I’m passionate about helping good companies recruit good people, which is why I’ve dedicated so much of my time and effort to building solutions designed to make those matches happen as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
As proud as I am of my product, and as excited as I am about transforming talent acquisition through systems and software, I’m acutely aware that tools and technology alone aren’t enough.
I know this sounds strange coming from someone whose business model is predicated on SaaS sales, but I know enough to know that it’s PEOPLE, not products, that are the true differentiators in recruiting.
While the technology and channels we use are important for finding and engaging candidates, ultimately, it’s high touch, not high tech, that’s the real weapon of choice for winning the war for talent. Personalization beats automation any day of the week, period.
Two of Hearts.
It’s become a tired and hackneyed cliche to compare recruiting to dating, and sure, the similarities are pretty superficial. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: most people suck at dating for the same reason companies struggle at recruiting. Success all comes down to emotional intelligence. Data is great, but if you want to score, you’ve got to go for the heart, not the brain. And as anyone who’s ever hired (or dated) already knows, emotions almost always trump logic, which makes all of this more of an abstract art than a hard science.
We all know recruiting and dating are similar, and there are already a ton of asinine articles out there outlining this inane idiom; the problem is, almost none of these extraneous extended metaphors acknowledge the fact that in dating, like recruiting, playing by the rules isn’t always the best way of beating the odds.
“Getting lucky” has nothing to do with luck in either pursuit, since both are a game of skill, not a game of chance.
And chances are, if you know how to intelligently use emotional intelligence, you’ll end up winning that game every time. Because, like it or not, you don’t get play playing by the playbook everyone else is using.
As a disclaimer, they say to write what you know, so this extended metaphor only extends to guys trying to date women. The applicability of these approaches to recruiting, however, is more or less universal.
Here’s how to use emotional intelligence to make sure your hunt ends with a happy ending, every time.
Never Wing It Without A Wingman.
We all want to be Maverick in Top Gun, but let’s face it – without Goose, his highway to the danger zone would have been a far bumpier ride. If you want to take someone’s breath away, make sure you always have a wingman watching your back.
For example, if you’re going to a bar to try to meet someone, a wingman will distract a potential match’s friends long enough for the pilot to try to land his target.
Like most things in life, the power of a little teamwork goes a long way. The goal of any initial interaction in dating, or recruiting, is to establish credibility and trust, which is why having a reliable source vouching for you is so essential.
In both recruiting and dating, there’s an inherent level of distrust operating as an unseen but ubiquitous bias; getting past that means having someone else have your back, because they’re certainly going to come across as more credible than you are. Winging it rarely works, but having a wingman sure does.
If you’re not using a wingman in your recruiting efforts, your calls to action are likely landing on deaf ears. If you want to break through, building credibility means letting someone else do the talking – which is why flying solo is such a bad idea when trying to attract or engage top talent. Make sure you never take off without having your employees and hiring managers watching your wing – and talking you up so you don’t have to.
Sure, we talk a lot about the idea of “brand advocates” or “employee ambassadors,” but are they really working with you to make sure you’re able to hit your target, or are they just providing a diversion without actually helping increase your own odds? If you’re not letting your hiring managers communicate directly with candidates, or try to act as an intermediary for all communication instead of facilitating connections, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Just like a good wingman will always be on the lookout for you, your wingmen should be actively facilitating referrals and helping hook you up with the best talent they know. It’s always easier when you’re the friend of a friend than just another random person hitting you up out of nowhere. Your colleagues, clients and coworkers are the best wingmen you’ve got – and if they’re not already working their network to help you hook up, you’ve got way bigger relationship issues to deal with.
Going Dutch Won’t Get You Anywhere.
Again, as someone who lives in Amsterdam, I know this is a weird bit of advice, but even I know that “going Dutch” is a terrible idea. Of course, in the Netherlands, it’s fairly standard for guys to make their dates split the bill, which is how this euphemism got its name, and also, why so many Dutch guys go home alone at the end of the night.
Being equitable or fair doesn’t make you more attractive to women – it just makes you cheap, and, likely, still single.
Recruiters, like my countrymen, often turn away potential matches by making it really damn hard for candidates to actually like them.
Sure, they might be attractive at first, but it’s what happens when that check comes that counts. And if you don’t put your money where your mouth is, you’re going to have a whole lot of rejected offers (or unreturned calls, if your reputation precedes you – as it so often does).
We’re often our own worst enemies, and if you’re undermining your own efforts by turning off people by either leaving a bad initial impression or making it harder to hook up down the line by making the process way too difficult or time intensive to be worth the effort, then you’re paying peanuts and getting monkeys.
My point: if you’re investing in recruiting top talent, you should be investing in recruiting top recruiters, too. If you’re skimping on the costs required to have the right people, the right systems and the right employer branding or recruitment marketing in place, you’re not going to get any action – but you’re most certainly screwing yourself. And you could have stayed home for that.
Don’t Be A Douchebag.
Everyone hates immodesty, which is to say, there’s no worse turnoff than someone who’s their own biggest fan or believes their own hype (even if no one else does).
While having a kick ass, high end new car is going to make you more attractive to potential partners – and like it or not, a little materialism still goes a long way – if that car is the only damn thing you talk about, then no matter how nice a ride you have you’re going to drive home alone.
Like Fight Club, the first rule of being a badass is to not talk about being a badass. It’s why anyone who tries to call themselves “cool” is almost always a giant loser.
My point: all your shiny employer branding collateral, career site copy and recruitment advertising isn’t working if it’s all about you.
If you truly are as awesome as you say you are, then people will inevitably take notice. There’s no need to talk about how great you are if your people are happy – they’ll do most of the work for you.
If your own colleagues, coworkers and even candidates have great experiences, then all you have to do is show up, open the door and have potential new hires enjoy the ride. They should already be on board before they onboard. You know anyone with a nice car who talks about their nice car is compensating for something.
And almost always end up getting the short end of the stick.
Shut Up and Listen.
Keeping with that point, we all know that no one likes to be sold to, and while desperate candidates are likely to play the game, top talent has a choice – and nothing turns off the truly hard to get than the smell of desperation. Instead of talking about what the candidate can do for a company, the real thing you need to understand is what the company can do for a candidate.
Great people want to be challenged; I’ve been selling stuff since I was literally 8 years old, and challenging my customers is the only way I’ve ever successfully sold anything at all. It’s when you sell that sales start to suck.
So shut up about how great you are, already. You want to get to know them, and hope they feel the same way – but make sure you ask good questions, stay engaged and actually listen to what they want and need. People are drawn to people who care about more than a quick close; after all, that’s not a great foundation for any long term relationship.
The last thing you want is to wake up with buyer’s remorse. That’s how rumors get started – and bad reputations, too. You can’t know if you can fulfill anyone else’s needs if you’re only looking to satisfy your own.
So shut up, and get to know your candidates as well as you expect them to get to know your company before inviting them over. Best case scenario, they’re going to see all your warts anyways. Might as well get them all out there.
Swinging For the Fences.
While you should never rush anything, slowing down or stopping any process is a surefire way to suck the energy (and initial attraction) out of any great interaction.
The more time you take to call someone back after getting their number, or between dates, the more likely they are to have found someone else or forgotten you (or both), which is why once you find someone you’re interested in, you’ve got to keep in constant contact.
Don’t give them time for insecurities or doubts to creep in, or more time to evaluate their options or do too much digging for dirt – they’ll probably find it, and you’ll have to start all over again, which really takes way more time than, say, picking up the phone to say hello or somehow letting them know you’re still thinking of them, even if you’re not ready to take that next step just yet.
As they say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep things moving. You’ll get to home plate eventually.
Give Options, Not Choices.
I’ll let you in on a little trick – you can get what you want by making suggestions, but you’ve got to at least create the illusion of choice if you ever want to actually get yours.
Diplomacy is everything – and you don’t ask someone if they want to go out, you ask them where they’d prefer to go out. If you’re asking whether they’d like to meet you for dinner or drinks, you’re not giving them the chance to say “no,” and all you want is a yes – and you’ll get to that no matter which option they choose.
Candidates, like potential partners, can smell insecurity a mile away – and even if you don’t think you’re good enough for them, you can’t ever show that. If you’re going to have a chance, you have to act like you deserve one. Give a candidate options, but never suggest too many – choice is good, too many choices means you’re probably desperate or just looking for a warm body.
Which is cool, but no one really wants to be a backup plan. If you want to get together with the most attractive candidates, don’t give them a choice – lead by giving them options, instead.
Look, let’s face facts. If you’re hot, it’s way easier to have your pick of partners – which is why companies like Google and Facebook can focus on quality, not quantity, because, well, they have options. But then again, looks can be deceiving, and if you don’t have natural beauty, well, you’d better have a pretty killer personality.
This is the same reason company culture counts for so much, even if you don’t have the hottest employment brand on the outside. You can’t control how you look, but you can control how much that really matters – and secure, stable and nice are often enough to differentiate a company – and a recruiter – from far flashier competition.
Nice guys don’t finish last in recruiting – for career minded professionals, this is a search for someone you know your parents and friends will approve of. So there better be some substance to your style if you want a long term relationship – and if you have both, you’re pretty much able to pick and choose who you end up with instead of simply settling for who’s available.
Look for the Long Term.
I’ve never met anyone who prefers a one night stand, no matter how amazing it might have been, to a great relationship.
Ultimately, we’re all looking for something that’s going to last, ideally forever (even if, intellectually, we know that’s improbable). Similarly, the best candidates don’t want just another job – they want a career destination.
The chance at making things work and finding that right match is the real “opportunity” every candidate and potential partner really wants.
I think many recruiters and employers try way too hard to go after “top talent” – the same candidates everyone else on the planet wants – with no idea how to convince them not just to consider working for their company, or, more importantly, how to convince them they’re going to want to keep working from them when it’s time for them to move on.
And we almost always move on. It’s an inevitable part of our existence.
But if you’re worth sticking around for, even after the changes that come with time and proximity, well, you’re unlikely to find long term love when you’re looking for a one night stand.
But you’d better make sure you’re being open and honest up front, and make sure they know what they’re getting into, or else, they’re probably not going to stick around long enough to even have breakfast in the morning. And it’s what happens the next day, not that night, that really determines whether or not a relationship has any lasting potential. No one wants to wake up with a headache, some hazy memories and a whole lot of regret.
If you’re going to go for the transactional, one-off approach, well, might as well pay that agency fee so you don’t have to go through any effort whatsoever. But like “going Dutch,” you know you’re probably going to have to start over from square one, anyways. So might as well invest enough time, money and attention to doing it the right way.
Call Me Out.
I realize that some of this might have offended your sensibilities, or might not be actionable enough for you since I was speaking in the abstract, without mentioning any concrete strategies or specific technologies. The reason I wanted to take this approach is simple: this is me being me, and you can love or hate me for it, but ultimately, it all comes down to affinity.
But at least you know I’m a real person, and a real human – and I’m not trying to push product or marketing messaging. That’s not how I make money – so if you’d like to challenge any of these points, well, I’d love to hear from you. But if you agree with me, maybe we should meet up sometime. If you’re offended, well, go ahead and swipe left.
See? It’s really that easy.
By Rene Bolier
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