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Blog Advanced Insights

Good Recruiters Aren't Like Carnival Barkers: 5 Secrets of Top Recruiters

Secrets of Recruiters.png

This article originally appeared as an independent article published on LinkedIn by Jim Goodmiller. It is a part of the Advanced Resources Leadership Insight Series.

Every summer when my kids were little, we would head over to the local carnival in town. We loved the sights, the sounds and smells, or at least most of them. Can you say shower people! I am always amazed at the business of carnivals. The basic point is this group of people roll into your town, set up these rides that look like they can’t be safe, start frying everything insight (ever tried a fried Twinkie?) slap cheese on things you never would dream of, set up some games and then do it over and over again in towns across the country.

For me, I love playing the games. I think it is partially the challenge, maybe it’s the prize and the ability to “super-size” some stuffed animal to prove my manhood or maybe it’s the fact that I think I can beat the odds. Either way, I have spent my share on these games and sometimes brought home the prize. Nothing says “WINNER” like a giant over-sized Jalapeno Pepper.

You know this feeling I am describing, right? You stroll down the “Midway” or as I like to call it the “Gauntlet”, cruising past the maze of carnival barkers shouting at you to try your hand at some game that you know is rigged to take your money. After a while it becomes just noise and you become less enthused about playing a game and only pushing through to the end.

You hear a wall of sound being shouted over and over again.

“Ring toss…win a prize”.

“Take your best shot…”

“Pop three balloons and win a stuffed Monkey" (or other creature)

And on and on it goes.

The longer the carnival goes, the less enthusiastic these “Carnival Recruiters” become at pitching you to plop down your cash. They tend to do the “bare minimum” and hope the prize or the game draws the crowd over and hopefully some sucker like me will spend some cash.

Recruiting is a lot like the Carnival Midway today. Candidates walk down rows of job postings, messages or emails only to have recruiters shouting at them:

“Java Programmer Jobs…”

“Business Intelligence…Bring your Big Brain”

“User Experience…we are only looking for the best”

"Salespeople...anyone willing to be a SALESPERSON.."

And we wonder why we can’t fill roles?

A few months ago I was asking a Senior Java Developer what it is like being “on the other side”. He said on average, he has 16 to 20 NEW messages from recruiters DAILY leaving the SAME type of message over and over again. It goes something like this:

“Hi this Robby Recruiter from XYZ company, I was calling to tell you about a Java position that we have with one of our clients and noticed you are a Java developer (see Robby is smart. He went to college to be able to say buzz words) and wanted to see if we could set up a time to talk”.

Worst yet is when Robby starts leaving the entire job description on voicemail, or even better, on a text message. I call that “Throwing up on your Candidates”. Hope you weren't eating!

Now don’t get me wrong. Robby has a job to fill. He has numbers to hit and quota’s to meet. His sales manager is beating down his door telling him stories about “when I used to recruit, I didn't even use a phone, I just held up signs on the highway to find my candidates".

What Robby doesn't understand and what most of the recruiting world doesn't understand is we all sound the same. We all sound like Carnival Barkers yelling at people to come check out our job/company/requirement.

“Come talk to me. We are different!”

"We have the best jobs in town"

"Our managers only use us to find people"

You’re different, seriously? What makes you different? You have the best jobs and managers ONLY use you?

The truth is most are not different. Most do the same things the rest of us do and have done for the past 10 years. There is not a lot of “different” today. Oh sure the tools change. We have gone from resume drawers to Applicant Tracking Systems. We now have instant communication via text messages or email. But while the methods have changed, the ability to get great talent has not.

The Secrets of Top Recruiters

The good news is there are some that “get it” and treat the art of recruiting like a craftsman. They understand that their job is not to “sell requirements” or even their company/client. But the secret is to build trust and relationships with the people they are recruiting. They think longer term. They seek to walk in the shoes of those that they are trying to recruit and understand what they are looking for in their next job/assignment. In most cases, companies are saying its hard to find talent in a number of skills in today's world. That means talent will go where talent wants to go. Find the talent and help them get there and that is where success often lives.

I would never claim to have all the answers on this and I would bet most of us have some things that work better than others. Here are just a few ideas that I have seen work. Feel free to add your own so we can all learn.

Find Your Niche: You have heard the saying “the jack of all trades is the master of none”. Nowhere more so does this apply to recruiting. Oh sure you can fill orders across your niche. But focus on a niche that you can develop. Woodworking craftsmen focus on being great with wood. They usually aren't expert glass blowers, metal sculptors, pottery makers. Sure you have different types of orders to fill, but you need to create yourself as an expert in something. Do you click with Project Managers? Is programming your thing? Do you find you working with Salespeople or Finance to be your bag. Whatever you feel passionate about, be the best at knowing people in that space.

Get off the Job Boards: Now before my friends at the Job Boards put a bounty on my head, let me explain. EVERYONE USES THE JOB BOARDS. Of course you will as well. But don’t park there all day every day. Odds are the best talent is working and they don’t like to put their resume on job boards announcing to the world they might be open for a new role. Go to events, join LinkedIn Groups, network while you get involved and give back to the community. Somewhere along the way we decided that recruiters were not working unless they were super-glued to their chairs. Now I am all in favor of “smoking the phones”, but investing time in going to where talent “gathers” is a great way to find people that no one else is pursuing because they don’t know they are looking yet.

Build Relationships WHILE filling needs: The best recruiters today understand that they need to “sell” themselves. That means they need to understand their niche. They need to build the best candidate pools of talent; they need to be the name that rolls off the tongue of people when people are asking friends who to contact about finding their next opportunity. While you can’t usually stop and focus on only one thing, you can start to develop your talent pool while working on other needs. This ties back into finding your niche.

Do What You Say You are Going to Do: If you say you are going to call someone back, call them back! Don’t be the person who says one thing and does another. Be honest with your assessments. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. Tell them the truth; they will respect you more for it. Don’t sugar coat or pretend they are great. Be a truth teller and candid. If their resume stinks, help them fix it. If they don’t dress professional enough, speak the truth in love to them. Too often we just discount people rather than providing them with a little coaching to help them get better. Either way, be a person of your word.

Do the Little Things: Thank people for giving them their time. Send them hand written notes, take notes on things that are of interest to your prospects. Send them articles, links or training information that you think might be beneficial for them. Walk in their shoes. Once again…Be a Servant. The more we serve, the more trust and credibility we gain and we just feel better. It is always better to give than to receive…I remember reading that somewhere as well.

Quit screaming like a carnival barker. Identify your niche. Seek out your prospects like an NFL scout can rattle off potential QB’s, arm yourself with information with what is on their mind and how by serving them you actually serve yourself.

Jim Goodmiller has spent the last 20 years working with companies on finding great talent. He has done this by building great teams and while not perfect, does his best to serve them to accomplish that mission. 

What mission can Jim help you accomplish? Contact Jim today.

Email Jim

Topics: Staffing & Recruiting, Technology, Insider

Posted by Jim Goodmiller on January 12, 2018
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