A Return to Recruiting: Notes, Thoughts, and Commentary

Mar 3, 2009

“I don’t have to tell you that things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody is out of work or scared of losing their job…banks are going bust.”
–Peter Finch, “Network”

Can you hear that sound? It is the groaning reverberation of a deep and protracted recession. It is the sound of layoffs and loss. Of homes foreclosed, 401(k)s decimated, and of violent shifts in the professional and financial worlds. It is the sound of unsinkable companies … disappearing. It is deep and it is wide and it is ugly, and it has either already affected you or it will. No matter; Les Brown said it best. “It does not matter what happens to you. All that matters is; what are you going to do about it?”

So let me ask? What are you going to do about it?

I will tell you what most recruiters I am communicating with are currently doing. They are putting one foot in front of the other and existing each day with the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. They are scraping together bits of work and hustling like never before in order to make things happen. They are hanging tight and surviving, creating what are sure to be a breed of some very tough, street-savvy recruiters who will do well when things get better. Very well.

What will you do when things get better, and more importantly, what will be expected of you when the business of recruiting returns full force? What new breed of recruiter will evolve from this misery and what will they bring to the table to meet the still undefined future all of us must face? What gritty strengths and skills will be required to jump in with both feet in order to stake your claim to be successful?

  • Ability to search for passive candidates? (I think not)
  • Experience with applicant tracking systems? (Nice but not a big deal.)
  • Number of connections on social networking systems? (Jury is out)
  • Your blog? (Don’t hold your breath)
  • Use of video in recruiting? (Possible, but not of staggering importance)
  • Metrics and branding? (To a degree. Lets say yes and no…)

Here is what I think you will have to master/do/become in order to be in the first wave to return to full capacity and more importantly, to stay there: To paraphrase Kenny Moore, “Those specializing in the impossible will do well.”

Do more then understand what the client wants; Grok it. It will no longer be enough to simply understand the requirements a candidate must possess. You will have to amass a deep understanding of the subtitles, nuances, and specific content knowledge necessary to make a candidate successful. As such, you will have to develop much tighter relationships with hiring managers in order to ask enough of the appropriate qualifying questions to develop an unmistakable picture of exactly what the client is expecting you to deliver. Gone are the days of 10-minute chats about what a manager requires.

Say goodbye to political correctness. Your services are not being used to be politically correct. The promotion of fairness is a fool’s errand. You client is depending on you to support the acquisition of the very best candidate. End of story. Discriminate with passionate abandon against anyone who is not qualified to do the job and let HR sweat the numbers. Do this one thing and you can rest assured that you are doing your job.

You will have to become a political animal. Most recruiters, present company included, are not all that good at the politics of the workplace. (I can assure you that my disinhibition has made some see me as less then charming.) Politics is not a dirty word; it is a reality of businesses everywhere. Taking advantage of organizational politics is an opportunity to do what you have to do in order to do what you need to do in order to be successful. Hold your nose and play the game; successful recruiting is worth that effort.

You will have to pick up the phone. We must never lose sight of the fact that recruiting is a gregarious and rollicking business of people relating to and engaging other people. Social networks, talent pools, and other pockets of potential ability are wonderful but until you pick up the phone and drive the candidate side of the process, it is all pixels and IMs. When it is person-to-person contact you need, the experience of picking up the phone can be magical.

You will have to drive and execute the deal. It is imperative that we take charge and set the recruiting process in motion, keep it moving, and manage the overall dance. Drive the client to action, move the candidate towards acceptance, and close the deal. This is easier said then done, as so much is an art as well as a science. My advice is to be bold, take risks, and do whatever is required to create an intelligent hire that will benefit the organization as well as the candidate.

Are these five points the end all in terms of what recruiters must become? No, but let us begin there. When hiring commences in earnest again, we must not come back as the same people we were. We must pounce on talent and claim it as our own. (If you do not know what this means, you have never worked for an agency.) I feel strongly about this because if you do not think that organizations can engineer recruiters out of their existence, you are very sadly mistaken.

One more thing. Be nice. You will be interfacing with a desperate, angry job market. Every call and e-mail you do not return is linked directly to a real person just like you. Keep a kind and encouraging word for those still lost and frightened.

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