The Zen of Recruiting: An Industry Master Discusses the Mysteries of Locating Talent, Part 2

September 24, 2014 Ray Rivera

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Second of a two-part interview 

In last week’s chat with recruiting expert Vicki Moening of Appirio’s Cornerstone OnDemand Practice, we talked about what makes talent so scarce, and how employee referral programs provide a mechanism for employers to access a hidden market for talent.  This week we conclude the conversation, as it shifted to recruiting technology, and particular the most widely used recruiting tool, LinkedIn.

Talk a little about the influence of LinkedIn. Some have said that is spells the death of the applicant tracking system. Is LinkedIn really that disruptive?

LinkedIn is fundamentally a tool for finding people, and by that token it is changing the perspective by which recruiters can view talent. But I am not sure that translates into a strong disruptive impact.

How so?

Think of how LinkedIn was first used. You connected only with people you knew well. Then it became a game of how many connections you could get, which diluted how well you really knew the people in your network. And so LinkedIn has evolved to the point where you ask people to join your network whom you “kinda sorta know,” and be vouched for expertise that they cannot reasonably judge.

So you can see why recruiters regard LinkedIn recommendations so highly, and often go straight there after looking at a person’s basic qualifications. LinkedIn recommendations carry weight because of the element of trust, which used to be a major criterion for asking someone to connect with you. And many recruiters tend to regard the person making the recommendation as a potential and perhaps better candidate, one to whom the recruiters might want to reach out if there is an indication that the recommender might be in the market. That’s something to think about next time someone asks you to write a Linkedin recommendation.

I take it recruiters can spot a canned recommendations pretty easily.

Yes we can. You always want recommendations to be authentic, whether giving or receiving them.

What are some other things the recruiters look for in a LinkedIn profile?

Many times recruiters are looking to determine what sorts of professional communities you belong to and what your roles are in those communities. For an increasing number of openings, a history of publication or conference presentations reveals this kind of information. Think of it from a recruiter’s perspective: imagine you were in conversation with an industry thought leader, someone like Appirio’s Jason Averbook for example, and you could reach out to five people he knew well. Isn’t that the kind of candidate you really want?

That really makes we wonder: what we can do to be better customers of recruiting?

Today’s recruiters take a lot of time to understand their businesses, and many have advanced degrees along with considerable industry experience. So for candidates, when a recruiter engages you, it means much of the selection criteria have been satisfied. They “get” you, in other words. So always reply promptly.

I would guess the same advice applies to hiring managers?

A lot of hiring managers don’t realize that when a recruiter presents a list of candidates, that list has already been sorted and the most desirable selected. Instead, hiring managers think that they need to do the sorting and selecting, and that wastes precious time during which a talented candidate can get snapped up by someone else. Recruiters have already done the heavy lifting, and are presenting the hiring manager a true or false type question, not a multiple choice question. It’s a mirror image with candidates: when you’re in, you’re in, and it is very much to the your advantage to respond quickly so as to move to the next level in the process.

I have to ask about “fit,” which is often regarded as the ultimate criterion for a hiring. How do you judge a good fit?

It will seem like a cliché, but recruiters are like matchmakers. When the process is done in such manner so that the decision to move forward or not is completely evident to both parties, that is what often called fit.

But to understand fit precisely you have to understand than in recruiting timing is everything, and recruiters must be sensitive to the factors that tell them that the timing is right. And for the timing to be right, there almost always has to be something else going on that makes the timing right. That is what makes timing so tricky: it is really timing plus at least one variable. For example, I once worked with a very talented freelancer who was unwilling to join any organization because he was also a primary caregiver for an elderly parent. But after the elderly parent entered an assisted living facility, the freelancer was able to consider a full-time, in-the-office arrangement. The status of the elderly parent was the variable that influenced timing.

But there are as many examples of timing as there are candidates. So I’ll leave you with this: you know the old saying “people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers.” Good recruiters are quite sensitive to that. But the really talented ones understand how that saying actually contains two variables.

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