When I started my first job in recruitment back in 1995, I received an induction training on candidate screening, candidate interviews, taking a job order from a client etc. Each module of the training had a personal interaction between two people at its heart, and we talked a lot about ‘the art of conversation’. In the candidate screening process, we focused on the candidate’s motivation as much as on their technical skillset. Similarly, we were taught to always have a conversation with the hiring manager when taking a job order or presenting candidates, to understand exactly what they value in a prospective employee.
When I look at the training programme that consultants starting out in recruitment receive these days, I notice that a lot of emphasis is placed on the ability to source and network for candidates on job boards, LinkedIn and other social media. The recruitment industry seems to accept that the consultants with access to the newest tools, the best understanding of Boolean searches and the largest network on LinkedIn will be the most successful.
The result? We do not value the art of conversation with candidates and clients anymore, and don’t train our consultants to have them. A lot of my fellow recruitment directors and business owners complain that their offices feel like data centres, with consultants typing away on their keyboards instead of talking to clients and candidates.
We can have any number of connections on LinkedIn or friends on Facebook, and feel very productive and busy without actually being effective. The ease of clicking a link and virtually connecting with someone, or getting a colleague to ‘like’ a post, or finding you have another Twitter follower, is less than half the task: every connection gained through social media should be developed through actual, personal interaction – or you’re kidding yourself as to its actual value to your network.
A good friend of mine is not on LinkedIn. He is an accountant and director in one of the well known London accountancy and consultancy firms. He is well qualified and respected in his profession. He is also not happy at his existing firm and I am certain that he would consider a new opportunity if someone would approach him. Is he the exception? Possibly, but he is also an excellent candidate who could be an exclusive candidate and a great placement for a proactive recruitment consultant. Even though I acknowledge that the majority of professionals are on LinkedIn, not everyone uses the site as enthusiastically as a recruiter. Our candidates’ profile might not be up to date, and he might only use the site occasionally, thereby missing opportunities to show up in our searches or responding to our targeted advertisements.
Whilst I appreciate that social media can be a fantastic tool to source and communicate with candidates, I also firmly believe that it does not replace the art of conversation. As long as conversations are still part of the hiring process through the job interview, recruiters would do well to use the same methodology in their work practices.