When you are in Talent Acquisition, there are few certainties in your world. Job descriptions will change at the 11th hour, and budgets will be slashed, and candidates will change their minds with the frequency of strobe light. But one thing has remained the same through all the hiring (r)evolutions in the last decade or so – the resume.
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As a talent strategy consultant and career coach, I tell clients all the time: "I get the other side of the equation." Companies like that I am coaching job seekers, and job seekers like that I consult with talent acquisition teams at companies. Having a foot in both worlds means I don't forget what it's like on both sides of the aisle. It's like recruiting bipartisanship. But every once in awhile, I take sides. And job seekers, this is for you.There are a million nuances to being a recruiter--like many jobs, to an outsider it may seem straightforward. But there are multiple stakeholders, laws and budgets vying for attention that make it really difficult sometimes. And the more you know and understand, the more effective you'lll be. Recruiters may not want you to know their secrets but here are five tips to help you get both feet in the door and the attention of a recruiter. You'll thank me now. They'll thank me later. 1) An important part of the job is inside sales
Like any job, recruiters are measured, evaluated and lauded (or not) based on how well they perform. But it's often with strange (to you) metrics like time to fill, or percentage of job postings (called requisitions) that have closed. More rarely are they measured on quality of hire (i.e., how well you're performing a year after you're hired.) This means recruiters are biased towards selling candidates to the hiring manager. Hard. They want that job to close fast. So make it easy on them to sell you.
Bottom line: Don't assume they'll figure out your skills are transferable. Apply for jobs where you're clearly a fit and supplement any networking, cover letters, and phone screens with clear examples they can turn around and use. One time a candidate had a unique technical skill so he called to explain it and tell me why it mattered in our business. I loved that.
2) Weird behavior makes recruiters nervous
Being on the phone all day can make a recruiter crazy. That means in between interviews, sourcing calls and offer deliveries, they're sharing tales of insanity--odd calls, strange answers to interview questions, and tales of incredulity (such as: "Why did this guy apply to three different jobs? Does he not know I can see all of them?") There's nothing wrong with getting a recruiter's attention, but if you cross a line, they're just going to ignore you. It's JUST like dating. Say "I love you" too soon, call too many times in a row, or try too hard and you're out.
Bottom line: Make an effort to get noticed but don't border on pathetic. Follow-up and check on your candidacy but don't call every day or start sending LinkedIn invitations to the entire team. If it feels strange don't do it. Making the recruiter nervous is a reason for them to focus on someone else. I once had a candidate email me every day. Stalker--you're out.
3) Sometimes it's a crapshoot
A recruiter typically has a collection of requisitions she is responsible for. In most companies, it's usually an unmanageable number (at least to the recruiter). So in the morning, she may come in and open her ATS (applicant tracking system) and start looking at what resumes came in for what position (requisition) overnight. She's human, so while scanning resumes, she might be distracted by her boss popping by, a tweet or a phone call. That means some resumes get the six-second glance, some get 30. There's no guarantee of fairness--it's absolutely impossible. And if she already has enough candidates interviewing, she might barely glance, if at all, at new resumes.
Bottom line: Sometimes it's a crapshoot. You might feel like you're a perfect fit for the job, but the timing of when you apply or simply how busy the recruiter is that day could determine your fate. That's where networking comes in. Never apply for a job cold. Make a connection in the organization first that can check up on your candidacy with the recruiter. Depending on where she is in the process you might not get a fair shake, but at least you'll be in the know. As a recruiter, I could ignore resumes in my ATS queue but I couldn't ignore a colleague at my door asking about a referral.
4) They influence but rarely, if ever, decide...
A hiring decision usually comes from the hiring manager. It may even have to be approved by his boss. But the recruiter doesn't decide. She will contribute to the discussion and provide opinions on interactions with candidates. She'll provide context like salary ranges, or market analyses, But she won't decide.
Bottom line: Don't rely on the recruiter throughout the entire process. Figure out who else is important in the decision-making process and build relationships. Send follow-up emails that show you did your research and take them up on the offer to ask additional questions. Just don't go overboard. Weird behavior makes hiring managers nervous too. (See #2).
5) ...but they have a tremendous amount of insider information.
Recruiters know what the hiring managers are like, what matters most to them and what interview strategies succeed. So don't ignore them. It's really important to have the recruiter on your side. You want to make their job easier and set them up for success. In turn, the recruiter can share that valuable insider information if you just ask: "As I prepare for the interview later this week, any suggestions you have on what matters to the hiring manager are greatly appreciated--I really value your advice." The worst they can say is no.
Bottom line: A strong relationship with the recruiter is part of the equation. Recognize that she's busy and may have a million priorities (while the job you want is your only one right now). Respect her time and help her help you. In return, she may be able to help you prepare, understand and strengthen your candidacy over others who don't even bother to ask or care. As a recruiter I often felt under-appreciated. Thanks from a candidate and recognition that I played an important role in the process went a long way.
Speaking and consulting with HR professionals, I often hear how hard it is to take best practices and actually implement them. The grand solutions shared at conferences and in whitepapers often come from companies with big staffs, big budgets and a supportive and forward-thinking HR team. What if that's not you? What if you're working exceptionally hard but starting from scratch? Maybe your company doesn't have the money or the time and energy to focus on solving a problem in a big way. Today, Exaqueo introduces QUIPS: QUIck Problem Solving. These are quick ways to begin to address and solve common talent challenges. First up? Candidate experience. You know you need to fix your candidate experience. But you don't have time to do a complete audit. You don't have money for new technologies and quite frankly, you don't know where to start.
QUIPS: At its core, candidate experience is all about communication. Think about your worst customer service experiences. They are ones where you don't know what's going on and have to try again and again to get an answer or have your problem solved. But when you get an honest call or email that updates you on the problem, or the status of the problem, even if it takes some time to solve you appreciate the communication. Apply THIS to your candidate experience. Here are four quick things you can do to begin to address candidate experience now.
1) Communicate the process at the start: Tell candidates if they will hear back, how they will hear back and when to expect some sort of communication. Be honest about length of time. And give them a way to check in if possible. Share this information clearly, plainly and boldly in every job description or in an exceptionally prominent place on your site.
2) Be upfront with candidates: Let them know you're busy/short-staffed/someone's on vacation. Candidates won't mind as much if it takes longer to hear if at least they know what's going on. Require recruiters to have standard (and detailed) out-of-office replies and voicemail greetings.
3) Align recruiter responses: Ask each recruiter on your team how, if and when they respond to candidates. You'll likely find some gaping differences--fix those and have some baseline requirements to help reinforce your reputation--that's the foundation of your brand.
4) Make a small investment: Hire one person, even part-time if that's all you can afford, to help manage the queue. Depending on the complexity of your organization, they can serve as the triage nurse--handling immediate questions about application status or interview scheduling changes and referring the candidate where the need is more complex like offer negotiations.
It's a start. None of these will address the experience completely. But they will help with baseline challenge of communication. And when you have the time/money/focus/energy, you can use these resources to dive in further.
- Candidate Experience Awards: learn what you should aspire to when you're ready to get to best-in-class
- The 2011 Candidate Experience Report: best practices and report on the state of candidate experience
- Creating a Better Candidate Experience: webinar on understanding the experience through the candidate's eyes
- Understanding Candidate Experience: an overview of candidate experience and what to consider
- A Candidate Experience Monograph: an in-depth look at the history, state and potential of candidate experience