Time to Rethink How We Add Value

Janet is a recruiter who is as committed to her profession as anyone I know. She diligently works to improve her online search skills and usually is upbeat, positive and fun. She brought in more than 200 mid- to senior-level technical professionals over the past year – a record that has won her bonuses and acclaim. Yet she recently confided that this downturn had her rethinking what she does. This reminded me of all those who have entered this profession during the past 24 months or so, and it brings to mind the thought that perhaps these people were in it just for the money. Lordy, Lordy! After all, here in Silicon Valley a good technical recruiter was worth somewhere between $65 and $120 dollars per hour last year. Someone earning that salary and working just a typical 40-hour week would bring in between $135,000 to $250,000 per year. Not bad for surfing the Internet, working the phone, and handholding a bunch of frantic managers? And it was very attractive to those who had some chutzpah and were willing to jump in and give anything a shot. But times and salaries have changed, volumes are lower and many recruiters are bailing out or thinking about it. Some of the blue-collar folks I know see our jobs as cushy and don’t have a lot of sympathy for us as we get laid off or see our pay reduced by this slowdown. They can’t figure out how we add any real value. And probably most of us have trouble, too, figuring out what we actually do that earns us those salaries we have come to love. So where and how do we add real value? Why do they pay us this kind of money? Slow times are always the best times to rethink what we do and how we add value. Our profession is changing very rapidly, as I have said many times in many other articles. We are not the administrative pair-of-hands that many of us were just 5 years ago. Few of us have so many great resumes that all we have to do is sort through them. Most of those who used to do that have already gone or are hiding right now. We are not just Internet searchers – after all that represents a tiny fraction of all the sourcing that takes place – even though I believe that being able to search on the Internet is a key skill to have. We are not psychics who try to figure out what a hiring manager wants. Most of us who tried that got booted a long time ago. So what are we? Janet and I, over coffee on a fine San Francisco afternoon, came up with five specific things that recruiters are doing (or could be doing) that add value and bring our profession to a new level. Here are our thoughts: Value #1: A really good recruiter raises a transaction to a knowledge exchange. By that I mean she can take something as administrative as counting types of resumes or sources of inquiry about a position, and turn that into a piece of information that can be used to make decisions. For example, suppose we posted an ad to the local job board and received 15 resumes on average every day for a week. The next week we didn’t run any ads at all for that position, but got 25 resumes from the website. A good recruiter could say that perhaps posting the job wasn’t necessary. By interpreting a bit a data, she could perhaps rethink the sourcing or the advertising strategy. This is one rather silly example of how a transaction can be looked at and interpreted as information that can be used to make a business decision. That is creating knowledge, and that is a valuable skill. Value #2: They can translate the market. This means they gather data on the supply of certain kinds of talent and on the projected internal and external demand for that same talent. They use the Internet, job boards, sources such as FlipDog, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and local employment agency data and they create a picture of the supply chain. They compare that to the demand that is projected for specific jobs within the organization. And they educate management about the marketplace. Most hiring managers have little experience in the job market and, if they are longer-term employees, have nothing to calibrate the supply and talent situation against except their own past experience. It is the recruiter’s job to spread the word, educate and use facts and data to back up their position. The decision on whether to go out to search for a particular skill set or to train someone internally may depend on how deeply the recruiter understands the market. Over the next decade this skill set, augmented with technology, will be a core competence. Value #3: They understand technology. And, perhaps more important even than just understanding it, they have a vision of where technology can take them and where it cannot. Technology will not replace recruiters or solve all our recruiting nightmares. It will automate much of what we have traditionally considered to be our “job” and it will force tremendous changes onto the unsuspecting 20th century recruiter. Workforce management tools are already emerging that will make the administrative side – the backend – of recruiting seamless and reduce the need for our involvement to a tiny level. Technology will aid us in our search for data about the market, but we will have to interpret it and explain it. The next 20 years will see the maturing of recruiting tools and it will take savvy recruiters to make the right decisions – the ones that give them a competitive edge. Value #4: They can statistically model what they do. I have written a couple of columns recently about measuring the value and the ROI of recruiting. The recruiter of tomorrow will be facile and comfortable thinking strategically about numbers and goals. They will be able to take pieces of data and using knowledge that is partially tacit and gained by experience as well as analytical skills, and weave them into projections and models of human capital costs and opportunity and growth. Value #5: They can sell. What more needs to be said. A great recruiter will close almost every candidate and will work to overcome objections, build relationships, provide flexibility, gain trust, and work toward compromise. These are the things good executive recruiters have always done – but how many really great ones are there? This is a skill that can be learned, even though some are born with a gift and do this quite naturally. However, good sales skills will be of high value over the next decade. If you have asked yourself recently why you continue to do what you do, if you are less than excited as these slower times give you pause, perhaps working on a few of these emerging values will re-excite and challenge you. These are all skills you can learn and grow. These are skills like karate – they take constant practice and determination to build. For me the excitement is in watching you all unfold into something new and so much more valuable than what you were! Janet, by the way, is still recruiting and is working on mastering all of these! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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