In the days before computers, employers relied on industry contacts, personal connections, and classified sections to find job candidates. In the modern age, however, recruiting has devolved into an entirely digital endeavor that relies on metrics, keywords, and algorithms to bring in hundreds of potential job candidates.
“HR used to send out little ‘thank you, but you have been rejected’ postcards to all applicants, just to be polite, but they don’t anymore,” says Nick Corcodilos, author of the book and blog Ask The Headhunter. “The problem is they recruit so many people, they cannot possibly get back to them all.”
The “post and pray” method of recruiting is lauded for its flexibility; it can be deployed at a moment’s notice to fill empty spots based on specific hiring needs, and swaths of potential job candidates from around the globe can be assembled with the click of a button. However, the too-much-of-a good-thing theory is in full effect: hiring managers are frequently left disappointed by a lack of high-quality candidates, and job seekers are left feeling disenchanted by lengthy hiring processes and poor communication.
“There’s a system here that is producing an unintended outcome,” says Steve Cadigan, a “talent hacker” and advisor at Cadigan Talent Ventures. “And when you have a bad applicant experience, they (the applicant) are going to that think you will not be a great place to work for.”
Hiring managers hold the power
Research shows 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections, yet job boards and mass calls for applicants have become the default for employers looking to fill positions. The average corporate job posting attracts 250 resumes, about 2% of which will get called in for an interview — and there’s no guarantee that any of the candidates will be truly qualified for the job.
“Companies are doing so many solicitations that they are literally recruiting blind,” Corcodilos says. “It’s like fishing in the ocean for freshwater trout. You might get lucky with a stray one.”
Instead of relying on random pools of job applicants, Corcodilos and Cadigan encourage hiring managers to actively build recruiting and networking into their job duties.
“I tell employers all the time, every manager in your company should be spending at least 20% of their time, one day a week, recruiting and keeping a pipeline full of good candidates,” Corcodilos says. “Because you cannot do it at the last minute when you’re desperate. You are gonna hire the wrong people.”
By facilitating connections and taking an active role in recruiting before positions open, managers can create deep networks of industry-specific professionals who are knowledgeable about their organization and more likely to be interested in potential jobs.
“Candidates are going to be more interested and more excited if they are talking to the hiring manager than if they are talking to a recruiter,” Cadigan says, “you have to build a model that the hiring manager owns it, and the recruiter is a facilitator.”
Hiring is about building relationships
Building authentic relationships is at the very core of the hiring process, and recruiters will benefit from taking the time to get to know job candidates, valuing their time, and following through on expectations.
Benjamin Freedman, CEO of Weiser Innovations, encourages nonprofit employers to approach the hiring process similar to how they approach soliciting donations from a compelling donor.
“When there is a donor that you want, there is a certain way you go out and engage that donor, because you know if you don’t do it a certain way, that donor is not giving you their money,” Freedman says. “It’s the same process for hiring.”
Your interviewing process, Freedman says, should be a personal, human-centered, and positive experience. You will know you are doing it right if even rejected applicants are eager to tell their friends to check out your organization.
“Your job is to work with job applicants and be respectful to them,” Corcodilos says. “Stay in touch and be honest with them. Word gets around very quickly in the professional community, and people will not want to apply for jobs at your organization if you are rude.”
Go to where the people are
Online communities, professional associations, conferences, universities, and job fairs are all spaces where hiring managers can make organic interactions with people in their industry and build a talent pool for future job openings.
“Managers are no longer taught how to take the time to learn how to go and recruit,” Corcodilos says. “The first thing you have to do is figure out where the people you are looking for hang out.”
Joining specialized, industry-specific online spaces like Facebook groups, LinkedIn communities, or spending time on professional association websites can help hiring managers meet and form relationships with professionals who can then be contacted when a position opens.
“You have to be able to introduce yourself, you have to be able to start a conversation, and you have to do something to make yourself stand out,” Corcodilos says. “More often than not, hiring managers view recruiting as some passive activity and they don’t understand what’s involved. They don’t understand it’s about building relationships.”
Referral programs benefit everybody
Employee referral programs are a recruiting strategy in which employers reward employees for referring qualified candidates for open positions in the organization. It is a powerful strategy with a multitude of benefits: research shows employee-referred hires perform better than non-referred hires and stay with their organization longer. Referral programs are also exceptionally cost-efficient and offer a passive way for employers to access a larger talent pool of job seekers.
“Employees frequently network with professional peers and former co-workers outside of their organizations, giving them access to highly qualified cohorts who may not be actively seeking a new job but would consider one if the opportunity arose,” says the Society of Human Resource Management. By essentially turning employees into recruiters, employers can increase the quality of their hires and create a workplace in which employees are actively involved in shaping the teams that they work on.
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About the author
Lia Tabackman is a freelance journalist, copywriter, and social media strategist based in Richmond, Virginia. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, CBS 6 News, the Los Angeles Times, and Arlington Magazine, among others.