This past weekend I was talking to a friend of mine that is an HR Manager at a tech company. We used to work together as recruiters, and she has moved on. She is currently looking at other opportunities, having been at her company about a year. It isn’t that she doesn’t like the people she works with or the product, it was the fact that she was made some false promises when she interviewed: mainly that a major part of her impact to the company would be “strategic”.
And I’m here to tell you, this is one of the number one myths I see recruiters and hiring managers buying into with candidates and often even themselves. Either it’s a myth or a gross misunderstanding of what “strategic” business practices look like.
A. D. Chandler quantified the basic business definition: “In management theory, … the determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy)
The keys here are long term goals and allocation of resources necessary. I have been in the business world for well over 20 years, and in that time I think I can honestly say I have seen only ONE company that actually effectively carries out long-term HR business strategies with any success, and that company is Microsoft. I will admit that I certainly have not worked at every company there is, but I’ve got experience at more organizations than most recruiters my age. And most of them don’t plan for “long term” business or allocate the necessary resources in terms of human capital.
Especially among the GenY work force, being part of the driving force affecting business is one of the consistent professional objectives for accepting a new job or remaining at a company. As recruiters, we work with our hiring managers to try and understand each job in terms of how it relates to the organization, the business, and industry overall. We have to be able to give candidates a fairly clear picture as we describe the role and opportunity to them. Smaller companies truly do have more opportunities to make an immediate impact, which is why working for a smaller company can often be a more satisfying career choice. But smaller companies often don’t have the luxury of “strategic business” beyond 2-4 quarters, which is not a long-term strategy. It is a tactical plan based on revenue and market/industry forecasting. And upper-management may have significant input on defining those goals, but when candidates are thinking about strategy and industry impact for the next 2-3 years, there is a definite miscommunication.
There really isn’t “fault” here, but a misuse of terminology. Candidates want to have “impact” and work for “strategic” organizations. Managers may consider business planning 2-3 quarters out to *be* strategic, but it truly is not. The sooner recruiting and HR can help educate the business as to realistic communication with candidates, the better off everyone will be and perhaps candidates will understand sooner in their professional careers the reality of being a “change agent” and be content to make smaller, incremental changes that will reap more immediate rewards.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in the local Recruiting community is when corporate recruiters let their professional industry (i.e. other recruiters) networks lapse. Agency and consulting recruiters never let that happen, because this is also their client base.
But as we saw when the economy headed south in 2008, recruiting is among the first casualties in a downturn, and you would not believe how many recruiters and recruiting managers reached out to me then for job referrals. My LinkedIn network grew like crazy. It’s probably because although I’m mostly a corporate recruiter, I’ve contracted so much that I keep my network up for that next opportunity.But it’s more than that. As the “face of recruiting” in Seattle that I have consciously become, it behooves me to keep those contacts up. At a recent recruiting roundtable, I looked around and realized I knew more than 65% of the people in the room, either from directly working with them, or by virtue of attending a lot of the same industry functions.
Yes, it absolutely takes time and energy to keep up your recruiting network, but it’s also one of the best things not only for you, but for your candidates. Yes, your candidates, especially those that have trailing partners/spouses to take care of. And lets face it, today’s candidate may also be tomorrow’s candidate, or tomorrow’s hiring manager, or tomorrow’s client. Most professionals remember the value of a professional favor. It may take a while, but most people are happy to pay you back when they can.
I wrote this blog over on SourceCon this week.
A couple of weeks ago over on WArecruit (our local recruiting/HR community list-serv), someone posted a request for job boards recommendations where she could post for sales reps. She went on to say that in the past, most of their hires have been through referrals, often from their clients.
My response to her was pretty simple. “You’ve sort of answered your own question.” Instead of trying to determine where to “post a job”, and use what we affectionately refer to as the “post and pray” method, it seems to me that beefing up your internal (employee) and external (business network) referral programs makes so much more sense. I know as much as the next recruiter that sourcing *takes time* but study after study shows that the best employees come from referrals: either employees referring friends or former colleagues, or secondarily your business network and professional contacts.
I think so often when it comes to recruiting and especially for sourcing specialists, we get so involved in the latest and greatest technology, trend, topic, and tool that sometimes we lose sight of the basics. And really, LinkedIn is fabulous for this, even with the basic free account. But part of this strategy (and one I’m working on with my own client teams right now) is *educating the hiring manager to maximize the referral impact.* Engage your client on the sourcing strategy. You can bet that when a hiring manager puts a status update on their Twitter or LinkedIn account “I’m hiring a senior XYZ for my team, do you know someone?” it has a lot more impact than a recruiter doing the same thing. It goes directly to the key business contacts of the hiring manager who generally know what s/he does. Then the ripple effect sets in. And if you add the enticement of an external referral bonus just for getting the word out, then you get a lot of bang for your buck with very little work or investment. Let’s face it: you could pay a job board their fee for putting up a job for 30 days and see what you get, or for the same amount of money (which you only pay out IF there are results) you get a semi or fully qualified referral. Once you get a reputation as a good company that values business contacts and rewards referrals, your own employment and recruiting brand builds exponentially over time with very little effort on your part.
Remember that 50% of the recruitment process lies with the hiring manager; it isn’t just the responsibility of recruiting and sourcing to fill the talent pipeline and open requisitions. Getting your client engaged and involved cuts your own workload and builds a better business partnership in the process.
I remember first hearing about prospective employers asking candidates for Facebook login information in late February on, of all places, an international HR discussion board I moderate. I thought it was a bizarre, one-off situation and couldn’t believe it as I saw the issue hit mainstream news media sites like wildfire and go viral in the next few weeks. And I asked myself: what HR/Recruiting organization is IDIOTIC enough to try this?
Let’s think about the ramifications of this. First of all is the obvious discrimination potential. Marital status, religious affiliations, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity/nationality, children/family status. Second is the invasion of privacy; not only for the candidate but for the candidate’s connections. You may receive the candidate’s permission to access their account, but certainly not the information of their friends and family members. I asked a friend of mine that is an Information Security Program Manager, and her response was, “It can be a violation of HIPAA and PII info both for the candidate and for their friends/family. If an employer asked for it, I would not work for them. Period.” Here is an example she gave: “Your wife sends you the ‘Thanks so much for being so supportive through my cancer diagnosis. You are the best’ update.” All organizations are required to be compliant regardless of their industry.
There also some tertiary considerations to take into account; although it may not seem important to an employer, this is a violation of the Facebook Terms and Conditions. Why is that important, you ask? Because as candidates spread the tales of potential employers violating this basic User Agreement tenet, an employer risks developing a bad reputation not just from an employment branding perspective, but also as a business in general. If you are so eager to violate Facebook’s terms, what would stand between you violating other sorts of business arrangements and contracts?
Finally, I’m not sure that HR departments that are doing this understand the potential system IT security threat/breach this could cause.
I really can see no valid reason for asking this of a candidate in an interview. Reports of employers asking their *employees* for this information could potentially be defensible, especially if employees are accessing their profiles on their employers’ equipment. But opening your company up for potential lawsuits all in the name of what appears to be pre-employment screening seems to violate the very role of HR in the organizational structure. There is now at least one federally-sanctioned Social Networking background check agency, and any organization that has the need to run “thorough” background checks should do the right thing and use a neutral third party that is in the business of following legal precedents and procedures.
I also wanted to address the “irony” of all this, in that most of the employers that have actually been named during this practice seem to be public organizations such as police, universities, and other government-affiliated employers. The irony of this is, of course, that it is the federal government that creates and administers the very laws that this practice would violate.
In the Seattle market, there is a growing restlessness and dissatisfaction among the local technical population, also known as “our passive candidate base” that has to do with high volume, globalized, recruiting practices. In the last 4-5 years, several of the major employers in the area such as Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Amazon.com have changed their agency relationships with staffing companies and vendor management practices. The outcome of these changes (coupled with OFCCP practice adoptions) has resulted in both good and bad competition trends in the local market.
A perfect example is the ad below. This was sent to me by a friend I have worked with and who is casually looking at new opportunities. The strong hints that this is sent by someone that is not from the US recruiting / management market are A) the request for a CV or resume B) the *blatant* question leading to age discrimination requesting applicants to send their age with their application. These are both signs that the person who wrote/posted the job description is either from Europe or Asia and isn’t (yet) familiar with US laws.
The biggest “imported” high volume volume faux pas I’m seeing is the templated email sent to any/all candidates pulled in a Boolean search string asking for all up-front information for consideration. Below is an example that started a fire-storm on one of my digital tech communities. The discussion ended up with the belief that this is a blatant phishing expedition (which prompted my blog on “phishing” versus “sourcing” over on Sourcecon last week.)
Hi, I Hope you are doing well. This is with reference to your resume posted on job Portal. I came across your profile and want to let you know about an opportunity we have that I think you might be interested in. We have a following contract opening with our client. Please go through the job description that has been attached below, and if available and interested, please send me your Resume in word format ASAP. (Also, do not forget to send the details that have been asked in the end). Note:- Please ignore this email if you are already working with , Inc., Our client or our Recruiters.
**Need to know the following details to expedite the process*****
What is your current location? :
Are you currently on a project, If Yes-Why you are looking for new project?
Define your job position you are looking for more clearly:
Are you willing to be flexible to work in technology or areas that you are not familiar with?
Have you had any current interview experience lately: If yes, please let me know Client name, interview date, Feedback or expected Feedback?
Are you Willing to Relocate?:
Availability (earliest date you can start)? :
Your Work Authorization?:
Current Salary and Expected Salary?:
What is the best number you can be reached at? :
Give me your employer details:
Two References Details (Must) with Name of the person, Company name, Phone
First of all, the general populace is constantly being advised about online privacy issues. We all know about borderline unethical practices by agencies that ask for references in order for sales leads. But more importantly, this sort of assault on candidates is INSULTING. It may be the norm in other cultures, but it doesn’t work in North America.
Recruiters and hiring managers are constantly giving out the information that we expect our candidates to do their homework about our companies; to be prepared for phone screens and interviews by researching the company and jobs; that we only will contact candidates that are qualified. This sort of high-volume “fish in a barrel” mentality makes us hypocrites (see my views on this here).
I asked an engagement manager I know from one of the largest and well-known local agencies (temp and FT placement) about whether or not they partner with an outsourced company that has these practices. She told me that yes, they do partner with an outsourced partner, *BUT* that they have been told explicitly that if they wish to retain their contract, they absolutely *will not* approach candidates as above; the VP has told them that if they do, they will lose the contract. They are being paid much more than the $5-$6/hour I have seen elsewhere to recruit with a personal touch. What does that mean?
First, it means *picking up the phone* to connect with your candidate, not sending them some junky template email that looks like either spam or a phishing expedition. It also means you actually *read the resume* to see if the returned result is, in fact, a fit for the position you are sourcing for.
I have seen more and more of this in Seattle. Companies that move into the area (bricks and mortar) with a globally diverse workforce are learning this lesson quickly when candidates refuse to talk to them, clients think their delivered results are shoddy, and the local recruiting community starts shunning and criticizing them. If you are going to play in the big leagues of Seattle and the Bay area, you need to learn the rules of engagement with your candidate sources.
I was having a talk today with one of my colleagues. Both of us are long-time Seattle recruiters. He had lunch with some folks from our agency days earlier this week, and they were lamenting about the fact that today’s young recruiters seem to think technology is the answer to everything when it comes to connecting with candidates once you have sourced them. His answer?
“I just pick up the phone and call them”.
I know, amazing advice and insight, huh? Yes, some of us remember the days before everyone was tethered to their phone 24×7. But in keeping with the times, I shared *my* current secret weapon (which is actually two-in-one.)
The first is sending candidates a text. But beyond that, the second is more my stealth communication tool: Google Voice. I was an early Grand Central adopter about five years ago. I loved the versatility of it. When people ask me what’s so great about it, I give the following example.
My family lives in the Cleveland area. On Twitter, I had made the acquaintance of a recruiter at the Cleveland Clinic, and it turns out she lives a few miles from my folks. We set up a dinner date, and I gave her my Google voice number (which is what I always use…I don’t even *know* my cell phone number.) Well, it turns out that I had left my phone in Seattle. So I borrowed my Dad’s, added his number to my Google voice redirect, and she called me on it when we missed each other in the rather large restaurant. After I finished dinner and got home, I took his number off.
But in addition to that, with the web UI for Google Voice, I can send texts to any number, and voice mails come up as a UC email to me as well as going to my voicemail. So I just log onto my Google voice to send a text when I am trying to connect with a candidate. They don’t ever see my personal cell number.
The other tool I have used is Facebook. You can send a message to anyone on Facebook if you can find them. (And really, what kind of a Sourcer would I be if I couldn’t find someone on Facebook?) I remember once when I was working for a consulting firm, we had hired a consultant to do some work for us, and he just stopped coming into the office. He wouldn’t answer emails, voice mails, OR texts. But I found him on Facebook and told him he needed to contact us about his paycheck. Wouldn’t you know he called me within 10 minutes.
I think most recruiters understand that candidates want to know about a career path beyond whatever requisition we are hiring them into, but it continues to surprise me how few recruiters partner with HR on issues like career trajectory, succession planning, and even the fundamentals of *understanding* the career path for any of the positions we are recruiting on. I also cannot believe how many companies do not *think* to involve recruiting on headcount forecasting and career path planning.
I recently worked with a candidate that had two offers for the same type of software engineering position. They were the same level and salary. He was really torn about which position was the right one. One would lead him to be a specialist and SME. The second option was more of a generalist, with a fair degree of direct customer contact. Finally, I asked him to think about a potential career path. Did he want to remain an individual contributor and go the architect route, or was he more a “big picture” kind of person, where he would consider going into program management, working with a lot of stakeholders on projects? Helping him think longer-term, beyond the two offers at hand put his career in perspective. He chose the customer-facing position.
This week I was contacted about referrals for “rock star” software engineering Sourcers for a very well-known media company. It sounded good until I saw that the career path was for advancement to a “junior recruiter”. So here is what I get from that: the company doesn’t have a career path for someone that is passionate about sourcing, and they probably don’t pay their sourcers enough money for amount of expertise they are looking for.
Retention is often a huge issue because there is no standardization inside a company for the “what next” or “what are my long term options” questions once a new employee is on-boarded. I’m tired of hearing how fickle GenY is, and that they lack loyalty. If we give them opportunities to grow and learn, they will be challenged and motivated and want to stay. They are no different than their GenX and Boomer counterparts in wanting a lucrative career path.
I don’t care how old a candidate is, knowing what options are available in 3-5 years is a normal part of the offer evaluation process. If your HR organization isn’t successful in this area, maybe you should consider making a business case for how this lack is impacting your ability to *attract* top talent.
Yesterday I had a most bizarre situation crop up. I was evaluating candidates that had applied directly to positions in our ATS and then dispositioning them appropriately. One feature I do like about our ATS is that it generates an automail letting candidates know when we are not pursuing their candidacy.
I was looking at a Senior Software Engineering applicant that applied from the UK. There was no resume, and his education stated “GED”. So, I declined to pursue his candidacy. He replied to the auto-generated email, and it turned into a business development fishing expedition for expanding his company’s recruiting business into the US; he asked to set up a phone call for a sales pitch with both me and my manager. When I went to check out his company via the link in his autosig, I got a message “Directory Listing Denied-This Virtual Directory does not allow contents to be listed.”
I must say this whole roundabout way of trying to garner new business is not only puzzling, it also sends several negative messages. First off, if his goal was to talk to someone, he could have called our main switchboard and just asked for the recruiting manager. Second, he could have used LinkedIn to contact any of our recruiters, recruiting manager, or director of HR in the US. And finally, the chances he would actually receive *any* sort of a response by applying through the corporate website are slim at best. I am very big on a positive candidate experience, which is the only reason why I answered the original mail at all. And using a link in your professional email that is a basically dead activates my internal alarms in this whole bizarre situation.
From an industry perspective, it makes me question whether this firm/individual actually understands current recruiting trends and practices. While we do laud “innovative” methods for doing different things, credibility is imperative for business development. And methodology combined with a “stealth business” that I cannot even verify exists makes this whole situation a big “Fail” in my book.