MySpace, blogging, texting. If you don’t have a true understanding of these words and how they’re influencing today’s candidate pool, chances are you aren’t effectively tapping into the next generation of our workforce. Whether you are a third-party recruiter, corporate recruiter, or hiring manager, showing up for a war for talent with a knife isn’t going to get you very far.
With all due respect to my friends at Monster, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, and so on, they have become a knife in a recruiter’s arsenal. When I started my career, I began working for a very successful staffing agency. I had no experience in recruitment. I just knew I liked the pace and the competition, and I figured out quickly that if you worked hard, you could make great money. So, I came in everyday, logged on to Monster.com, and proceeded to pick the low-hanging fruit. Back then, it was pretty much all low-hanging fruit.
No one had time to cold-call the passive candidate; by the time you convinced him/her to take a look at your job, you could have submitted five or six candidates whom you found off a job board, all of whom were eager to interview for your position. Anyone in the recruitment space today knows just how much times have changed. During my career at this staffing agency, they made us read the book Danger in the Comfort Zone by Judith M. Bardwick, which is about employees getting complacent. A great book, but I never really got the full effect of that read until recently. You see, we’ve spent so much time worrying about our employees being caught in the danger zone that we as corporate leaders have let ourselves start to slip into this zone. We aren’t looking forward enough, we don’t have an understanding of what the next generation of our corporate leaders is doing now, and we don’t have a definition of what an A-player in this generation looks like. A-players in this generation share the following characteristics:
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- They understand the importance of a good education, and they know the value of that education before they walk across the stage and grab their diplomas. They aren’t going to accept a $28,000 job that has them working from 7-7 just to get that next promotion. The days of hiring fresh college grads and dangling the promotion carrot in front of them while you work them to death are gone, and if your company is still trying this method, chances are, you’ve got the low end of that graduating class working for you.
- They blog, they MySpace, and they prefer texting to actually calling and speaking to someone. I had a colleague tell me a story about a negotiation dance he was recently involved in with a young professional. This candidate was just what he was looking for: solid education, proven work ethic, and not afraid to make mistakes. They went back forth a few times when it came down to salary, so he sent her a text that said, “Final offer: 50k.” Five minutes later, his cell phone chimed with her reply back that read “deal.”
- They care about what amenities your company has to offer, and I’m not talking about 401(k)s. Comfortable dress (not business casual; I’m talking flip-flop comfortable), BlackBerrys, and their own parking spots. These things matter, and it can even mean they’d accept a lesser-paying job in order to not keep their flip flops in the closet.
- They don’t attend job fairs, mass-submit their resumes, or look for jobs in the help-wanted sections. Yes, job fairs and print ads do work, but let’s face it; those methods target a specific audience, one that I am not speaking of. I love Jason Goldberg’s intro speech about his company, Jobster.com. He stands in front of a room full of recruiters and HR leaders, and he says something like, “How many of you landed your job by going to a job fair?” Or, “How many of you landed your job by submitting your resume online?” In rooms of hundreds, you’d be lucky if 10 hands went up. So, why do we continue to shell out thousands of dollars to run ads and hold job fairs?
- They care about your company’s brand. Notice how Starbucks continues to employ young, energetic people with a sense of what exceptional customer service is all about. One reason is the endless supply of caffeine, but the most important reason is the brand that Starbucks Corporation wears. It screams energy, and invites employees to be themselves and have fun at work. Perception is everything; if your company doesn’t consider its brand a key priority objective, you’ve already lost half the battle.
- The fact remains that you don’t have to know who Gnarls Barkley is, or own a Sidekick, or even maintain a MySpace account to successfully recruit and retain the next generation of corporate leaders. What you do have to do is avoid getting caught in your own danger zone. Stop thinking that the way you conduct business today is always going to be the right way, and start coming to the realization that times aren’t just changing; they’ve already changed.
Ask yourself the following two questions: 1) How effective are the weapons in your recruitment arsenal? and 2) Do you know the space you’re fighting in? I’m interested to see your comments and continued discussion.