Last week was kinda a blur for me. Which usually isn’t a good thing.

But last week it was because we hosted a talent acquisition un-conference (more on that in a sec) at our Brazen headquarters in D.C called #HRTX. And the event was so engaging, no, so inspiring, that the day went by in a flash.

But fortunately for me (and you) I took copious notes while sitting in on some sessions in between filming interviews with attendees, shooting video of the event and making sure everyone was properly caffeinated and feed. So here are my four takeaways from this awesome un-conference.*

*NOTE: This event was not your typical conference where there are scheduled speakers; rather, the sessions were discussions and conversations led by facilitators who are experts on the given topic. The format really pushed attendees to participate as opposed to passively listening. I think this sort of structure and engagement left everyone with something more substantial to bring back to their own companies.

Key takeaway No. 1: Stop blending in

I know you’re not a marketer or brander or advertiser or even a sales professional, but I think the old adage that everyone is in sales (and to some degree, marketing) applies to recruiting as well. And what are you selling? Your company, of course.

But if you’re doing the same thing that your competition is doing then how are you going to make an impression on candidates? How are you going to stand up and stand out?

Jo Weech, the facilitator of the University Hiring group at our #HRTX event, addressed this problem and encouraged recruiters looking for students to stop attending general job fairs. Instead, she recommended that talent acquisition professionals consider targeting the individual colleges or departments of the type of job they are hiring for.

Need software developers? Target the computer science department. Engineers? I think you get it.

A participant in Jo’s group also suggested that companies host their own career fairs, either online or in person. Again, if you host your own events, you own all the attention of the candidate. And attention gives you a chance to pitch your company and brand thereby helping you stand out.

Key takeaway No. 2: We are a society of “right now”

In another one of the sessions led by Ben Gotkin, we discussed employee referral programs.

One thing all attendees agreed upon is that regardless of the magnitude (big or small) or type (payout or bonus) of the incentive you offer to employees for referrals, it has to be offered right now to truly affect behavior. If you delay the gratification, it loses its impact.

It’s no secret that we are a society of right now (see Amazon’s 1-click ordering as evidence). This is  how we’ve been conditioned. So unless you plan on reversing decades of conditioning brought on by technology, you need to play by their rules.

Instant gratification is the name of the game.

And while we are on the topic of employee referrals, another attendee addressed the elephant in the room: You don’t want referrals from your “C,” “D,” and “F” employees.

Bold? Maybe. Honest? Definitely. But the point here is that birds of a feather flock together. So why would you want referrals from average employees if there is a more than likely chance that they’ll refer someone average?

You don’t.

Key Takeaway No. 3: We need leadership’s buy-in

All the sessions I sat in had energy. And lots of it. But there was something especially palpable about the energy in the air in the session about diversity hiring and inclusion. It was so palpable that the words on this page can hardly do it justice. But I’ll do my best.

When I walked into the session, the group was in the process of articulating the crux of the problem. And what they found is that we can’t fix diversity hiring and inclusion unless we actually find a voice within the organization with participation from all levels.

However, this is easier said than done.

Based on the feedback from attendees it seems that getting buy in from leadership is a real challenge which can also impact sustainability. But Torin Ellis, the bold, steadfast and inspirational facilitator of the group encouraged attendees to find that voice by working with leadership by making a business case for diversity and inclusion.

This is what leadership is willing to listen to.

Key Takeaway No. 4: It’s all about the candidate

The last takeaway I gleaned from the un-conference is one that I think permeates all of the aforementioned takeaways.

In this competitive labor market, the candidate is in the driver’s seat, so as recruiters and talent acquisition professionals we need to remember that whatever we do, it must be done with the candidate at the forefront or else we risk losing that candidate to our competition.

So, put yourself in your candidate’s shoes and do whatever it takes to engage and connect with candidates sooner in the recruiting process.

To learn more about Brazen and how their chat software is helping recruiters engage and connect with candidates sooner in the candidate journey, please visit our website.

Joe Matar

Joe Matar is the VP of Marketing at Brazen and the host of the popular video series, Talent Acquisition Talks, and co-host of the popular podcast, Talent on the Rise, where he interviews some of the top minds in the TA and HR industry. With over ten years of marketing experience including an MBA in Marketing from the University of Iowa, Joe Matar made the switch to the HR technology space a few years ago and very quickly noticed the parallels between recruiting and marketing. At times, he feels like he is back from the future. Follow Joe on LinkedIn or Twitter where he posts a weekly video interview with TA leaders.