A recent conversation really got me thinking about the challenges faced by recruiters today. Information about candidates has never been so readily available, but that is also making candidates less responsive to our approaches. The solution seems to be building candidate relationships and earning candidates' trust. But how to do so?
The Dilemma: More Data, Less Responsive Candidates
Speaking with recruiting veteran and founder of Reveal Global Marc Hutto confirmed many of the impressions I've been forming about the evolution of our industry. Collectively, the tools and extensions we have at our disposal are making the job of finding talent easier – at least, finding "obvious" talent is now easier. The challenge lies in uncovering the less obvious talent and in winning over that talent in an era when candidates are becoming less and less responsive.
Behind the scenes, a numbers game that really harms our ability to get results is playing out. I've talked to job board owners, MBA career services departments, and LinkedIn sourcers. The message I've heard is consistent: We're all targeting the same people. Job board owners will tell you that a small percentage of the resumes in their databases attract the overwhelming majority of recruiter interest. Business schools will tell you that companies all gravitate toward the same portion of their classes. On LinkedIn, the story is the same: Our search patterns lead us to all hone in on the same small fraction of the talent market.
In some sectors, candidates have had enough. Hutto tells me it's increasingly common for candidates in the tech sector to mark their social media profiles with "No Recruiters" or to simply strip their profiles of most information so that they cease to appear in recruiters' search results. While it was flattering to be found and approached ten years ago, the volume of approaches today means it's now an irritation for many candidates. This is leading candidates to become less responsive to all recruiter approaches.
You have two options: Either up your game or to start fishing in a broader pool of candidates.
Building Trust by Giving Candidates What They Want
What was particularly fascinating about my conversation with Hutto was learning about candidate responsiveness. Hutto's Reveal Global aims to engage candidates in unique ways. It's not a regular recruiting business and doesn't earn a commission when a candidate is hired. This transforms candidate conversations in a way that you should seek to emulate. Hutto calls this methodology "purpose-driven recruiting."
Hutto says candidates will open up and have candid conversations provided they feel they can trust the recruiter they're talking to. Corporate recruiters and agency recruiters both face a challenge in this respect. Candidates don't trust recruiters to be objective when presenting opportunities. Their guard is automatically up when you approach them.
On the other hand, when Hutto's team explicitly states that they don't stand to earn any fee if the candidate takes the job, the conversation changes dramatically. Candidates that would otherwise have clammed up will suddenly speak freely and engage more actively with the recruiter. Your challenge is to figure out how you can achieve the same outcome, even if you don't have that fee-less objectivity on your side.
The key lesson for me is that candidates want to talk to recruiters they feel they can trust. Since the general perception is that recruiters can't be trusted, the scope to differentiate yourself here is massive. Focus less on selling your role and more on being a sounding board for your candidate. Even before that, make sure you're building a profile for yourself in the market that means candidates in your niche know and respect you. They'll then be more open to talking freely with you.
Focusing on Key Areas for Improvement
The core challenges here are twofold. First, we collectively fish in a pond that is too small. By fixating on the exact same hiring criteria as everyone else, we inadvertently end up fighting over a relatively small portion of the labor market. When a massive global employer such as EY chooses to remove academic qualifications from its entry criteria, you can sense a tipping point approaching. Companies will increasingly consider a more diverse range of candidates.
Make it a unique selling point that you find and present candidates whom the business may not yet have considered – candidates who are outstanding but not "overfished." Invest in your sourcing skills so you can find and approach candidates who have "delisted" themselves and that a simple LinkedIn search will no longer bring up.
Fishing in a bigger pond is one part of the solution; the second element is getting better at fishing. What could you change that would make you more effective at engaging with candidates and building trust? Some ideas to consider:
1. Invest in Building Your Personal Brand in Your Niche Market
If candidates see others interacting with you and recommending you, their trust in you will grow. Engage with them on social media today, and the likelihood of warm conversation in the future will increase.
2. Become a Trusted Advisor
Experiment with doing things differently when you're talking to candidates. Become an expert at disarming candidates and making them feel at ease talking to you. Focus more on understanding them and their aspirations and less on selling the role you have to fill. It will feel unnatural at first, but if you can make candidates genuinely open up to you, then your prospects of making more hires in the long run are greatly enhanced.
3. Do Your Homework
Another insight from Hutto is that candidates really resent being cold-called. When key performance indicators drive recruiters, it's all too easy to get sucked into making more and more calls rather than focusing on the quality of those calls. However, this hurts your results.
Instead, take a few moments before each call to find common points of interest with the candidate or identify reasons why your call is particularly relevant to them. Do you know any of the same people? Is there something about their profile that could be a great conversation starter? If you do your homework, more of your calls will be more productive.
4. Bring in Outside Help
Implementing the ideas listed above will take time and significant cultural change. One way to speed up the process might be to bring in outside help whose remuneration is not tied to the hiring of candidates. This in itself will require a shift of mindset in many businesses, but it's madness to continue doing the same things you've always done and hope for better results.
If you want markedly better outcomes than you've achieved in the past, you need to start doing things quite differently.