Monday, April 30, 2007

Crafting the candidate experience

I read this neat article on MSN titled 15 ways stores trick you into spending. I just wanted to share a few of the highlights of the tricks they listed. Some of them are obvious but their all interesting. One of these tricks was that the desirable departments are placed far away from the entrance. Another one of the tricks mentioned was that impulse-oriented items are placed near the checkouts. Another one commonly known one was that the most expensive versions of a product are the ones at eye level. Staple items are placed in the middle of aisles, nonessential and overpriced items near the end.

The list goes on and on but what seemed interesting to me is how the whole shopping experience is planned strategically to maximize the impact to the bottom line during the short time the shopper will walk the aisle.

What occurred to me was, if the stores like Kroger’s, Walmart, and Eckerd’s who sell .59 cent items invest so much thought into developing strategies for selling us those items, shouldn’t we as sourcers and recruiters invest more thought into developing strategies to maximize the experience of the candidate we are courting?

Every step of the experience should be well calculated to give them reasons to choose to stop and pick me over every other sourcer and recruiter. Remember the grocery store shopping experience is not littered with “PICK ME, PICK ME” signs or messages. It is littered with temping reasons to stop. If one strategy didn’t work to temp you as you walk then the next one surely will.

When your candidate gives you objections he is just saying “that strategy is not motivating me to pick you”. You need to find another strategy but these strategies shouldn’t be something you come up with on the spur of the moment, you need to have strategized beforehand and walked in his shoes down your shopping aisle thinking how he will walk and to give him prently of reasons to buy. Craft the candidate experience carefully thinking it through from initial call to final offer.

Keep in mind that you don't control the candidate, you control the way he experiences the hiring process, knowing that you are controlling his experience will give you more confidence in the process, which will strengthen your presentation. Take the voicemail for instance, your voice mail message is very important to your cold call sourcing campaign. Until your prospect has the opportunity to experience what your company can do for them first hand, the only thing they will have been exposed to is you! Your voice is your product. Your voice mail approach, the language or verbiage or the compelling words, even the tone you use is your product. If your voice mail is your prospect's first exposure to what you have to offer, then it is essential to understand that the impression they get from your voice mail correlates even equates to the value they can expect from you!

Remember your candidates don’t buy the benefits you offer them or the better pay, or anything you could offer them what they are really buying is the experience they have with you.

And if he walks out without buying? You'd do well to remember that you are not going to get them all, that is why we have Eckerd's, Walgreen's, CVS etc... oh, well here comes another shopper!!


Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Sourcing Crystal Ball

Carolyn Brocherie, Sr. Researcher for Forza International was telling me of the skills crisis in Australia. “Australia has a critical shortage of engineers (all disciplines), doctors and nurses, lawyers, quality IT personnel who have people skills as well as technical; marketing executives; tradespeople, oil and gas, and lots more.” She said.

“The skills crisis in Australia is reaching the critical stage, with employers resorting to desperate tactics to keep people like me away from their staff... The gatekeepers and PA's are very vigilant in their defence of employees’ names and one has to be increasingly inventive to get past them; companies are taking employees’ names off their web sites; even small companies are putting retention policies actively in place; some staff are discouraged from handing out their business cards ….”

She provided me with an interesting quote from the April edition of Australias' “Human Resources” magazine. “Australia is one of the top five countries in the world having the most difficulty with skills shortages and filling vacant positions, a global survey has found. Globally, 41 per cent of employers worldwide are finding it difficult to fill jobs, compared to 61 percent of companies in Australia. Other countries having difficulties include Costa Rica (93 per cent), Mexico( 82 per cent), New Zealand (62 per cent) and Japan (61 per cent.)"

I believe this is a taste of what the recruitment future has in store for the rest of us. Dr. John Sullivan, in his article titled “Are You already falling behind the very best” stated: “the downturn in the economy is over and the "war for talent" is returning” He also states that “Efficiency isn't enough. Quantum changes in the way you act are required in order to obtain innovation and quantum improvement in your results.” I know Dr. Sullivan is a respected author with lots of experience in the industry and I hold him in high esteem and even though I agree with that particular view I don’t quite agree with his predictions of the future innovations of sourcing and recruitment. Don't get me wrong some of his ideas are very good and I agree that we need to innovate or get out of the game but as far as his lists of upcoming innovations seems more like an extensive wishlist of the direction he'd like to see. Either that or I got my “Crystal Ball” at Walmart.

Thanks Carolyn for your comments and good luck on your headhunting in Australia.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The perfect personals ad

I was thinking about the way we market our jobs and how to better them and then it occured to me!! What if I posted a personals ad as we do a job. I'd bet I'd have women lining up for the job as we do for the jobs we post for our highly sought after Business Analysts or Software Architects. Here is what I thought it would look like:

Business Title: Housewife
Job Requisition: #12531BR
Full/part time: Full-time
Job Function: Homemaker
Business Unit: Homemaker Services

City: Hometown, USA

Job Description:

Need top talent for the natural and most fulfilling role for a lady. Primary role is that of child-care provider, supporting the children's physical, intellectual, and emotional development. The perfect candidate can be found in cooperative preschools and volunteering in numerous community organizations. This position is requires all shifts and must be called to work any shift any time.

Key Responsibilities:

Must have dinner ready. Planned ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time. Must make time to prepare self as to be refreshed when husband arrives home. Must be able to hold interesting conversation to offset boring days at the office. Must gather up schoolbooks, toys, papers, etc. and then run a dustcloth over the tables. Over the cooler months of the year, must prepare and light a fire for to unwind by.

Must wash the children's hands and faces, comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. Must minimize/eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, or vacuum upon husband’s arrival. Must know that husband’s topics of conversation are more important.

Never complain, whine or nag. Must be able to communicate well to address concerns and resolve issues.

Qualifications:

Associates Degree in homemaking or equivalent work experience
Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously
Ability to support husband’s needs
Ability to shop, cook, clean
Attention to fine details
Experience with yard work, home repairs, money managing is preferred

I could see the line forming now!!!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Refining your search query

In his comments to my blog entry on internet search fundamentals Shally referenced a great article titled Keyword Mutation Detection and the Art of Seeking. In it, he mentions MS’s AdCenter Labs and the use of the tilde (~) which are some great suggestions to help you expand your search

What helped me to understand their importance was coming to understand that search engines simply see keywords as a set of characters strung together. Search engines don't base results on how we use language. They can recognize groupings of characters/letters and identify them as words but they don't link them to a thesaurus database to give you some associated words unless you specify. That is why if you search for the keyword “Children” the keyword “kids” will not be included in the results.

In order to harness the fabulous power of search engines don’t assume that there are any related concepts to your keywords. Be sure about how your keyword will interact with the search engine. A great tool for that is google’s synonym lab be sure to try your keywords there for related concepts. The limitation to using synonym searches is that the thesaurus database used gets outdated or may be incomplete. That is why it is better to learn to refine your search through the use of alternate keywords. That is were MS Adcenter’s keyword group detection is helpful.

The toughest problem in crafting queries is learning how specific does the query term need to be. If we use too broad a keyword too many results are returned; if we us too narrow a specification, too few are returned. Finding the right level involves your personal knowledge and experience.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Strategic Sourcing

Imagination....I was just imagining a beach with perfect waves breaking to the beat of “California girls” as sung by the Beach Boys. Just relaxing right outside my bungalow in a hammock... sumptuous breakfast… while making a call and making the highest commissioned placement, all before noon still in time to enjoy the sun and bathing beauties…

It is great to imagine! isn’t it? Well imagine turning the staffing industry on its head. The marketplace is on the move again and our chance to strut our stuff is coming. The spotlight is about to be placed on sourcers/researchers. As we look back over the years, sourcing as a profession has come a long way but we are still facing some great challenges. If we think finding skilled professionals is tough now; just wait, it is about to get tougher. It is like the haystack is getting bigger and the needle is getting smaller. You know what I mean; more and more companies are going global to meet their staffing needs and the pool of qualified professionals is dwindling.

If the ability to find candidates is not your number one difficulty, it soon will be. Now is the time to get our processes down pad. Any sourcing infrastructure or competency issues, or any standardization of processes, or any resistance to sourcing processes, need to be resolved or we will be sifted out by our inability to perform.

But it isn’t all that gloomy, change brings about opportunity. This is our chance as sourcers/researchers to get smarter about our searches. I believe the key factor to success for researchers/sourcers in the near future is specialization. Carving out a network in a very niche area, the better we entrench ourselves in our area of expertise the better off we’ll be.

We need to device an ability to integrate all our skills into a highly focused offensive. We need more emphasis on strategic sourcing management. We can start by developing tighter processes for research; where not only do we mine data for prospective candidates but we also use that same data to profile the industry movements and build competitive intelligence databases. Also, we need to increase visibility, develop strategies to deploy strategic sourcing competence and strategies to derive optimal resource allocations.

Take a look at your industry segment, your challenge is to get to know your prospective candidates better than anyone else. Understand the factors that drive their decisions. Understand their fears and desires. Understand their true emotional needs. Once you have this understanding, you can use it to redefine your search process—to create a strategic approach that delivers.


"The Recuiting Animal" needs a hug!

I’ve been reading The recruiting Animal’s blog entries on Gen Y. The slamming that he is giving Y’ers is whipping around in my head and I just have to say something. The lashings throughout the posting stem from accusations that Gen Y is comparable to the Hippie Generation. It is, I think, very hard to deny that there are some valid points lurking there somewhere but it seems to get lost in accusations and criticisms.

Do we really need to yell “its huggie time!” before we get along. It seems to me that someone is missing the point. Maybe it’s “Animal” that needs a hug!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Internet Search Fundamentals

The last entry was a side track. I was side tracked by Shally’s comment. What I had on my mind to say was related to internet search fundamentals. I spend a lot of time training and developing training materials on sourcing. It is my belief that keyword development is the area that most sourcers/recruiters have the hardest time with, even though they may not realize. What I mean is that we just start keying in the keywords that are in the job description without understanding how the search engine syntax is going to interpret it.

The idea is “we just put keywords in an out comes the perfect candidate” but it is not that easy. The key to effective queries is understanding how a search engine treats your search terms. This basic knowledge will help you devise more robust queries and revise ineffective ones.

Try running this simple query in google: resume java beans (by the way this is a quick search string for finding Java Developers/designers.

Notice that it produced 938,000 results, before you try the next simple search scan thru the result summaries.

Next try running this query: beans java resume
(notice that the only thing that has changed is the order of the keywords, otherwise we are using the same keywords.)

I ran the both of them a few minutes ago and this second search string brought 859,000 results. Not only was the number of results significantly different but the order totally changed too.

Keyword location is important, order key terms with main subject first, search engines tend to rank documents that match first terms or phrases higher. Remember, the order in which you enter you terms affect both the order and pages that appear in your search results.

Before I log off, I want to briefly point out some keyword strategies. Formulate the scope of the keyword terms within the job description, identify the important concepts, identify search terms to describe those concepts (don’t rely on the keywords given), consider synonyms and variations of those terms, prepare your search logic. I’ll expand on some of these concepts later but if you stick to this you should be well on your way to writing robust effective queries.

Is Spaghetti Recruiting Gone?

Shally left a brief comment to the last blog entry that said...

“My experience has taught me that if they
aren't responding I just need to change my message.”

That is the point I was leading to, thanks Shally for helping me clarify. I believe it was Albert Einstein that said that the definition of crazy was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time. How many unanswered emails will it take for me to change my approach? How many times do we have to place a job ad only to receive loads of ridiculously irrelevant resumes only because it worked in the past?

The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that we need to return to the basics. I was involved in a discussion today about the need for recruiters learn to read into the job descriptions. There is still a lot of what we used to call spaghetti recruiting out there. For those of you not old enough to have heard that expression spaghetti recruiting is the methodology of throw enough resumes at a hiring manager thinking one of them simply has got to stick!

The bottom line is that there are many different sources like employee referral programs, aggressively thorough Internet searching, internal and external candidate databases, cold calling, employment marketing and good old networking, they are all components of a solid sourcing approach. Not one of those components alone is the answer no matter how good we are. We have to be willing to continuously adapt.

The Soucer of the future

My current dilemma is that we are getting bombarded with difficult positions to source. The team is finding quite a few qualified folks but it seems like there is something further changing in the market. Candidates are more and more reluctant to answer voicemail messages or even emails. (Is anyone else experiencing that?)

So how do we adapt our sourcing practices to this changing tide, how do we shorten the sourcing cycle while driving a competitive advantage? Let me first say that my definition of sourcing includes the managing of any and all activities that generate prospective candidates. I say prospect because until anyone passes some type of screening they are only prospects. So what do we do to drive optimal sourcing allocations to yield that gain?

Yes, we need to standardize sourcing procedures and enforce standards, yes we need to apply automation and analytics we need to improve sourcer/recruiter collaboration and improve sourcing allocations; they are all integral parts of success; but, and here is the kicker, my belief is that as sourcers/researcher/cyber sleuths, or which ever way we chose to call ourselves, we need to be ambassadors on a mission. We need to “represent”, there should be much more marketing then research in sourcing,

It has been my experience that the most extensive a network a recruiter possessed the better he was. I believe that this is still true, but the network building is changing hands, the baton is passing to the sourcer while the recruiter role is fast becoming more and more that of maintenance. What this means is that as sourcers we need to begin thinking more of our networking function. The sourcer of the future will be not just a researcher but a master networker.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Amybeth's excellent outline

Amybeth hale posted and excellent outline on the establishing of a research team. She eloquenty outlined what I call developing "core competencies” in different broad technical disciplines so that each sourcer can focus on developing pipelines in niche segments.

The one thing I would add is that she stated: "Having researchers who specialize, in my opinion, is as important as having a recruiter who specializes." I feel it is even more important for a researcher/sourcer specialize because the researcher builds and drives the pipeline. Also junior researcher can start as a jack of all trades, and this needs to be so as part of their learning exprience, but as they progress it is inevitable to develop a niche.

In addition, this may be already in place with her team especially with her being the visionary that she is, but I would expand the idea of the research lead which in my mind it needs to be someone able that monitors the direction that the industry is heading to direct work flow but also to direct knowledgebase. It is important to continue to develop/expand the researchers skills to include the upcoming trends. Only then can we shorten the sourcing cycle otherwise we will always be in reactive mode.

Sourcing training overview

Amybeth asked what to me was a very interesting question. She asked: "Do you have some recommendations for formulating a strategic sourcing process that will teach the basics to recruiters and researchers alike? It is very true that we have become somewhat over-reliant on technology tools and have forgotten the basics. Kind of like using spellcheck, huh? :)"

Amybeth!! First let me preface by saying that I have found that recruiters are open to learning only when they see in the training a way to address a current, real problem otherwise is just information and then the training will only work when the recruiter is highly vested in solving that problem. At that point not only will they be open to new information but will apply the new material. In addition, as adults we often learn best from experience, rather than from extensive note taking and memorization and the best way to accomplish this is through ongoing feedback around their new found experience.

Having said all that, what I have found that works for me is this. I begin to train any new sourcer or recruiter, by setting them with a sourcer for a few days, the will review the ATS, organizational skills, and a sourcing overview. After a week of observation and application they are ready to go into more serious stuff.

I go over internet search basics first. I begin by explaining how the search engines react differently to keyword then job boards and give them many examples. I show them how to look at keywords to look for a different approach than the job description may lead them to. I then go through what type of search services are available in the internet i.e. directories, search engines, and meta-search engines and how to search them. The next step is Boolean and search engine math and I wrap up with advanced tools like the at least 12 different ways to flip websites and at least 6 different ways to x-ray. I give examples of each and apply them as we cover them.

For the first day after training I assign them to source a job but ask for it to be sourced with nothing but keyword searches, later I add inurl: and intitle: a couple of days later have them start doing searches by filetype: and then flipping and then x-rays.

Once they develop proficiency on the search I focus on teaching them different technologies. i.e. how to search engineering, software development, IT, etc... I also task my sourcers to research and teach a 5-10 minute presentation at least once a month on any skillset they chose to learn about. Once they have a grasp on several technologies I introduce them to the phone and start phone sourcing skills but that may be months down the road depending on their progression. Also some people have more of a propensity for internet research while others have more of an inclination for the phone. I watched to for that to guide them in the direction they show more propensities to.

Overall my impression is that you have to present an overview of what the recruiters will learn. Then let them apply one skill at a time until they understand the depth of each tool learned. Only after they learn the tools can they learn the appropriate strategies. If you allow me to paraphrase what I said on Saturday’s entry again, you can learn the basics in an evening but mastery will take time and serious effort.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Key issue – gap between skills and demand

Today I was thinking of the challenges that we are encountering as sourcers. It seems like our job is getting more and more challenging. There is a growing need for specialized skills and a shortage of candidates. But I’m not saying anything new. The problem is that we have more innovative tools now than we ever dreamed of (Especially when I still remember the days of using index cards and rolodexes), yet still, here we are. Tools like zoominfo, infogist, eclipse and many more and we still can’t find enough engineers in certain sectors.

As sourcers we are in a bind. We can’t affect attrition nor can we address the deficiencies of skills even if we were to promote skills development in specific industries. As the market tightens we have to adapt.

Here is what I’ve tried; I’ve divided the recruiting challenges into “technical priorities”. The technical priorities were then divided into bucket segments for recruitment, and finally cascaded them into “core competencies” in different broad technical disciplines so that each sourcer can focus on developing pipelines in niche segments. These buckets included engineering, IT, Networking etc…

What I’m working on now is what I see as next step which is to accelerate the sourcing cycles, but we’ll leave that for another talk.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Elevating sourcing competencies

There are many sourcing methods, techniques, and approaches. Most recruiters and sourcers are competent in the use of many of these sourcing tools, including keyword utilization, and query searching, yet in order to improve our sourcing performance we have to look beyond the techniques.

It isn’t just a matter of forecasting the technology needs or analyzing the jobs that will need to be recruited but also the competency or the knowledgebase that the sourcer possesses. To increase sourcing competency, sourcers need to be assessed to probe the depth of their knowledgebase on the technical needs and to determine any possible existing competency gap. The ability to assess the current skill inventory addressing skill-gaps over time is the key to optimizing sourcing strategies to deliver the desired value. Skill-gaps may be strategic, tactical, personal or general.

Strategic skills deal with the “what” and “why” and involve analyzing technical disciplines and determining technical priorities. It they may also involve developing core competencies in specific technical disciplines necessary to meet sourcing objectives including sourcing techniques and issues underlying recruiting requirements, environment and applications. Tactical skills address the “how” which may include how we implement strategies. It involves mastering not the sourcing techniques but the approach. It includes knowing when to use such approaches as advertising in specific professional journals, competitor raiding or direct sourcing of heavily researched candidates. Personal skills may refer to specific sourcer skills such as objection handling, while general skills may include knowledge of benefits offered or weak company knowledge.

Actions designed to close group and individual skill-gaps are the key to increasing the productivity and success of sourcers in achieving their goals. Helping the sourcer establish a clear understanding of the technical environment, the tools available and the strategies to implement them, is vital to engaging the sourcer into the pursuit of his technical expertise. Without the awareness that results from such an understanding of the sourcer’s aptitude it is impossible to develop a plan to achieve the desired competency levels.

To be successful, a strategic sourcing program must incorporate standard procedures and metrics. It must also provide an environment that fosters continuous improvement in order to align our critical expertise resources to our business based requirements.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sourcing transformation

Recruitment is changing, especially as it relates to sourcing. It is still amazing to me that there are still many out there who think that a sourcer is a junior recruiter or that sourcing is an entry point into recruitment. But the truth of the matter is that sourcing is a highly specialized field. I compare it to playing chess, you can learn the basics of chess in an evening, but mastering the strategies may take years.

Sourcing requires heightened research skills and abilities, anyone can type keywords into a search engine but finding your needle in a haystack (especially when the internet is estimated to have over 500 billion documents; that is a huge haystack) takes real talent. Sourcers are also uniquely positioned to find and “pre-close” prospects before they even become candidates.

But it seems that most everyone is missing the point, there is a wave of automation tools of different flavors appearing in the recruiting landscape. Sourcers and recruiters alike become experts on the use of these tools not sourcing specialist. The continued pressure to reduce costs, the pressure to compete in global markets along with the pressure to beat the competition is keeping us from the real strategies needed for our companies’ survival.

Recruiters and sourcers continue to rely on inadequate and fragmented procedures to scour their databases and contact management system to find and identify prospective candidates. Most companies don’t have disciplined and formal sourcing methods for their most critical needs, let alone specific written formal sourcing procedures or strategies to be used consistently across the company.

If we focus on developing only sourcing expertise without implementing formal strategic sourcing processes we cannot produce a transformation in our sourcing effectiveness as a whole. We can’t ignore the basic strategic sourcing principles as we develop key sourcing systems. Without the proper foundation we have nothing more that an inadequate web of spreadsheets and tasks that direct sourcers and recruiters as to diminish productivity and stretch the sourcing cycle.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Here it goes....

I have been thinking of joining the ranks of bloggers out there for a while. I have been quietly lurking behind the scenes just reading the blogs but after a final nudge from Michael Kelemen of www.recruitingbloggers.com I figured I'd take the plunge.

As I begin my ramblings, I wanted to establish the focus that I foresee this journal taking shape. I want this blog to be a sourcing journal of sorts. I want to explore the different tools and techniques not just in internet based sourcing but phone sourcing as well. My desire is not to make this a forum for self-serving pontification but a place where I can learn and share what I've learned and hopefully add something meaningful to a growing niche within recruitment.