21st Century Vacancy, 20th Century Recruitment Process

Steve received many email notifications of LinkedIn messages, most of them spam, but this one grabbed his interest immediately. It was from a recruiter who worked for a leading global digital brand in his industry and said that his name had been recommended for a specific role she was recruiting and that his profile looked as if he was someone worth talking to. She attached a brief job spec.

Minutes later they were talking, the recruiter asking questions about his blogging and speaking, project work and experience of social campaigns. She told him that the role she had was a new one, the first time the business had created such a position. It was part storyteller, part brand advocate and evangelist, creating content and being the social face of the brand in the UK and Europe. He would be doing outreach and networking. The background wasn’t important, what was needed was someone who knew their industry and was known in their industry. A credible advocate who would bring the brand to life, make it live and breathe in the social space, stand up at conferences and be a quotable expert for the digital business news sites.

She said that his record in digital marketing spoke for itself. He was highly rated, always appearing on lists of people to follow, his content was creative and from what she could see he knew the industry. If he was interested then she wanted to recommend an interview with the hiring manager.

He told her that he was interested, that it was the kind of role that he was looking for, and she said great! The first stage would be for him to email over a CV.


Yes, we’re going to need a CV so the hiring manager can see what you’ve been doing

But it’s there on my profile. It’s all public. There are links to presentations, videos of me being interviewed and presenting, blogs I’ve written and a couple of downloadable white papers. Testimonials. Happy for the hiring manager to contact anyone on there for a reference. Surely for this kind of role that’s everything you want to see

It’s definitely important but the hiring manager won’t agree to interview you until he’s seen a CV

Steve was concerned. Did they really understand this role? Everything they wanted was there, surely that should be enough. If they liked what he did then why wasn’t the interview about culture and vision, looking at brand alignment and whether he was the right person to personify their story. Still, he wanted the job so a CV it would have to be. Perhaps it was their culture. The recruiter said that it only need be a brief overview.


The first interview was over the phone and lasted half an hour. It started with the hiring manager asking Steve to talk through his CV, going back about 10 years. It was frustrating as most of the period before 4 years ago was irrelevant to this role, but Steve duly obliged and answered numerous questions about things he had done in a totally unrelated marketing role 6 years earlier.

The conversation moved on to Steve’s more recent track record but it soon became apparent that, beyond reading the CV, the hiring manager had done no background checking. She was oblivious to anything Steve had done that wasn’t on the brief CV. Hadn’t the recruiter briefed her?

They talked about the industry in general and Steve gave his take on mobile and social, customer behaviour and expectations. The hiring manager was impressed “There’s a lot about you that’s not on the CV” she said. Steve explained that the CV was meant only as an overview and that his LinkedIn profile and personal website was where the real information was. “I’ll make some time to have a look“.

The call ended positively and Steve gave his feedback to the recruiter first thing the next morning. A couple of days later he heard back that the hiring manager’s boss wanted to Skype interview him. This was great news. He spoke to the recruiter about prep and was told to do more of the same.

The Skype call started with pleasantries, the lady seemed friendly and approachable and, holding up a copy of Steve’s CV she asked him to talk her through it, explaining what he had been doing for the last few years. Steve’s heart sank. There was so much he wanted to talk about, so many possibilities that he could see in this role that he wanted to share, but here he was again talking about a digital marketing role that he did over 6 years ago and which bore no relation to the role that was being recruited. He had checked the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and found it quite bare. She wasn’t a noticeable social media user and a Google search returned no mentions or links of any interest.

Still, he was as passionate as he could be. The questions were fairly similar to the first interview, in fact it didn’t seem that any notes had been passed over so much of it was repetition, but Steve felt that there was some good rapport and the interviewer agreed with a lot of what he said. It ended on a positive note.


Once again Steve fed back positively to the recruiter, but this time there was no response for over a week. He thought this was strange, given profile of the business, the importance they had placed on their reputation, and their keenness to employ someone who would live, eat and breathe the brand. Surely they should be doing more to keep him enthused and engaged, and even if they didn’t think he was the right person, they had acknowledged his reach and influence so he assumed would still want to keep him as an advocate.

Eventually he heard back. The previous interviewer wasn’t sure that Steve had enough experience, he seemed light on relevant content. But Steve had loads of it, there were links on his CV, his blog site was full of information, videos and slide decks were available. Why didn’t she ask him more about it if she wasn’t sure? The recruiter admitted that the interviewer probably hadn’t checked all that out (again maybe its part of their culture he thought…worrying) but was recommending him for the next stage – a Skype interview with a global VP of digital marketing, who was based in the US and had a busy diary, necessitating Steve to have his interview at 10.30pm one evening.

The recruiter recommended that Steve prepare a supplementary schedule to his CV detailing all relevant content, presentations, videos, blogs, lists, white papers and testimonials, with links. This he did, ensuring it was as detailed as possible; he wanted there to be no doubt this time that he was a serious player.


He logged in to Skype at 10.25 and within a minute a connection was established with his interviewer’s PA, who explained that the interview would start a couple of minutes late as the interviewer was wrapping up a previous call. A couple became five, and then ten and Steve felt his eyes beginning to close. It was very late now to start. Eventually after almost fifteen minutes there was lift off. No apology, or reference to Steve having been kept waiting, but there was thanks for agreeing to talk so late. And then it was question 1

Thanks for sending through a copy of your CV. Why don’t you talk me through the last few years and let me know what you’ve been doing

Once again Steve’s heart sank but he didn’t let it show. The first ten minutes were pretty much a repetition of the previous two interviews, same questions and same observations. It was becoming clear to Steve that the best conversation he’d had was his first with the recruiter. There was no CV and all the questions were about relevant work that Steve had done that she had seen online.

So you’ve sent me through some other information. Tell me about it” The interviewer held up a copy of a two page printout and Steve started explaining what it was and why he had produced it. “Ok, I’ll take a look at it after our chat

Steve’s heart couldn’t sink any lower. He had so much he wanted to get across, so much to add, but he never seemed to get the chance. He was asked who he thought was doing good things in the market, what were some of the upcoming trends he felt important, and he certainly felt that he gave as good account of himself as he could on those questions, but it was really one-way conversation. He asked questions about the role, tried to get a feel for what the global VP was thinking, but got the distinct impression that his interviewer’s mind was wandering elsewhere. Either that or he didn’t really understand the role himself and wasn’t sure what they ought to be looking out for.

The call ended at around 11.20pm and Steve promised to feedback.


He spoke to the recruiter first thing next morning and fed back positively and she promised to get back to him with feedback as soon as possible.

But in the end it took 10 days, and it was a no. Actually it was an ‘it’s not you it’s us’ call. They didn’t really know what they were looking for but they were pretty sure that Steve wasn’t it.

He told her of his disappointment with the process, that no-one had really taken the time to check him out or given him the opportunity to explain what he could really do, how even at the fourth interview he was still talking about roles from ten years before as no interviewer had properly read his CV in advance, that the best interview had been the first with her as she was the only one who had any idea on the scope of his experience and what skills he could bring.

She said that she would pass the feedback on.

Its OK” Steve said “they can read it for themselves. I’ve just left my feedback on your Glassdoor profile



Are You Really Recruiting Socially?

My first tools in recruitment were a phone and a rolodex. I used them a lot but never said that I was telephone recruiting. My first MD had previously invested in a fax machine but regarded it as the devils own work come to wreck the recruitment industry so always discouraged us from using it. If anyone did they never said they were fax recruiting. Some candidates would put their CVs in an envelope with a handwritten covering letter and post it to us, clients would similarly send job description through the post, and some recruiters would also mailshot their clients with a selection of CVs. If placements occurred no-one called it postal recruiting.

But then the internet came and changed everything. We had emails, websites and job boards and were now internet recruiters or e-recruiters – because this was different but also a distraction. Funnily enough this approach is now just called recruitment, in fact it’s what most people would now refer to as ‘traditional recruitment’.

And then we got social.

Now the digital platforms would have us believe everyone is doing it. The latest Jobvite survey (an online survey completed by 1,855 recruiters and HR professionals) found 93% of recruiters using or planning to use social to support their efforts. But is this right? The recent employer perspectives survey from UKCES (drawn from 18,000 interviews with employers) found only 7% citing social as a recruitment channel. Whilst recruiters may not be well represented in this report, SMEs and smaller businesses – employers of around half UK employees, and unlikely to have specialist recruiters to complete online surveys – are.

So are we really doing that much social recruiting?

Well it depends on what you call social. Looking at the Jobvite results then their 93% only stands up if you regard LinkedIn as a social network…


Some might see it this way, but I don’t. It’s not a social channel but a content publishing platform. A database. And look at how these recruiters use LinkedIn…

Makes it about as social a a CV database – which I’m sure no-one would ever really call a social platform. Searching, tracking and vetting aren’t social. More talking less stalking required.

If we take away LinkedIn then recruiters don’t look quite as social as the 93% figure would have us believe. But how successful are the networks for hiring?

So LinkedIn gets results, as any database of more than 300 million people should. Not so good for Facebook and Twitter though…maybe it’s because of the way recruiters use them?

Showcasing and posting, instead of engaging and relationship building. At least there are mentions of referrals – as there should be given they still provide a large number of hires, particularly in the US – but then with enterprise social networks like Hollaroo there are possibly more effective ways to manage them.

Social recruiting is recruiting. Social networks can enable you to recruit well and more effectively. The bedrock of effective recruitment will always be understanding why you need someone new, what they will be doing, why you need to look externally, what exactly you have to offer the right person, whether the person you want will be happy with what you have to offer them, and lots more.

And once you know that then it will be about having the right conversations with the right people at the right time about the right things. Social should be enabling these to happen.

Everything else is just broadcast and advertising. Not very social.

It Starts With a Job Description

The hiring process usually starts with a job description. Sadly of the type that is a list of corporate-speak duties, deliverables and requirements.

Most searches start with the job description of the last incumbent or, worse still, someone’s view of what the new person ought to be doing and the competencies they should have. It also usually starts with structure and a title and a mission to find someone already doing it.

It should start with a need and no structure or title. An opportunity to help a team perform better, the business to be in a better position to reach it’s objectives, or to be more compliant.

It starts with something that has to be done, and the accompanying ‘job description‘ should be a blank canvas or page – ready for a picture, or story, that gives colour, purpose and context to the role.

Then it needs that colour, purpose and context.

But before you paint or write, look at whether you need someone new at all.

Is there someone already in the organisation who has the skills, capabilities or potential to do this? Who could thrive if you showed faith in them or gave them some training to help development.

Maybe you need to look outside the organisation. Then think about who you know – personal and business networks and who they know, employees and who they know, alumni and who they know, partners, collaborators, suppliers and customers. And who they know too.

Then paint your picture or tell your story and let people share it. Make sure anyone seeing it gets a clear vision of your culture, scope and purpose, how the role makes a contribution and how valuable this is. Forget the duties and personal characteristics and bring the context to life.

There are many reasons why people seek a new role – lack of opportunity, lack of trust, not feeling valued, current opportunity not matching expectation, boredom, and inability to use skills are usually the main ones. If you are looking for someone new then to get the best out of them there’s little point in offering more of the same.

Candidates seldom want a checklist…they want an opportunity to be a part of something. Give them one. Paint that blank canvas…



Social Recruiting…What’s in a Name?

Last week I took part in the latest episode of Voice America’s internet radio show HR Trends with Game-Changers Radio. I was joined by Will Staney from SAP in the US and fellow UK based social recruiting commentator and trainer Katrina Collier.

You can listen to the show by clicking on this image…

HR Trends with Game Changers Radio
It was an interesting conversation. I’ve been talking about the use of social media within the recruitment process for a few years now but here I was addressing an audience who may not have much knowledge of it. It’s often easy in the day to day Twitter echo chamber to assume that everyone knows this stuff, but even our host had checked out what Wikipedia had to say about the subject.

At the very end we had to offer a prediction on what we would say in 5 years time about social recruiting – would we still be talking about it or would we have shelved the concept in favour of a return to traditional recruiting.

Except, of course, traditional recruiting would probably mean advertising on job boards (or their 2020 equivalent) and searching CV databases – two things that 15 years ago were the future and were never expected to replace the phone, rolodex, fax and print media.

As a society we often get hung up on new technologies and try to see them as fads and fashions. Something that’s new unsettles us, makes us feel that we have to adapt to something out of our comfort zone – something that other people will do better than us and therefore may be more successful at. Which is why we focus on the methods and not the outcomes – hence social recruiting becomes about Twitter and Facebook and not recruiting. As I’ve said before, we no longer talk about internet recruitment or telephone recruitment.

Here are a few of the points I made:

  • Social recruiting is about the recruiting. It starts with a hiring need and a properly scoped job description. If you don’t get the recruitment process right then whichever platform you use will be immaterial.
  • Or put another way, if your recruiting processes suck they’ll suck louder and harder on social channels (I didn’t quite word it that way on the show)
  • It’s not about volume, be it noise or the amount of words, but about having the right conversation at the right time in the right place.
  • Put yourself in the job seekers’ shoes and ask why and how they are using those channels, and why they would reach out to you
  • You won’t successfully recruit someone through social channels if you’re not a social business. It’s not a trick to try out, it’s a window and spotlight on your culture.
  • Content should be about telling your story and giving people a compelling reason to want to be part of it. No-one is interested in how wonderful you think you are, nor how many awards you’ve won, unless said awards give a clear indication of the employee experience they can expect if they join you.
  • Manage everyone’s expectations as to what they can expect from the hiring process. If they are using public social channels to find you then they will almost certainly also use them to let everyone know how bad their experience was.
  • LinkedIn is not a social media channel. It’s a content sharing platform. Use it that way instead of as a direct access mechanism to someone you don’t know.

Katrina and Will said lots of interesting things too so make sure you listen to the show – you can even download it from iTunes and listen to it on your way to work!


Talking Game Changing Social Recruiting on #SAPRadio

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 16.20.36

I’ve not been on internet radio a lot. I have graced HR Happy Hour a couple of times and co-hosted it, whilst my session on Drive Thru HR is in the Top 50 of their most listened to broadcasts.

So it’s time to give the vocal chords another airing!

Tomorrow, Tuesday 8th April at 4pm (GMT) sees my first appearance on HR Trends – Coffee Break with Game-Changers which is hosted by the charismatic Bonnie G Graham on behalf of SAP. I’ll be joined by Will Staney, Director of Recruiting and Strategic Programs at SuccessFactors, and my friend and social media trainer Katrina Collier, who will no doubt be flying the flag for Australia as well as the UK!

The topic for discussion is ‘Social Recruiting : Art or Science’ and here’s the scene setter

“Gone is the era of your HR manager hoping hard-to-find talent would stumble upon their business-critical job postings. Today, millions of job candidates eagerly post their credentials on social media sites. Is successful social recruiting for top talent an art or a science for today’s HR?”

We’ve each already shared a conversation opener:

Will : “Social media is not necessarily a source of hire, it’s a communication channel. It’s important to remember this when measuring an ROI of your social recruiting efforts”

Katrina : “Finding people on social channels is easy. Getting a response is a different matter and that’s the art. If you ignore or mistreat social job seekers you’ll miss hiring great people”

Me : “Social recruiting is just recruiting. Forget the word ‘social’. Get the hiring process right then ‘social’ becomes no different to ”telephone’ or ‘internet'”

You can read more about the show here and you can follow/join the Twitter debate at #SAPRadio

Hope you can tune in…but don’t worry if you miss it live, as it will be available to download on iTunes later…

…and I expect to see you all download it so we can try and give Will.I.am a run for his money 😉

Loving Cake and Award Winning Social Recruiting at #HREvent13

I’ve been at #HREvent13 and particularly enjoyed one of the closing sessions on day one – a fun and informative presentation from Social Housing group Bromford.

When we think of social media oriented recruitment campaigns we tend to think of the creative industries, or funky brands trying to attract graduates, but here was a 1200 strong group, in a not particularly sexy area, who were able to find people through the twitter campaign #gottalovecake.

I was right to be impressed…hours after the presentation ended they picked up the Award for Distinction in Recruitment and Employee Branding!

As you would expect, the story is one of a socially engaged company looking to try and do something different and coming up with a campaign that ended up trending on twitter. It was made possible by having a number of their employees collaborating with local and industry social connections in a ‘tweet off’ that ended up getting the hashtag #gottalovecake trending.

I won’t go through the mechanics of the campaign – you can read it here on their own blog – but here are 5 things that stood out for me:

  • When looking for talent, find someone who will love your loves. Trying to identify what bound them all together they arrived at a love of cake! Hence the campaign #gottalovecake. How many recruitment campaigns focus on being the best, sharing the passion, talking about the business objective and not the individual?
  • Let them see the real you. They uploaded videos explaining what the jobs were and what someone whould be doing. Including outtakes and bloopers. Do job descriptions really work?
  • If you’re going to run a twitter campaign for recruitment you’ve got to have good content to put out there. ‘nuff said really. Make it different, descriptive, something that reflects you but lets people engage with you.
  • Let candidates express themselves. Applications could be by any format. If you wanted to send a CV you could, but we saw a self-made video and heard a song that someone had written and recorded especially for their application. (And no, I don’t know how the ATS would have parsed that!)
  • Make a noise! Having so many employees socially active gave them a head start when it came to building momentum on social media channels, particularly the way that they were able to engage other Twitter users to help spread the word

The results were impressive – 19% fewer applications than through other advertised media, but the key was in quality. After a traditional campaign 38% of applicants got through to the second (assessment) stage but none were hired. Following this campaign 87% of applicants got through to the second stage and 4 were hired.

And here are two of the key reasons they were able to pull it off.

You don’t need to be big to make a big noise. The message to businesses considering social recruiting has long been that size isn’t everything. A smaller, agile business can respond quickly and build momentum. Large organisation rarely have that flexibility.

You do need a socially connected organisation. Key was having a business in which so many employees have a social profile and communicate through an internal channel – in this case Yammer. It’s not by accident – the MD positively encourages the recruitment of people with a digital footprint. The final word was ‘all future leaders will need a positive digital footprint…without the ability to communicate across all platforms they won’t survive as credible leaders

Food for thought.

One Source To Rule Them All?

I’ve sensed for some time that the game is changing for 3rd party recruiters. The industry has gorged for too long on easy fees and low value offerings and this has led to a lack of agility, an inability to invent, create and lead.

Ask any capable recruiter to name their main competition and they will reel off a number of companies who they battle against for the best briefs and candidates.

Rarely will they say LinkedIn. They see the platform as a tool that they may be able to use when they have the time, a source of candidates and vacancies, and a directory of soft headhunt targets.

Not sure how many see it as a primary resource for clients.

Clearly though, with each addition to functionality and capability being aimed solely at the corporate market, the platform has the ability marginalise any traditional transactional permanent recruiter.

On Tuesday I attended the Stepstone Solutions Summit 2010 on the Changing Face of Talent Management. I covered the event for UK Recruiter, and you can read my review of the event here

During the afternoon we had a presentation from LinkedIn. They shared some research findings which certainly captivated an audience of 200 HR and Talent professionals…the very people that most 3rd party recruiters spend their working life trying to connect and build relationships with.

The main points were:

1)      Most corporate recruiters worry that their competitors will learn to use social recruiting better than they do and build better talent pools

2)      Biggest focus for corporate recruiters at the moment is to reduce spend on 3rd party recruiters/staffing agencies. Second biggest focus is to boost referral programmes.

3)      Corporate development resources are now channelled on training in-house recruiters to find the best talent and on measuring quality of hire.

4)      What’s next for LinkedIn? To increase investment in tools THAT INCREASE VALUE TO CORPORATE CUSTOMERS.

They admitted that the outlook was bleak for 3rd party recruiters unless they could show clear differentiation and additional value. Key to this would be:

–          Insight over data

–          Understanding brand equity

–          Creating real depth to relationships

The point that left the most lasting impression was what was referred to as ‘the end of the walled garden’. No more proprietary databases, deconstruct the talent pools, and crowdsource what you need.

I’ve reported those points fairly factually, because that’s how the audience heard them.

An audience who, as I mentioned before, are probably currently dealing with, and certainly getting business development calls from, a number of 3rd parties.

Clearly LI are in selling mode, and I don’t doubt for one moment that their presentations are aimed very much at stimulating a compelling reason for corporates to use them.

Yet I don’t believe that any recruitment agency could have given that presentation. We no longer have the credibility or legitmacy. To address a talent management conference and present staffing sector findings, insights and future developments, in such a powerful way requires a commitment to innovation and a belief in the strength, ubiquity and robustness of your service that I am not sure recruiters can muster.

Change will come I’m sure, but as I wrote in a recent blog, we’re now playing catch up. I left the conference with another 200 potential hiring managers who now will wonder why they aren’t doing more themselves, how they can reduce agency spend and how well they need to ‘do’ social recruiting.

The ray of hope is that we will begin to offer insight, knowledge and value. Make the service less transactional and more about the quality of hire, less about the size of the fee.

Be a key resource, not part of the crowdsource.

At the moment though, there looks like could be one source to rule them all…and it’s LinkedIn not us.

Let me know what you think.