Recruiting Tomorrow: Inventing the Future

I have never been much of a prognosticator (I always wanted to use that word), but I do think the occasional attempt to figure out the future is a good idea, because that’s where we will all be spending our time. I have some solid ideas and suggestions about what the future is to be for our profession. But I will state right here that the future we have will be the future we make. Are there accidents of fate? Of course. But they are more the exception than the rule. Consider the following:

  1. The future is not a random lottery, where you have no control over what numbers are picked and where, if you win, the results are purely chance.
  2. The future is not preordained. It is not part of a concrete-like grand design that simply unfolds with our toil and efforts having absolutely no effect. We have tremendous influence on what is to be. Not total control, perhaps, but sweeping and broad influence in all directions.
  3. The future is, to a greater degree than most of us can accept, our own creation. Today is the future we worried about yesterday, and for this reason, we are all to some small degree responsible for where we are. As Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

With this in mind, let’s start by looking at what has traditionally been the role of all types of recruiters. In good times, growing companies cannot deal with the pressure of hiring for many different reasons. As a result, growing companies tend to utilize outsourced recruitment to support their efforts. In bad times, they lay off people who are considered redundant, and outside recruitment recruiting is cut back or eliminated. Unfortunately, this has created a business model that works very well part of the time and very poorly the rest of the time, with occasional periods that are somewhere in the middle. What needs to be created is a new business model, one that somehow generates value and revenue in both good times and bad. (You all heard the joke about the brothers who were in business together: one was a doctor and the other owned a funeral home. Either way, they made money. Not fall-down funny, but it illustrates a simple model that will always work.) We must somehow develop a new business model where there is continued activity based on value that is always present for the client to draw upon. In almost all cases, people will pay for value. Even if they are broke, our clients will find money if the need and the value are apparent (often when people say they have no money, what they are really saying is that they have no money for you). With this in mind, here are some of the things I suggest that must be done, not just to get out of this mess but to be sure it does not happen again. Think Long Term In case you haven’t noticed, America is the short-term thinking capital of the world. If short-term thinking were money, we would all be rich. Wall Street, the most nervous entity on earth, lives from quarter to quarter, with no real concept of the big picture. This philosophy drives organizations’ behavior in ways that are not necessarily best for the long-term interest of many businesses (the greed and cowardice of Wall Street is just about as much responsible for this mess as any other single entity). About ten years ago, the CEO of Hitachi was asked to talk about his strategic plan. He outlined it at a news conference and was met with stunned silence. It was deep and comprehensive. It brought them from that day to total market domination. “Won’t that take a long time?” asked one analyst. “Yes,” replied the CEO. “How long?” asked the analyst. “About three hundred years.” answered the CEO. “What will you need to accomplish this?” the analyst asked. The CEO smiled. “Patience. Patience and commitment to plan.” Don’t Specialize Nothing gives me the creeps more than seeing a tag line that says, “Specializing in the software industry since 1879.” What happens if the software industry croaks for a year or two (or three)? By using this tag, what you are telling the rest of the world is that you don’t, and through deductive reasoning, can’t do anything else. We must learn to use our skill sets in the broadest possible manner. Some people say “Specialize or die.” Contrary to popular wisdom (popular wisdom might be popular, but it might not be wisdom any longer), this is not correct. The truism should be “specialize and die.” Furthermore (taking a whack at corporate America) if senior management had taken the time to do some cross-training (as is popular in many European companies) many corporate recruiters could have remained productively employed by having moved into such positions as telesales, lead generation, customer service, sales, pre/post sales, or a host of other disciplines that support and/or surface new customers at a time when keeping old customers and finding new ones is so very critical. Represent Recruiting as a Core Competency Directly related to the above mentioned idea is this most important concept. How many times have you been asked, “Have you recruited in this or that industry?” I try not to roll my eyes at this question and attempt to educate my soon-to-be client that recruiting is a core competency. It is a skill set that can be applied to any type of candidate. As an example, I recently crossed the line into the pharmacology world. I doubled the size of the company in less than six months working only three days per week and never paid an agency fee (sorry agencies). I can assure you that I did not know a medicinal chemist from a Chevrolet upon starting, but I was running flat out in less than 24 hours. Understand The Importance of Relationships and Technology I believe that all things related to recruiting will someday be reduced to technology and relationships. Of course, this is a gross oversimplification. But where these two powerful and dynamic forces converge should be thought of as the fulcrum, the judo if you will, that maximizes results and makes for successful engagements. Consider this: Technology, as Toffler said, feeds upon itself and therefore tends to be exponential in its growth. As a result, there will always be newer, faster, and more effective ways to locate high-caliber candidates. On the other hand, we are still human and relationships matter a great deal. Recruiters, both organizational and third party, will always be more effective and of greater value when they understand the power of leveraging relationships and technology effectively when called upon as a service provider. Create Small Teams That Can Move Very Quickly Part of the value proposition in recruiting is speed. Companies tend to wait too long before crying out for recruiting help. So when they do require your services, speed is very important. Just as the Marines are always ready, so should be your team. How do you set up the team? It depends on your business model. But my vision is a minimum of three people:

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  • A researcher/technologist who stays up to date on the latest in Internet recruiting methodologies and provides continuous candidate flow.
  • Two hard-core recruiters who have great phone skills and do not understand the meaning of the word “no,” with one of them as a client interface and relationship builder.

Reinvent and Redefine Teams Regularly Integrate and restructure teams based upon performance, client requirements, current priorities, and for training purposes. This increases organizational efficiency by allowing areas of strength and experience to migrate into weaker parts of the company. As a result, new or weaker players can learn from those who have had significant levels of success. It also prevents the ennui of day-to-day business from creeping into overall production and organizational effectiveness. Virtually every study I have ever read pointed to the fact that any “intelligent” change within the organization initially results in increased production (the reasons are too long to go into here). This bit of organizational philosophy also has the added benefit of allowing you to create healthy competition among teams as opposed to individuals; team rivalry is far more productive in the long run. Choose Your Clients Carefully If you do not wish to be thought of as a commodity then don’t act like one. There is no reason to do business with every client who is looking for your help. We have all dealt with clients who, after a while, made us as crazy as they were. This wastes your time. Please, do not ever let any client waste your time. Time is all that you have. I suspect that most of you have seen potential clients you knew were going to be more trouble than they were worth (can’t get a position profile; expect you to drop everything and are then non-responsive; no candidate feedback; don’t or can’t make decisions. You know the signs). Do what I do. Drop them. Tell them you are too busy to give their all-important project the time and attention it deserves and refer them onto the competition. Let them waste someone else’s time. Provide Value As Opposed To Just Candidates Individuals far brighter than I have said this before. If you haven’t adopted and inculcated this philosophy into your organization, then you never really learned it because learning is doing. Adding value is nothing more than having a value proposition that differentiates your organization from all of the others. As an aside, this creates and develops the kinds of relationships that you really need?? relationships based on value and loyalty as opposed to golf and lunches. I can’t give you all of the answers on how to do this, but the following are a few things that have worked for me (if you don’t like these, invent your own based on creativity and client relationships):

  • Develop a simple and informal compensation survey (for the position you are looking to fill, of course) of six to ten organizations either by size, location, or vertical market and send the results over to the hiring manager or HR.
  • Volunteer to do training on basic interviewing skills, how to make candidates feel at home, and how to work with your agency in a way that is most effective. (This, by the way, is a great way to get inside, form relationships, and look for signs of long-term business.)
  • Find someone within the organization (or have it ghosted) who can write and develop a monthly or quarterly white paper that teaches the client how to do something that is important to them. For example, you could do a piece on retention, interviewing, teamwork in closing deals, etc.

Keep Expenses Down Excessive overhead does nothing good for your company. It sends a negative message to your employees about values, organizational ideology, and overall leadership ability as a whole (do you really need twelve foot beveled oak doors?). Excessive overhead is of no value in good times and a serious financial drain in bad ones. If you wish to spend money, invest it in training your people and seeing that they have all of the tools they need to get the job done. If you choose to ignore all of the ideas I have proposed, fine, but please do not ignore this suggestion. It is a mistake you can’t afford to make. (Relating to this point is time management. Manage your time as though you life depends on it. Find the time wasters and cut them out of your day. You could easily pick up 10 hours a week by doing this.) Find Another Line of Work This might sound radical but the fact of the matter is that there are currently too many recruiters out there and not enough work for them. There is no law that says that just because you have been doing something for a long time, you must do it forever. Recruiters are my favorite people, and they have some of the most diverse and marketable skill sets and core competencies at their disposal. Consider a career change. People do it every day. You can always come back and if you do you will bring new experiences, contacts, and perspective to the recruiting field. This will make you more valuable than when you left. Be heartened. Things will get better as we make them get better. There is a new world coming. Tennyson said “Come my friends, ’tis not too late to seek a newer world.” This is true. Like people, industry and businesses mature. Such blows help them to do so.

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 if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


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