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What separates good from great in the recruiting world

Back in January of 2013, I wrote about the top 5 attributes of exceptional recruiters.  I cited things like working with a sense of urgency, ability to downstream candidates and being reachable as key attributes that recruiters need to possess.  In hind sight, I probably shouldn’t have shot for such a superlative (exceptional) but my thinking was this, I have seen such a gap in skill sets among recruiters that those who had those attributes stood out in my mind as being “exceptional.”  Maybe I should have simply described those recruiters that work with a sense of urgency, downstream their candidates and communicate well as being “good.”  I mean, at the end of day, if you can’t do those things well, than you probably shouldn’t be in the business!  So what truly makes a GREAT recruiter, or better yet, what do the very best, the “expert” or “exceptional” recruiters do?

RecruiterThe very best recruiters use the telephone – yes, I know that everyone knows how to “use” the phone, what I am getting at is that they use it as the #1 tool in their toolbox.  They are skilled and adept at picking up that phone and sourcing and closing candidates.  They don’t rely on email as their main communication tool.  The very best recruiters also have that uncanny ability to know when to pick up the phone and touch base with a candidate that is going through the recruitment funnel – whether it is to provide reassurance that they are still moving through the process or perhaps to keep them on the “hook” after having accepted an offer so that they are not influenced by a counter offer.  Either way, it is almost like a 6th sense or super power that they possess!

The best leverage social media – of course in today’s social media driven world, great recruiters need to be skilled at utilizing social media to enhance their digital footprint and enhance their professional “brand.”  No, you don’t have to be an expert on every platform; however great recruiters are skilled at utilizing LinkedIn to find great candidates.  (It doesn’t even have to be the Recruiter platform).  They know how to leverage the power of joining and participating in Linkedin groups, they are adept at providing content to these groups and balancing this vs. just putting up job postings. They also know how to run a company page, take advantage of Linkedin’s search functionality and provide their own relevant updates that will drive traffic to their profile.  The very best also have a Twitter presence – they are adept at creating and sharing relevant content so as to enhance their overall SoMe (social media) presence.  Lastly, the very best typically augment all their recruiting efforts through some sort of writing/blogging effort.  They may write content for a Linkedin page, a company/corporate website or perhaps their own blog.  One of the very best at doing this is Tim Sackett – he runs his own blog, The Tim Sackett Project – in addition to running his own recruiting company.  His witty, cutting writing style drives a lot of  interested readers to his blog and overall it enhances his SoMe presence and his “position” as a subject matter expert in the recruiting and HR fields.

Know how to conduct a Boolean search – at the risk of making this blog post a lesson in Boolean searching, all I will say about this topic is that if you are a recruiter and DON’T know what a Boolean search is or don’t know how to run one, then you need to find out how.  Check out Glen Cathey’s blog, Boolean Black Belt, to find out more – you will be glad you did!  This ability truly separates good from great in the recruiting world.

Act as a consultant – whether you work for a 3rd party search firm or a corporate recruiting team, the great recruiters act as recruiting consultants.  They aren’t simply order takers that then march out into the field of battle to find the latest purple squirrel.  Recruiting consultants engage in dialogue with their clients to ensure proper expectations are set and that the recruiting campaign maintains ongoing alignment with these expectations.  Roadblocks, obstacles and delays need to be discussed in a consulting (solutions focused) manner.  Recruiting consultants also coach and guide their clients through the process at all times so that they keep campaigns on track and obtain repeat business.

Finally, the great recruiters are salespeople at heart.  Let’s not try and fool anyone here and call recruiting an HR role.  It may report into HR, which is fine, but it isn’t an HR role.  Great recruiters are great sales people.  They know how to open dialogue, identify a problem and apply a solution, overcome objections, negotiate and finally, CLOSE.  Recruiting is sales through and through – in this case, it is the selling of talent that solves an organizational problem.  The great recruiters know this – which is why/how they seperate themselves from good recruiters.  Their talent lies in the ability to overcome objections, negotiate and close.

So, there you have five key differentiators they separate good from great recruiters.  Feel free to use it as an acid test to compare where you or your team are/is in this spectrum.  The good news for the good recruiters is that all of these areas can be learned/coached and you can become great yourself – as long as you are a recruiter at heart and not an HR Pro in disguise!

What do you think?  In your experience, do these five areas capture recruiting greatness?  Do you have anything to add?  Any disagreements?  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback

Image courtesy of SOMMAI/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Controlling Social Media a.k.a Pushing a Stone Uphill

As the multitude of the many social media platforms takes a permanent hold in our culture, they have moved from being mere hobbies or distractions to essential tools we all use in our everyday lives. Just think of the impact that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram et al have had on our lives. While it is true, many of these platforms have started out and gained fame through their personal application, many social media platforms have become such a part of our daily lives that the line between personal and business often becomes blurred. Checking Facebook or Twitter at work has replaced the “personal call” to home – you know, in the days before the internet and social media! The response to the growth and utilization of social media in the workplace, by businesses, has been a little backwards thinking so say the least.

For many organizations, all these platforms are still relatively new. For companies that haven’t evolved and embraced these applications, they are seen as time wasters and distractions. So much so, that they need to be controlled. Hence, the advent of the very “Avant guard” social media policy. Now, I have seen the whole gamut of these policies. Everything from a very general description of acceptable use and proper organizational representation (which makes sense) to a clear outline of what you can and can’t do and when/where you can and can’t do it (which doesn’t make sense.) My favourite social media policies are the ones that basically attempt to control any and all usage of these platforms. They basically identify them as some sort of plague that is to be avoided at all costs due to the detriment it would cause to the organization. Typically, companies that have these “thou shalt not” social media policies also back them up with rigorous web surfing reports that identify abusers, slackers and miscreants that need to be dealt with under some draconian discipline policy.

Pushing Rock UphillMy point is this, trying to control, limit or even eliminate social media use in your workplace is a futile exercise. At the end of the day, why would you want to? Employees use social media for so many positive aspects in the workplace – and it isn’t just with your technologies. Smart phones and Wi-Fi enabled tablets make it easier than ever for employees to stay connected. The overall use of social media is a way for them to professionally network, learn from industry peers, gain knowledge that will benefit the organization, research, connect, enhance their professional development, market and brand the company and feel connected with their profession.

I have seen and heard of many cases of LinkedIn and Twitter being used to informally mentor. That is, the “old days” of information sharing (senior folks deciding if/when they would trundle over to the young folks and share some nuggets of information) are going away. Information is out there and people want to be at the leading edge of their industry and profession. Much like open source coding brought a new wave of development ideas to the I.T. industry, industry knowledge is “out there” and people want to share and grow – there are no more organizational or geographic boundaries when it comes to the sharing of information. Those that are “social” on social media – by sharing, helping and providing, find that this act is reciprocated tenfold when they have an ‘ask.’ The gains that professionals are realizing from time spent using social media are really only just the tip of the iceberg as social media usage becomes simply part of the way companies will do business going forward.

Ultimately, for an organization, this limitless ability for your employees to grow, learn and obtain information is FREE. Yes, free – for those that don’t implement a police state as it pertains to the internet and social media. I have heard all the counter arguments to this too – if unchecked or unmonitored people will slack off, they won’t do their work, they will waste time. I would suggest that if this is the concern or even the reality, you don’t have a social media problem; you have a management/leadership problem. Remember, if you are setting proper goals and objectives with your employees and effectively communicating and coaching, than social media is simply used as tools to do the job – not as a distraction. If results aren’t being achieved, you have a productivity issue, not a social media issue – keep that in mind as you begin to craft your first “Social Media Policy” – and I wish you good luck in pushing that stone uphill. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of Vlado/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You can get by with a little help from your friends

Nope, this isn’t a post about great Beatles’ songs (not that that would be a bad thing) but more about the power of your network ‘friends.’ It is far too easy to get sucked into our day to day lives of managing our employees, departments and projects. Days and weeks fly by as you experience the ups and downs of your job and working for your current employer. Often the work interactions you have are only with members of your company (or department) and perhaps your customers. These discussions are usually always about the project at hand, specific work deliverables, etc. that are probably causing you, in some cases, great angst or hopefully job satisfaction. The point being, you often never get a chance to look outside of your internal work scope to get a feel for what else is going out there in the” real world” and with your profession. If you are like me, you are often left wondering, “I wonder what others in my profession are thinking/doing/feeling?” “I wonder what their perspective on XYZ subject is?”

Social Network FingersLike many of you, since the start of the New Year, I have been flat out at work in developing project plans, coaching and developing managers, working with my team to fill open requirements and developing retention strategies, etc. You know, the usual HR “stuff” that we all like to do and that I personally am fortunate to get paid to do. However, the challenge is that when you add into that mix all the company and operational related challenges that you are faced with, along with the regular organizational and employee challenges you face every day, you sometimes get that feeling of HR burnout coming on. Personally, I think it is just the ebb and flow of work and life as we try and balance our challenges and meet our goals – which are why our companies pay us a salary! Lately though, I have been feeling a bit “stale” in terms of my creativity and my attachment to my profession and wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Fortunately for me, I have a great network of contacts that I have developed over the years on LinkedIn and Twitter and I have been pretty active in terms of sharing, advising and assisting various folks in my network over the years. Over the past few weeks, I decided to make it a point to pick up the phone and have some discussions with various folks from my network. This covered the gamut from folks I used to work with, people I met at conferences, etc. or even people I have connected with on Twitter. I have to admit, it was great to touch base, see what people were up to and to talk shop a bit about their challenges, compare notes, relate and do some problem solving. When you hear that your network is going through the same ups and downs as you, you don’t quite feel so “down” or frustrated and brainstorming the challenges can be a great way to gain some perspective and move forward.

The other experience I had this week that helped give me a kick start was that someone from my Twitter network (whom I have never met or spoken to before) reached out to me to discuss a new business venture they were pursuing and they wanted to get some neutral perspective on their service offering and brand proposition. I have to tell you, I am really glad they reached out and that we had that meeting! We had an engaging 60 minute conversation and discussed many aspects and challenges around organizational design, training, diversity, performance management and company culture. It was great to talk shop, get my head out of the ground and bounce ideas around with this person. The simple fact that I got a chance to connect with someone from Twitter (we ‘follow’ each other) also showed me the power of social media and my network. After exchanging ideas and talking shop for over an hour with this person, I was stoked! Call me a bit of an HR geek, but it was really exciting to connect and exchange ideas in the world of HR with another forward thinking HR Pro.

What is the point of all this? Well, for me, the fact that I had invested and built my network, and when I reached out to it (or it reached out to me) I was able to see the whole other world out there and it really re-energized me! Connecting, communicating, talking shop and leveraging the power of social media all came together and culminated in a great week for me. My advice to other professionals is that if you get in a similar rut, then reach out to your network. Make sure you have invested in your network each day/month, etc. – give, share and connect…then, when you need your network, it will be there for you and it is my hope that it can re-energize you the way that my network re-energized me.  What about you?  Have you been feeling this way at all? What do you do to get re-energized?  How do you leverage the power of your network?  Have a great weekend everyone.

Image courtesy of basketman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How the Tweet do I get started?

The start of a new year is an opportunity for change for many people. Whether it is a change in their job/career, personal life or simply something new they wish to explore, this is the time when many people ‘resolve’ to do just that. Several close friends and colleagues of mine are in the midst of changes of their own. Whether it is embarking on a new career choice or simply deciding to expand their network reach by trying new things, they are going in a different direction. What this comes down to is ensuring that you are always managing your personal brand. Now, since most of them were smart and started on LinkedIn some time ago, they had already begun building their personal brand and expanding their networks. They are now looking to further elevate their personal brand in the social media world and want to get started on Twitter but weren’t sure how to go about doing so, where to start, what to Tweet, etc.

Knowing that I had gone through a similar personal branding exercise over a year ago, they have reached out to me for some advice which I have been gladly sharing. To that end, I figured if they found it useful, maybe others would too. So here is my advice on how to kick start your presence on Twitter in terms of what to do and what to expect:

3581392721_0ae9c456f1_o1. Just get going – that is, don’t overthink your profile description too much in the beginning (or your Twitter handle). Once you decide if you are using Twitter for personal or professional use (the advice being given here is based on professional use) that should help drive how you describe yourself in your profile. Piece together a profile that more or less lines up with how you present yourself on LinkedIn. Then, upload a professional photo of yourself (as professional as possible). No one wants to “follow” an egg! Remember, you can always amend your profile description but you should start with a Twitter handle that you won’t want to change.

2. Get following – Twitter allows you to conduct searches so it is best to identify key words, topics and hash tags that are relevant to you and the industry you are looking to play in. If you are in Human Resources, search Twitter for terms like recruiting, talent management, human resources, etc. You will be amazed at what your searches will come up with. Once you see some interesting Twitter people (Tweeps or Tweeple) just start following them! If you know the names of some “stars” in your industry, search by name and follow them! The power of Twitter is that once you start to follow people, they often will follow you back and then their followers will often follow you……do you follow me?

3. Get Tweeting – ok, so now you are following people (and you should be regularly adding people that you follow) you need to provide value/content to your followers and to anyone else who may be trolling around on Twitter for information. Provide tweets that contain links to articles in your industry, provide original helpful hints, suggestions, ideas etc. that your followers would find of value. I don’t recommend that you tweet about what you had for breakfast or how much you paid for your latest business suit. The other powerful tool at your disposal is the re-tweet (RT). If you come across a tweet on Twitter from someone else that you found useful, than re-tweet it. It is the greatest complement you can give someone on Twitter and it is a great way to gain additional followers and expand your network. You also need to tweet on a regular basis. Sending out one tweet on a Monday, another Tweet on Thursday and maybe one more on Saturday is not going to get you noticed and help you build up a following. You need to be regularly tweeting several times a day, most days of the week and at different times. Space your tweets out throughout the day so you aren’t clogging up your followers Tweet list but make sure that people know you are out there and have something to say…I mean Tweet about!

4. Favourites – this is another great way to provide Twitter complements. By “favouriting” a Tweet, it saves that particular Tweet in your Twitter files for easy, future reference. It is another way (much like the re-tweet) of saying to the person that supplied the Tweet, “I think this was really useful/valuable/memorable, etc.” “I am going to save/use this again!”

5. Lists – once the number of Tweeps or Tweeple that you follow becomes unmanageable, you probably need to start creating lists to make it easier to see the Tweets of those that you find the most interesting. For example, I have created my own list called, “HR & Social Media – Key Talent.” This way, I can hone in on the key folks in the HR and Social Media realms that I follow anytime I want to. (You can create other lists for other people in different categories – i.e. “Business Leaders“, etc.) When I add someone to a list, they also become aware (in their @connect section) that someone has added them to a list and what the name of the list is. Again, much like re-tweets and favourites, it is another way of complementing someone and helps to expand your network. Remember, people on Twitter are more likely to follow others that share their content (re-tweet), favourite them and add them to lists.
So there you have it – five simple ways to get kick started on Twitter. There is a lot more you can do on this fabulous tool – which happens to be one of my favourite social media outlets after LinkedIn. I ensure you that after doing these five things, you will be well on your way to leveraging Twitter while enhancing your personal brand. I would love to know how you make out with Twitter and using these tips. Don’t hesitate to let me know how you made out by adding a comment on my blog or by dropping me a line on Twitter at @HR_ScottBoulton.

Image courtesy of Slava Baranskyi/Flickr.com

Personal Branding – The year that was & the year ahead

Like many (HR) professionals this time of year, we tend to look back on the year that was as well as start to look ahead at the year to come and what our professional plans are for 2013. I would encourage all of you to constantly be looking at your personal brand and how you portray, project and enhance this brand. Your personal brand is that personal and professional mix of who you are – the specific combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, professionalism and interests that combine to make you, well, you! It is the image that you portray to the outside world, whether in person or online via social media, email, etc. It is the question that is answered when people think of what comes to mind when your name is mentioned in professional circles.

2013 aheadIn 2012, I made a conscious effort to enhance my personal brand for both personal (professional) reasons as well as for business related reasons. I became very active on LinkedIn by joining groups, participating in discussions, providing relevant content to my network and expanding my professional contact base. I also dove into the Twitterverse with the objective of enhancing my online presence, sharing content and engaging with those that I follow and those that follow me. I would categorize my efforts in this area as a resounding success. I established over 600 (real) followers in 12 months and tweeted over 1300 times – not bad by newbie standards! I connected with professionals from all over the world and even got to meet some of these individuals “in real life” at various conferences I attended in 2013.

My second goal was to establish a professional blog where I could once again share thoughts on leadership, management, human resources and career management. I was late getting this goal started but after I received a kick in the pants thanks to a great blog post and some encouragement from Jay Kuhns (someone in the HR industry that I respect a lot) who in his own right is a fantastic blogger, I started “The Armchair HR Manager” in September 2012. I tried to adhere to a writing schedule of 3 posts a week. I am off to an acceptable start in this venture. I averaged over 325 visitors a month during this four month time frame and delivered 34 posts. By most standards, that is a relatively low amount; however, I am proud of my start in this area and am most excited about the dialogue/commentary that has resulted from some of my posts. I always feel a great sense of excitement whenever someone mentions that they read one my posts and I always appreciate the feedback when someone takes the time to read my blog. My blogging highlight from 2012 was when I attended the LinkedIn Talent Connect Conference in Las Vegas and was asked by several individuals (that I had connected with online prior to the conference) “are you going to be blogging about the conference?” (The answer, of course was “yes!”)

So, for 2013, here is my personal branding “to-do” list:

1. Commit to a regular writing/blogging schedule – I aim to continue to bring greater content to The Armchair HR Manager in 2013. I look to expand the readership/followers and am excited to partner with other bloggers to provide more guest blog posts.
2. Regularly read AND comment on other’s blog posts – I regularly follow about 15 other blogs but don’t take nearly enough time to comment on them. If I hope to generate comments on my blog, I need to invest the time in commenting and engaging with other bloggers on their posts!
3. Continue to network – both locally, domestically and internationally. I look to further expand my network with other HR professionals, industry experts and professionals so as to advance our profession(s). I want to have more discussions about things like social media with more of my peers. I want to share best practices and work with others to help each other grow professionally.
4. Be a mentor/be mentored – in order to give back to my profession, I look to either formally or even informally mentor a local HR professional. I have received some great guidance over the years from some informal mentors and hope to be able to give back in this way as well. I am also looking at the idea of asking for a senior level mentor as well. I have a couple of individuals in mind that I am going to reach out to in this area and am looking forward to what it may bring to both of us from a professional perspective.
5. Public speaking – yes, everyone’s greatest fear. Those that know me know I always have a lot to say about the topics I am passionate about – recruiting, leadership, etc. and they have always encouraged me to speak at various events, conferences, etc. For some reason, I never do. In 2013, I am going to look for opportunities to speak several times at events in order to share/give back to my profession and my peers and to finally get over the hump when it comes to public speaking.

What are your personal branding goals for 2013? What are your development plans? I would love to hear from you about what you are planning to focus on in 2013. What worked in 2012 for you? Finally, I wanted to give a special thanks to everyone who took the time to read The Armchair HR Manager in 2012. Your time is very much appreciated!

Image courtesy of FrameAngel/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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