Most recruiters don’t grow up being recruiters or end their careers as recruiters. The work is hard and never-ending and every minute that you’re not working you are disappointing either a client or a candidate who thinks you only work for them. The short-career span for recruiters is even more evident in corporate recruiters who do it for a “stint” and then want to move on to a different role in the company. Because of the short cycles for most, there are not many who have seen the economic environment we are in today and they don’t know how to respond to the type of job-seeker who is out there right now. This is not business as usual.
These are times that demand each of us to think differently and tune ourselves into people in a different way. This is a time where extra grace is required. Hank Stringer, the co-author of my book, Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business, has spent a career as a recruiter and a recruiting technology entrepreneur trying to teach, establish and build grace into the recruiting process. I have listened with empathy when he talks about how blunt and ungraceful recruiters can be toward candidates in process and communication, or lack of both.
Now is a time for all recruiters and executives to take an extra lesson on grace as the actions and reactions they have to the candidates of today can and will be an imprint on their employment brand of the future. While grace may not currently be top of mind, remember when the cycle picks back up and the best talent is required, your company’s behaviors and actions during this time will be remembered – for better or worse.
Remember, talent is not a commodity and over-supply should not cheapen them. It’s important to keep your awareness and humility that hundreds of thousands of people are hurting out there and recognize it is a privilege that someone is applying to your company. If you can ingrain this attitude in each recruiter and executive and then adapt behaviors to match this philosophy then you will be better than most and, in fact, probably differentiate yourself positively from your competition.
Easy things to do now:
- Reply to each and every applicant with an authentic and sincere message. Now would be the time to return to the days of old and send a signed letter to each applicant telling them: you appreciate their time, energy and interest in your company and that while now is a tough time for your business, you realize that they are someone who you would like to know in the future and as such you encourage them to check back in with you in the coming months and year and to keep you up to date on their status.
- Consider a referral program with other companies and executives that you know. If you don’t have a position for someone, then tell them that you will help them out and give them the names of competitors and friends who you can refer them to, using your name.
- Collect each and every persons’ contact information for the future (personal email address and cell phone number) Use this data to establish a periodic (2x/year or once a quarter) business update to those people. You now have a relationship established with them, don’t lose it. You may also want to send this “community” regular updates on the overall job market or job-finding tips so that you are giving back in return for the time and energy someone has expressed on behalf of your company. These are the things that can set you apart.
- Reward those who go above and beyond to cut through the clutter with an exploratory interview. The most creative will figure out a way to capture your attention. Don’t step on this entrepreneurial and creative spirit. Instead reward it. Tell them honestly that you don’t have a position for them, but they did gain your attention and if they are willing, you will provide them an exploratory interview and give them interview feedback at the end of the session as a thank you and recognition of their initiative and ingenuity. You may have just done more to keep someone’s hopes alive than you will ever know.
These are difficult times but these could be the best of times to get to know the talent of the future and to treat people right. Each time you do so, you are building a positive reputation for your company. The recruiters who have been around long enough know this to be true.