A Faster and Better Way to Find Candidates and Build Relationships

Recruiters remain overwhelmed with resumes and candidate applications; perhaps even more so now that the economy has improved a bit. But these same recruiters also remain skeptical that they can provide the quality and personal customer service that I insist is core to being an effective 21st-century recruiter. Here are a few quotes I have heard from recruiters recently:

  • “I have received almost 500 resumes in the past two weeks. Over 90% of these people are not qualified or not what my company is looking for.”
  • “I have been overwhelmed with candidates. Some fit our needs, but most don’t even take the time to read the job description… I wish I could reply to every candidate, but if I did I would not be doing my job!”

Candidates, on the other side of the fence, wrote:

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  • “As a candidate going through a very bad dry spell in finding recruiting work, I rarely experience common courtesy among recruiters ó who post jobs that don’t exist and fail to follow simple due diligence.”
  • “I’m a downsized corporate executive who has been repeatedly appalled by the way companies and recruiters are treating candidates during this economic downturn.”

We all, I believe, want to provide candidates with great service, and we all know that those who have been ignored, dismissed as not qualified, or otherwise treated with discourtesy will not forget and may never recommend our firm to friends or apply again ó even when they may be an excellent choice. Every act of discourtesy will eventually be incorporated into the overall reputation that our firms have about people and how they are treated. As they say in the customer satisfaction business, for every customer that tells you they are dissatisfied, there are at least three dissatisfied customers who have said nothing. The same applies for candidates. So what does the overworked, overwhelmed recruiter do? How can you provide responsive service in the face of huge numbers of resumes? Here are a few tips. 1. Don’t post job descriptions, but if you do, make them precise and specific. I have taken an excerpt from a job description I found on a website that is representative of many I see every day. The question I ask is, who, with even a modicum of technical ability and a dash of experience, will not feel qualified for this job? There are no specifics, no details, and no firm requirements. I almost feel that I could apply for this and justify why if asked:

You’re looking for more than just a job in Information Technology. You want a career that challenges your IT experience while giving you the freedom and support to succeed. Look no further than Company XYZ. Our Professional Services offerings span the entire application lifecycle, giving our customers a complete solution and our employees the opportunity to excel on all platforms. With our technical focus and emphasis on delivery, we strive to hire experienced information technology professionals with broad skill sets and the desire and versatility to learn new businesses and skills. We are selective in hiring and serious about retaining those we do hire. We are looking for candidates with the following attributes:

  • Oracle Financials experience
  • Oracle 11i application development experience
  • Strong PL/SQL

I am sure that this has generated many hundreds of unqualified resumes. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are written this way deliberately, so that they will generate a large number of responses. When we lacked technology and reach this was a marginally acceptable approach, but today it creates big problems. Most candidates are very concerned with applying for an appropriate job, but how can they really tell from the way descriptions are written? Are the specific requirements spelled out? Are you using technology to screen for these? We need to focus on a building a new mindset. We do not need mass marketing for most positions; we do not need to generate hundreds of responses to make sure we’ve “covered the field”; and we can’t ignore hundreds of applicants because of our own inadequacies. Many of us have attitudes that would be similar to those of a store clerk who, when overwhelmed with customers, simply walks off and leaves them standing there. 2. We need to use technology, and use it better. The new recruiting tools and systems have built-in tools for communicating, screening, and maintaining relationships with candidates. But the sad fact is that after these systems are purchased only a fraction of you utilize their powerful communication and screening features. Most recruiters are still focused on the zero-value-added backend administrivia and fail to serve your customers ó the candidates. There are countless email programs, newsletter distribution programs, and other free or inexpensive communications aids that you could use to help you do a better job letting candidates know where they stand. Even automatic bounce-back responses can be more intelligently written and distributed. A follow-up email could follow the bounce back and automatically provide the candidate with another touch point. Companies like Enterprise Rent-a-Car are doing an excellent job in responding intelligently, personally, and promptly to candidates ó using technology. 3. Relationships and referrals are keys to your success. Posting job descriptions is a process with limited benefit and underlines the desperate nature of most corporate sourcing. Headhunters rarely use job boards. Rather, they spend time building relationships with the kinds of people they place. Granted, corporate recruiters often recruit more broadly and need to deal with more diverse types of candidate than headhunters. Still, it’s possible to develop and nurture relationships by using technology. I am not advocating technology as the complete solution because it still has many limitations. What I am advocating is that recruiters begin to accept the advantages technology offers and start using such tools as email, chat rooms, electronic newsletters, and so forth to augment and enhance the way they communicate with candidates and the way they find candidates. Email referrals may be as valid as any other and are most likely better than job board applicants. As we re-enter a booming economy you will not be able to find the people you need by posting on Monster. You will have to use your network, ask employees (and others) for referrals, and make this the cornerstone of your efforts. This is what agencies and headhunters have been doing for decades and it’s why they have been successful. They have relied on face-to-face relationship building ó which is a fine practice but often slow, expensive, and clumsy. The Internet lets you do this with much greater ease and at a lower cost in time and money. Build your skills at using the Internet and other technology to better find, nurture and communicate with candidates.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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2 Comments on “A Faster and Better Way to Find Candidates and Build Relationships

  1. I would love to hear some specific recommendations on technology tools to implement Mr. Wheeler’s suggestions. I think my company does a good job in stating very specific job requirements. The problem is more that we’re growing and have numerous open positions. We don’t use any external recruiters and I handle all the recruiting myself from sourcing to closing. Also, recruiting is not all I do as the Company’s VP of HR.

    I’m currently looking for technology to allow me to be more responsive and customer-focused to our applicants. Specific recommendations, including costs, would be much appreciated.

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  2. I have a very nice form letter I send to any applicant who writes a personal email (i.e. ‘Applying for xy job’). It only takes a second and I really don’t mind. The problem is about a third will respond to thank me, which is one more piece of mail, and too many will write back to argue that they are indeed perfect for the job.

    This week one guy wrote to say he thought my form letter was nice but he certainly expected something more personal!

    So, it’s a mixed bag as far as efficiency or time management. I don’t highly recommend responding, I just feel better by doing it.

    My two cents.

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