A Return to Recruiting: Notes, Thoughts, and Commentary

“I don’t have to tell you that things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody is out of work or scared of losing their job…banks are going bust.”
–Peter Finch, “Network”

Can you hear that sound? It is the groaning reverberation of a deep and protracted recession. It is the sound of layoffs and loss. Of homes foreclosed, 401(k)s decimated, and of violent shifts in the professional and financial worlds. It is the sound of unsinkable companies … disappearing. It is deep and it is wide and it is ugly, and it has either already affected you or it will. No matter; Les Brown said it best. “It does not matter what happens to you. All that matters is; what are you going to do about it?”

So let me ask? What are you going to do about it?

I will tell you what most recruiters I am communicating with are currently doing. They are putting one foot in front of the other and existing each day with the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. They are scraping together bits of work and hustling like never before in order to make things happen. They are hanging tight and surviving, creating what are sure to be a breed of some very tough, street-savvy recruiters who will do well when things get better. Very well.

What will you do when things get better, and more importantly, what will be expected of you when the business of recruiting returns full force? What new breed of recruiter will evolve from this misery and what will they bring to the table to meet the still undefined future all of us must face? What gritty strengths and skills will be required to jump in with both feet in order to stake your claim to be successful?

  • Ability to search for passive candidates? (I think not)
  • Experience with applicant tracking systems? (Nice but not a big deal.)
  • Number of connections on social networking systems? (Jury is out)
  • Your blog? (Don’t hold your breath)
  • Use of video in recruiting? (Possible, but not of staggering importance)
  • Metrics and branding? (To a degree. Lets say yes and no…)

Here is what I think you will have to master/do/become in order to be in the first wave to return to full capacity and more importantly, to stay there: To paraphrase Kenny Moore, “Those specializing in the impossible will do well.”

Do more then understand what the client wants; Grok it. It will no longer be enough to simply understand the requirements a candidate must possess. You will have to amass a deep understanding of the subtitles, nuances, and specific content knowledge necessary to make a candidate successful. As such, you will have to develop much tighter relationships with hiring managers in order to ask enough of the appropriate qualifying questions to develop an unmistakable picture of exactly what the client is expecting you to deliver. Gone are the days of 10-minute chats about what a manager requires.

Say goodbye to political correctness. Your services are not being used to be politically correct. The promotion of fairness is a fool’s errand. You client is depending on you to support the acquisition of the very best candidate. End of story. Discriminate with passionate abandon against anyone who is not qualified to do the job and let HR sweat the numbers. Do this one thing and you can rest assured that you are doing your job.

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You will have to become a political animal. Most recruiters, present company included, are not all that good at the politics of the workplace. (I can assure you that my disinhibition has made some see me as less then charming.) Politics is not a dirty word; it is a reality of businesses everywhere. Taking advantage of organizational politics is an opportunity to do what you have to do in order to do what you need to do in order to be successful. Hold your nose and play the game; successful recruiting is worth that effort.

You will have to pick up the phone. We must never lose sight of the fact that recruiting is a gregarious and rollicking business of people relating to and engaging other people. Social networks, talent pools, and other pockets of potential ability are wonderful but until you pick up the phone and drive the candidate side of the process, it is all pixels and IMs. When it is person-to-person contact you need, the experience of picking up the phone can be magical.

You will have to drive and execute the deal. It is imperative that we take charge and set the recruiting process in motion, keep it moving, and manage the overall dance. Drive the client to action, move the candidate towards acceptance, and close the deal. This is easier said then done, as so much is an art as well as a science. My advice is to be bold, take risks, and do whatever is required to create an intelligent hire that will benefit the organization as well as the candidate.

Are these five points the end all in terms of what recruiters must become? No, but let us begin there. When hiring commences in earnest again, we must not come back as the same people we were. We must pounce on talent and claim it as our own. (If you do not know what this means, you have never worked for an agency.) I feel strongly about this because if you do not think that organizations can engineer recruiters out of their existence, you are very sadly mistaken.

One more thing. Be nice. You will be interfacing with a desperate, angry job market. Every call and e-mail you do not return is linked directly to a real person just like you. Keep a kind and encouraging word for those still lost and frightened.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


13 Comments on “A Return to Recruiting: Notes, Thoughts, and Commentary

  1. “When it is person-to-person contact you need, the experience of picking up the phone can be magical.” ~ Howard Adamsky
    I love it when you talk dirty, Howard.

  2. The bottom line is we are paid to create, maintain, sustain, and nuture relationships whether it be on a computer, phone or in person. You’re the man Howard.

  3. Howard – this is spot on! The interesting thing from my perspectice is that it took this kind of economic rough-housing to get people to be willing to come face to face with these ideas.

    To be a little shameless here, your thoughts and mine seem pretty similar – take a look at my article “Cognitive Dissonance” that was printed in the ERE Journal of Corporate Leadership.

    I particularly love your question, “What new breed of recruiter will evolve from this misery and what will they bring to the table to meet the still undefined future all of us must face?”

    The new breed is, well, the old breed – those of us old schoolers that remember the days of working the phones, getting to know our clients genuine needs, wants and expectations, etc. and in knowing those candidates whose own needs, wants and expectations match up well. Oh, and being able to deliver them of course.

    Work done well is going to re-emerge as more important then simply getting work done fast. The old addage that it is faster to do it right once then to have to do it over again is especially true right now.

  4. “Those specializing in the impossible will do well.”

    Wholeheartedly agree … what we are seeing now – and have seen for a while – is that the 3rd party placement vendor business is all about ‘finding needles in haystacks’ – only the needles are more rare and the haystack is larger. My concern for the future of the business as a successful third party guy is that unless one is able to really create a sustainable niche and relationships as ‘go-to value added resource’ (which is getting harder and harder to do and generally only involves ‘strategic hiring’ initiatives) the income opportunities in this profession will continue to diminish – the paradox is that all of the late-generation tools (LinkedIn, Jigsaw, blogs, etc.) are utilized as little more than ‘sourcing’ imperatives – and the value of paying a fee is rarely if ever as much about ‘sourcing’ as it is about ‘assessment’ (or should be) – therein lies the value of what we do …. and in my considerable experience it is truly the rare ‘internal staff recruiter’ (or hiring manager, to be blunt) that has the perspective to be able to accomplish this effectively. Therein lies the business challenge. This is too tough a business to make mediocre $$ – (i.e.: early six figures) – there are way too many other gigs to make the kind of $$ we’re used to, IMHO. Good luck, all.

  5. Howard,

    It is very refreshing to hear you cut to the chase. I could not agree with your summary more. Great advice for everyone, rookies and veterans.

    Doug Beabout CPC CSP

  6. With hiring slowdowns we’ve discovered ways to add value in a host of ways which aren’t singularly recruiting centric. I’ve seen some recruiters hide under the table for fear of not being perceived as being busy (previous company), and I’ve seen people here step up and go find ways to volunteer, pitch in, cross the jagged mountains to cross the chasm between HR and Recruiting. We build talent pools, help with the ERP implementation, meet with client managers to retune the message, ask if client managers were King/Queen what they’d like to see us priming the pump for in the future.

    We’ll still bring select candidates to the party. But now its about ways we can participate in process improvement. Build for the future. Ways recruiters can envision tactics to take inefficiencies out of the system. Ways to optimize process. Ways recruiters can go belly to belly with client managers to ask a host of “what if” questions followed by less frenzied opportunities to listen, to learn, and to bond.

  7. I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with and meeting Howard when he was on the other side of the desk in the past, and he certainly gets it on recruiting knowing his stuff.

    Bill Josephson

  8. Howard,

    Since I am quoting you (and maybe channeling you) I thought I should copy you on the comment I posted to the March 03 blog “Forget the passive candidate”. I read some of the articles on ERE, including yours, but rarely the blogs. I almost never post a comment. But I happened to read this (“Forget the Passive Candidate”) blog, and it got me going. I am as anxious about my business as anyone out there. But I have high standards for serving my clients, and I hope in the long run those will prevail.

    Hold Everything
    posted 3/4/2009 at 8:39 p.m. PT by Lynne Sebastian

    As a retained search recruiter, my job is to source, evaluate and recruit the best candidate for my client. I really don’t care whether that candidate is passive, aggressive, quick or dead (well, maybe dead is a knockout factor). And as Howard Adamsky succinctly put it recently, my job involves aggessively defending my client from the wrong candidates, of whom there will be plenty. Yes, let HR worry about the numbers. And I am always nice, but I don’t believe I have to reply to everyone who asks for my attention.

    As far as “social responsibility” goes: If I secure the best candidate for my client, that enables them to continue to create jobs. And if the candidate I help them hire comes from a competitor, then that competitor helps the economy by replacing him or her. Duh?

  9. You are right on with the “One more thing. Be nice.” Comment.

    I am a Job Seeker and I _am_ making a list of who got back to me even to say, “Thank you, but I don’t have any positions that fit your profile at the moment.” and who do not. As a senor level manager, when I find my next career move I will certainly be in a position to remember those who spent 10 seconds to touch another human being.

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