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Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 11.15.16 AMA problem common to most recruiters and human resources professionals today is a lack of understanding the actual job they are trying to fill. It’s really a fine line a recruiter toes, because understanding the role itself is not only imperative for sourcing talent but is also a huge advantage for closing that top passive candidate. The overall understanding of the role itself starts with the job title. If the job title is not a good fit for what you seek, you are likely in big trouble. (more…)

Writing job descriptions or (the new term) job ads, is a big part of a recruiter’s day. In fact, I have a candidate contact me recently about this article and point out specifically that the job advertisement or “req” was a huge reason why he would take (or not take) a new position.

His email got me to thinking. What elements need to be in a job description to make it attractive to candidates? Here are some tips to ensure that yours gets read and (hopefully) clicked on! (more…)

talent engagementOver the past five to seven years, the recruitment industry has faced great disruption due to the advent of social media recruiting and a proliferation of new software tools. These changes have been driven by demographic, economic, technology, and media trends. U.S. corporations alone spent $140 billion trying to find candidates to fill their jobs, according to a recent article in Forbes. With so much at stake, companies are increasingly seeking out new and improved solutions to a myriad of problems.

The new solutions address different stages of the recruiting life cycle. Whether it is social sourcing, candidate relationship management, or video interviewing, the common thread binding them together is engagement — the desire to find better ways to engage top talent.

However, one aspect of the recruiting process has not changed at all … the humble job description. (more…)

NYU -- the largest private university in the U.S.

NYU — one of the largest private universities in the U.S.

With the astronomical jobless rate and the skyrocketing cost of four-year college, many are questioning the value and validity of a bachelor’s degree. As a proud NYU alumnus, I treasure my education and wholeheartedly believe in the relevance of the college experience. However, over the years my black-and-white viewpoint on this subject has shifted to shades of gray.

That’s why the current educational phenomenon of “degree inflation” is so disconcerting to me. Economists and educators have coined this term to describe today’s hiring climate, where a college degree has become the basic requirement for jobs that don’t actually need an advanced education. According to Burning Glass, these positions include clerks, dental hygienist, administrative assistants, and paralegals. Corporate hiring professionals often adopt strict “degree required” criteria as a means of weeding out candidates and working with a manageable number of prospects. But very often this false criteria has no bearing on someone’s ability to engage, contribute, or excel in a role. (more…)

Recruiting is important at any firm, but it is super critical at startup firms. This is because when you have thousands of employees, you can still get by after hiring a few turkeys. At a startup, however, you are so lean that every hire must count and a single bad hire can cause incredible damage.

To further complicate the matter, large firms have a product and employer brand that can attract applicants. Startups have no name recognition, no recruiters, and only an informal recruiting process. The recruiting is made even more difficult because startups are often targeting engineers and IT staff, which are the second- and third-most difficult-to-fill jobs.

Don’t despair. It is possible to recruit great people to a startup if you are aggressive and you know the right tools to use. The following is a list of recruiting approaches and tools that are tailored to the limited resources and the special needs of startup firms. 

Branding and Market Research Approaches

  • Understand a startup’s recruiting advantages – it is a major mistake to assume that as a startup, you are at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting. Although you may not have an employer or product brand, you still have many recruiting advantages, including the excitement that comes with starting something new. There is a certain panache associated with working for a startup because everyone knows that you are a risk taker, an entrepreneur, and a pioneer. Even though you may work insane hours, you know that you will be part of a cross-functional cohesive team and community that will share the pain with you. At a startup, you will likely have little structure and hierarchy, few rules, and because of the small size, you will have a chance to make some high-impact decisions, interact with executives, and simply to “make a difference.” And with all the risks come the possibility that you could become wealthy in a few years and you will always have the bragging rights that you got in on the ground floor. And if the startup grows, you will likely get promoted rapidly multiple times.
  • Fully know your recruiting targets — the first step in recruiting at a startup is focus your recruiting on top candidates who are not in the job market (i.e. passives) who may be 25 times more impactful than average hires. The next up is to fully understand your target recruits. Fully understanding them requires market research that helps you identify: 1) what specific factors will attract them and turn them off; 2) where they might find out about a job opening (i.e. social media, Twitter, referral from a friend etc.); and 3) what criteria they used to accept or reject a job. Start with a “recruiting behavioral profile” using your current employees to find out these three things. Other options include asking your network on social media, asking on online forums, or even holding focus groups at trade events.
  • Make a list of your selling features — your main competition for recruits may be other startups, so you need to compile a list of what makes your particular startup more compelling than others. Talk to your own employees and especially new hires to find out why they joined and why they stay, and what they find that your firm has to offer that is superior to what other startups have that are recruiting at the same time. Some key selling points might include a great product idea, more secure funding, great leaders, bleeding edge work, a new technology, being closer to an IPO or buyout, a great location, or a super team. Whatever you choose to sell to recruits, make sure that it coincides with the job acceptance criteria of your ideal recruiting targets.
  • Develop stories and become talked about – rather than relying primarily on job postings, a more powerful approach for attracting recruits is to become” written up” in local media and on blogs. In order to be written up, you need a story inventory that contains stories about your product, the way you manage, or other features that people would want to write about and pass on. Start by identifying the factors that journalists and bloggers like to write about. This involves looking at a number of write-ups in order to identify the common factors that writers and editors like to include in their stories. This might be a great project for a PR intern.
  • Make your position descriptions compelling – if you must post your positions on niche job boards, make sure that they are exciting and compelling. Don’t follow the traditional job description format, and be sure to include a few items that will get the reader’s attention.

Traditional Recruiting Approaches Adapted to Startups

  • Referrals are king – whether your firm is a startup or large firm, employee referrals are the fastest way to attract quality talent. Employee referrals work even better due to the growth of social media, but in order to ensure success, you need to integrate the two programs and then educate your employees on how to convert their social media contacts into quality referrals. Give your employees well-designed “referral cards” to hand to potential recruits who impress them. Be sure and encourage referrals “for the good of the team” by demanding that your employees refer only their very best friends and colleagues to ensure that they don’t have to work alongside average people. Ask employees to assess every referral on their technical skills, their cultural fit, and their willingness to join the firm. And always ask new hires to make referrals on their first day. You don’t need to offer major rewards: a $100 Starbucks card, concert tickets, a two for dinner coupon, or even a dozen movie tickets might be sufficient. Because you have fewer employees at a startup, you have fewer “talent scouts” to make referrals. As a result, startups should expand referrals to include “friends of the firm” including friends of employees, vendors, employee relatives and customers.
  • Social media is powerful – if you take advantage of the contacts and networks of your employees, you can spread your employer brand, recruiting, and job opening messages to thousands at a minimal cost. LinkedIn is the most powerful social media recruiting channel, followed by YouTube, Facebook/Google+, and Twitter.
  • Be innovative in your recruiting – many of the traditional approaches like large job boards, corporate websites, and newspaper ads used by corporations are expensive, and most of them simply don’t work. If you expect to recruit innovators to your firm, be aware that innovators will quickly discount your firm if they fail to see any innovation in the way that you recruit. Innovation in recruiting makes your firm stand out and get noticed in the media and the blogosphere.
  • Recruiting interns is critical – interns are an inexpensive (and sometimes free) form of labor who bring excitement and energy to the firm. Even though interns may require training before they add much value, their energy and their willingness to do almost anything makes them essential. Interns can also be asked to serve as “on-campus ambassadors” when they are attending classes. Use the social media networks and referrals from your current interns to identify the very best who they know for additional internship openings. Also use grad assistants at local universities to help find top intern talent. Offering virtual projects to interns may also provide an avenue to get top students who don’t live in the area.
  • Use a hiring team – in a small organization, many of your team leaders may be weak recruiters, and there may only be a handful of people within the startup who are really good at recruiting and selling candidates. As a result, it is usually best to put together a hiring team that does all of the hiring. This is because when you use a hiring team, the individuals on it are more likely to be knowledgeable and up to date on the best recruiting practices and what it takes to land candidates.
  • Use peer interviews — finding top recruits is only half the battle. You have to sell recruits on an opportunity that is probably full of uncertainty. The best way to sell them is to use peer interviews, where your own employees do most of the assessment and selling during the interview process. Having coworkers or peers involved in the interview process works particularly well at small organizations because these individuals are likely to be both knowledgeable and passionate about the entire organization because they “live the work and the firm” every day. The passion of these individuals is likely to come through during the hiring process and it might give you an advantage over other organizations with less-passionate interviewers.
  • Use local professional events — although a good deal of startup recruiting is done over the Internet, professional meetings and events are always an excellent place to recruit. Local breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings held by professional associations are an excellent supplemental way to meet potential hires. Encourage each of your employees who attend these meetings to speak, to bring back the names of one or two potential hires, and to encourage speakers, officers, of the organization and other well-connected individuals to make referrals.
  • Your CEO as your chief recruiter – Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook is an excellent example of a startup firm using its CEO as their chief recruiter. Because the title of CEO impresses many people, getting them to speak and attend events will likely dramatically improve your recruiting contacts and press coverage. Obviously, you also have to train them on what to say in order to effectively attract and sell recruits. Direct calls from your CEO or CTO can also be a powerful recruiting and closing tool.
  • Use technical contests – many firms use external contests to attract individuals who are not in the job market, in part because individuals who enjoy challenges and that want to assess or demonstrate their skills are attracted by Internet contests. If you can develop a compelling technical contest that your target audience will see and be excited about, not only will you get some answers to your contest’s problem, but you may get several high-quality hires from among the finalists and the winners.
  • Target your customers — if your startup has progressed to the point where you have customers, you need to target them either as recruits or as referral sources. Because your customers are likely to share the same interest and passion for what you are doing, they may be your best source of hire. If you only have a beta product, ask key customers to become beta testers, not only for the knowledge but also to build a potential recruiting relationship with them.
  • Campus recruiting — although most startups don’t have enough resources to recruit at college career centers, speaking to student groups, entrepreneurship classes, and technical classes may yield some results. Getting grad assistants to help you identify candidates can also be powerful. You can also do remote college recruiting using Facebook pages, LinkedIn, mobile phones, and even Twitter. If you have some employees who are recent graduates, use them to spearhead your college recruiting effort. Incidentally, starting early in targeting sophomores and juniors may bring you some great interns or recruits who you wouldn’t have a chance to get once they become seniors.
  • Search the Internet for examples of outstanding work and answers – educate your employees who are searching the Internet for new ideas or solutions to identify and seek out potential hires, based on a review of their work. Often complementing individuals on their work is a great first step into convincing them to become a recruit. You can find examples of existing work on many sites, including Pinterest, YouTube, Dribbble, and their personal website. You can also post advanced questions on online technical forums and use those that provide great answers either as referral sources or as recruiting targets.
  • Write blogs and post videos – if you have good writers among your staff, writing technical blogs is a good way to expose your firm and your ideas. An alternative is to feed compelling stories to popular current bloggers. Posting interviews with your key technical people on YouTube or posting videos made by your employees showing the fun and excitement at your startup can be compelling and inexpensive.
  • Interview live from anywhere — most interviews take forever to schedule because they require finding times where both the applicant and the manager are available. And for the applicant, finding an opportune time where they can take off of work and travel to your site may also be difficult. So, if you want to dramatically increase the number of individuals willing to sit for an interview and you want to excite them by using some new technology, consider using live Internet video interviews. For example, a new iphone app from HireVue allows candidates to interview from anywhere and at any time, using their mobile phone or iPad. Using this type of technology, almost every candidate and manager can find time for an interview.
  • Bring a colleague to work – sometimes nothing sells candidates better than an open house meeting on your site, where they get to meet your team face-to-face and experience their excitement. The best option is to hold an invited open house on your site and encourage your employees and interns to bring a top colleague with them. Then have your managers show them your best practices, technology, and your team.
  • Ask during the interview — ask the best interviewees during interview for the names of other good individuals who they know. If you ask enough interviewees, you will get a pretty good list of top names for your talent pool.

Advanced Recruiting Approaches for Startups

  • Involve top prospects in your work – ask top recruiting prospects to help you “assess” a new idea or program. Then build the relationship to the point where they know you well enough to consider a job or accept an offer.
  • Hire them both – although it might seem expensive, offer a program where you will hire a superstar and their best friend at the same time (i.e. colleague, spouse/ partner). The premise under this approach is that the unusual opportunity to work with a close colleague may be a powerful enough incentive to attract and keep top talent. And don’t worry: no top professional would ever bring in an average or mediocre colleague to work alongside them.
  • Target other startups – some of the best hires are individuals who currently work at startups. They are superior because they already understand the concept and the risk/reward ratio of a startup. Obviously, you should target startups that are going downhill (especially on a day when bad news is released) but you might also be able to get some recruits from former startups that are now getting large and bureaucratic. Consider informal recruiting at incubator sites and coffee shops in neighborhoods dominated by startups.
  • Get help from your VC – if you’re ready have funding, work closely with your venture capitalists to determine if they can provide you with help in the recruiting area. Because they have already worked with other startups, they are likely to have resources and contacts in the area of recruiting.
  • Adopt a “next time” hiring approach — face facts, there will be many times where you cannot successfully recruit a particularly desirable target. They may not be available precisely when you have an opening, or another firm may simply be capable of offering something that is more compelling. A solution to this problem is to adopt a “next time” hiring perspective, where you accept the fact that your initial recruiting efforts might be unsuccessful. But rather than giving up once you get a “no,” you continue a relationship with the individual in the hopes that you will get them the “next time” they enter the job market. This requires keeping in touch with them on a periodic basis and letting them know that you’re willing to wait until the next time that they are available. This delay will not only give you time to strengthen the relationship but it will give you more time to understand their job switch criteria and to sell them on the opportunities at your startup.
  • Ask past references for referrals – individuals who served as references for previous top hires, if they were asked, will often help out again in your search for new candidates. Start identifying recent hires who have turned out to be exceptional. Call their references back, thank them, and then ask them “who else they may know that is exceptional and could possibly be interested in a startup opportunity?” Because these individuals have given a good reference once, it is highly likely that the additional names that they provide will also be of high quality. Most references are more than willing to help without an expectation of reward.
  • Create a hiring consortium to share costs – if your startup is in its infancy stage and your budget is limited, consider collaborating with a group of similar startup firms to share recruiting approaches, ads, recruiting vendor and/or career fair costs. For example, one firm automatically shares its employee referrals between three different firms.

Final Thoughts

If you consider a startup to be like a sports team, you will quickly realize that recruiting top talent is the key to winning. A startup cannot grow organically without recruiting. And if it grows with mediocre recruits, it has already damaged its future.

If you hire great people, they don’t need a lot of training, coaching, or development, and if you hire innovators, the value of that innovation is priceless compared to the cost and time involved in recruiting. If you expect to win the recruiting war, every employee of the startup from the CEO on down needs to adopt the role of a 24/7 continuous talent scout. And finally, if you follow up and provide them with the most effective recruiting tools, you may be well on your way to becoming the next Facebook or Google.

The most important part of the recruiting process is the recruiter’s initial meeting with the hiring manager. With the right approach you can save an incredible amount of time and energy, and hire better candidates. In addition, you raise your standing with hiring managers to that of a true business partner.

In any profession, whether it is in business or sports, one must study the best to learn what they do that sets them apart. In sports, athletes like Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi, and Lance Armstrong are legendary for their relentless drive for perfection and extraordinary work ethic in training. In recruiting, we can study executive recruiters who are given key assignments by business leaders and regularly command large commissions.

I recently spoke with Robert Fong, a managing Partner for the Global Advanced Technology Practice at Nosal Partners, an executive search firm in San Francisco. We discussed the importance of the first meeting with the hiring manager.

Two key factors that set them apart are the time reserved, and the order in which they approach gathering information:

  • An hour to an hour and a half is typically reserved for the meeting.
  • The recruiter spends the first part of the meeting learning about the business and what priorities the position will address.
  • The position description and how it relates to the business priorities is then addressed.
  • Only after learning the above, does the recruiter gather information about the candidate qualifications.

This is the diametric opposite of the approach taken by most in-house and agency recruiters. They:

  • Spend 10-30 minutes at most in the intake meeting.
  • Focus almost solely on the candidate qualifications.
  • Spend little time on the position description.
  • Spend no time on learning or understanding the business.

Let’s break this down step by step:

When an executive recruiter meets with a hiring manager, the first point of discussion is business priorities. What is the business situation and what needs will this new hire fulfill? As Robert Fong says, “Our role is as a consultant. We want to learn about the hiring manager’s challenges and provide a solution that will make him or her successful.”

Typical questions in this part of the meeting are:

  • What are your team’s biggest priorities and challenges over the next 6-12 months?
  • What needs are you trying to fill by hiring for this position?
  • What will be the most important priorities this person will need to focus on in the first 6 – 12 months to be successful?
  • Can you describe one or two important projects/initiatives this person will be working on?

Only after learning about the business priorities and position description does the recruiter address candidate qualifications. This is very important for a number of reasons:

  • If you start the process with candidate qualifications, the hiring manager will typically create a laundry list of “must haves.” This is a lazy solution for both hiring manager and recruiter. As neither of you have discussed what this position will address, the result is usually at least two candidate re-calibration meetings and wasted effort and time on your part as you and the manager struggle to define the correct candidate profile for the role.
  • If the initial focus is on the business solution and then the position description, you can partner with the hiring manager to determine candidate requirements. This is a subtle but very important shift in thinking for the manager. When asked what are absolute “musts” and what are really just “nice to haves,” the manager will give thoughtful answers that relate to the business solution rather than pulling requirements with little thought. The result is typically one candidate recalibration meeting at the most as you are both in synch with what is needed for the role.
  • The more you know about the business, the easier it will be for you to assess candidates. Robert Fong states that 70-80% of their candidates have the hard skills necessary, but lack the soft skills. “Our goal is to have them excited about the opportunity and be successful in the long term. We can only do that by having an understanding of the business group, the role, and the job spec. We cannot if we only focus on the job spec.”
  • The more you know about the business, the easier it will be for you to “close” candidates. If you understand the business, the role’s purpose, and learn about the candidate’s motivation, the right opportunity will sell itself. Without this knowledge your selling power is limited.
  • The hiring manager will view you as a partner and solution provider versus an order-taker. You will be more empowered to make suggestions on candidate qualifications, job descriptions, assessment questions, and selling candidates, as you truly understand her needs.

Don’t get caught in a trap believing that executive recruiters have fewer requisitions, so they can take more time in the intake meeting. If you don’t take the time to learn about the business, the opportunity, and then the job requirements, you will spend endless cycles chasing the wrong candidates. If you follow the executive recruiter approach in the initial meeting, you will cut down on time to hire, and build fruitful partnerships with your hiring managers.

photo from Bigstock

As recruiting and staffing professionals, we all need to be detailed and diligent when interviewing our hiring managers to ensure we are prepared for both effective advertising and sourcing strategies. But what things do we really need to ask a hiring manager?

It all depends on what we currently know and don’t know about the position we are recruiting. List the things we do know about the position to make filling in the gaps much easier when discussing them with the hiring manager.

Let’s take a look at some topics that we may to discuss depending upon the current relationship we have with the hiring manager.

If we have not worked with a hiring manager in the past, then we will need to discuss all of the following with them.

List of Competitors or Target Companies

Have a list of 3-5 competitors ready for the meeting, even if we aren’t sure those should be on the list or not. Sometimes a target company may just be a company that is local and not necessarily in the same industry.

  • Discuss the competitor list with the hiring manager.
  • Are any companies he/she has hired from in the past?
  • Which, if any, companies listed would be most preferred for their next hire?
  • Do they have any additional companies they would like to add to the list that are also highly desired for the target list?
  • Also, very important, are there any companies on the list that he/she would not want to see candidates from?

*Note, oftentimes if a particular company has lower hiring standards and a hiring manager knows that already, it can save us from wasting time trying to present those candidates upfront.

Take 3-5 Profiles to the Meeting With You

Make sure the profiles you take offer a slight variety, to give you a hint of what the manager will bite on. Ask the hiring manager if they have 2-3 example profiles either from current employee resumes or someone who has left the company who had the right resume profile for you to compare your sourcing with.

  • How flexible are they on the educational background?
  • How flexible are they on the years of experience?
  • Which skills are most important to them?

Required Skills & Educational Background

Ask questions around the skill/educational requirements to identify where this hiring manager is flexible.

  • For example, if a requirement says MBA in Accounting, would they also consider someone with a master’s degree in Accounting?
  • Or if the experience level says bachelor’s degree with 5-7 years of experience, would they consider someone with a master’s who has 3-4 years of experience?
  • What are the absolute skill requirements you need in this person — e.g. software knowledge or industry knowledge?
  • What is the minimum educational requirement?

Ask for Names of People

Oftentimes, a hiring manager has the name of at least one person in mind who they have either previously worked with, or know through others, or even know them as they are an internal candidate working in another group.

  • Do you have any names from your past or current staff who you would like to be contacted about your opening?
  • If so, do you know the name of at least one company they have worked for?
  • Do you have any contact information or even a resume for any of these people?
  • How do you know them or know of them? (This is key information you can use for your cold-call).

Inquire About Past Hires

Recycle what is known and then add to it. If a hiring manager has had success with particular resources in the past, then don’t discount them as a “repeat resource.”

  • Where have your best hires come from in the past?
  • Existing employee referral? Who?
  • Did they come from networking or advertising from any organization or association?

Associations & Organizations

As staffing professionals, we need to ask the hiring manager for names of organizations and associations. We can definitely conduct our own research; however, there may be a particular group the hiring manager already knows. You need to get that information from them.

  • Are you personally members of any professional organizations or associations? Which ones?
  • Is there anyone from within those organizations who you would be interested in considering for your opening?
  • Which company do you know they have worked for in the past?

Describe a Day in the Role of This Person

This will give you some understanding of the departmental culture to gauge the type of person who will “fit in” to this team.

  • What are the day-to-activities this person will be involved in?
  • What other areas of the company will this role interface with?
  • Will this role require traveling? How much on average?

As a recap, below is a list of things you should know after an initial hiring manager intake meeting:

  1. List of target companies
  2. 2-3 example profiles
  3. List of names to contact immediately
  4. Resources for both advertising & sourcing
  5. Blurb about the day-to-day of this role for both evaluating and selling to passive talent

As recruiters, we do not have the luxury of time to have gaps in our initial intake meeting with a hiring manager. Be organized and ready for both our advertising and sourcing efforts after the first meeting with the hiring manager. If we have an organized list of what we need ready for our meeting, we will save time in the long run being able to identify the right slate of candidates the first time around and fill the requisition more efficiently.

by John Sullivan and Laureen Edmiston

Several weeks ago ere.net published an article that asked the question “what are the dumbest things that recruiters do.” After surveying recruiters on ere.net, Twitter, and at the recent SMA symposium in Seattle, it is clear that most feel the dumbest thing recruiters do is…

Not managing the candidate experience — the candidate experience is the perception of the sum of interactions with an organization throughout the hiring process. It includes every communication, the design of the process, the fairness of process elements, the quality of information exchanged, and the honesty with which questions and concerns are addressed. Providing a poor candidate experience can have many negative consequences, including an increased candidate dropout rate, negative word-of-mouth, and decreased loyalty to the overall brand.

The rest of the “Top 10” are…

Expecting dull position descriptions to attract — potential applicants assume that the company puts its best foot forward when it describes a job. So when they compare your dull, legalistic description with your competitor’s more compelling description, they will simply apply elsewhere. The net result is that you lose candidates unnecessarily, harm your employer brand, and you will eventually frustrate your hiring managers.

Not taking advantage of employee referrals — the best-practice firms approach 50% referral hires (the percentage of all external hires who come from referrals). Failing to fully use referrals means that you will miss out on a large number of high-quality, prescreened, and presold candidates. Because employees are no longer doing some of the recruiting work, your recruiting workload will increase.

Not learning the business — obviously if you can’t speak “their language” and you don’t understand their problems, hiring managers will be less responsive to your requests. Your lack of knowledge will also make it more difficult to communicate with, to sell, and to build relationships with candidates.

Using the same recruiting process for different level jobs — higher-level jobs require a different level of service, knowledge, and relationship-building. So using the same process that you use for lower-level jobs on more sophisticated, technical, or management jobs will result in fewer returned calls, a higher candidate dropout rate, and lower-quality hires.

Making slow hiring decisions — the very best candidates are gone quickly, so a drawn-out process or slow decision-making will likely mean that candidates with multiple offers will be gone. Managers will also become frustrated if a slow recruiting process means losing the best.

Assuming interviews are accurate — interviews are traditionally weak predictors but poorly executed interviews dramatically increase the chances of making a major hiring error. Poorly designed interviews may also screen out innovators and turnoff top candidates, because they have not felt challenged.

Using active sourcing approaches for passive candidates — posting your jobs using active sourcing approaches like job boards, newspaper ads, and job fairs means that the 75% of the workforce that is not actively looking for a job will never see them.

Not prioritizing jobs — focusing on low-value jobs with little business or revenue impact will anger your managers and reduce their business results. It may eventually lead to lower recruiting budgets, after executives see that your hiring is not prioritized and in line with their business priorities.

Not identifying job acceptance criteria — if you don’t proactively ask for their job acceptance criteria, you can only guess about what it will take to get a top candidate to say “yes.” Although it is ranked as #10, not tailoring your recruiting marketing and candidate-selling approaches to the decision criteria of top candidates almost guarantees that you will lose these candidates. Because these individuals have choices, they will simply wait until an opportunity comes along that precisely fits their requirements and expectations.

Final Thoughts

Nearly 80% of CEOs select talent management as the business area that requires the most change. As a recruiter, if you are going to dramatically change, you have only two basic choices, 1) stop doing the dumb things that negatively impact your results or 2) start doing smarter and more effective things. The “stop doing dumb things” choice is probably the easier of the two because it doesn’t require you to learn anything new.

So if you are recruiter or recruiting manager with limited time and resources, we recommend that you use this “dumb things” list to begin the process of changing and improving your recruiting.

Director of Fun.

That was the title I was looking at on a resume for a marketing director position. As I read through the applicant’s accomplishments and responsibilities, I could see that it was clearly a marketing-type position. It stuck out, just not in a good way.

What may have seemed like a great little thing to have on a business card as an attention-getter had now turned into a liability. Nobody knows what a “Director of Fun” does. And sure, maybe “Marketing Director” isn’t all that specific on its own, but give me some context (industry, company size, and market) and I can pretty quickly figure out what you’re doing.

Using these fun titles externally is a mistake.

What’s in a Title?

Now listen, I’m not a super stickler for titles. I know it’s what you actually do that’s the real important point.

If you’re an HR manager but you’re doing HR assistant work, I’m going to treat you as such (and vice verse as well). And we know title inflation is a big part of the hiring process and it can help make business transactions flow easier. Go into large banks and insurance brokerages, some with hundreds of branches and I’ll bet you find a VP or SVP in the building.

Wacky job titles simply confuse most real people.

So yes, titles can be B.S., but I think most people know that. If you walk into a brokerage and find most people are managers and directors and the top guy is a SVP, you still contextually know people’s roles and who is in charge. It might be a shift in thinking, but you aren’t reinventing the wheel.

Now “Director of Fun”? Or “Corporate Magician”?

Fun titles Not So Fun in the Real World

Some organizations think funky job titles are a great way of expressing a company’s culture or to stand out from the crowd. Moo.com sent over some of the most interesting examples of this. Here are my top 10 head-scratching titles Moo listed, in no particular order: 

  1. Sales Ninja
  2. New Media Guru
  3. Social Media Trailblazer
  4. Corporate Magician
  5. Master Handshaker
  6. Communications Ambassador
  7. Happiness Advocate
  8. Marketing Rockstar
  9. Problem Wrangler
  10. Digital Dynamo

Master handshaker? Problem wrangler? Whose hands do these people shake, and what problems do they wrangle?

In a quote from the press release, Moo.com’s Paul Lewis says,

“Traditional one-word job titles no longer act as an accurate description of what a person does or what they are like. So why not stand out a bit by giving yourself a job title that sums you up as a person rather than limits you to just one aspect of what you do.”

The funny part to me is that Lewis is credited as Head of Marketing (and here, too, on his Twitter profile). And while it may not stick out, I know that he is in charge of marketing. This is helpful if I ever need to get in touch with someone in marketing at Moo.com, or if I ever need to hire someone with some marketing chops.

Taking a Step Back

Fun titles can be great for internal teams. It can help put a fun spin on being at work, especially at some of the less pleasant, white-collar jobs that are out there.

But when it comes to dealing with people outside of the company, it is time to make a decision: do you communicate what you do clearly, or, do you avoid that and try to educate every single person you meet about that fun job title — only to have them forget what you actually do five minutes after they meet you? Or worse, you are mocked for not having a real title and people question your business skills and savvy?

Even the Gen Y guy inside me knows the right answer: you always pick clarity first.

Once a client or business partner gets to know you and your company, they’ll know you’re fun and cool, even in spite of an ordinary job title. And you should be just fine with that.

You can’t recruit and hire passive candidates using the same workflow nor the same recruiters used for active candidates.

We conducted an in-depth survey with LinkedIn last year that indicated that 82% of their fully-employed members were unlikely to even consider switching jobs unless directly contacted by a recruiter or through an employee they’ve worked with closely in the past. This increased slightly to 83% in this year’s survey. This is shown on the graph, with the dark blue line representing the satisfaction level of those surveyed (4,550 fully-employed LinkedIn members) comparing their job seeking status and job requirements over time.

From a strategy standpoint, the idea is to find candidates either the moment they actively enter the job market, or before. But to do this, you need a different process for sourcing and recruiting the 83% who are not actively looking than used for those who are. This is what is meant by an “Early-bird Sourcing Strategy.”

The surveys also highlighted the fact that most companies spend most of their recruiting resources targeting the 17% who are actively looking. Making matters more challenging, while most passive candidates are open to a discussion with a recruiter, they would only consider a significant career move to switch jobs.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be hosting a few webcasts describing how to develop this type of early-bird sourcing program. Part of this will describe some of the workflow process changes required to support the strategy, and the specific competencies a recruiter needs to possess in order to implement it. These changes are not insignificant.

Here a just a few of the big ones:

Some Big Workflow Changes Required to Support a Passive Candidate Early-bird Sourcing Strategy

  1. Elimination of traditional skills-and-experience-laden job descriptions for recruiting advertising purposes. To be effective, voice mails, emails and job postings need to emphasize the long-term value proposition of the job plus some of types of projects the person will be working on.
  2. Implementation of a “sequence of steps” recruiting model including a career discovery process vs. a transactional (“find and apply”) hiring process. This represents the heart of the workflow changes required and why different recruiting skills are essential. Passive candidates evaluate job changes using a hybrid of long- and short-term criteria. Collecting this information often takes multiple meetings and discussions with the hiring manager. This is fundamentally different than active candidates who have an economic need driving their decision-making.
  3. Development of virtual talent communities driven by proactive In-Out employee referral programs. An In-Out auto-matching referral program is a relatively new concept. The idea is to automatically connect a newly opened job with the company’s employees’ pre-qualified first-degree connections. The purpose of this is to push compelling career messages (an outbound process) to people who are not looking. Typical talent communities are comprised of active candidates who have signed-up (inbound) to follow the company.

 Highlights of a Recruiter Competency Model for Passive Candidates

Recruiting passive candidates requires more talented and tenacious recruiters. We’ve developed a complete, multi-factor passive candidate recruiter competency model with a detailed ranking score to help recruiting leaders assess their teams. Email me if you’d like a sample version of the full recruiter competency model, but following are the essential factors (a warning to recruiting leaders: do not allow your recruiters to contact passive candidates unless they possess these skills):

  1. Partners with Hiring Manager: recruiters don’t have much credibility with a top person who’s not looking, if they don’t know the hiring manager extremely well. More important, if the recruiter and hiring manager are not both working in tandem, it’s impossible to move top people through the sequence of discovery steps mentioned above.
  2. Someone Worth Knowing and Subject Matter Expert: recruiters must know the company strategy, the company’s basic financial strength, the industry and where the company stands, the competition and why the company is better positioned, and all of the associated compensation and benefit issues. When a recruiter contacts a person who’s not looking — especially the best ones — these prospects are deciding not only if the career opportunity is worth pursuing, but also if the recruiter is credible.
  3. Develops and Implements Customized Sourcing and Networking Programs: as shown in the graphic above, those who aren’t looking need to be contacted directly either via email, through networking, or employee referral. Getting the names of these people is easy. However, getting on the phone and developing deep networks of highly qualified prospects is the difference between having a list of names and some great prospects open to talking with a hiring manager.
  4. Understands Real Job Needs and Associated Career Opportunity: passive candidates will always want to know a few things about the job just to determine if it’s worth a serious discussion. Recruiters must be able to present this on multiple levels, including the job’s importance, some of the key projects and tasks involved, the impact of these on the company’s business plans, and why it represents a career move for the right person. Most recruiters drop the ball here, and not only lose a potentially strong candidate, but also a great networking opportunity.
  5. Accurately Assesses Competency, Motivation, and Fit: recruiting passive candidates involves not only thorough job knowledge, but also the ability to assess the prospect’s ability and motivation to do this work. A key part of this is determining cultural, job, and managerial fit. Since these candidates aren’t looking, good assessment skills allows the recruiter to compare actual job requirements to the candidate’s background, and credibly demonstrate why the job represents a career move.
  6. Recruits, Advises, Negotiates, and Closes Top Prospects: Persuading top prospects who are not looking, getting them to engage in a series of career discussions, pushing the process along, and then closing the deal on equitable terms is what recruiting passive candidates is all about. Collectively this is represented by the 6Cs of Passive Candidate Recruiting. Very few of these overlap with the skills required to find and recruit active candidates.

Unless you have a big employer brand, it’s impossible to attract the 83% of fully-employed professionals who aren’t looking using the same sourcing and recruiting techniques used for the 17% who are. These are two different worlds, and while most recruiting leaders recognize the difference, I find it puzzling that only a few are willing to do anything about it.