21st century recruiting

Frustrations: The “Future” of Recruiting and Lagging Education Practices

I love startups. I have attended two Startup Weekends, I have attended/volunteered at local Women 2.0 Founder Fridays, I have made myself knowledgable about the current industry and trends in the startup world.

That being said, one of the trends in the Startup world is (in an effort to shake up the perceived status quo) to discuss ways to get rid of HR (and by extension recruiting.) In November, a LinkedIn Influencer published the article “Why We No Longer Need HR Departments”. I responded that he obviously didn’t understand the role of HR in the scheme of the organization. I got over 2000 “likes” on my response. Late summer, an article titled, “This Man Got A Six-Figure Job Through Twitter (No Resume Required)” fired the hopes of millennials everywhere and spawned dozens of posts on my Facebook wall about the end of the resume and the rise of social media as the wave of the future.

Among the most popular “Recruiting” startups we have video resumes and interviews, mobile apps for recruiters to help with recruiting like iMomentous, services like “Tweet My Jobs” melding SMS with job boards.

Geekwire recently showcased a local Seattle startup in it’s beginning stages called MyUnfold. In their own words, “Our platform allows users to create something that is unique to their experience. They can show their stories through pictures, videos, recommendations, works of authorship, and people they’ve collaborated with.” I took the service for a spin under one of my pen names (I write under three names); you can see my comments and the response at the end of the article.

I am getting frustrated with being one of the few voices in the proverbial content forest explaining that it isn’t recruiting or HR that is averse to change and updating processes and trying new things, but that we are hampered by ever-increasing federal compliance requirements in the US. It isn’t the actual products or services that are the challenge, but the ever-expanding hype that has the general populace convinced that the face of job hunting is on the verge of changing *any day now*.

Conversely, I am in the throes of campus recruiting for both interns and new grads. Our internships are split between marketing and tech positions. One of the distressing trends I’m dealing with is college and university marketing departments that are behind the times for undergrad programs; they are not offering classes or even modules on big data/analytics as it relates to marketing and consumer behavior. I see it in MBA programs, and although more and more collegiates are getting their MBA’s, there are tens of thousands of new graduates each year that aren’t able to get jobs because they aren’t trained for the rise in hard requirements for “traditional” marketing positions.

So to my fellow recruiters, I ask you to join me in helping educate the masses, and to spread the word to institutions of higher learning that it’s time for a bit of an overhaul in their marketing departments.


The Effects of Lazy Content Syndrome

In this digital age, I have been noticing a couple of trends that are frustrating. As an avid Twitter user, I know what it is like to try and compress a compelling concept into a 140-character tweet when dealing with branding or marketing, generating interest. But one of the upshots of our micro-messaging culture is that I believe we becoming more vague. For example, I got message from a LinkedIn connection. “Can anyone refer to me a XML specialist?? ” That’s it. She is a technical recruiter, so I assumed it was for a job or project, but this sort of shortened, vague “teaser” is really frustrating. My response was, “What kind of specialist?” Dev, Tech Writer, Content Specialist, Instructional Designer/Trainer? I mean, come on, a “specialist” is vaguer than vague. She replied with an actual job posting. My first thought is, “well why couldn’t you just add a bit.ly link to your original blurb”? I mean, really. I honestly believe she is conditioned to communicate this way. It’s no different than the frustration we, as recruiters, feel when we are sourcing candidates off of LinkedIn who have nothing more than their company and titles on their profiles, yet state that they are open to “career opportunities”. So TELL me something worthwhile about yourself.

Another thing that really bothers me (and this is part and parcel of the writer in me) are tweets or FB postings or any other sort of link to an article of interest that directs a reader to a portal that aggregated content from the original link. To me this is borderline dishonest. I manage an international HR Yahoo Group, and there is one person that always tries to do this. He has a website, his “blog” which is nothing more than a series of links that he has gathered (NOT submitted by others) and reproduced in its entirety. The link to the original article is actually the hotlink for the author’s name. Since there *is* proper credit to the author and there is a link, it isn’t a copyright violation. But to me it is just a lazy way of generating content, of labeling oneself as an “expert”. “Ooo look at me. I have all these articles on XYZ on my blog.” Bully for you; you know how to run a Google search and import text. NOT impressed.

But more than this, I see these trends as a form of laziness. Our conversations are becoming more and more mini-byte sized, as we strive to communicate complex messages in fewer and fewer words, we are negatively impacting our own brands, reputation, and the quality of the talent we attract and retain. Who wants to work for, or refer a top industry colleague to, someone that appears to be unable to write the few extra words to complete a concept? I know I don’t.

Keeping It Up

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.


The Idiocy And The Irony

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.


Detrimental "Global" Recruiting Bad Practices

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.

The Secret Weapons for Candidate Connection

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.


Career Path – Crucial To Recruiting

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.