) and categorize them into the appropriate segments. Again, using the first article example we could categorize the different “voice recognition experts” into different types of categories (e.g., marketing, sales, technical, operations, etc. within the voice recognition field). This way the types of future communication or requests to our network can start to become personalized depending on the audience. Additionally you could have different people in multiple categories and networks but still ensure that the relationships you develop are targeted and relevant to each individual. The more relevant and targeted the request, the greater chance you have of getting what you want and need. Now some of you are probably thinking that if I have to send an email to everyone in my network on a regular basis then I will be doing nothing else except sending emails all day long. If you plan to send one email to one contact then you would be correct in your assumption. But as promised, I am going to explain how you can literally send one email to over 200 people (this could be many more or less if you want) in the time it takes to send just one email, without it coming across as spam. So this is how it works: Outlook (along with other solutions) has the ability to do mail merges that allow you to send one piece of email to all people in your network. But Outlook sends that email as if it were just directed to that individual contact (by leveraging Outlook contacts you are actually doing the mail merge via email, not traditionally in a word document.). The message is not being sent as a bcc (blind carbon copy) or a cc, which give the impression to your recipient that they are one of hundreds receiving the same email message. This way you can send to as many people you want at once without it coming across as impersonal or spam, but rather one-to-one marketing. The actual content and communication you want to send is going to vary depending on how you want to operate. It could be a simple as sending an email to just catch up, sending a specific job description to leverage referrals, or forwarding useful articles for that market segment. The multitude of reasons why and what to send are really only limited by your imagination. I even know one individual who likes to send a weekly joke as a way to keep in touch with their network (quite funny, but not really my style ó could be yours though). Now that we have organized our contacts, we need to keep in touch (depending on your style you might choose to make contact once a month or every six months. Anything less is probably too frequent, and anything more is too long. Again, this depends on your style and the market you recruit in). Outlook allows you to set reminders (reoccurring on different schedules if you wish) in your calendar, tasks, or against individual contacts, so this way you can get on with the other key parts of your job without worrying about when to follow up. I personally like to block out some time in my calendar once in a while to think about or locate relevant and added value information that I know my network can use. This way when my reminders pop up I am not scratching my head thinking about what can I email now. I can communicate to hundreds of people in my networks very quickly with relevant content that is both useful to them as well as another opportunity for me to reach out and keep in touch. The Future To be fair, Outlook and other solutions solve a basic problem with maintaining a network (reminders on when to contact and how to automate mass contact in a personal way), but in my honest opinion it is still a band-aid to what we all really need as recruiters: an applicant tracking system that integrates true CRM capabilities into one product and the ability to track all the communication. To take recruiting to the next level of its natural evolution, we need solutions on our desktop that not only help us search for, manage, and track candidates through workflows, but also facilitate the building of rich networks and the development of passive candidates. I am personally excited about what the future holds in this area, as we would all love to have more time to focus on building our networks without watching the clock worrying about “inbox recruiting” and the “now hire” issues.
I know a lot of you opened this article on the name alone, and yes it’s a big claim. But I will do my best in the next five minutes to show you how building a world-class network in 30 days is achievable ó regardless of your area of recruitment focus. I must clarify that to actually build an ongoing, sustainable network takes years, or even a lifetime, and no network is ever really finished (Harvey Mackay, in his book Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty about networking will support this). So what I would like to share in this article are the first key steps in creating and building a world-class network in new markets and industries. I’ll use an industry example to outline how each of the steps can be executed. Let’s say we are looking to build a new network in a space we have never recruited for: voice recognition technology. Let’s also assume that we are looking to build a network from scratch where we have no previous expertise or contacts. Here’s how it’s done. Step 1: Do Your Homework To quote a timeworn phrase, you will need to work smarter rather than harder in order to do this successfully. But the leg work you do upfront will pay off tenfold at the backend, as ultimately we are looking to build a solid network quickly and easily without huge chunks of our day being absorbed by the process. If our target network is in the field of voice recognition technology, then the first thing we need to do is find out who all the experts and public luminaries in this field are. The intent at this stage of the game is not necessarily to headhunt these individuals (that might be a bonus byproduct), but more to leverage their knowledge, wisdom ó and ultimately their rolodex ó to get you access to others in the field. We need a solid base to start from and the best people to create that base for us are the industry-known experts ó and it’s is always best to start at the top rather than the bottom. Since these people are luminaries in their chosen profession, they have likely been authors or keynote speakers at conferences and are easily searchable on the web or in bookstores. Step 2: Leverage Your Existing Network Now that you have a better understanding of the voice recognition space and some of its players, you can start thinking about how to leverage your existing network. I would think that the majority of us have, at least in some way or another, an existing network that might span a diverse set of industries or specialties already. Even though it’s possible none of the people in your existing network have any expertise or connections in the voice recognition space, I still recommend contacting them first, as they will be more than happy to point you to people in their own networks who could lead you closer to your objective ó even if it is only one step closer to the people you ultimately need to find. Remember, the name of the game is networking. Alec Baldwin, in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” said: “ABC. Always be closing.” In the recruiter’s case, it’s ABN: Always be networking. With the advent of social networking solutions now available for recruiters to leverage (Spoke, LinkedIn, Ryze, Orkut, Friendster, Classmates.com, etc.) it makes sense to use these tools to see who in your existing network, even if they are five degrees away, is connected to the industry luminaries and key players you’ve already identified in the voice recognition space. Once again, the upfront research you do on who these players are will give you a clearer objective on who you need to connect with. Step 3: The First Connection Now that you have identified these individuals, you now need to spend a little more time learning about their background and expertise, so that when you do contact them for the first time you come across as knowledgeable about their professional achievements and accomplishments. Let’s look at worst-case scenario, where you cannot get personal or professional references to some of they key people you need in this new space. You are going to have to go in cold! It’s critical that you spend some time thinking about this step, because when you have a small group to connect with you can not afford to blow your first attempt. You also need to be very empathetic at this point with the person you are contacting and understand why they might not know how to react to a total stranger reaching out. This is the most important question you need to ponder, and your own style will dictate what type of script (not in the parroting sense) you will use. Rather than giving you a specific example how that email or phone call might proceed, I’ll suggest to you that most people are willing to help another human being if the request is not unreasonable (i.e. it does not take up to much of their time, does not put them in danger, does not require them to do something out of character, is not illegal or immoral, etc.). Some people respond better if you take the “I’m new and need your help” approach, while others warm up to the “you are the industry expert” approach (be careful here, as if you overdo the “ego” approach it becomes transparent quickly!). You should have very clear, concise objectives in mind for the phone call or email before you execute, as this is no time to ramble. You need to be confident but not pushy. You need to build trust and rapport very quickly, be it over email or the phone. This once again is more of a personal style thing, but I never leave a voicemail message with someone who does not know me unless I can say I was referred by someone else. If you go the email route with your first contact, then you need to think about what the best subject lines are given the spam filters that exist today. Putting “I need your help” as a subject line will not cut it the majority of the time in this day and age. If you make your first connection via the phone, it’s critical that you take away at a minimum one thing from the call: the person’s email address. This way you can send them further data and continue to keep in touch without the first call intruding too much on their time. Think of the telephone the way most salespeople do: It’s used to secure the appointment, not to make the sale. Your phone call and the outcome should have the same approach and simple as:
- Identify who you are and why you are calling.