I Don’t Always Use Recruiters, but When I Do… (I use Tim Sackett!)

I love those old Dos Equis commercials “The Most Interesting Man in the World” where the most interesting man says, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis.” It’s great marketing that doesn’t seem to get old.  It actually ended in 2018, but it’s become part of our vernacular.

It got me to thinking as well. I started my HR career in recruiting working for the company I’m now running, so in a sense, I’ve come full circle. I started recruiting right out of college for HRU Technical Resources, doing technical contracts. It’s a tough recruiting gig but pays very well if you’re good.

When I left my first job, and the third party recruiting industry, to take my first corporate HR job. I left with a chip on my shoulder that armed me with such great recruiting skills that I thought, I would NEVER, I mean NEVER use a recruiting firm to do any of my recruiting. WHY WOULD I?  I mean I had the skills, I had the know-how and I would save my company a ton of money by just doing it on our own.

So, I spent 10 years in corporate HR before returning to HRU in 2009, and you know what? I was young and naïve in my thinking about never using recruiting agencies. It’s not just about having the skills and know-how; it’s much bigger than that. I worked for three different large, enterprise-sized companies, in three different industries in executive recruitment type roles and in each case, I found situations where I was reaching out to some great third-party recruiters for some assistance!

So, why did I change my philosophy on using recruiting agencies?  A few of the reasons I ran into in corporate HR…

1. Having Skill and Know-How only works if you also have the time.  Sometimes in corporate gigs, you just don’t have the capacity to get as deep into the search as you would like with all the hats you have to wear as a corporate HR pro.

2. Corporate HR positions don’t give you the luxury of building a talent pipeline in specific skill sets, the same way that search pros can build over time. As a corporate HR pro, I was responsible for all skill sets in my organization. Niche search pros can outperform most corporate HR pros on most searches, most of the time. It’s a function of time and network.

3. Many corporate executive teams don’t believe their own HR staffs have the ability to outperform professional recruiters, primarily because we (corporate HR pros) have never given them a reason to think differently about this. Thus, we are “forced” to use search pros for searches where executives like to get involved.

4. Most corporations are not willing to invest in the model and tech stack (people, technology and process) that puts themselves on a higher playing field than professional recruiting organizations. I would estimate only 1% of corporations have made this investment currently and more are not rushing out to follow suit.  Again, this comes from corporate HR not having the ability to show the CFO/CEO the ROI on making this change to have the best talent in the industry you compete in. So, the best talent gets sourced by recruiting pros and corporations pay for it.

I didn’t always use recruiting agencies, but when I did I made sure I got talent I couldn’t get on my own in the time and space I was allotted in my given circumstances.  When I talk to corporate HR pros now, and I hear in their voice that “failure” of having to use a recruiting agency and I get it! I get the fact of what they are facing in their own corporate environments.  It’s not failure, it’s life in corporate America and it’s hard to change.

Stay thirsty my friends…

BREAKING NEWS: Symphony Talent Acquires Smashfly! @symphonytalent_ @Smashfly

Well, the M&A activity in the TA Technology industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down as this morning Symphony Talent announced it has acquired the recruiting CRM technology platform Smashfly. You had a feeling that something was going to happen as you began to see the major recruiting CRMs in the industry align themselves with core ATS or enterprise HCM recruiting modules.

3 Big Questions about the acquisition of Smashfly by Symphony Talent? 

1. Who the heck is Symphony Talent? 

I know some of you are asking that because Symphony Talent is the biggest name in the industry! Symphony Talent is the ATS built by Hodes a few years ago, and the first and only ATS that has built-in Programmatic advertising ability. Maybe a bit ahead of the game, when it was launched I was really impressed with what they had. Their CEO, Roopesh Nair, is a super-smart dude that has major passion around the TA industry.

2. Does this merger of brands make sense for both Smashfly and Symphony Talent?

It does because what I am seeing from organizations that truly care about attracting better talent is you better have an end to end recruitment platform that includes a core ATS at the center and a great recruitment marketing platform on the front-end. With this marriage, you also get the strength of Symphony’s industry-only builtin programmatic engine.

3. Will this integrated platform be able to gain market share in the industry?

That’s really the biggest question. For how advanced Symphony Talent’s technology was in the ATS space, they struggled to sell it, mainly because it probably seemed too advance more most corporate TA leaders.  CRM tech is also very advanced and complex and the reality is Smashfly was probably the best in the industry at selling CRM by making it not seem as complex. So, great tech and great marketing/sales should work for these two brands, in my opinion.

What would I do if I was Roopesh? 

To be fair, I’ve met Roopesh a couple of times and I’ve really enjoyed those conversations and his knowledge of the talent acquisition industry. The reality is Smashfly is a great brand because they’ve been great at marketing, and I would drop the Symphony Talent brand, adopt the Smashfly brand, and built out the integrated platform.

To me, you run with a better-known brand, that has a solid reputation in the industry and use that to sell the full end-to-end recruitment platform. Most enterprise HCM users are stuck with vanilla recruiting modules who can’t buy an ATS but can buy recruitment marketing. It just makes sense for them to buy a recruitment marketing platform that just happens to have an ATS built-in!

This opens up their ability to sell to SAP, Oracle, Workday, Infor, UltiPro, Ceridian TA shops, as well as chip away at the best of breed market currently owned by iCIMS, Greenhouse and SmartRecruiters in the mid-enterprise market.

To be perfectly clear, Roopesh didn’t call me and ask, but he has my number if he needs it! 😉

Who are the best companies to work for? And why?

I don’t put much stock into “Best Company to Work For” lists. That said, the data provided by Universum in there World’s Most Attractive Employer Report is pretty cool and gives you some insight on how you can help move your organization in the right direction.

What’s wrong with the best places to work lists?

  1. It only measures those employers who actually do the work to be considered for the list.
  2. It’s based on data that someone, other than yourself, decided was criteria for being a great place to work. And that might not align with what your org considers to be a great place to work, or the talent you market to, etc.

All that being said, I find that organizations, every single one who tries out for these lists, probably care about their employee and candidate experience at a pretty high level. Are they really the ‘best’ place to work? I don’t know, but they’re trying and that’s more than most of us can say!

So, who are they?

So, you can already see the bias, right? Tech, Business services, big brands. There isn’t one company on the list you haven’t heard of. Doesn’t that seem strange? You mean in the top 50 companies in the WORLD, there isn’t one company we haven’t heard of who is just great? Well, it’s the “World’s 50 Most Attractive”, so the one thing about being “attractive” is you’re probably known, when it comes to lists like these.

What makes you an “Attractive” employer? 

1. The ability to have high future earnings (you can make a lot of money) – 49.1%

2. You’ll get professional training and development – 43.8%

3. The job is secure (you won’t get laid off) – 39.1%

4. Working for this brand will help your career in the future – 38.8%

5. You have the ability to be creative – 38.7%

6. The company is successful within the market they compete in – 38.5%

7. The company encourages you to go home once in a while – 38.2%

8. You like the people you work with – 38.2%

9. You have leaders who support and they know how to develop talent – 38%

10. Competitive base salary – 37.6%

Anything pop out at you from the list?

What about #1 and #10? Oh, so, really base salary doesn’t mean anything, as long as I make a lot of money from what I’m doing!?! Turns out we release research and data for a reason. If you’re trying to sell employer branding software, it’s important for employers to understand it’s not about how much you pay because at that point you don’t need a brand, you need to pay the most.

But, it’s not what this data says. Like all modern research around this topic, what you make, is significantly more important than things like ‘being developed” and having “challenging work”. The person has to know and understand that financially this will work out very well for me, and then, all the other stuff becomes important once that question is satisfied.

You can not act like the most important thing on the list (#1 – High Future Earnings) is really that different than the last thing on the list (#10- competitive base salary). Those things are married at the hip if we have any inkling about basic compensation theory on where someone starts their career in base salary vs. the impact that has on future earnings, in the millions of dollars, going forward.

Let’s face it, as an employer you want to be able to deliver each of the ten things on the list in a really good way. If you do, you will not have trouble attracting talent or keeping your best talent.

In Attracting Great Talent, What’s More Important: Employment Branding or Recruitment Marketing?

Like most stuff I write, I try to break down things in HR and TA that we make way more complicated than it really is. We’re just hiring people, and trying to get the most out of our employees that we can. We aren’t launching the space shuttle or performing brain surgery. This stuff really isn’t that complicated.

I asked some of the most brilliant minds in the space and they gave some great advice, tips, and tricks. Some started to get deep into the weeds, but most gave ideas that were simple in nature to execute. There was basically one theme for each function, employment branding, and recruitment marketing:

Employment Branding at its core is your organization just telling your stories to candidates. 

Not made-up stories of what you want people to think about you, but your real employee stories. Simple, straightforward, this is who we are and why we love who we are. Some will love you, some will not. The best EB does just that, allows people to choose, so they don’t make a bad cultural fit choice.

Recruitment Marketing at its core is ensuring your stories get in front of candidates in a way and time they would like to consume those stories. 

So, it’s less “We’re a great company to work for!”, because everyone says they’re a great company to work for. No one says, “Hey, we’re a better than average company to work for!” Even though, that’s probably the real truth.

There is a piece of this, though, that I think the true employment branding experts are missing.

As consumers, we are all mostly dumb. A company tells us they have the best most reliable cars and then they tell us this over and over a million times, and we believe that those cars are the best and most reliable. We actually don’t do any research to find out if these cars are actually the best and most reliable. We got ‘marketed’ to.

Recruitment marketing can work in the exact same way. Put enough content out saying you’re the employer of choice, and people will recognize you as an employer of choice. The reality is the difference between a ‘true’ employer of choice, and an organization that is not an employer of choice is pretty small. Small, like, most people wouldn’t see any differences.

Most employers are stuck in the middle of delivering a fairly stripped-down basic employee experience. We all offer basically the same thing for all candidates. Thus, there’s a great opportunity for marketing to tell people we ‘actually’ offer a ‘better’ experience. Say it enough times and people will believe it.

I know my EB expert friends will say this isn’t being transparent and once the candidates get hired they’ll realize it’s not an exceptional experience. But, this is also mostly bullshit. Most people don’t realize it. They’ll get hired. They’ll go to work. They’ll be super excited about the new job. They’ll post a pic on IG. Life continues. One day, three years from now, they’ll wake up and think nothing. They won’t think either way about your company from the last company.

There are like 3 actual companies that offer up this ‘unicorn’ level employee experience that can actually match your brand. The reality of employment branding is far less sexy and fun than we make it out to be. Our stories are uniquely our own, and yet, very similar to those stories of every other employer.

I love your stories, but don’t discount the power of marketing will have on candidate behavior.

I’m a Proud ATAP Member! Are you?

At every talk I do I put up a logo slide. All of the logos that I personally support in my normal, everyday work world. My company HRU Tech. My blog, The TS Project (this one right here!). Fistful of Talent, where I still write, and the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP).

I always get the question, what’s ATAP!?

Quite simply, ATAP is an association that supports all aspects of the talent acquisition profession. It’s similar to an association like SHRM for HR, or ATD for learning and development professionals. It was the brainchild of Ben Gotkin and Gerry Crispin. The membership is a whos-who of the greatest recruiting and sourcing minds on the planet!

At ATAP we have teams of TA volunteers who are constantly working on solving and improving Recruiting’s biggest issues and opportunities. One of the ATAP committees developed and released a universal set of Sourcing metrics, and are currently working on a similar set for TA as a whole.

ATAP founded Global TA Day where we had thousands of TA pros and corporations support the profession on Sept. 4 this year with some awesome celebrations!

A talent acquisition body of knowledge has been developed and the association put together a complete database of every recruiting certification on the planet (there’s way too many, BTW!). One of the committees has developed an on-going series of developmental webcasts for members.

I’m writing about this today because today I’m in Washington D.C. meeting with the ATAP Board of Directors, of which I’m a part of, and discussing ATAP’s strategy for the future. Our goal is to be the one association that every recruiting professional on the planet can join and have a community that supports them at all levels. An association that for once and all support Talent Acquisition as a full-blown profession, and not a career we fall into.

We launched in 2016 as a 100% volunteer organization and we have recently added our first full-time staff in the role of Executive Director, Kristen LeBlanc. Our President, Jim D’Amico, head of global TA at Celenese, has big ideas and plans for growth. And we have a board of great TA leaders and committees full of volunteers, from all over the country, who give their time and knowledge endlessly.

What can you do to help? 

I got involved with  ATAP as a founding board member because I believe there is no more important function in a company than Talent Acquisition when it comes to improving the talent and success of what we all do. Is that a little over the top? Maybe, but I love our industry!

I need more TA pros and leaders to come join us. To invest in your development and your team’s development on an ongoing basis. Do you know what our peers in HR do? They support SHRM and the HR profession.  You know what most TA pros and leaders do, right now? They show up to work.

The vast majority of our industry does not belong to any professional association or do any professional development on an ongoing basis. We need to change that!

Come join us at ATAP and help us shape the future of talent acquisition! 

If you can’t do it today, build it into your budget for 2020. All of our organizations want and need TA to be better. Joining ATAP is a great step in putting yourself and your team in a community of the top TA minds in the world.

TA Tech Vendors – become a sponsor and support the profession that buys your products! 

The 7 Words That Turn Candidates Off!

Communication is a tricky thing. It’s so easy to turn off another party by simply using just one wrong word, especially when you’re trying to build a relationship with a candidate you potentially want to hire.

I think there are some words and phrases that have a high probability of turning off a candidate to want to come work for your organization. I speak to students a few times a year about interviewing and I tell them something similar, which is what you say can automatically make a hiring manager not want to hire you!

Think about being an interview and the candidate starts to tell you why they’re no longer working for ACME Inc. “Oh, you know it was just a ‘misunderstanding’, I can explain…”

“Misunderstanding” is a killer word to use while interviewing! It wasn’t a misunderstanding! You got fired! The ‘misunderstanding’ is you not understanding the crap you were doing was wrong! 

So, what are the 7 Deadly Words you should never use as a recruiter? Don’t use these:

-“Layoff” – It doesn’t matter how you use it. Even, ‘we’ve never had a layoff!’ “Layoff” isn’t a positive word to someone looking to come to work for you, so why would you even add it to the conversation!

-“Might” – Great candidates want black and white, not gray. “Might” is gray. Well, we might be adding that tech but I don’t know. Instead, use “I’m not sure, let me check for you because I want to get you the truth.  Add

-“Maybe” – See above.

-“Unstable” – You know what’s unstable? Nothing good, that’s what! If something isn’t good, don’t hide behind a word that makes people guess how bad it might be, because they’ll usually assume it’s worse than it really is!

-“Legally” – “Legally” is never followed by something positive! “Legally, we would love to give you a $25K sign-on bonus, but…” It’s always followed by something that makes you uncomfortable. When trying to get someone interested in your organization and job, don’t add “Legally” to the conversation!

-“Temporarily” – This is another unsettling word for candidates. “Temporarily” we’ll have to have you work out of the Nashville office, but no worries, you’ll be Austin soon enough! Um, no.

-“Fluid” – Well, that’s a great question, right now it’s a fluid situation, we’re hoping that hiring you will help clarify it! Well, isn’t that comforting… Add: “Up in the air” to this category!

We use many of these words because we don’t want to tell the candidate the truth. We think telling them exactly what’s wrong with our organization, the position, our culture, will drive them away. So, we wordsmith them to death!

The reality is most candidates will actually love the honesty and tend to believe they can be the one to come in and make it better. We all want to be the knight on the white horse. Candidates are no different. Tell them the truth and you’ll end up with better hires and higher retention!

Amazon just got 200,000+ Applications and That is a Giant Problem!

You probably saw the headline from Amazon: “Hiring 30,000!” Let’s face it, Amazon is a rocketship. Have you seen the Amazon vans coming down your street? I’m 100% sure the “Amazon Guy” who drives the van in our neighborhood stops by our house about 250% more times then the mailperson stops by our house!

I’m not actually surprised they have 30,000 openings, but I am surprised that they only got 200,000 applications!

The headline is from Business Insider and they’re mostly professional journalist thinking that when they write the headline everyone will be wowed by the big number, but in reality, that number is scary low! Do the quick math 200,000/30,000 = 6.6 applications per position.

Also, we (Talent Pros) know the reality. For positions that Amazon has no trouble filling, they probably got 600 applications per positions and for the ones they are having trouble filling they got zero or one, and that one wasn’t even close to being qualified!

I’m not sure exactly what Amazon’s applicant funnel looks like but if the top of the funnel only has 6 applicants, that’s a problem! A giant problem! The big question is how many applicants does Amazon need to fill 30,000 currently open, or anticipated open positions. If Amazon has 30,000 positions to fill, right now, how many applicants would they have to plow through to fill those jobs?

This is where the rubber hits the road with your Talent Strategy. There are a number of factors:

  • What’s the average pay per position?
  • Can we group these positions into various categories to better understand how long the process will take?
  • How many are skilled vs. unskilled vs. semi-skilled vs. white-collar?
  • What are the locations?
  • How fast do these need to be filled?
  • How picky are your hiring managers?
  • What’s our comp strategy? Trailing, leading, etc.?

Let’s just throw out some numbers assuming the average pay is around $15/hr. Probably low for many of the openings they are filling, but I’m also assuming the vast majority are warehouse, drivers, service level type roles. Scattered all over the country, but most white-collar positions will be in highly competitive markets.

Let’s say you need at least 20 applicants on average per position. That would mean at a minimum they will need around 600,000. But, there is a massive turnover of those lower-level positions, plus Amazon is known to have a demanding work culture that tends to push folks out even quicker, so you would probably need at least double that to around 1.2 million applications to fill 30,000 openings.

That means, in the real world, Amazon’s TA team is probably right now having a panic attack! A panic attack of being around 1 million applications short to fill 30,000 positions, and that’s not even considering current turn and churn of their giant employee base already, plus who knows what Bezos and the team have cooked up for future growth.

The numbers are staggering, but at scale this the job. It’s just a funnel whether you’re filling 30,000 or 30. You better know how many applications you need on the topside to ensure you get the hires at the end!

Why am I being ‘ghosted’ after I interview?

Dear Timmy,

I recently applied for a position that I’m perfect for! A recruiter from the company contacted me and scheduled me for an interview with the manager. I went, the interview was a little over an hour and it went great! I immediately followed up with an email to the recruiter and the manager thanking them, but since then I’ve heard nothing and it’s been weeks. I’ve sent follow-up emails to both the recruiter and the manager and I’ve got no reply.

What should I do? Why do companies do this to candidates? I would rather they just tell me they aren’t interested than have them say nothing at all!

The Ghost Candidate

************************************************************

Dear Ghost,

There are a number of reasons that recruiters and hiring managers ghost candidates and none of them are good! Here’s a short-list of some of these reasons:

– They hated you and hope you go away when they ghost you because conflict is uncomfortable.

– They like you, but not as much as another candidate they’re trying to talk into the job, but want to leave you on the back burner, but they’re idiots and don’t know how to do this properly.

– They decided to promote someone internally and they don’t care about candidate experience enough to tell you they went another direction.

– They have a completely broken recruitment process and might still be going through it believing you’re just as happy as a pig in shi…

– They think they communicated to you electronically to bug off through their ATS, but they haven’t audited the process to know this isn’t working.

– The recruiter got fired and no one picked up the process.

I would love to tell you that ghosting candidates are a rare thing, but it’s not! It happens all the time! There is never a reason to ghost a candidate, ever! Sometimes I believe candidates get ghosted by recruiters because hiring managers don’t give feedback, but that still isn’t an excuse I would accept, at least tell the candidate that!

Look, I’ve ghosted people. At conference cocktail parties, I’ve been known to ghost my way right back up to my room and go to sleep! When it comes to candidates, I don’t ghost! I would rather tell them the truth so they don’t keep coming back around unless I want them to come back around.

I think most recruiters ghost candidates because they’re over their head in the amount of work they have, and they mean to get back to people, but just don’t have the time. When you’re in the firefighting mode you tend to only communicate with the candidates you want, not the ones you don’t. Is this good practice? Heck, no! But when you’re fighting fires, you do what you have to do to stay alive.

What would I do, if I was you? 

Here are a few ideas to try if you really want to know the truth:

1. Send a handwritten letter to the CEO of the company briefly explaining your experience and what outcome you would like.

2. Go on Twitter and in 280 characters send a shot across the bow! “XYZ Co. I interviewed 2 weeks ago and still haven’t heard anything! Can you help me!?” (Will work on Facebook & IG as well!)

3. Write a post about your experience on LinkedIn and tag the recruiter and the recruiter’s boss.

4. Take the hint and go find a company who truly values you and your talent! If the organization and this manager will treat candidates like this, imagine how you’ll be treated as an employee?

McDonald’s Is Showing Us the Future of Recruiting!

Mikey D’s announced this week that they purchased an Artificial Intelligence speech recognition company. Why? Well, quite simply the vast majority of interactions that happen between McDonald’s and it’s customers happen through the drive-thru speaker. So, if you want to save money. Become more efficient. Make fewer errors. etc. You need to find a way to add technology into that equation.

“Yeah, um, well, I’d like a #3 with a large fry and large diet, and an extra McChicken with no mayo, what? No, you can’t have an apple pie, I also need a kids meal with apple slices, the cheeseburger one, with no cheese, ketchup only, did you get my large drink on the first order? Oh, I need an extra ranch as well, and I’ve got a coupon for a free large sandwich.” 

So, welcome to the show A.I.!

Here’s the thing, if McDonald’s new AI software can figure out these orders and get them right, we recruiters are in trouble!

I wasn’t making fun of the order above, I think that’s my actual order! That is complex language to have to figure out and sort through and respond to. If they can have a chatbot take your order and answer your questions, they will be able to figure out how to eliminate a real human in having screening conversations and most low-level skilled interviews.

“Oh, AI will never replace recruiters, Tim!” 

Why?

Because AI can’t have complex conversations? Maybe at this moment, but that is changing quickly. Because AI can’t correctly judge and have bias like a real person? Well, turns out that’s a positive for inclusive hiring. Because AI can’t select the best talent out of many candidates? Yeah, it already does a better job at that than humans.

So, it basically comes down to AI can’t build relationships.

AI is super good, way better than humans, at doing transactional stuff really well. Candidate applies for a job. AI takes them through the process. The candidate gets hired. That can happen today.

Person, not yet a candidate, might be a good fit for your job, but they have a job and are happy with the job they have. They could probably, through a great marketing process, actually get interested in your job, but it’s going to take some real person to person interaction to get them truly interested and leave that job for a new job.

This is where AI will struggle, but that is only about 20% of hiring. So, almost 80% of hiring, theoretically, today, isn’t too far away from having AI take it over and be more efficient and less costly.

Technology starts on the consumer side of the world. “How do we use AI to sell hamburgers to customers?” Once that gets figured out, it’s pretty a very easy transition to “How do we sell this job to a candidate?”

Want to Recruit Better? Hire more Recruiters and less Recruiting Managers!

 

Take a look at what’s happened in healthcare over the past 40 years:

 

In the healthcare industry over the past forty years, there has been a 2000% growth rate in the number of “Administrators” in healthcare, which the number of Physicians has remained relatively flat. Now, some of this growth in administration could be that for decades prior there might have been a lack of proper administration and some of this growth is just catching up, but 2000%!?

And we wonder why the cost of healthcare in our country is out of control!

Healthcare isn’t the only place where this happens! The more successful an organization is, the more mid-level management hires increase. So, in times of prosperity, we tend to want to surround the worker bees with tons of management “help”. Our organizations get bloated with none productive hires all hired believing we’ll make those who actually produce more efficient and effective.

We do this in talent acquisition, a ton!

I get asked by HR and TA executives frequently about hiring recruiting leadership. Recently, I spoke with a CHRO who was struggling to attract talent and fill positions and I asked her to give me their TA structure. “Oh, we have a Director of TA, a Manager of TA, and a Recruiter.” So, you can’t hire, but you’ve got two TA leaders and one person actually doing the hiring!?

I told her to fire the director and the manager and hire 4 more recruiters and let the team of 5 recruiters work the openings. I was exaggerating a little, but she got my point. Positions don’t get filled by managing them to death. Positions get filled by recruiters generating activity that leads to filling positions.

Of course, great leadership can help any function be more effective, but having leaders for the simple fact that we believe someone or something needs to be “managed” is short-sighted at best, and destructive at it’s worst. I’ll always choose a flatter structure over empire-building any day of the week. Give me some soldiers and let me fight!

The problem with hiring non-productive employees is what we’ve seen in healthcare. Once you get one administrator/manager every other employee wants to do the same thing. “Wait, I can get paid more and not have to actually produce!? Yes, please!” And soon you have a 2000% increase in hiring folks who don’t actually see patients, who don’t fill positions, who don’t make the donuts.