SI Review: December 2012

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Strike Gold

How to develop a competitive recruiting strategy

By Margaret Steen

With unemployment still high, the job market’s recovery is proceeding slowly. But whether the upturn is fast or slow, staffing professionals need to stay on top of trends in recruiting.

For one thing, there are signs that many workers may be preparing to look for new jobs: for example, the high numbers of workers reporting that they’re not satisfied at work. “Once you see the job market and economy bounce back, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of people changing jobs,” says Barbara J. Bruno, CEO of Good as Gold Training, who trains recruiters and runs her own staffing agency.

In addition, new technology is changing recruiting — though the fundamental principles remain. “People are really trying to figure out how to effectively use social media in the recruiting process,” says Lou Adler, president of the Adler Group, an Irvine, Calif.-based training and consulting firm that helps companies design recruiting technology. “Everybody knows that that’s the thing to do.”

The key to developing a competitive recruiting strategy is to integrate new networking tools into the bigger recruiting picture — in a way that saves time rather than wastes it. “Just because you have names doesn’t necessarily mean you have candidates, prospects and hires,” Adler said.

A smart recruiting strategy will employ both old-school recruiting techniques and social media to find them. Experts offer these tips for integrating social media into your recruiting — while not forgetting the tried and true methods of matching candidates to jobs:

Go Where the Candidates Are

Once you know what your ideal candidate looks like, you need to find people who meet that description. To find these A players, you will likely want to use a combination of traditional sourcing, such as phone calls, and social media. Try calling people at companies whose employees are possible candidates and “talking with people who have the kinds of qualifications your customer is looking for,” suggests Scott Wintrip, president of StaffingU and the Wintrip Consulting Group, who provides coaching, consulting, and training services for staffing professionals. If you’re not sure which companies would be most promising, “ask your customers, ‘from what companies do you like to see people?’” he says.

Social media can be helpful here, too. You can search for a particular employer on LinkedIn, for example, or join a more specialized social network that’s popular with people in the field in which you’re filling jobs. To learn about these niche sites, Bruno suggests asking candidates when you interview them what types of social media they use. “We learn to identify the social networks that attract the candidates that we’re going after,” she says.

As a long-term strategy, if you work in a particular niche, develop a presence on the social networks popular with people in that field. There, you can see who are making themselves visible experts, says Laura DeCarlo, president of Career Directors International, a global professional association of résumé writers, career coaches and other career managers. “You can easily identify those kinds of information evangelists to target people who aren’t actively out there searching for a job,” she says.

Use Referrals

Getting recommendations from people you know is still the best way to find candidates. There are lots of ways to do this, both online and off. “It’s asking every one of your contingent workers for referrals. It’s asking every candidate you interview for referrals,” Wintrip says. And don’t forget your customers, which are an untapped resource: “Many of our customers interview good people they can’t hire,” Wintrip says.

Make Real Connections

When you use social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn to connect, try to make the same sort or personal connection you would over the phone. “What really impresses serious job seekers is when you actually do something beyond, ‘Yes, we’ve agreed to click a button saying we’re connected,’” says Scott Allen, a social media strategist and co-author of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online. Instead of simply trying to accumulate large numbers of connections, use social media to get to know both candidates and hiring managers.

Make It Appealing

All the connections in the world won’t help you place a candidate in a job he or she doesn’t want. Although you should start your job description with what the hiring manager needs and wants, don’t forget to make it appealing to candidates as well.

“Good people do not want lateral transfers,” Adler says. “If your job descriptions are heavy on skills and experience and don’t show the compelling career opportunity in the first two lines, you’re not going to get the people that are on the fence,” he adds. Instead, you’ll attract people who are either unemployed or desperate to leave their jobs — not the hard-to-find candidates that your customers are paying you to find.

Market Yourself

If you have a specialty within the recruiting field — you place finance professionals in biotech firms, for examples, or marketing staff in insurance companies — you want to be known as the recruiter to contact. “You become a magnet for top talent,” Bruno says. “Recruiters who get noted as an expert in their field get incoming calls from employed people.”

To achieve this, you need to be well-networked and visible in your niche, she says. Both old-fashioned networking and newer social networking tools can help you do this.

Think of social media as “a branding tool and a community generation tool rather than a direct sourcing tool,” says Amy Lewis, practice leader for talent strategy and acquisition at the Human Capital Institute, a membership organization for professionals in human capital management. Employers can “build a talent community: people that are expressly interested in the types of jobs they have.”

For example, starting a blog where you offer helpful information about your specialty can raise your visibility. Webinars on subjects of interest to those in your field are another possibility. The key is to offer useful information.

Another way to market yourself online is through recommendations, either on your own website or on sites like LinkedIn. To make them effective, “get recommendations from clients and candidates that you have helped,” Allen says, and ask them to be specific.

Take Advantage of Technology

Social networking offers access to information you simply couldn’t get before. Some if it may be essential to your work — and much of it can be useful.

For example, Allen says, if you’re interested in knowing who a particular company is hiring, you can search on LinkedIn for that company’s employees, save the results, then run the same search a month later to see who has been added. (A few may simply be people new to LinkedIn, but the rest are likely new hires.)

Also, because your customers may check out candidates’ online profiles, you can head off potential problems by doing it yourself.

Stay on Target

Online networking can become a huge time sink if you let it, Allen says. He recommends staying on target: If you’re answering questions online in an effort to establish relationships, for example, “don’t just go answer whatever questions pique your interest — answer recruitment and career questions for the industry you specialize in.”

To make the best use of your time, try multitasking. “Technology can be serving you in the background while you’re working the phone in the fore- ground,” Wintrip said. You can put a message out to your online network with a question, for example, and work the phone while you’re waiting for answers.

You may also want to consider outsourcing some of your online sourcing work. Bruno suggests finding someone who may not be as interested in sales as recruiters need to be but is detail-oriented and meticulous to go comb online sources for leads. “It’s not necessarily the best use of your time as a recruiter,” she says.

If you do it yourself, either out of necessity or because you enjoy it, do it at times that aren’t otherwise good for phone calls, Bruno suggests.

Finally, make sure you don’t rely so much on technology that you lose sight of your ultimate goal: to place people in jobs. “We want to leverage these tools vs. having them leverage us,” Wintrip says.

Margaret Steen is a freelance writer in Los Altos, Calif., who writes about business and the workplace.

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