How did you find your way into TA, what’s your story?
I was not someone who said when I grow up I want to be a recruiter, I’m not sure if I have yet to grow up really. I left school at 16 and was waiting to be discovered as a football or soccer player. I’m still waiting, and while I waited I got a job in an agency. It’s as simple as that.
I worked in agencies for a number of years and eventually became Director of a super growth agency that grew from 6 to 175 offices. I ran training and systems and all that sort of stuff. I then ran my own training business for 7 years and then moved into the crazy social media world about 8-9 years ago. I combined the social media with what I was beginning to understand about emerging technologies and HRTech companies came along and really liked my take on things – so its really been an evolution from a traditional desk recruiter to agency owner to where I am today.
Tell me more about that, your early Social Media years.
Well eight years ago the recession came along and my recruitment training business went to the wall and I needed to start again. It’s been a reinvention from there. Social media was coming on around then and I just started in with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn sharing stories and ideas and began growing a personal network. My network is everything to me and without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I can straddle a lot of different experiences. I’ve worked with large well known companies on a lot of different projects. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with a number of HRTech product companies, and I talk to them about what their product should be. These experiences give kind of a unique aspect to the recruiting business in general and provide insight that most people don’t get to have. I write and talk about this quite a lot and fortunately people like to read it and hear what I have to say.
What works best to engage and nurture candidates?
The key point is you have to think of people as people, not as prospects, candidates or applicants. Recruiters that concentrate on sharing instead of selling will make great connections. You need to do things naturally rather than thinking about hires or business development or whatever.
People want to learn and be able to benefit from a relationship and if you’ve got some knowledge or experiences in something and you can help someone for no gain, then you should start doing that. When you do this in a connected environment, the places where you do business just become obvious, but actually doing business becomes secondary to that engagement. Whether it’s in a pub or on Facebook or whatever, you can tear it up, have a disagreement or a different point of view – just try to get a reaction – when you do the connection is more personal and engaging.
What about passive prospects?
I don’t think it should be a different approach. I think what’s happening now is that it’s key to get to know people and build a network that matters.
Networks now are really being ruled by what I call “pub rules” which is where most of the conversation or talk or connections are not about work or job opportunities, they’re really for people connecting and talking about life. As long as your connections know what you do for a living, the point of where business happens becomes a natural thing. Someone always needs something, and trust has been established, you know each other – but probably about 80% of what you talk about or do never generates anything but more laughs or debate.
What’s one of your most favorite campaigns?
Everything I’m working on now at the moment is being pushed towards personalization and single user experiences. Messaging and communication experiences whether it’s on a career page, Facebook or Snapchat should be a personal experience. To scale it, it has to be somewhat automated, but there are a lot of things we can do with data and making sure it’s the right workflow and infrastructure to make it a reality. It’s all about the person, whether it’s the recruiter, the hiring manager or the applicant.
Technology and the digital age is creating lots of opportunities to do things, but we’re not improving productivity. There are two reasons for that. We’re repeating the same things we’ve always done – just doing them digitally, and because of scale, it’s become more about the process and less about the people. Before email, LinkedIn and all that good stuff, the volumes we dealt with in our talent pipelines were very low. Our goal should be to use the new data and technology to lower our volumes, personalize and promote 1-1 relationships. Actually, then we’ll start to drive productivity.
How do you get your company to stand out?
Always had the belief that there is no such thing as a bad culture, just a bad culture fit. How companies recognize what they are and how they communicate is ultimately a collection of individuals. People want stories and understanding, and each story told depends on where you tell them. On LinkedIn, pictures of people success stories resonate. On Twitter, it’s human events like bringing pets to work, and Facebook, it’s one minute videos. It’s not the story really, it’s all about the teller, is it trustworthy with open and honest conversation about them.
It falls down when it’s purely broadcast marketing. Recruiting has its own unique combination of sales and marketing, since it’s ultimately focused on the individual, not a broad marketing net. With companies using branding best practices, we get “employer bland,” with them all looking the same. Adopting a broad set of EVP’s, suggests that everybody is interested in the same values, and in reality everybody values something different. I promote IVP, “Individual Value Proposition,” and this aligns with the basic recruiting tenants that says the message to everyone is personalized and real.
What’s the secret sauce to converting prospects into candidates?
First, don’t go looking for a secret sauce, instead treat each as an individual. The key word is “experience,” and ask yourself is it consistent all the way through your engagement process? A mistake a lot of companies make is to significantly improve their career site, making it social and friendly, but not changing their application process. So you’re moving prospects from a Web 3.0 experience back to a Web 1.0 experience, which is really just a pad and paper using a mouse and a keyboard.
If you’re going to convert people you need to treat prospects and applicants differently with two different workflows, different types of content, different experiences. Give prospects working towards an invitation to apply the room to get there. When the time is right they’ll become applicants, but learn about them and don’t treat them like a stranger at any point in the process.