Do Candidates Really Want a Relationship With You?

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May 12, 2015

ere15s-logo-ere15confOne of the more frequently discussed practices running through the recent ERE Recruiting Conference was the need for recruiters to build relationships with the top talent they hope to hire.

Speakers promoted it; some hammered on it. Vendors positioned their products as enabling it. And in casual lunch conversations, leaders of some of the biggest companies discussed how their TA teams were trying to build rapport through social media and other methods, including with college students so new their freshman 15 wasn’t even their freshman 5.

It wasn’t a matter of whether, but how best to accomplish that relationship building. When something becomes a vendor selling point, you know the practice has become HR doctrine.

But should it be? Why should relationship building be the defacto objective of a TA group?

Since another commonly accepted practice — also widely discussed at the conference — is providing potential hirees a great candidate experience, shouldn’t we first ask if a candidate wants a relationship with the recruiting team?

I suspect it would be the rare individual who would say no. But given a choice, who do you think an interested candidate would rather get to know: the recruiter or the hiring manager?

From the potential employee’s perspective it’s the hiring manager who is the important player. The recruiter might open the door, but only the hiring manager will invite them in. More to the point, the talent you really want to join the company, the talent that doesn’t need your job, wants to know about the people on his or her future team.

Doesn’t it make more sense, then, for the relationship to be between the hiring manager and the candidate? Between the person who might someday be their boss, set the goals, do their reviews, and manage the day-to-day activities of the team? That’s the person upon whom so much of their career with the company will hinge.

If you think about — and the kind of talent that cares about their career and is the kind of people you want to recruit does think about things like this — the role of recruiter is that of a shadchan, a marriage broker. You can prime the pump with emails, tweets, and FB postings positioning the company as a great, exciting place to work. But the candidates won’t be working for you. Once hired, they might not see you again until the company picnic.

Dan Bruder at EREI accept that getting hiring managers to engage with potential candidates isn’t easy. Dan Bruder, the former recruiting director for the Peace Corps and a speaker at the ERE conference, explained how he used service level agreements to get both the manager and the recruiter working together. Using a SLA to get the hiring manager’s buy-in is one method to get hiring managers to participate in pipelining.

Another might be a once-a-month online Q&A between candidates and hiring managers. Getting them to tweet about the team and post useful, relevant content is another method. Have them adopt some of the same things you now do to build their own candidate relationship.

These relationships are not one-to-one conversations; at least not most of the time. Nor do hiring managers have to bare their souls or post like social media celebrity. Once or twice a week might be sufficient. Hubspot has some data on social media posting frequency. Getting them to respond promptly to specific questions, though, is important.

Just as not every recruiter is a relationship builder, not every hiring manger is going to play. Those who do, though, will reap the benefits, building a better, and more successful team that, in turn, prompts even more of the best candidates to want to join. The results, then, will speak for themselves.

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