Chatting with Twitter: Why and How To Do It

I laugh when I hear skeptics claim that Twitter is a passing fad and they won’t use it. “I don’t need to tell people what I have for breakfast every morning.” If that were the extent of the use of this social media phenomenon, I would probably agree. There is certainly evidence that a huge percentage of the content is total fluff when @charliesheen and @justinbieber are two of the most popular Twitter users. A San Antonio based market research firm launched a 2-week long study in mid-2009 and concluded that 40% of the content could be categorized as “pointless babble.” The growth of Twitter over these past two years is proprietary information and in fact it is a violation of the API Terms of Service to “…use or access the Twitter API for purposes of monitoring the availability, performance, or functionality of any of Twitter’s products and services or for any other benchmarking or competitive purposes, but estimates as reported in Wikipedia are that there are currently 200 million users generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day. Also in the past two years, Twitter has outgrown the image of the childish gibberish observed several years ago and has been adopted by professionals in the news media, financial services, politics and government. Coincidentally, the current economic woes and high unemployment rate has put Twitter into the hands of businesses and job seekers as a tool for research and communication. For skeptics to say that they won’t use this tool is the same as saying that they are ignoring some of the tools in the toolbox. Maybe they don’t know how to use it properly? These are the people you might see trying to drive a nail with a screwdriver.

While there are no real numbers (yet) on Twitter user stats, there is no denying the popularity of its use as a quick and easy communications medium. Like the early days of chat rooms monitored by online services like Prodigy and AOL, Twitter has opened a free form space to do the same thing by the use of hashtags (words or phrases with a # sign prefix) which serve to group topics together for clear public recognition. If you are a foodie or follow a sports team there is probably a hashtag for that. A number of community leaders have scheduled specific times for like-minded users to “meet” together online and “chat” about a topic using a common hashtag. There are currently over 400 different chat hashtags in use and the list is still evolving. One such Twitter community #HireFriday was originated over a year ago by Margo Rose, also the founder of Compassionate HR, with the purpose of helping job seekers find work in a tough economy. Every Friday people looking for work tweet their needs and a link to their resume in 140 characters or less and that is re-tweeted by others to multiply their reach and exposure. At Noon EST each Friday this community meets in a public forum for an hour with the hashtag #HFChat to discuss pre-announced job search topics. So far in 2011, #HFChat has reached over 840,000 people with an exposure of 46.8 million impressions and its popularity is still growing.

How do you join one of these chats? First you have to have a Twitter account (follow this link and just do it!). The simplest way to check out a topic or follow a chat stream is to enter the hashtag in the “search” box at the top of the screen and you have now filtered all tweets into one stream. Ta daa!

There are several other useful tools that can be used to facilitate a Twitter chat. Most are highly intuitive and give detailed instructions when you sign up so there is no need for detail here. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but since it is free to sign up for a basic account on most of them, you can shop around until you find the one that works best for you. Keep your eyes and ears open for new tools entering the market, but here are a few of the most popular:

  1. One that is probably easiest for beginners is TweetChat which lets you follow the chat stream in real time and automatically adds the chat’s hashtag at the end of your post so that you can easily add your own thoughts and ideas to the flow. It is relatively simple to scroll back to catch up if you missed something as these chats do move rather fast at times. You also have the ability to change the refresh speed and font size.
  2. Another tool that is good for experienced tweeters as well as beginners is Twubs. This offers samples of communities to follow if you are searching for a particular topic and don’t already know the hashtags. Like TweetChat, Twubs also automatically adds the chosen hashtag to your tweets so that you don’t forget to do so and miss communication with the rest of the group.
  3. Another powerful tool is Cotweet which is not only good for chats, but is a useful alternative front-end for Twitter. You can toggle back and forth between the ongoing chat and your Twitter inbox with the SearchPad.
  4. TweetDeck is unlike the other tools mentioned here which are launched in a browser. This application becomes resident on your computer because it is an Adobe Air desktop application which must be downloaded. TweetDeck has been the most popular Twitter application with a 19% market share and was recently bought by Twitter for a reported $40-$50 million price tag including cash and Twitter stock. Because of its reliable up-time and real-time refresh rate it is ideal for chat moderators. This has been my personal choice as it allows me to have columns visible for private DM (direct message) tweets from my colleagues, a separate column filtered to show the chat team’s public tweets, and a general column to follow all users.
  5. No discussion of Twitter or Twitter chat is complete without mentioning HootSuite. The refresh rate is not as fast as the others for real time chat, but the tabbed format makes it ideal for following tweets from various topics, users or conferences. When someone says to check something on Twitter, I go to HootSuite rather than to open Twitter itself. This is the only one I actually pay money to use. The free version is extremely powerful on its own, but for power users there are paid versions which take it to another level. In the professional version tweets can be uploaded from a .csv file, it can be tied to Google analytics, and there is a powerful search feature which lets you find other users by various criteria including their Klout score. There is something for everybody here.

Things are changing so rapidly in social media that this article will probably be out of date a few minutes after you read it. New tools are becoming available all the time and the ones mentioned here are on a constant path for improvement. For starters, hopefully you know that tweeting can be informative, profitable and fun and have a few ideas of the major online devices to make it work. Now tell me what you had for breakfast.

 

Job Seekers: Think Like a Recruiter – Part 3

Don't Sit Still While You Think

In the first two installments of “Think Like a Recruiter” there was a consistent theme which is a clue as to how the job search should begin. This may be a good place to pause and mention that there is a wide variety of thought on how to best perform a job search. The progression of these articles is not intended to provide “the” answer to such a complex process, but to refocus the search mentality. To continue to think from the perspective of the hunted can only result in shock and surprise when ultimately confronted by the hunter. It is not “wabbit season” it is “candidate season” and the prey needs to be as wily as the predator.

Speaking of taking a shotgun approach at preparation for getting a new job, the planned outcome cannot possibly happen with this approach because, by definition, there is no plan. There are distinct steps to building the process and it is impossible to hang the roof before laying the foundation. Without fail, the knee-jerk reaction of most people is to begin to write a resume, or dust off an old one, and start submitting it online. On the surface this may seem expedient, but in reality it only feeds our need for instant gratification. Preparation goes far beyond writing a resume. The purpose of the resume is to get you in the door. Period. What you may not know is that most company applicant tracking systems keep a history of your applications. The jobs you apply for and the documents you send are “stacked” in the database and the recruiter can see your complete application history. If you are already thinking like a recruiter, what would be your impression of someone who has applied for multiple non-related jobs? What would you think of someone submitting several resumes that don’t match or line up logically? This could be excused in certain circumstances and that in itself is not a problem, but if you only have one shot at applying wouldn’t you want your best image to hit first? You only have one chance to make a good first impression. And what about that elusive personal branding you have heard so much about? Are you thinking like a recruiter yet? Which would be more important on a level playing field: Skills that match the job or a shiny brand?

A key task of a recruiter is to insure that the job specifications are clearly communicated to a candidate. So what does a candidate look for in a job description? Do you want foggy bullet points which are so generic that you remain clueless as to the job specifics? The same thing works in reverse. If you have a vanilla presentation of yourself, don’t expect the recruiter to add the flavoring. One of the most frustrating parts of the recruiter job is when something really seems to click with a candidate and there is a gut feeling that there is a possible match, but something is missing…they can’t articulate that elusive, intangible missing item.

If the resume is all that your shotgun preparatory work accomplishes, obviously you will need to start all over again to get ready for an interview or to be prepared for a continuing dialog. Laying a good foundation for the entire process prepares you to arrive at the destination and not just to gas-up for the first leg of the journey. The brick and mortar basis for a job search foundation is a total personal inventory. Here is one way to begin building the information base that a recruiter will want to have:

  1. Overall Life Inventory – Prepare the framework of your search script with a total self analysis in writing (important as reference for future steps) using a free-form entry list. Using MS Word or some other word processing software is useful to organize thoughts into bullet points and to sort and edit as you fine tune your self assessment. Education is the most likely first measure of you qualifications. Formal education may be required for many positions simply because of company culture. You may disagree with this as a statement of a legitimate requirement, but you will have little power to change this environment. Aptitude to do the job is probably more important than being educated, but think clearly how you would plan to communicate that. Simply stating that you have a knack for doing something does not offer proof. Experience is difficult to inventory as it is not just an accumulation of tasks but a demonstration of activities successfully performed. Interests are also an important starting place. If you have the opportunity, take a standardized test from a career coach or school counselor that can uncover best jobs matches for your interests. Personality can also be tested professionally (e.g. Myers-Briggs), but most people intuitively know generally how they would react to certain situations. If you are the shy and retiring type, outside sales is probably not your thing.
  2. Skills Inventory – There are many opinions regarding the definition of what the term “skill” really means, but start with a general definition and then think like a recruiter. A skill is an ability which demonstrates the execution of a task effectively using your education, aptitude, experience, interest and personality. These are usually a single word or two, usually a noun. Save the action verbs for the resume. Don’t get wrapped up in sub-sets of skills at this time and write everything down. This time it is best to do a spreadsheet and just brainstorm your list of skills as they come into your head. Don’t worry about the difference between “teaching” and “training” or whether “leadership” and “management” are the same thing. Column A on the spreadsheet should be filled with as many skills as you can find. Then begin looking at yourself with your recruiter glasses and subjectively evaluate each in Column B on a 5-point scale with “1” being lowest and “5” being highest. Start with giving yourself a “3” for all skills and then make a second pass to modify upward or downward. Sound easy? Well it isn’t. The soul searching that will prepare you for the journey is beginning and it is hard to be brutally honest.
  3. Accomplishments Inventory – Clear your mind and start another spreadsheet. These don’t have to be chronological (yet) but if you have an old resume you can begin to pick it apart now. An accomplishment is an event that has been completed using the skills you have acquired. They are an express use of talents which are uniquely yours. They can be repetitive, but this is not a list of job tasks or responsibilities from a job description. An accomplishment is measurable and the outcome meaningful to the unit, company or organization. So Column A will be a list of things like “Engineered plant expansion” or “Designed new data system.” Next to each accomplishment in Column B enter the measure of that accomplishment, such as “Annual cost savings of $1.2 million” or “Reduced department data processing costs by 26%.” This is where you define for yourself the real definition of an accomplishment. All accomplishments are measurable even if not a concrete number. “First ever for company” or “Exported process to other divisions” are measures of success. In Column C use the same 5-point evaluation to rate the strength of the accomplishment, where “3” is average and “5” is a bragging point.
  4. Merge Skills with Accomplishments – Yes, the process not only gets more complicated now it gets repetitively redundant over and over again (yes, I repeated that to lighten things up a bit). Get ready for two more spreadsheets and you can probably guess what they are. Take your edited list of Skills (edited because it is never complete on the first pass) and put that in Column A. Then in Column B put the accomplishment(s) which utilize that skill (This model may mean repeating skills on more than one line to keep it flowing). On a second spreadsheet, do the reverse: In Column A list an accomplishment and in Column B list the skills associated with that event. Why do this twice? The first one is the foundation of your interview script where you will answer a recruiter’s question by boiling it down to the skill required and providing an example to prove depth of understanding. The second spreadsheet is the beginning of a scratch resume. When added to a chronological listing of jobs you have your curriculum vitae.

Hopefully, the recruiter has done homework on the job specs, interview preparation and how to communicate that to you, but how nice it is to be confident that the most knowledgeable person in the room is sitting in the candidate’s chair. Like all life situations, success begins with examining the environment and determining how much control you have over a situation. In a job search, you have no control over what the recruiter will do, but you can think from that perspective and control how you respond by being totally prepared. This sounds so simple, but we all judge people by how professional they are in presenting themselves. If you see a performer reading from a script or a singer reading notes from sheet music, you do not see confidence. Looking into your recruiter mirror at yourself you should see someone who has memorized who they are and doesn’t fumble, jumble or mumble their presentation.

 

The Four Pillars of Recruiting

The knee-jerk reaction to describing essential elements of a function is to think of the columns holding up some massive structure. This is understood to be a symbol of strength. A very supportive person is known as a “pillar of strength.” While somewhat overused by business to show the strength of ideas, it also has the ability to show how complicated situations can be simplified into a few basic support structures. Recruiting is a perfect example of a complex function that can be better understood in a simplified model of columns. If you perform research on different staffing models you will find countless organizational structures on which companies base their recruiting efforts. These can range from a simple one-person (or less) function, a hierarchical team, or a complex functional matrix organization. There are variations depending on the degree of centralization or decentralization of the company. The underlying basic principles of recruiting apply in small companies, large companies or agencies. The reason it is necessary to add one more definition to something which is already so well defined is because of extended concepts like asking jobseekers to think like recruiters. They need to know the perspective that created those teaching points. Concepts such as considering the value of the sourcing function to the recruiting effort requires knowledge of how it relates to, and is different from, other aspects of the process.

When you think about all the organizational charts or theory concepts you have seen, whether they are shown as a 20 point wheel or 2 boxes on a chart they all have these basic pillars of thought holding up the recruiting function:

  1. Sourcing – Of course the recruiting process is cyclical, but taken in isolation the beginning of any staffing campaign is sourcing candidates to meet some requirement. Ordinarily, it is not the job of the recruiter/sourcer to write job descriptions, fine tune the details of the specs or determine the “must haves” and “nice to haves” in the pursuit of talent. It is the recruiter’s job to uncover these things. Workforce planning is the job of someone else, either in HR or management, but the sourcer must clearly understand these points in boring and gory detail to peel back the layers of the onion and get at the heart of what makes a good employee for every position. The success or failure of a recruiting campaign begins here. Like a surveyor measuring a line of sight, only a fraction of a degree off target can move the end point by miles. If a recruiter complains that they do not have time to source properly, they are really saying that either they don’t want to source, don’t know how to source, or the organization is placing too many other burdens on them. To expect the door to open on a new position and the perfect candidate to walk through leaves way too much to chance for consistently positive results. In an age of specialization, this is the one area of the staffing process that can operate efficiently as a separate entity if clear hand-off rules are established. There are factors that influence how sourcing as a service works and there are many opinions on the value of sourcing as a specialty, but you don’t go to a proctologist for a toothache. If the situation requires dedicated internal or external sourcing expertise you won’t have to look far to find someone not only skilled in the complexities of sourcing, but who is also excited by the thrill of the chase.
  2. Relationship Management – What is the value of a human resources degree in recruiting? Reality shows that someone educated in marketing, education or psychology can do just as well or maybe even better. This is not to say that knowledge of human resources is not important, but experience in technical areas or other left brain activities produces excellent recruiting talent as well. Regardless of formal training or experience, possessing the knack to work magic with people is the key to making the process work. Recruiting magic requires managing interpersonal relationships at all levels. The two most prevalent relationships are the internal interface with hiring managers and the external contact with candidates for employment. Hiring managers know the skill set of person they want for the job, however their expertise lies in some area other than recruiting (whether they know it or not). Someone experienced in this area has to translate across all departments in the company and communicate knowledge about how the process works most efficiently. The culture of an organization is only as good as it is implemented by management, so while hiring for skills is the predominant requirement, the value of organizational fit can’t be overlooked. The recruiter is usually in the best position to referee the struggle between nepotism/discrimination/favoritism and merit/diversity/collaboration. Externally, the recruiter manages the expectations of candidates with regard to the detailed requirements of the job, the skills required to perform that job and the interface with the environment of the job. Expectations also include the timing of feedback and closure. Much has been said and written about the elusive concept of a “candidate experience,” but the truth is that all candidates will have an experience…the kind of experience is usually a mark of how well the recruiters do their job. Both internally and externally, the recruiter must be able to communicate negative information and know how to defuse conflict. Disagreements regarding candidate selection have to be resolved without creating discord in the department. Candidates who are not selected for a position should be given a firm “no” answer tempered with compassion to their situation.
  3. Administration – Everyone has seen the motivational (?) poster of the toilet paper roll with the caption, “The job is never finished until the paperwork is done.” This is a great point because the volume of administrative tasks in recruiting is daunting! From a strategic viewpoint, gathering metrics, analyzing processes and reporting results to management can only be done well by someone extremely knowledgeable in the recruiting process. Speaking from a more tactical viewpoint, a candidate does not become an employee unless someone takes care of all the seemingly endless tasks of making it happen. This is a thankless job because there is so little margin for error. It is an understatement to say that attention to detail is critical. A great selection, interview and offer experience can form a positive impression in the mind of the candidate, but forget any part of payroll, benefits, security or other essential tasks and the situation can go downhill rapidly. The term orientation and onboarding are distinctly different aspects of the process, but when handled by knowledgeable experts there can be a much more positive image of the new company, a lessening of the culture shock and elimination of “buyer’s remorse” after committing to join the company. Unfortunately, administration is the least exciting part of staffing work and isn’t very sexy. Just like that subject in college that you had no interest in taking, it is easy to get a “D” in administration for lack of interest or effort. To give the organization a grade of “A+” these tasks are often given to specialists who take over the nuts and bolts of the back-end process. There is an obvious downside to this: Tossing this responsibility over the transom for someone else does not eliminate the need for the recruiter to be involved. Feedback continues throughout the gap between making the offer and starting the job. Often, the recruiter, not the hiring manager, will be the person called if there are problems in the process. After hire, it is not uncommon for the recruiter to continue to be considered the expert in everything to do with HR, Payroll or other things that are beyond the scope of the recruiter job. It probably goes without saying that post-hire follow-up to improve the process is an essential part of the job.
  4. Trabranketing – The recruiter’s job description usually doesn’t include this specific term, but trabranketing is a fourth major pillar that holds up the roof. Forgive me if I take some liberties with coining a new word here, but I could find no really good term to explain how Training, Branding and Marketing join together to make a successful recruiting department. This could be considered to overlap with the three other pillars, but together they form an essential part of the support structure. It goes way beyond the ongoing relationship management duties and requires the recruiter to have the passion to go to the next level…to become a missionary for the cause. Training as a service will functionally belong somewhere else in the organization, but the recruiter daily trains managers on processes, use of applicant tracking systems and the logistics of interviewing. Members of interviewer teams may be able to get formal interviewer training as a part of an overall company training program, but it is usually the recruiter who gives ad hoc instruction to a new manager or provides mini-classes before a round of interviews. This goes way beyond the typical management of the relationship between manager and recruiter as it is not intended to instruct a single manager but to insure uniformity of practices and conformity to company policies. Branding is usually a higher level public relations function of the company, but even if the staffing organization is not formally included in company branding programs the establishment, execution and maintenance of a recruiting brand has to come from the recruiter. Determining the direction of the recruiting brand may be more of a project oriented assignment or performed at the strategic level of thinking. On the other hand, insuring that negative branding trends or issues contrary to the company brand are tasks which happen daily on the recruiter’s desk. Recruiting is also a marketing and sales effort since there is always the need to fine tune the pitch to each candidate and recognize the specific close required to seal the deal. Internally, there has to be some value added by the recruiter to the selection process through providing interview feedback and performing interview follow-up sessions. Selling the best candidate who will become the best employee is a way of insuring that the final selection is not just a quick-fix technical match to a job description.

Recruiters love a good hunt, so I would encourage all to study processes outside of your own environment. This keeps things fresh and sharpens the outlook for improvement. Many key leaders in sourcing and staffing have performed in-depth studies on how to improve the typical staffing organization and have published those online and in books. If you look hard enough you will also get a glimpse into the future of recruiting by studying where it has been and where the experts see it going. Be ready!

 

Recruiting Innovation

If you Google the words “recruiting innovation” this morning you will probably find a dozen or more blog posts about the Recruiting Innovation Summit yesterday conducted by ERE.net and hosted by LinkedIn at their headquarters in Mountain View, CA. When I began blogging again, I promised that I would avoid becoming a “me too” blogger and only publish stuff that came out of my own head, but there is one condition which I failed to mention: When there is a “light bulb” moment that absolutely rocks me I am not responsible for the words that come out of the keyboard! It is impossible for me to give a total recap of the conference and also unnecessary because ERE.net will eventually post the video of the entire event on their website. I felt a need to highlight some of the most innovative points from my perspective and to encourage you to watch the presentations later if you missed it live. Also, just like when you take notes in class, I probably didn’t write down the things I thought I already knew, so this will be the high points from my perspective (your mileage may vary):

  1. Curating Performance And Culture Through Extraordinary HiringNilofer Merchant – I absolutely loved the “curator” of talent concept and there were several tweets during the conference about the use of that term. Nilofer defined culture as the environment that allows employees to co-create. There is no good or bad culture, but rather “does the group know how to work together to get the job done?” One key point that I think can never be made enough is that a culture of collaborative work must be created intentionally. It does not just happen. Great culture creates an exponential increase in talent. “It’s magic and you are magicians” was a segue into talking about the alchemy of people…”let it happen.” Culture is the invisible glue that allows work to happen, but it also changes when we change (to me that means adaptable culture). Success = Purpose x Talent (Culture).
  2. From Lab Dreams to Real SolutionsKane CochranTomya Ryans – Tomya talked about how cancer treatment had become so very personalized at MSKCC that it was not a stretch to personalize the employment process. Their presentation highlighted Innovation for Digital Talent Acquisition and reported a successful partnership of MSKCC with Hodes for the integration of Facebook and LinkedIn into a company recruiting website. 99% of LinkedIn profiles contain information about work history and the number of LinkedIn users worldwide is growing at a tremendous rate. It is a remarkable marriage which pulls data from social profiles to personalize candidate experience. This goes far beyond the traditional post-and-pray mentality making it easier for individuals to present themselves as candidates and gives recruiters a better tool for understanding the applicant and opening lines of communication. Could this be the beginning of the end of the black-hole?
  3. Recruiting College Students And Beyond Using Social MediaLarry Nash – The first point mentioned was that they treated colleges like a client. From that perspective, branding became a tool for change and the innovation. There were several innovative mentions of social media recruitment of college students using the usual suspects. One twist was the use of a Facebook page with a set of ground rules that allowed negative comments to remain. Of course, this took a bit of courage not usually found in such a traditionally conservative industry and I imagine there were some reservations from the legal eagles, but it provided an opportunity to respond quickly and soon college students knew that they would get fast answers to their questions. This alone gave this brand authenticity by showing that it wasn’t just another marketing creation. The innovation that absolutely knocked my socks off was their use of E&Y branded music channels on Pandora. Larry quipped that “this is because of all the accounting music out there” which drew laughter from the crowd. This is pure genius! It was not only an internal team builder which let the employees pick the music, but also it related more to the audience they were trying to reach.
  4. Shiny & Useful: Recruiting Technologies You Should Know AboutAmy Wilson – I like shiny things, especially when they are useful. This was more than just a laundry-list presentation of new and exciting tools, but I find it difficult to summarize everything in one paragraph. Of all the sessions of the day, if you only have time to view one presentation, make this video the one you watch. Learn about opt-in tools like find.ly and Avature, a candidate relationship management tool with people focus. These tools allow segmenting talent pool and using sourcing and screening techniques which are not done very well by traditional ATS. Amy also turned to the dark side…what she called the creepy side. Have you seen The Social CV? This pulls all publically available information on an individual from social media and other online sources and gives the recruiter information about potential candidates. On the plus side it makes the job seeker visible to those who would hire them and is a valuable sourcing tool, but several reservations were discussed about the ethics of such searches. While it is not revealing anything that a person has not already willingly posted online, there was a split decision on whether it was worth it or not.  At the very minimum it serves as a warning to careless online posters: Everything it public. I do wonder if this could be used internationally because of legal restraints under Safe Harbor laws in the EU.
  5. Location-Based Mobile RecruitingCraig Fisher – This was a presentation by one of the most recognizable people in social media. At the outset of his presentation, he told everybody in the room and in the streaming video audience to connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Even though there are recruiters who still have reservations about connecting with just anyone, he operates on the philosophy that as recruiters, that is what we do…connect with people. One of the most tweeted topics was his discussion of the competitive use of Foursquare as a recruiting tool as a best example of location-based mobile recruiting. Most developers are moving toward the creation of more location-based apps and it will become one of the most effective ways to find candidates in the future. Here is my “eureka” moment: I have go to expand my use of Foursquare to find low hanging fruit.
  6. Behind The Wall with Social RecruitingSusan StrayerDavid Kippen – This session began with a demonstration on how the professional relationship between Susan and David began while she was a graduate student and he was an expert online who was knowledgeable in an area of interest to her. This was a great introduction to the concept of moving social media contacts into real life. They illustrated the concept of getting behind the wall by moving from “lurk” to “like” to “talk” to make a connection. No one really makes close friends by Twitter alone. That requires real contact of some kind. There are tons of things that can be done with technology, but the medium cannot be confused with the message. Social recruiting doesn’t mean that a recruiter can’t take it offline, but there is still not a consensus as to whether or not it has to go offline to be social. There was an interesting group exercise identifying participants into groups on their feelings about this, but I will let you see the outcome in the video rather than spoil the ending. Let me just say that I am a “Green Dot” person with occasional red-dotness moments.

I feel that I owe an apology to these presenters for skimming over their sessions and paraphrasing their words. I don’t think that I would even attempt to say that I have exposed the tip of the iceberg since this was an all day conference and was intensely thought provoking. Hopefully my summary will pique your interest in looking into these topics further. If you are a recruiter and do not regularly read the posts on ERE.net you absolutely must do so, if for no other reason than to find out when these videos go live. It will be very much worth your time.

Job Seekers: Think Like a Recruiter – Part 2

Last week in Think Like a Recruiter – Part 1 I began talking to job seekers about a method of conducting the search for a new position using the concept that it is like recruiting in reverse. Adopting the mindset of the hunter does not necessarily give the advantage to the hunted, but failing to recognize how this process works is flying blind. The relationship between the candidate for a job and those looking for new talent should not be one of mystery but of discovery and communication…both ways. Engagement with a recruiter can begin with either party but they must communicate on common turf.

… the job seeker must assume 50% of the responsibility for effective communication.  Also recognize that the role of “information transmitter” and “information receiver” will switch back and forth several times as the parties decode the messages being sent to them. It is equally as important to listen as to speak. While this ongoing dialog progresses, the concept that a job search is just like reverse-recruiting may be totally foreign as a job seeker slips into the sneakers of the recruiter for the long run. It is unfamiliar turf. The significance of the visualization of this role reversal is to gain an in-depth understanding of the recruiting process put in place by companies which are second nature to recruiters.

Don't Sit Still While You Think

So, now we need to consider what the term “recruiter” actually means. It is easy for a job seeker to fall into the trap of thinking there are only two types of parties in the searching and hiring universe: us and them.  One of the key rules of any form of communication is to know your target audience, so understanding who the recruiter may be is of prime importance. You will have your core message based the skills and accomplishment you bring to the table (to be discussed in more detail later) but how you communicate that message could differ based on the perspective from the other side of that phone call. The recruiter’s motivation may be different based on their specific role in the talent acquisition process.

  1. Contingency Recruiters – Some third party agencies provide companies with candidates for a job opening with their fee being contingent upon one of their candidates being hired. This is like the lawyer who represents your claim in court but will not be paid unless you win a settlement. Such recruiters may operate in a large agency with distinct functional areas, a smaller firm where the recruiters handle both marketing and sourcing, or an independent recruiter who manages the entire business. Regardless of the size of the agency, they build relationships with companies through contacts with hiring managers and HR. They fill positions based on a fee for placement, usually around 20% of the candidate’s starting base salary. In working through the mindset of how to think like a contingency recruiter consider the fact that they usually do not have an exclusive contract with the company and are competing with other contingency recruiters to fill a job. It is also important to realize the fact that they may provide more than one candidate for an opening to improve the chances of getting a hire and the related fee. No, most of them are NOT mercenaries peddling meat to the job market, but it is naïve to think that they are representing only you. Understand that this is a business relationship and they are not being paid to be your friends, but that this can be a fantastic source of information about how to present yourself to the job market. You will get valuable advice on your resume, honest appraisal on your chances to get a job, and great feedback from submissions and interviews. Your relationship with your recruiter is highly important.
  2. Retained Search Recruiters – Unlike the contingency agencies, a retained search firm is given a contract as the sole provider of candidates for an opening in a company. There may be a competition between agencies for the contract, but when commissioned to fill a job they will be paid regardless of whether the job is filled or not. If the opening is cancelled, the agency will still be paid, so obviously companies are careful about finding the best search partner to fill the opening. These types of searches are generally reserved for higher level positions in an organization or critical, tough-to-fill types of jobs. Fees are typically 30% to 35% of starting base salary. How do you engage a retained recruiter? Be visible! You may reach out to them, but the more likely way to be hired through such a recruiter will be when they find you. As in most cases where your resume is a ticket to the game, you can expect that the retained search recruiter will also provide their client with an in depth analysis of your background related to the job requirements based on an in-depth interview with them. There will probably be more than one candidate presented for the opening, but you can expect to be fully briefed on the company, the culture and the bio of your interviewers.
  3. Corporate Recruiters – These are the people who are in-house and are either paid employees or dedicated contract recruiters working exclusively for the company. In larger corporations there will probably be more than one individual responsible for this task and their workload is generally divided by functionality of the position or department. Global organizations may be centralized in their approach or local to the job site, but either way their job is to find the best match for position requirements at the least cost in the shortest time. You may be contacted by a sourcer or full cycle recruiter from a company, or you may get to them through one of the agency recruiters mentioned earlier. If you apply directly through a company web site or a job board, these recruiters are the ones charged with finding the needle in the haystack. Thinking how these people operate is not difficult to understand: They filter through hundreds of applicants, relate them to hiring manager’s requirements, and manage the relationship both internally and externally to fill the job. If you are caught up in a “black hole” it is probably not the fault of the recruiter, so don’t damage a possible future relationship by lashing out at the gatekeeper. Some companies restrict how much feedback information can be given to a candidate because of legal liability issues, but most are knowledgeable enough about feedback concerns to really be of help in tailoring future application to that company or others.
  4. Human Resources Generalist – Smaller companies may not have a separate recruiting department, so that function is handled by someone who manages all of the human resources functions from hiring to firing. Other than the perspective of dealing with someone responsible for compensation, benefits, training, organizational development, employee relations and workforce planning, the relationship is pretty much like dealing with a corporate recruiter with the exception that recruiting is not their only job. A key difference is that there may be a greater reliance on agency support rather than direct sourcing of candidates. Even if there is a separate recruiting function in a company, there is probably a human resources partner involved in the hiring process even if behind the scenes. After hire, this is the person who will manage your career at the company from orientation through retirement, so learn who this is and get to know them.
  5. Hiring Managers – Small businesses make up a huge portion of the job market. Whether in its infancy as a start-up or an organization that has not grown large enough for a functional human resources department, your candidacy will be directly managed by your future manager or perhaps even the founder or president of the company. Smaller organizations are a great starting place for a career, but may have both a higher risk than larger companies and also greater rewards. They may be more entrepreneurial in their approach and prefer advertising for direct applicants rather than payment of an agency fee. While the process of selection, interviewing and hiring will be the same, you can expect the process to be more personal in nature. This may be the most relevant application of thinking like the recruiter: “If I owned the company, what would I want in an employee?” Listen before you talk. Question the current role and growth possibilities to get a better understanding of the company.
  6. Recruitment Process Outsourcing – Some key thought leaders see RPO’s as the future of recruiting. This is the process of outsourcing the recruitment process to an external provider. In practice, it could function like an internal corporate recruiting entity or a dedicated agency to provide hiring services. The advantages are that it provides scalable staffing services at a lower cost with improved time-to-hire and improved quality of the candidate pool. The downside is of course loss of continuity beyond onboarding as the RPO’s are not actually part of the company. While it is unlikely that you will find yourself in this situation, it may be important to the continuation of the hiring process to know if your candidacy is being managed by an RPO and not a direct agent of the company.
  7. Temporary Agencies and Job-Shop Companies – Traditionally, fluctuations in a company’s workforce has been handled by hiring non-employees to fill the gaps in workload over time. In most cases, your legal employer will be the agency that provides your services and there will be a hands-off relationship with the company. A ticklish situation in some cases, you will do the same work in the same location with full-time company employees, but without the benefits of being employed by that company. There are complicated legal reasons for this relationship, but for the most part it gives a great opportunity for future full-time employment. There is an advantage to the company by observing actual performance on the job rather than trying to figure it out in an interview. There is also an advantage to the employee in being able to get a good feel for the culture and environment before committing to a longer term relationship.

An important aspect of a job search is that it is like a chess game where you get to move all of your pieces at once. You don’t have to consider just one source or type of recruiter to find your dream job. So how do you manage dealing with multiple types of recruiters? You should be aware that there can be conflicts between agencies. If you are highly marketable there will obviously be competition to be the first to provide your credentials to a company. And yes, there can be conflicts that arise if an agency presents your resume to a company to which you have already applied. So how do you handle this mess? There are differences of opinions on this, but in my opinion the bottom line is to consider two key points: First, YOU are in control of your job search. Do not allow your resume to be submitted anywhere without your approval. Know where it goes, otherwise it dilutes your value and you cannot follow-up or control the process. Secondly, honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. Don’t lie to your recruiter or tell an agency that you have not applied to another agency or company when in fact you have. In a tight job market it is more important to build strong relationships than to try to find cheap shortcuts. Don’t sacrifice your personal brand or become your own worst enemy by lowering the impression of your character.

Are you thinking like a “recruiter” yet? These recruiter categories obviously overlap occasionally and there are certainly variables within each of the categories I have listed. Understanding the differences can be of utmost importance in managing your job search. If you are engaged in a conversation with someone about a job, find out their perspective to better understand how to communicate with them. Future articles in this series will go into more detail on how to fluently converse in recruiter-speak.