When I was asked to expand on the last recruiting blog we published, “Recruit the Relationship, Not the Role,” I honestly had a bit of trepidation; trust me, I wish “trepidation” was hyperbole.
Put it this way, I had enough anxiety about the situation it became the topic of conversation over Thanksgiving Dinner. Exciting conversation, I know. My bewildered mother couldn’t quite understand why her son, who used to write short stories as a hobby, would all of a sudden struggle to add commentary on the industry and profession he has dedicated his career to.
In many ways, this was a keen observation on her part, but it didn’t necessarily make the task any less formidable. I think this is very emblematic of the work we do and why it can be difficult to become successful as a recruiter. What am I trying to say? If I am a Theoretical Physicist, I could likely go on an endless diatribe about the merits of String Theory; but, as recruiters, when we are at our best, what is the tangible product we have to show for our work? Certainly, there is no mathematical equation sprawling across a blackboard for us to fawn over.
As recruiters, we don’t live in a world of things or, like above, theories. We must thrive in a business of people and the people business can be a tricky and strange place. But here is the good news, as one of my favorite philosophers, Francis Bacon, put it, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
We have the distinct benefit of talking to people all over the world, from all different walks of life. Every interaction is the opportunity to expand your network professionally. How about personally? Or are they so interconnected they nearly become indistinguishable? Some of the most interesting conversations I have had the privilege to be a part of are ones that started as a business call and ended something more akin to two friends catching up.
My father always used to insist that I “never miss the opportunity to saying nothing;” he, of course, was insisting that I listen to the people talking. This advice has always stuck with me, both in my professional and personal life. The more utilitarian iteration of my father’s wisdom is to never miss the opportunity to learn something.
If we allow the conversations with our consultants to be interactive and fluid, while resisting the urge to treat them as a means to an end, we immediately begin to value the process of recruiting relationships and not merely a person’s skill set. If the focus remains fundamentally on the people you are speaking with, rather than a list of technical skills in a CV, it stands to reason you will be more successful in a people business. Somehow those quirky idiosyncrasies that don’t align with a particular corporate culture immediately become more manageable. Or what about a consultant abandoning a project? For anyone who recruits for a living, this is the one thing that keeps us up at night. Can all catastrophes be prevented? Of course not. Sometimes life just gets in the way and even the best intentions need redemption. I can ensure you, however, by making the relationship the cornerstone of your recruiting efforts, these disasters can diminish appreciably.
I asked two of my colleagues on the Spencer Thomas Group Recruiting Team to give me one simple, yet effective, way they put people at the center of their recruiting and focus more on building long-term relationships. Between the three of us, here are a few of our favorite strategies:
- Interests, Hobbies & Social Activities: How many résumés do we look at on a daily basis? There is no doubt you have seen this section tucked away at the bottom of someone’s CV. So what? Here’s what I mean: The fact that your Project Manager consultant played college tennis may not help her get on your Client’s project, but, I would think that your recent trip to the US Open in New York City could be noteworthy? It seems very reasonable, to me anyway, that this could be a jumping off point towards establishing a business relationship centered around trust and putting the person, not the skillset, first.
Our World HQ in Portsmouth, NH is filled with avid golfers. We have all found conversations that involve the shared frustrations of golf to be some of the most enlightening; if you want to truly know if someone is a pessimist, ask them what they shot last weekend…I’m not joking.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. has ostensibly replaced the idea of a town square. I am certainly not telling you to run reconnaissance on your consultants or anything that could ever be considered devious. Notwithstanding, if social media is indeed the new town square, then there would seem to be great value in not only knowing how your consultants wish to present themselves to the world but, also knowing those things they value enough to advertise.
I also believe, when dealing with the phenomenon that is the Information Age, you legitimize yourself as a recruiter and a firm that won’t be passed by, or rendered obsolete, in a dynamic and ever-evolving industry.
- The Power of a Handshake: I was on a “Professional Networking” platform (I’ll give you three guesses) the other day looking to network with any new professionals that had expertise with some of the more unique platforms very specific to one of our major Practice Lines. A quick search revealed the following: 6,227 total candidates with 1,258 of those candidate looking for new opportunities. The power of the internet and the value it provides to our industry is conclusive.
What then is the impact on our industry as the reach and capabilities of the internet continue to expand exponentially? If picking up the phone now feels like an ancient old strategy then meeting your consultants might as well be primordial and, a lot of times, simply unjustifiable. Although a recruiter’s scope is no longer limited by their geographical location, no reasonable cost-benefit analysis could justify, say, a New England based recruiter traveling to Santa Clarita, CA for the purposes of cultivating a relationship. But, what if that consultant takes a project in Boston, MA? What if you both plan to attend the same conference? The now prehistoric anomaly that is the handshake all of a sudden is tenable. The benefit this provides to building rapport needs no explanation.
Is the “juice worth the squeeze” when it comes to meeting your people? Obviously, specific circumstances dictate your answer to this question. When possible, our Recruiting Team has found that there is great value in erring on the side of making the extra effort.
- Somehow, Someway: Look, we are all bankrupt for time. This means we must be flexible and use all the communication tools at our disposable to be as available for our consultants as possible. What is the most effective communication method(s) used in today’s world? Well, your consultant will dictate that, but we need to be adaptable and make the most of every interaction regardless of the medium.
When I first started recruiting I was vehemently opposed to texting. I felt it was too informal, too unprofessional. I quickly realized, however, that those consultants with whom I developed the best rapport were the ones sending texts. The messages were something as simple as a phone number request to something as consequential as confirming she and her family were safe after the Hurricane Harvey flooding. I wondered, is it a reasonable theory that text might be an acceptable way of expediting the process of developing rapport, as opposed to only being a barometer by which you measure your success of doing so?
On its surface, my examination of texting almost seems contradictory. Here I am, encouraging you to have rich and meaningful conversations with your consultants, face to face when possible, and now I am telling you to use a medium in which abbreviations and autocorrect have become an epidemic – as is the case with so many things in life, everything in moderation.
We must balance the idea of wanting to establish a good rapport with our consultants, which does not always involve discussing “Professional Certifications,” with the idea that in our industry time is essentially money. Sometimes deadlines must be met, expectations must be managed, and conversations kept to matters of business.
Something fairly intuitive is that text can be a very efficient way of providing and/or receiving vital information quickly, not to mention that it is inherently a way of documenting a conversation. Even more valuable, however, is that in your efforts to be as efficient and effective as possible, you are also providing the consultant a reminder that communication is central to everything we do in this industry and you have tacitly offered them assurances that we will make ourselves available whenever and however we possibly can.