Apr 3, 2009

About 25 years ago when the self-help gurus came on the scene, I heard Jim Rohn say something that still sticks:

Things will get better for you when you get better.

Sage advice indeed, and now might be the best time to take heed.

When I assess candidates, this is one of the factors I examine — finding out how the person got better. Not surprisingly, the best people have this core trait in common, and in spades. They’re always getting better. All of them improved themselves and the activities they were directly responsible for. A good portion of these people went out of their way to improve things they weren’t directly responsible for, so you need to give these people an extra star.

A much smaller group went out of their way to improve not only themselves, but also the people they worked with, whether they were responsible for them or not. These were the true leaders of the bunch.

As you assess candidates in the future, look for the degree the person got better, which will help you more easily separate the best from the merely good.

Surprisingly, very few had the exact level of skills, academics, and experience requirements listed on the job description. While they all possessed enough of the requirements to do the work required, the mix was different than the “must haves” listed, and the level of experience in absolute terms was generally much less.

Offsetting this was something far more important — a track record of consistent high performance doing comparable work, often in different industries.

Just like top people in any field, recruiters needs to consistently change and improve, just to stay even. To get better, you need to change even faster.

With that said, here are some ideas on how to get massively better. With recruiting departments being cut 30%-70% on average, getting massively better represents a survival of the fittest mentality.

In my opinion, if you don’t want to get massively better, drop out of the industry and do something you want to get massively better at.

How to Get Massively Better

  1. Become someone worth knowing. Recruiters need to be able to connect with lots of top-notch people on an ongoing basis. This is the best way to get referrals of great passive candidates. If you’re worth knowing, hiring managers and candidates will seek you out. They’ll refer the best people they know to you without asking. If you’re not worth knowing, you’ll only attract the attention of those desperate for the job you’re currently representing. This is a transactional relationship. Those who are worth knowing develop long-term relationships that span years, not just a few days. Here’s an article on how to become someone worth knowing.
  2. Know the job. If you don’t know the job, the best you can do is screen on skills and experience. If you know the job, you can quickly become someone worth knowing. You’ll be able to counsel and advise your candidates and hiring managers alike. You’ll be more accurate in your assessments and you’ll be able to defend qualified candidates from those hiring managers who conduct superficial or narrow interviews.
  3. Build a network of all-stars. If you’re placing similar type positions (e.g., developers, tax managers, ASIC engineers, pharma sales reps), most of your placements should come from referrals. To get these referrals, you’ll need to be considered an expert in your field. Part of this is cultivating relationship (not transactions) with every top person your best employees are connected with on LinkedIn. If you’re a third-party recruiter, build these relationships with the best people on your LinkedIn list. While they won’t give you great referrals right away, after a few months of professional nurturing and knowledge sharing, you’ll have a strong network to work once the req is approved.
  4. Become partners with your best managers. Recruiters are at least 50% more productive when they have a peer relationship with their hiring manager clients instead of a subservient one. This recruiter/manager partnership is developed when recruiters have a strong understanding of real job needs, present a few highly qualified candidates in a timely manner, have strong assessment skills, and can influence the shape of the job and the person ultimately hired. You know you’ve arrived when your hiring managers see everyone you recommend without having to review their resumes.
  5. Implement an early-bird sourcing strategy. During the first few days of a job search, the best active candidates contact their close confidantes, previous mentors, and a short network of influential people. In parallel, they Google for jobs by searching on the job title, the city, and the word “jobs.” The best of this group start interviewing within the first week. Time is now a competitive advantage, so being called first and being found first is the key to hiring the best as soon as they enter the market. Becoming an early-bird is an essential skill if you’re sourcing active candidates.
  6. Become an expert in consumer marketing. The messaging (ad copy) is a critical aspect of implementing an early-bird sourcing strategy. Rather than benchmark other recruiting departments, benchmark the best consumer products companies. When you do, you’ll notice that their advertising is written to appeal to their target audience with a focus on the benefits of the product rather than the technical specifications. For recruiting, this means eliminating traditional job descriptions filled with requirements (comparable to the product specifications) and start describing what the person will do, learn, and become (the benefits). While there’s much more than this consumer marketing stuff, it won’t help much if you’re posting boring job descriptions.

These are just some ideas on how to get massively better, and it really doesn’t matter if you do these exact things. What does matter is that you start getting massively better at what you’re doing today. Once you get on the path of getting better — whether it’s more training, attending meetings, leading workshops, taking on more challenging assignments, or becoming more innovative — don’t stop. Getting continuously and massively better is the real goal here.

As Jim Rohn said, “Things will get better for you when you get better.”

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