THE TECHNACIOUS RECRUITER NEWSLETTER

June 12, 2008   view past issues

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Feature: Context in Recruiting

Why is it that some recruiting teams do all of the right things and still fail to acquire the best talent? Why do these groups implement the full panoply of best practices and still get the worst results? While there are any number of potential reasons for such a disappointing return on their investment of time, effort and money, I believe the most likely causal factor is context. When recruiters ignore the context of their sourcing efforts, they encourage candidate misperceptions that can undermine or even negate the value proposition of their employer or staffing firm.

By now, many recruiting teams have a reasonably good understanding of the basic components of an effective online sourcing strategy. They know how to:

  • identify the best job boards and career portals for their target demographics;
  • write compelling job postings that will activate even the most passive candidates;
  • data mine for prospects in the right way and at the right sites;
  • develop relationships with career activists by networking in their professional communities; and
  • build and operate career areas on their Web-sites that attract the best talent when they aren’t looking for a job as well as when they are.
  • They do all of those things, and still, they aren’t succeeding at their mission. That’s not my view; it’s the opinion they and their customers have both expressed. When Accenture surveyed the senior executives in the Fortune 1000, only one-in-four said they had the quality talent they needed to accomplish their business objectives. And, when the Recruiting Roundtable asked recruiters in 47 organizations to evaluate the quality of the talent they had accessed for their own organizations, not a single one rated even 20% of their new hires as “A” level performers.

    Why is this happening? Because well written content and sophisticated candidate connections are simply not enough to persuade the best talent to make a change. Top performers and those with rare skills are almost always already employed. In other words, to recruit them, we must convince them to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: change. We must convince them to go from the devil they know (their current employer, boss and commute) to the devil they don’t know (a new employer, an unknown boss and a different commute). Even Shakespeare would find it tough to get them to do so with mere words; and the king of networking, Harvey Mackay, would be similarly challenged even with his connections.

    So, what should we do? I think we must pay more attention to context. Think of context as a lens through which candidates view and interpret the information you provide and the actions you take in your recruiting process. That context has three potential states, two of which can undermine your sourcing results:

  • A negative context will cause candidates to see even the best written content and most appropriate recruiter actions in a critical light.
  • An undefined context will encourage candidates to insert their own (often inaccurate) views and biases into their assessment of your recruiting process’s information and behaviors.
  • A positive context will induce candidates to see the same information and behaviors in a constructive light so that they are more likely to recognize their relevance and value.
  • In other words, if you want candidates to be predisposed to believe your message and trust your actions, you must attend to the context of your message and actions.

    How can you do that? There is a context for both your recruiting process as a whole and for each of its constituent elements. At the strategic or process level, context is created by the way things are done. If what you do encompasses the best practices for sourcing and recruiting candidates, then how you do those things defines their context. And that context, in turn, determines the way your practices will be received and interpreted by candidates.

    For example, the way you organize your employment information can actually determine how it’s perceived. You can structure that message by describing the various business units in your organization or by detailing the career paths that provide the talent for those units. The former puts the organization at the center of the message; the latter puts the candidate and his or her career at its center. Since even the best prospects want to know “what’s in it for them,” the candidate-centric approach establishes a positive lens; the employer-centric lens installs a neutral or, if it’s done in a heavy-handed way, a negative one.

    The same is true at the tactical level. Candidates’ perception of each step in your recruiting process is affected by its context. Take your Web-site, for example. The context for that destination is actually created before a candidate ever arrives. Since the best prospects are usually employed, they don’t act like active job seekers. They won’t come to your site unless you persuade them to do so. That’s done by creating an expectation-a claim about what it’s like to work in your organization-that’s so compelling they can’t ignore it. In marketing terms, this expectation is your employment brand, and if that brand is well promoted outside your Web-site, it will act as a magnet to pull top talent into it.

    That’s only half the challenge, however. Because these top performers are also good consumers, they want proof that affirms the claim you’ve made in your brand. Said another way, they want the expectation to come true. If that happens, you’ll establish a positive context for whatever else they see and learn on your site; if it doesn’t, you’ll create exactly the opposite effect-a lens that distorts and potentially negates your meaning.

    How do you make sure your lens is positive? You must acknowledge and adjust to the fact that these candidates-cum-consumers have the attention span of a gnat. Hence, the visibility and accessibility of your message is key. You must provide your proof quickly and with a minimum of effort on their part. On your Web-site, therefore, it must be the first thing they see and it must be highlighted. The best approach is to set the context with your proof right on the landing page, but if your design precludes that, it must be no more than one click away.

    For example, in the career area on the Nordstrom’s Web-site, the employment brand (the expectation) is clearly highlighted and then directly connected to the company’s career paths (the proof) with a single click. Similarly, at the Enterprise Rent-a-Car site, the employment brand is distinctly set apart and then directly linked to some of the best proof you can provide-employee testimonials. Unfortunately, however, both sites have significantly obscured the expectation-proof connection by also providing access to a range of other employment-related content from their landing page. There’s nothing wrong with the content, just its placement. It enables visitors to go directly to lots of information without first establishing context. When that happens, visitors are given an undefined perspective which can lead to a positive or negative lens, depending on the visitor’s preconceived (and potentially inaccurate) notions.

    In the end, winning the War for the Best Talent is an exercise in both doing the right things and in doing the right things in the right way. The first, of course, involves the implementation of the best practices in our field. That’s a precondition for success. While it is critical, however, it is not sufficient for victory. What’s also required is the careful establishment of a context, for that lens will determine how the best talent interprets both what you say and what you do.

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the WEDDLE’s newsletter.

    P.S.S. Don’t forget to send us your new e-mail address if you move.


    This Issue’s Sponsor: Recognizing Richard Rabbit

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Recognizing Richard Rabbit, Peter Weddle’s huge bestseller in a little book that is this year’s first choice for summer reading on the beach.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a fable for adults, young and not so young. In the genre of Who Moved My Cheese, it’s a tale about some forest friends who make an amazing discovery by trying to help one of their own. They don’t uncover the key to organizational change, however, or to setting strategic goals for the enterprise. No, Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a much more personal book and its gift is unique to each and every reader.

    This story is not about self-improvement, but about self exploration. It is all about finding the secret to authentic living. To being your own true self. How does Recognizing Richard Rabbit do that? Unlike traditional fables, this tale unfolds in two synchronized journeys: one in fiction, the other in nonfiction. In essence, you are invited to tap both the creative and the analytic sides of your brain-to probe the whole of your inherent talent-so you can find the pathway to the person you were meant to be.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit won’t be in bookstores for several weeks. You, however, can own it right now. All you have to do is call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768. So, don’t delay; call today. Make sure you have Recognizing Richard Rabbit packed in your suitcase for your summer vacation.


    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Bernard Hodes Group recently conducted a survey of job seekers on Facebook and found that customer service is still not what it should be the recruiting process. When asked to describe what happened after they applied for a job on a company Web-site, the respondents reported as follows:

  • 41% said they never received a response;
  • 28% decided not to submit a resume or application after looking at what they would have to do;
  • 15% said they were invited for an interview;
  • 11% said they received a timely acknowledgement of their submission; and
  • 5% said they received an acknowledgement some time later.
  • What do these results tell us? Despite our best efforts at improvement, the majority of the prospects who visit our organizational sites are put off by the process. Either it’s far too complicated or far too impolite to generate a positive view of the organization or its employment opportunities. There is, however, at least one step you can take to improve the process. Most organizations today do, in fact, acknowledge the receipt of a resume or employment application. If that’s true for your employer, include a statement in bold at the end of every job posting that says: Please add our site’s URL to the white list on your server and/or email manager so you will receive our acknowledgement of your submission. Such a statement tells them both that you will acknowledge their submission and how to ensure that they will actually receive it. It will set your employer apart and burnish its brand.

    The Conference Board explored the vacation plans of U.S. workers and found that the number of people who expect to take a week or more off is now at a 30 year low. Only 39% of the respondents in an April survey said that they were planning to take time off for a holiday over the next six months. Such a finding is understandable in today’s uncertain economic times; not only are people uneasy about being out of sight in the workplace, but employers themselves are depending on every single person’s contribution. Recent research, however, indicates that when employers permit workers to ignore their earned vacation time, they actually undermine the organization’s performance. Why? Because the working-without-a-break syndrome greatly increases stress and the associated health problems that stress creates. Indeed, in a study published in 2000, those who failed to take an annual vacation had a 21% greater risk of death from all causes and were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack. Even those who take a vacation often don’t reduce their stress. We’ve all seen the Blackberries and Treos out on the beach. Perhaps that’s why people spend so little time planning what they will do during their time off. According to a recent article in Prevention magazine, the average American spends just 4 hours preparing for a vacation. But wait; that’s not as bad as it sounds. Citing work by the American College of Surgeons, the article also noted that Americans spend even less time researching “a medical procedure or surgeon.” Go figure.

    Harvard Business Review published a new analysis of the glass ceiling in an article entitled “One Reason Women Don’t Make It to the C-Suite” by Louann Brizendine MD. The author posits that among the reasons for the dearth of women CEOs, COOs and CFOs is the reality of timing. She believes there is a “go-for-it moment in most careers, a point when hard charging men and women get their shot to separate from the crowd and put themselves on a path to senior positions in the enterprise.” The problem, however, is that this transitory moment is better timed to the male than the female brain. According to Dr. Brizendine, the chance to reach for the brass ring typically occurs in one’s forties, a good time for men, but not for women. In their forties, men have gained the knowledge and experience they need to compete for senior level leadership positions. Women are similarly prepared, but they are wired in their brain chemistry to focus on other things at that point in time. The author notes, “For reasons important to the survival of the species, women in childbearing years undergo changes that intensify their focus on the viability of offspring. It’s a passing phenomenon, but ill-timed for those with career ambitions.” It’s not clear whether this view is correct, but if it is, what should employers do? As a minimum, they should recognize that a women’s decision not to “go for it” in her career when her male peers are doing so does not mean she is either uninterested or incapable of doing so at a later point in time. Organizations need all the leadership talent they can get, so they must learn to be flexible and provide alternative entry points for those women who do want to compete for the top after they have attended to other priorities in their lives.

    WEDDLE’s publications are the references of choice for recruiters seeking to maximize their return on the Internet and win the War for the Best Talent. They include:

  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Called the “Zagat of the online employment industry” by the American Staffing Association, it provides full-page profiles of 350 of the best job boards in a range of occupations, industries and locations;
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Directory of Employment Related Internet Sites. The “address book of the online employment industry,” it lists over 9,000 sites and organizes them by the occupational fields, industries and geographies on which they focus; and
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Association Web Sites. The key to the “hidden talent market” online, it details the recruiting resources and capabilities that are provided at the Web-sites of over 1,900 associations and societies.
  • Postcards from Space: Being the Best in Online Recruitment & HR Management. A compilation of Peter Weddle’s columns for The Wall Street Journal, it provides a complete introduction to the Best Practices for sourcing, recruiting and retaining talent online.
  • Generalship: HR Leadership in a Time of War. The only primer on leadership that focuses on the unique challenges of the HR professional waging both a War for Relevancy in the modern corporation and a War for Talent in the 21st Century labor market.
  • So make sure you’re at the top of your game, get your WEDDLE’s books today. Click on the link to your left or call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768.


    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    There are 40,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to recruiting top talent online, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the best sites for each of your requirements. WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide identifies 350 of the top sites worldwide and provides the information you need to determine which job boards will deliver the optimum yield for you. For example:

    Physics Today Online Career Center Network

    http://www.physicstoday.org/jobs

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: No

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: $400/posting

    Posting period: 30 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 4,900

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among visitors: Senior Scientist, Research Scientist, Physicist, Electrical Engineer

    Other services for employers: Automated resume agent, Banner advertising, Status report on advertising.

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes


    Get Recognizing Richard Rabbit Today!

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Recognizing Richard Rabbit, Peter Weddle’s huge bestseller in a little book that is this year’s first choice for summer reading on the beach.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a fable for adults, young and not so young. In the genre of Who Moved My Cheese, it’s a tale about some forest friends who make an amazing discovery by trying to help one of their own. They don’t uncover the key to organizational change, however, or to setting strategic goals for the enterprise. No, Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a much more personal book and its gift is unique to each and every reader.

    This story is not about self-improvement, but about self exploration. It is all about finding the secret to authentic living. To being your own true self. How does Recognizing Richard Rabbit do that? Unlike traditional fables, this tale unfolds in two synchronized journeys: one in fiction, the other in nonfiction. In essence, you are invited to tap both the creative and the analytic sides of your brain-to probe the whole of your inherent talent-so you can find the pathway to the person you were meant to be.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit won’t be in bookstores for several weeks. You, however, can own it right now. All you have to do is call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768. So, don’t delay; call today. Make sure you have Recognizing Richard Rabbit packed in your suitcase for your summer vacation.