“The best time to make changes is when you have a pretty good thing going on, and you just want to make it better. The most difficult time is when you’ve lost your edge and hit rock bottom, and you are panicking. Then, you start to make panic moves.” – Geno Auriemma
Unlike the UConn Huskies, who Auriemma coached to yet another NCAA Women’s Basketball championship in 2015 (his tenth), recruiting doesn’t have a good thing going, nor is it getting any better, either.
Oh, sure – we’ve got all of these cool tools and killer tech all of the sudden, which purport to help recruiters reach uncharted waters and go where no recruiter has ever gone before. The thing is, our industry is a lot like the Titanic, the cutting edge moving talent professionals irrevocably closer to the inevitable iceberg.
Recruiting Has Hit Rock Bottom.
For an industry desperately in need of change, it seems that any change we do make only exacerbates an already bad situation. Recruiters are sinking their own ship, and meaningful advances seem effectively blockaded by general animosity and disdain for those of us who find ourselves at work in the business of finding work.
We’re lambasted by job seekers, internally ridiculed by hiring managers, and seen as a convenient scapegoat for the many frustrations and aggravations inherent to finding or filling a job – a broken process that’s falling apart largely because recruiters are failing to fix what’s broken.
Instead, we seem too busy taking each other to task for a litany of Crimes Against Best Practices or sweating the small stuff (from employer branding to Boolean String basics) to the exclusion of realizing just how bleak the bigger picture for recruiting has really become.
Recruiters have, in a way, become even worse than our professional predecessors; our profession has hit the lowest nadir, it seems, of its relatively short but increasingly sordid history as a specialized business function. Recruiters, by and large, have never exactly been the most driven or diligent of professionals, particularly since most of us fell into this line of work not by careful design but by existential accident.
But in the halcyon days before the internet, believe it or not, recruiters still had to do some sort of work – they were measured by outgoing calls, or interviews scheduled, or some other metric that wasn’t “big data” but was still a big deal in terms of defining and determining individual recruiter performance.
Sure, these metrics were imperfect, but in the days before automation, every hire required at least some manual work that required recruiters to actually, well, work. Now, instead, we rely on technology as a crutch, and rather than make us more effective and efficient, these systems and software are somehow making us more lazy and less accountable than ever before.
The Problem With Removing People From the Recruiting Process.
Technology doesn’t enable recruiters, largely, to do a better job doing their jobs. Instead, it enables recruiters to do stuff like send out form letters, blast “talent networks” with spammy e-mails and update every social network with annoying, automated “job alerts” without doing anything at all.
Technology helps us cast a wider net for candidates than ever before, but paradoxically, does nothing to solve for the fact that recruiters no longer feel the need to actually pick up the phone and make calls, or take the time to engage or build relationships with candidates beyond some superficial connection on social media.
Recruiters have, largely, removed ourselves from what’s become a point-and-click process, and somehow automated away any human element of recruiting so that what used to be called ‘personnel’ has become the most dehumanized of all business functions.
This is a shame – but no matter how much we try to do to call out, expose or chastise these RINOs (recruiters in name only), it doesn’t seem to make much difference. Recruiters, largely, know that they’re part of the problem, but would rather respond by shrugging their shoulders than helping actually be a part of the solution. Since every attempt at inducing change has, until now, only somehow exacerbated a recruiting profession already at rock bottom, maybe it’s time we tried to do something different. Something new. Something better.
Part of the Solution.
There are no shortage of suspect certification options out there today, nor are there a shortage of recruiters willing to pay for the chance to proudly append some worthless acronym (think: CIR, CSP, etc.) after their names. But for all the professional certification options available, and the millions of recruiters touting these credentials, the question remains: does any of this make the recruiting profession any more professional?
Does licensing truly impact performance and incentivize improvement, or is it, like that annual trek to the DMV, just another necessary evil to endure and yearly fee to pay? This is a comparison many people like to turn to when justifying certification, but it’s an erroneous analogy.
Sure, one could argue, requiring a knowledge and skills test that’s periodically administered to keep your driver’s license current prevents any idiot out there from being on the road, but like recruiting, that doesn’t stop every idiot from going out and getting a license.
They’ll still drink and drive or text and drive or do a bunch of other stupid stuff, and while these might cause them to lose their licenses, their propensity for these behaviors in no way pre-empted their ability to obtain that license in the first place. And unlike driver’s licenses, recruiters don’t even need certifications to recruit – most hit the road for the first time without ever having been behind a wheel, and generally have no one teaching them the right way to steer, signal or stop. Certifications rarely do this, either.
Recruiting Deserves Better.
Recruiting has never had a barrier to entry, but for some reason, the baseline for recruiters has fallen to an all time low, and the cut rate quality of our professional product has plunged to an unprecedented low point in an industry that hasn’t exactly ever set the bar all that high. It’s hard to underperform the expectations most people have for recruiters, but somehow, we’re succeeding in that dubious achievement, even if we’re failing in pretty much every other conceivable area.
Folks, we not can do better, but we desperately have to ensure that something changes, soon – or else risk the fact that without barriers for entry, there might not be a profession left to enter after long, anyway. Anyone can set up a shingle or a social profile and call themselves a recruiter. And today, simply saying you’re a recruiter makes it so. Which is a big part of the problem.
Those who actually tough it out and last more than a few months in an agency beat the odds; most burn out in the first 6 months, but those who somehow manage to make a few placements suddenly start to think that they not only are a recruiter, but are an “expert,” and go about positioning themselves as a “Guru” or “Thought Leader” who will impact the world of recruiting, even if it’s a world they themselves hardly know or understand.
On the corporate side, those who can’t do anything else often become a “recruiting coordinator,” and somehow this glorified coordinator position becomes a way stop on a short path to run talent acquisition for some company so desperate for a recruiter with experience they’re willing to overlook the fact they don’t actually have any recruiting experience before slapping them with some fancy Manager or Director of Talent Acquisition Title. If you can’t make it from scheduling interviews to setting strategy in like 18 months, you’re doing something wrong, these days.
Building A National Recruiting Association.
Certifications are, at the core, a piece of paper that really is nothing more than kindling fueling the fire of frauds and fakes whose deceptive behavior, despicable business and dubious morality threatening to burn our entire industry to the ground.
What we need instead of another worthless paper doing nothing more than condoning the problem is to come up with a solution that actually serves to objectively educate recruiters and independently inform the direction of our industry in a way that advances our best interests, not just the bottom line of proprietary certification providers.
We need like minded recruiters who can come together and drive real change, to share best practices and benchmarks and hopefully, helping restore some sense of honor to our profession and finally stop suffering the shame in silence.
We’ve put up and shut up, and now we need to do something to combat the public perception that recruiters are basically no different than people who club baby seals, burn down acres of rainforest or test drugs on cute puppies or kittens. We’re not evil, but we’re not doing a whole hell of a lot to provide any evidence to the contrary.
A professional recruiting association made up of practitioners, trainers and leaders would serve to codify best practices, reinforce professional ethics and enforce repercussions for violating them, and, most importantly, develop and deliver practical, relevant training through delivering coursework built around a curriculum of best practices that are actually practiced throughout the recruiting profession.
Such an association would offer value to anyone involved in the talent acquisition process (sourcers, vendors, recruiters, HR generalists, etc.) and provide skills development, professional training and learning opportunities to all recruiting professionals at all career levels.
Recruiting believes in inclusion, and we believe that no association should represent any interests besides what’s best for our industry, or advancing any agenda beyond advancing our profession. Third party or in house, sourcer or workforce strategist, if you’re a recruiter, we’re all in this together.
A big component of any professional association is often to develop and maintain certification programs, but for a recruiting association, this function is functionally not on the roadmap, nor is licensing – these are two sides of the same specious and suspect coin, and neither would help with the stated goal of making recruiting better.
For example, what is the point of having a “licenced professional recruiter” if that doesn’t preclude them from behaving like amateurish assholes, nor does having some acronym after recruiters’ names on their LinkedIn profiles if they’re still blasting out mass InMail sends without checking to see if their recipients are even remotely relevant or on-target?
This is no different than when a licenced driver chooses to drink and drive – with calamitous results. We’d prefer not to condone or provide justification to bad recruiting behaviors, and a license or certification could end up indemnifying the very same recruiting worst practices it’s effectively trying to end.
A Recruiting Call To Action.
If you’re still dubious about the need for identifying best practices in our profession or creating a way to consequently educate and reinforce these best practices to recruiting practitioners, consider the ramifications of continuing with recruiting business as usual.
If we keep with the status quo, even the best recruiters and recruiting organizations could find themselves the victims of collateral damage caused by too many bad candidate experiences, too many angry hiring managers, too many poorly targeted send outs – and the more these behaviors become just another part of the job for recruiters, the less likely it will be that recruiters will have a job for very much longer at all.
Consider the fact that you’re put in the same professional bucket as those people who send inane email after mistargeted InMail after galactically stupid business development or networking calls, that any “recruiter” out there is, in fact, a reflection (and indictment) of all of us, even those of us who care enough about our jobs to realize that we’re not working with passive candidates or active applicants or any of that – we’re dealing with people. Without those people, we wouldn’t have jobs – and might not, if we continue to do our jobs the way we’re doing them.
Now, don’t get us wrong – no one would be required to join this organization. It’s not a union, nor is it going to be some sort of vertically integrated cash grab like SHRM or CIPD. Rather, we’d like this ‘association’ to really be more like a collective of like-minded individuals who can look out for each other, and for the profession that, for better or for worse, we’re all invested in together.
There are a lot of crappy recruiters out there, but the few, the proud, the passionate and the professional recruiters in our ranks can rise up and show that recruiting, done the right way, can actually help advance your career and act as your advocate when looking for a new role. We need to show recruiters are actually not adversaries preempting people from getting jobs, but instead, allies and advocates who sincerely want to help improve their quality of life by improving the quality of their careers. It’s as simple as that.
There will, of course, be skeptics and cynics out there. Many recruiters, the agencies that employ them and the vendors who service them are making millions off the status quo, and have no real need to improve anything other than their bottom line. There are those who need the chaos to compensate for their incompetence, lack of process or recruiting ineptitude, and will continue to choose complete madness as their preferred recruiting methodology.
We don’t. We believe that recruiters – not to mention the clients and candidates they serve – deserve better. It’s time for a change, and we’re writing this manifesto to ask that you join us in maybe, for once, helping move this profession forward. We’re not asking for much. Just for your help in helping all of us become better by training the new kids on the block the right way from the start or, more likely, teaching the old dogs some new tricks. Lord knows we could use it.
How You Can Help.
We’re asking for your support not just on blogs like this, not by answering some dumb call to action on a landing page or joining some group on Facebook or LinkedIn, but instead, to help form the core of a larger community of recruiters working together, with no ulterior motives other than recruiting a little bit better for everyone, and restoring professionalism and pride to an industry so sorely lacking both, it seems.
We know that for as many bad recruiters as there are out there, there are more of you out there who want and deserve better for our profession and sincerely believe in helping make the future of recruiting far brighter than the bleak, sad state of talent today. It doesn’t have to be this way – and with your help, it won’t be for long.
This isn’t some pipe dream or utopian fantasy. In fact, we’ve already started making some progress. We recently convened a Founder’s Meeting made up of some of the most committed and concerned recruiters in the business, many of whom had long been clamoring for a solution similar to what we’re proposing.
We’ve begun to collaborate and define things like principles, processes and passion, that will inform the rest of the work that we do. And that outstanding work looks a little daunting, considering the size, scope and scale of such a massive undertaking. But we understand that changing an industry is no easy task, which is why over the next few weeks we’ll be holding more meetings, including expanded sessions, with representatives of the entire recruiting community.
Sourcers, recruiters, vendors, HR generalists, employment branding specialists and anyone who works in recruitment, no matter whether in-house or agency, domestic or global, at an SMB or multinational, can help be a part of driving real change in recruiting and play a part at moving our profession forward. If you’re interested, please let us know by dropping a note in the comment section below. We’re not focusing on the US market alone, so we strongly urge those in other global regions to become part of this movement to “recruiting excellence.”
If you just want to let us know you’re interested, cool – we’ll be in touch. But it’d help a lot if you could also let us know a little bit about the specific areas and behaviors recruiters need to focus on for improving our profession, or where you think we need to focus first for building a better future for recruiting.
This is about you. It’s about them. It’s about us. And like it or not, we’re all in this together.
This post was co-authored by Steve Levy and Derek Zeller.
About the Authors:
Steve Levy is well respected as one of the best sourcers in the business, combining old school and new cool technologies to identify and engage exceptional talent – and actually knows those mythical “purple squirrels.”
Levy, a member of the RecruitingBlogs Editorial Advisory Committee who has been referred to as “the recruiting industry’s answer to Tom Peters” has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts on Twitter;
The 10 to Follow in Social Media Recruiting; Top 25 Twitter Accounts for Job Seekers to Follow; Top 100 Twitter Accounts Job Seekers MUST Follow: 2012; Top 50 Twitter Accounts Job Seekers MUST Follow: 2011; 101 Career Experts all Job Hunters Should Follow on Twitter; and Top 100 HR & Recruiting Pros to Follow on Twitter.
Follow Steve On Twitter @LevyRecruits or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliance. Currently, he is a Senior Sourcing Recruiter at Microsoft via Search Wizards.
He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines and technologies. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, military and college recruiting strategies.
You can read his thoughts on RecruitingDaily.com or Recruitingblogs.com or his own site Derdiver.com. Derek currently lives in the DC area.
Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Steve Levy is a globally recognized sourcing and recruiting innovator, writer and speaker, and tireless supporter of ERE, SourceCon and other global talent acquisition communities. He is the Manager of Technical Recruiting at Zip.Co, a globally growing “Buy Now, Pay Later” technology company. Steve used to have hair, but has replaced this with tattoos and a dry sense of humor.
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