My career in Recruiting started when I was given an opportunity to try my hand at Physician Placement for a small firm in my hometown. Did the gentlemen who owned the company see something in me that made him think I might be successful in this business? Not at all. In truth I was surprised to get the opportunity. Later I realized that he was playing the numbers game. He knew that if he hired enough folks and ran them through the gauntlet, some would come out on the other side with some skills that might make him some money.
In truth, he was a great guy who cared about his people, but he understood that not all people were built to be “Headhunters”. Why? Because it's the best, worst, easiest, hardest, most thankless, and rewarding job you can imagine and it takes a special breed of cat to work for almost no money and bet on yourself to succeed.
Early on, I noticed that people would get enticed by the money that could be made being a recruiter. Generally, the personalities of people who thought about a career in recruiting broke in one of two directions. Those who loved the hunt and those that didn’t. The “didn’t” crowd didn’t usually last very long in a heavily leveraged environment. It's kind of like the band Coldplay - You either love them or hate them. Not much middle ground.
When I started my career, there were no job boards, no internet sourcing, no email, no text, no social media. Hell, even voicemail was newer and less pervasive. You literally cold called all day. Sometimes 100-150 dials per day. Most days 148 of those calls resulted in a wrong number, someone hanging up on you, or a “no answer”. When you did reach someone, a common first question was, “How did you get this number?” If you didn’t have a good answer, well good luck keeping the conversation moving along.
For the two “real conversations” you had that day, you had to maximize your opportunity. This meant trying to connect and establish rapport quickly so you could place them in the job you were focused on that day or perhaps a different job sometime in the future.
I was paid an $11,000 dollar recoverable draw. The commission plan was generous, or so I thought at the time. I could see a path to make close to 80K which in those days was huge money. I lived by the adage that “Timid Salesmen have skinny children.” So I busted my ass to learn about the industry I was in and made sure that when I talked to someone I made it count. I read books like “The Book of Five Rings”, “The Art of War”, and “How to Swim with the Sharks” all in an effort to hone my skills as a warrior. Why? Because early in my career I thought that recruiting was a battle. One to be won or lost. In the beginning, It never occurred to me that being real, authentic, and genuine was a better approach and would yield faster results.
In all honesty, most people in the business did not think about the quality of the connection, just how many calls you could crank out and how fast you could do it. Unfortunately, that focus on speed and quantity is still a driver of most recruiting teams and metrics today. More on that another time.
Now, I am not serving up this little trip down memory as my version of how hard I had it growing up. Instead I am hoping to share a defining time in my career when I learned the value of real, authentic relationships with my candidates and clients and how those realizations changed the way I viewed the Art of Recruiting.
I had always thought of myself as a very smart guy. As such, I could use my brains to reduce the amount of work I would need to put in compared to other people in the business. In truth, I was just pretty lazy. I wanted the maximum amount of compensation for the least amount of work. So I got good at maximizing my connections and minimizing the amount of outbound calls I had to make to get there by focusing on building relationships
Since I had chosen to focus on the quality of my relationships to produce results any inability to make a connection would impact my ability to eat and have a roof over my head. It was like Maslow's Hierarchy of Sales Needs. Without really being aware of it, over the first few months of my career I embedded the idea of trusted relationships being the key to my ability to succeed.
It is a belief that I still hold very dear today and one that I am convinced helps you cut through the noise that so many candidates are inundated with each and every day.
Today, so many people focus on catchy content including the non-sequiturs that fall out of their head in an effort to be unique. Meme’s, GIFS, shares with their own two cents piled on for good measure, videos them espousing new ideas and strategies to compete for talent. There are gurus galore ready to help these Talent Acquisition people figure out how to build a content machine aimed at creating an engaged following.
Don’t get me wrong, having a plan for content is something I believe fully in. I put out a fair amount of content to drive awareness of who I am. But I look at this like a dog that chases a car - The chase is fun, but what do you do when you actually catch one?
To my way of thinking, Recruiting is a very simple yet complex effort that bears its fruit not in the number of connections we make, but in the quality of those connections. Having people respond to your post on Social Media is only part of the equation. Unique content tee's up opportunities, but the most important skill you can develop is your ability to connect, be real, and trustworthy.
It is an analogue skill you must have to succeed in our digital world.