Are we becoming a bunch of recruitment robots?

2015. Recruitment tools – we have plenty. Too many? Maybe.

There was a time (before my era, mind) when recruitment was about a few simple things… people, getting to know these people, building a network and connecting this network with opportunities at your company (clients if on the agency side). Over simplified? Yes. Is this simplistic view compatible with modern recruitment?

Today’s market, particularly in the world of technology, sees the candidate in the driving seat. As recruiters, our task of finding and attracting some of the best talent that our employers demand is harder than ever. This has of course led to the rise of what I call ‘The (Recruitment) Tool Army’!

‘Recruitment is broken’ they say? Fear not; let’s build a host of products that will solve everything! Buy this and your life will change forever.

I’d like to think that as recruiters, we’re not all so gullible, or are we?

I’m not going to waffle on about what tools are good and what aren’t. There’s too much debate on that subject already and there are too many tools to cover. My gripe is with some of my fellow recruiters. As part of my job I speak to a lot of candidates, I also speak to a fair few recruiters. Some truly excellent ones. These are the ones who really get what is required and actually execute on it by trying things that others can’t or won’t.

There are unfortunately others who have forgotten what this job is actually all about. Recruiters use tools and moan when they don’t instantly solve their problems. Why would you rely on it to take your place in recruitment?

Have we lost sight of what’s really important?

I think we have to an extent. Professional and successful people want to surround themselves with smart people, they form communities of like minded people. Why? Because they continually want to learn. We, as recruiters, need to follow suit. Developers have communities, so do doctors, mathematicians, marketers. There’s no excuse not to.

So what should we do about it?

Go back to basics and have a desire to learn. When I think about recruitment and what it should involve there are certain things that come to mind:

  • Relationship-building
  • Hard work
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Respect
  • Good Timing

Think about how you would want to be approached and consider the mindset of a candidate. In the context of someone’s career they only interact with recruiters for a very small portion of that. Go to great lengths to ensure that it’s a good experience. Through showing somebody respect and that you’ve bothered to try and understand what they do you’re far more likely to get their trust. If you show you care and want what’s best for them how could somebody not appreciate it?

Learning – build a community with fellow recruiters. Some have really great advice and experience that they are only too happy to share. The London startup community is one place where this is happening. A group of recruiters are doing more to learn from each other and more importantly give honest feedback (through events).

The ‘War on Talent’ is not just one of skills shortages and competition. For recruiters, it’s also about reclaiming ground. Tools are there to complement us, not do our jobs for us. Be prepared, transparent, go to events (if you’re brave enough, speak at them – it’s worth it!) meet your candidates and get to know them.

Show understanding and a willingness to learn and people will respect you. Use this as a base and build from there. Utilise the tools you have to make things a little easier. Don’t become the ‘tool’ who blames everything else when they don’t succeed.

Company Culture – All or Nothing

Culture is how organisations ‘do things’ ” – Robert Katanga. Today it’s used to attract candidates and build an employer brand.

We place huge weight behind our career moves based on things like work environment, the people as well as career development and salary.

Companies strive to get this right – some throw huge resources behind it, you may even see a ‘Chief Culture Officer’ in place (usually a sign that the culture is so bad they’ve had to employ someone to try to sort it out).

So what is Company Culture?

I recently attended an event on this very subject – Culturevist. People there from a wide range of professions – Lawyers, Recruiters, Customer Success, Marketing, Communications etc. All gathered together discussing culture in the workplace– success stories, failures, people seeking help. People there because they care about the environment they work in.

This, for me, shows that culture represents the values and behaviours of employees that make up a company. As an employer can you really answer questions like – Are you an employer/part of a company that really does care about employees? Do you just want them to perform well at work or go that step further and really get behind a positive ‘work-life’ balance?

All or Nothing?

What did Culturevist teach me about Company Culture?

  • It’s a collective effort– a movement driven from the top downwards. Driving culture from the bottom up is admirable but the will of employees can count for little if those at the top don’t truly believe in it.
  • You can’t just create a culture– you have to show a process towards making it work.
  • How? –Being transparent, listening and then acting on what you’ve heard. Having an identity, values and living and breathing them!
  • Develop it – Through listening to your employees you identify issues earlier and take necessary action

We want to believe in a company, its products and its people. Essentially we want to be part of a story where we can make a difference.

Working in an environment that allows you to do this is the first step. Great benefits may help in attracting you but they won’t buy long-term loyalty. It’s the sense of control and community that we all crave. Make someone feel part of a team and in control of their own destiny and you’ll find that you’ll have an engaged, inspired and happy workforce.

….but before you get too comfortable. This is an ‘All or Nothing’ game and one that needs to be continually worked at. Companies evolve and so will your culture.

Referrals – leveraging your team’s network

Hiring is tough.

Your company wants the best available talent, you want to deliver it but so does everyone else. I was recently listening to a podcast on Startup Recruiting involving Qubit’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Matthew Bradburn. Matt went into detail to discuss one key part of a talent acquisition strategy – utilising employee referrals. People want to work with the best so they will be forthcoming in highlighting people they believe to be great. Sound obvious?

Obtaining referrals from employees

Whilst employee referrals should not be relied upon as the primary source of candidates, they can provide quality, passive candidates that can bring skills and experience not available on the market.

The key question here is ‘how to obtain referrals from employees?’ This can be particularly difficult to get right, as any recruitment function will be met with a number of issues from employees reluctant to refer skilled professionals. Reasons can include:

  • Fear a poor referral reflecting badly on their judgment
  • Lack of an incentivised referral program
  • Unwillingness to refer passive candidates
  • Trust in their recruitment department offering a good candidate experience

Poor referral?

Employees should not be fearful of referring candidates. The majority of referrals are for people who pretty much have the required skills to do the job at hand. From experience, contacts are also referred as the employee sees that person as a good ‘team fit’ and would add to the current team moral and working style.

So, in the event that a candidate is referred and does not quite make the cut, it should not be viewed negatively. A rejection does not mean that the candidate was a bad one; it simply means that they may not be quite right for that role in the organisation at that time.

Lack of an incentivised referral program

I’d like to explore this in more detail in future blogs so I won’t elaborate too much at this stage. Safe to say that there are arguments for and against an incentivised referral program. An incentivised scheme could yield a greater number of referrals. But could it also lead to a decrease in quality?

Unwillingness to refer passive candidates

This is an interesting one. I asked one of my colleagues the other day if they knew of suitable candidates that they could recommend/refer. The response from one was ‘yes, but they aren’t looking’. I found this slightly puzzling.

Of course employees should not pass on referrals without thought or consideration for that person. On the other hand, it’s the role of the recruiter to seek out passive candidates and introduce opportunities to them. Suppose I was to find the said candidate during a search. Am I not to contact as one of our employees knew that they weren’t looking? Absolutely not. In this case, why would an employee not disclose the name of a potential candidate so that dialogue can be opened, even if for future reference?

An employee should not feel burdened as to whether their referral is looking for a new role or not. Chances are that if they’re suitable the recruiter will identify them anyway so why not pair up? Have a joint business approach in referring passive people so the recruiter is aware of whom they are and the internal relationship before reaching out to them.

Trust in recruiter giving a good candidate experience

Ever referred someone and recruitment never contacted them? Or they did but then they heard nothing back for weeks? Having to take that awkward phone call from your referral, chasing up their application has no doubt happened to employees previously and it puts them off referring people they know again. Understanding and listening to employee’s experiences and explaining the referrals process will help you to build their trust and put their mind at ease that you will offer a prompt candidate experience for anyone they refer.

How to obtain referrals

We’ve looked at the reasons why referrals are great and why employees may be apprehensive about supposedly putting their ‘neck on the line’ by recommending a candidate.

From a recruiter’s perspective, we should try to make this process as simple and as transparent as possible. Remove the formality of a recommendation. Pose questions like ‘who are the best people you have worked with’ rather than ‘are you able to recommend somebody for this role?’ Follow up with questions like ‘what made that person a great colleague?’ and ‘how did they approach their work’. This opens up the conversation and encourages employees to discuss what they feel makes a great candidate.

As mentioned in previous blogs, empowering employees to play a part in the hiring process is something that any rapidly growing company should adopt. Why can’t referrals play as key a part as interviewing in this?

If done right, referrals can provide a great additional source of quality candidates. The key is striking that balance with current employees and creating an enthusiasm around hiring. Every employee wants to feel that his or her voice and opinion is being heard. This is a great way to get them involved and play an active part in growing your company!