The Horseless Carriage of Recruiting: The Internet

One of the most truthful comments I ever heard in school was made in reference to history, of all things. It went, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Since most of us hated history and did as little as possible to learn from it, the current state of affairs in the world is both explainable and understandable. However, for the sake of argument, let us look back a hundred or so years ago, and see what we can learn. (There will be a “pop” quiz at the end of the article!) When the internal combustion engine was developed, many saw the era of a whole new generation of transportation. They ran out, unhitched the horses from their carriages, bolted on one of “them thar new fangled engine thangs” and declared the era of the “Horseless Carriage!” The problem was that they really had not improved the carriage, nor had they created the automobile of today. It was still slow, limited by the rutted dirt roads of the time, aerodynamically still an airframe designed for speeds never to exceed 10 MPH, uncomfortable for journeys in excess of 15 feet, and lacking a national infrastructure that would insure needed repairs, instructions, or fuel when required. In essence, they had invented Internet Recruiting, as we know it today! Question: Do you recruit on the Internet?

Answer: Sure, we have a website! If the above answer constitutes your own answer to the above question, do not laugh too loud. This article is for you. That resume you received today in your e-mail, in a “nanosecond,” in response to a posting on your website: what happened to it that was any different than how it was processed or handled twenty or even forty years ago? We will assume you forwarded it via e-mail, the same as running, instead of walking, it to the mailroom. Over five hundred billion dollars spent and we have eliminated inter-office mail envelopes. (Hip, Hip…so what!) Try this checklist to see where you stand:

  • Do you make use of the average of 1400 word capability of most websites or do your merely copy your “newspaper-ad” position descriptions onto your websites?
  • When a resume is received, do you have an automated response that sends an obviously “robotic” response to candidates you now have made feel nameless? Alternatively, do you make an effort to personalize the response?
  • Do you pick websites based on cute logos, “hit” reports, and the sense of safety created by the knowledge that “everybody” posts there?
  • Have you ever gone to your own website and posted for a position?
  • Have you ever posted for a position with a competitor?
  • Can I ask a question of a hiring manager when I post my resume and expect an answer?
  • How long has that position been posted that I responded to? Is it still open?
  • How often do you review and refresh your openings?
  • How much do you pay?
  • What is the region you are located in look like?
  • What do your employees think of working for you?
  • How do I find you?
  • DO I WANT TO FIND YOU???

Is your “Online Recruiting Program” merely an expensive fax machine with an attitude and storage capacity? For many the answer is a simple “yes.” The Internet’s newness has allowed us to believe that just having access to it, is half the battle. The truth be told, access to the Web is merely the beginning of the battle. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Some of the more common comments I have heard from peers in the last few year are telling:

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  • I have never had access to more resumes in my career, none of them the ones I want.
  • No matter when I call the candidates, they have other jobs.
  • They just keep bugging me with e-mails wanting to talk to the hiring manager.
  • No matter what I post, they send their resume anyway.
  • Even if I call and they call me back, it is a ton of stupid questions, that is what my home page is for, is it not?
  • I have an opening in North Carolina and I keep getting resumes from Maine.

“It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools.” The Web is our newest and potentially, best tool yet developed. However, it is not an engine to be bolted onto the horse and buggy recruiting and interview process you have been running career to date. It is not the local newspaper ad “24-7.” In addition, the people who use it know we can do better. They expect us to do better. They will respond to those of us who do. What can you do? Try this for starters:

  • There should not be a single person in your staffing group that has not attended professional Internet Recruiting training. Nobody. If you’re an Internet Recruiting organization, how can it be otherwise? This is not something you learn by osmosis.
  • There are at least a dozen excellent books on Web recruiting and at least as many newsletters. Buy or subscribe to them all. It is not enough to merely “bookmark” interesting sites. Books still represent significant training tools. In addition, they do not crash or “spam” you. Invest in a substantial library. Plan to spend about one thousand dollars (1/12th of an average fee, saved or earned). (I have suggestions, e-mail me for my list.)
  • Understand that there is a difference between investigating sites, sourcing candidates, and recruiting. Reorganize your department to reflect the new recruiting era. Why is a senior recruiter sending first contact e-mails? Why is your best “Web Crawler” forwarding resumes? Is that your “sourcer” scheduling interviews? The age of specialization requires specialists. Use them where they will have the greatest impact.
  • Learn how to shop for the website you need, not the one your peers all talk about all the time.
  • Never stop investigating alternative sites and Web-based tools. New ones are popping up daily.
  • Measure the performance of your process. If it took twelve days to hire a person after receiving their resume five years ago, how long does it take now? If the only upgrade in your process has been the eliminating of “snail mail and inter-office mail,” I would not take too many bows just yet.
  • Ask a dozen or so college seniors to come to your office for a brainstorming session on what they like and dislike in websites. Have them review and comment on your site. Remember, you learned about the Web, they have grown up with it.
  • Assume nothing you do is good enough, and start rebuilding from there.

I realize I have handed out a lot of negatives and not too many solutions today. Usually I can get heavy handed on the “I told you so advice.” However, I got a little humble this week. I went to a seminar given by Peter Weddle on Web recruiting. Despite all my past training and seminars, it was like this time someone turned on a light. Previously, I had received “mechanical training.” Sort of “where to bolt the engine stuff.” But this seminar was about replacing “horseless carriages” with “automobiles” (really fast automobiles). During the first break, about 90 minutes into the session, I called the office of my current client. I told my assistant to schedule a meeting on Thursday of this week for me, my staff, the Webmaster, and the Web Content Editor. In the Outlook meeting organizer message I asked the notation be made, “Forget everything we have done; it is wrong. We are starting all over again!” It felt good to be that excited about work again. You see, the people who merely bolted an engine onto a buggy frame, they are gone and forgotten. But the people who saw that transportation was never going to be the same ever again, the people who looked at the dirt roads and saw highways, the true visionaries, they are the ones we remember. More importantly, they are the ones who made a ton of money. They got stinking filthy rich! (Sorry if that offends you, I am assuming you did not become a recruiter for your health.) Every now and then, we need to not only learn, but also to get excited about the potential that knowledge gives us to innovate, experiment and get “frisky” again in our chosen fields. Thanks to Peter, I am excited about the Internet again; I see it as more than a list of websites, Web crawlers, and endless streams of faceless E-mails. I am now certain that it is definitely not just another “Horseless Carriage.” Over the next few weeks I hope to review the process we undergo here and share our efforts in rebuilding a Horse and Buggy turned Horseless Carriage into a true Transportation Marvel of its time. Learn from our victories and our defeats. But, the real message this week is, “Think big and try new things.” We already have enough people assigned to mediocrity today! Have a great day recruiting!

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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