While no official is willing to publicly say the economy is on the upswing, I am predicting that we are now on the rebound from our economic doldrums. June will likely mark the turnaround in business, and we are already seeing a slowly, steadily increasing number of positions opening in the organizations we work with and talk to. This recession has been a different one than most. In the past two major recessions, once inventories had decreased and demand picked up the economy began improving, and laid-off workers were either recalled or found new jobs similar to the ones they held prior to the recession. That most likely will not happen this time. The recession we endured was caused by a sea change in the mix of skills needed. We are most certainly no longer a manufacturing nation. Services make up more than 45% of the GDP, and that figure rises every year. Most employment is in the service and knowledge industries. Unemployment for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher is running at about 1.7% compared to 7% or more for those with a high school diploma. We are a nation seeking well-educated service professionals, not semi-skilled manual workers for factories and plants. What does this mean for recruiting? We, too, have seen major changes in a number of areas, including in the skills needed to be a successful recruiter, in the technology at our disposal, in the approaches we take to attracting candidates, and in the relationships we have with candidates. Here are four lessons we all need to learn to be successful in the next era of recruiting. 1. Focus on the essential people. In the past, recruiting functions I have been associated with recruited for a broad portfolio of people. Some focused on hourly or administrative staff, while others sought technical people or managers. Staffs were large. An individual recruiter might have handled only a dozen or so open positions for professionals or technical people and maybe twice that many for hourly people. Staffing functions had administrative staff to schedule interviews and do routine communication with hiring managers and candidates. In many organizations this kind of recruiting function has been eliminated or scaled back because volumes have decreased. I believe that as new positions come in this staff will not be replaced as it was before. Recruiting organizations will have to make tough choices on where to focus their efforts. This will mean having discussions with management to make sure that those people essential for your organization’s success are the ones you focus your recruiting time and effort on. The less essential positions may be outsourced or given to third-party firms to recruit for you, while you spend time hunting down and attracting the personnel who will design new products or services, invent new products, write the software, or market and sell. While this trend was underway before the recession, it will quickly accelerate ó and very few organizations will do all the recruiting. Some will be outsourced, some will be done by contractors, and some will be turned over to the hiring manager directly. Recruiters will focus most of their efforts on essential people. 2. Use the web for everything. As many of us who write for ERE have said over and over again, the centerpiece of a 21st-century recruiting strategy is the recruiting website. It must be much better than the websites we had in 2001 and 2002. It has to be more interactive, provide better marketing to candidates, collect useful information about candidates and give candidates some control over the privacy of their personal information and some feedback on their status. Some websites that I like and that have many of these features are those of Microsoft, Starbucks, Enterprise Car Rental, Chili’s Restaurants, and Federated Department Stores. Also use the web for sourcing candidates, for posting jobs (but with more care than we do it now), and for communicating with candidates on a regular basis. Technology is the only way to get more productivity given a fixed number of people and a finite number of working hours. 3. Create a recruiting brand. Candidates have never heard of you. That is true for 90% of everyone reading this column. Unless you work for a Fortune 500 company or one with a strong local presence, most potential candidates don’t know you’re there or they don’t have any idea what kinds of people you might need. A brand is the collected and cumulative total of everything people know about you, translated into an opinion. Usually the opinion is either good or bad. Not many organizations get a gray or so-so rating. For example, we have decades of advertising, childhood memories, and so on that form our opinions of Coca-Cola or Hershey. Your job as a recruiter is to put your company into people’s awareness zone. It is to make your website and all your advertising paint a picture of what it might be like to work for your organization. The messages have to be focused to attract the essential few we mentioned above. And branding takes time. It is a multi-year process of increasing awareness. If you haven’t started doing something in this area, you’re already late. Once we start seeking people again, how will they know about you? 4. Make recruiting personal. Too much ó almost all, in fact ó of our recruiting activities treat candidates as if they were objects. We do not practice good customer service. We alienate, anger, and confuse candidates every day. We advertise positions and then tell candidates we don’t really have those positions. We don’t respond in a personal way to their resumes. We don’t answer our phones. We don’t respond to their email. Effective recruiters will learn what salespeople learned long ago: good customer relations lead to sales (hires). The better you know candidates and the more complete and varied the information you have them, the better you can find the right job for them. Using email, online screening tools, and even online assessments will increase your candidate knowledge and overcome some of the negatives that increased resume volume has led to. I hope you are ready for the future, because it is here!
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