“Welcome to my battle/For business recreation/I sweat and laugh and scream here
For the working population.”
A Really Long Editor’s Note: When we were all discovering social media a lifetime (but not that long) ago, most of us in recruiting and staffing found ourselves suddenly submerged into a strange world with strange conventions (what the heck do all these ‘pound’ signs mean, anyway?), stranger platforms (remember BranchOut? Thought not.) and, perhaps most prominent and peculiar of all, a strange cast of characters – or “Influencers,” if you like – driving the online recruiting conversation.
The learning curve can be intimidating – not least because of the fact that sometimes, this industry can come across as insular (or even incestuous) if you’re on the outside online, looking in. But if you took the most important advice of all when starting social media and truly listened before you leaped, chances are that it didn’t take you very long at all to come across The Recruiting Animal.
No matter if you’re just getting involved in the island of misfit recruiters that is social media, or have been at this, as many of us have, for more years now than we’d care to admit, the Recruiting Animal has remained a constant in a flurry of changes – which, frankly, is oddly reassuring. That clown avatar has become as much a mainstay of most of our social experiences as memes, hashtags or automated job feeds.
And in a place where everyone seems to be competing for share of voice, The Recruiting Animal has a megaphone that somehow remains just a little bit louder (and more resonant) than anyone else’s. Even when, quite literally, you can’t hear him scream – unless, of course, you tune into his weekly radio show, which was a mainstay of social programming long before podcasts and webinars had become commoditized to the point of annoying ubiquity, really.
But it’s still just as good, just as biting and just as controversial as it’s been in the over 7 years I’ve been listening in (the first time I listened, he actually interviewed the Job Board Doctor, the author of this here post, and his first question to him was about his hyphenated name, and whether or not he was, in fact, a divorced woman. It’s more or less gone downhill from there, in the best of ways). Hate him or love him, you can’t ignore him, which is just like the Recruiting Animal likes it.
And since I know he hates long posts, I thought I’d earn his animosity by adding a bunch of paragraphs in front of the only part he cares about – what he said during his recent Q&A with Jeff Dickey-Chasins, better known as the Job Board Doctor, on assignment for Recruiting Daily. I’ll turn it over to the good Doctor now that I’ve added enough fluff to make sure that Animal trolls his feature, as he is wont to do, and which is why I love him. – MC.
Tears of a Clown: Who Is The Recruiting Animal?
He’s either legendary or infamous, depending on your perspective, but I strongly prefer the former myself. In the sometimes colorless world of “recruiting thought leadership,” Animal is one personality with a clear perspective – and clearly defined “brand.”
And yes, he prefers to be called Animal – Michael just doesn’t seem to do justice to the voice behind that creepy clown avatar; the resident Pennywise of the recruiting Twitter stream at least chose an appropriate alter ego to capture his bold, brash and unapologetic style.
If you want to see what an early adopter looks like, look no further; while many in the recruiting world are still debating the merits of being on social in the first place, this staffing professional actually launched his blog back in 2004 and moved into internet radio in 2007, an astonishing tenure that’s helped cement his reputation – and legacy – as one of the voices out there actually worth listening to in the world of recruiting and staffing.
Not bad for a mild mannered Canadian who abstains from drinking, will only appear in public wearing one of those big furry Russian hats and tends to shun any spotlight he himself can’t control. The Recruiting Animal, no matter how long you’ve listened to him or how many times you’ve engaged with him on social, remains a mystery to most of us, a carefully constructed persona deflecting any attempts to look beyond the clown mask and at the real person driving some of the most interesting conversations in our industry.
Although Bill Vick interviewed him back in April 2009 (see the video above for that classic conversation, complete with Animal’s signature look, which hasn’t changed), I thought that enough time had passed to make it time for an update – plus, I personally wanted to find out more about the man, the myth, and the legend (in his own mind, anyway) that is, well, this guy.
Without further ado [or unnecessary editorial asides] here is my recent conversation with the Toronto based Recruiting Animal:
Walk Like An Animal, Talk Like An Animal: The Q&A.
Jeff Dickey-Chasins: If you had to sum up a good approach to recruiting in a single sentence, what would it be?
Recruiting Animal: Good recruiters are bold.
JDC: How did you get started in recruiting?
RA: I was working at a company that went bankrupt, so I applied for a job I saw in the newspaper. I can’t remember if I knew that I doing so through a recruiting firm. I wasn’t good for the job I applied for, but they asked me if I wanted to try working there so I said okay. Apparently, that’s not unusual.
JDC: Tell us one unusual, interesting, or oddball job you had before you became a recruiter.
RA: I drove taxi when got out of university. A few odd things happened but it was mainly just boring. On my first or second night out, early in the evening I came upon two women in their twenties standing by the curb in front of a pub. They were embraced in a passionate kiss and the taller one hailed me over and got in the front seat beside me.
When we got to her apartment building she asked me if I wanted to come up. She seemed rough and wild and kind of drunk. I remember I could smell the booze on her breath so I said “No” and she said to me, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” And she was right. That’s why I didn’t go.
JDC: How did you get the idea for the radio show?
RA: My friend and I used to talk every morning before work on the phone. We would review the news and what we’d read on the blogs, and I used to think that it would be a good morning radio show.
And when Howard Stern was on in Toronto we used to listen to him and laugh about that. Later, we got into blogging and when I saw BlogTalkRadio appear, it looked like an opportunity to do something I’d already thought of so I signed up.
JDC: Where did the “Recruiting Animal” name come from?
RA: When I set up my blog I had to come up with a domain name. I had just read an article on brainstorming and I can’t remember what it said, but I do remember just going through the letters of the alphabet trying to think of words to use.
And that’s what I came up with.
JDC: If you had to live in any country besides Canada, what would it be – and why?
RA: The United States. Because it’s like Canada.
JDC: How did you decide on your Twitter avatar? And why?
RA: I knew Knucklehead from TV when I was a kid and I’d seen pictures of him online, and I used to think he was funny. That’s it.
JDC: What was the first show like?
RA: I wrote myself a little monologue which I thought was pretty funny. But when I do the introduction, I’m sitting in a silent room talking to myself. I’d never done it before and while I was speaking I started thinking “What am I doing? This seems so odd.” and I froze.
It happens again from time to time but now I know that there are people out there listening and it’s not that dumb and it will be okay if I continue.
JDC: How did you meet Jerry Albright and how did he become your sidekick?
RA: I woke up in bed one morning with a horse’s head beside me and a note that read, “Jerry is your side-kick now.”
The Recruiting Animal Show is a participatory democracy and sidekick is not a formal job. It’s simply claimed by the person who, operationally, takes that role. Maureen Sharib used to be my sidekick. She just showed up every week and talked and she’s smart and a lot of fun so she fit in well. Then, she took the 1:00 time slot and had a sourcing show that followed mine.
Later, Jerry started coming on. He has a fantastic voice so he took the over the shout which was great because it was killing me. I don’t think Maureen was doing a show anymore so he eventually took that spot for the aftershow. I’d always wanted people to rate the show while it was going on but they wouldn’t do it. They’re quite uninhibited, however, once I sign off.
JDC: What’s your favorite food?
RA: That question always reminds me of the back of a Beatles album. “Likes steak, chips, and Dinah Washington.” I like potato chips, popcorn, watermelon and ice cream.
JDC: What’s the hardest thing about doing the show?
RA: I’ve always thought that behavioral interviews have a weakness. You’re supposed to ask someone to remember a time when she did this or that then settle back and listen to what she says. But will she be able to remember what you need to know on the spur of the moment? Most of my guests can’t remember examples of anything they do.
The solution is for me to have a few answers of my own ready and turn it into a multiple choice question. And I can do that if I know their field. But if I don’t, I can’t so neither of us has anything to say and the show dies. I often wonder how Charlie Rose does so many good interviews. Or maybe I just think he does because I haven’t seen him very often.
People sometimes say that the show is entertaining but they don’t learn anything and, well, I didn’t know we were that entertaining. And, as far as learning goes, I’ve started creating clips that I post at RecruitingBS.com. Maybe people can learn something there.
Another thing is pace. Some people aren’t lively speakers and I try to pep them up, but it’s hard to change on the spot especially when you’re thinking. That’s why I say there’s no thinking on the show.
Do your thinking before you come on.
Here’s something I learned on the show, by the way. When I spoke to [Greenhouse CEO] Daniel Chait about behavioural interviews he said of course it’s going to be hard to remember stuff if you’ve only done it the odd time.
But if you do it a lot you’ll be able to give ten examples right off the bat. And you’re after people who do whatever it is you’re looking for a lot. Here he is in a clip from the show.
JDC: What’s good about the show?
RA: A lot of business shows and webinars are boring. I wanted to create a show that was outspoken and fun. And I think we have fun. At least, sometimes. And I don’t like it when you have to listen to a speech and you don’t like what the speaker says but you don’t have any opportunity to say so. I want everyone to have a chance to speak and if you call into the Recruiting Animal Show with something to say, you usually get a chance to talk.
People often complain that I cut speakers off when they’re saying something good and maybe it’s true,
but I think I cut them off when they get boring.
JDC: Do you have anything to say about the state of social media in general?
RA: Alexandra Levit came on the show to promote one of her books, which is called Blind Spots. Part of it was about playing it safe on social media so you don’t get penalized in your career for saying things managers don’t like. So, I went through popular news items and asked her if it would be safe to write about this or this or that and she had to give an opinion on each example.
You can listen to it here. I didn’t agree at all with Alex. I thought that she was way too conservative and I still think so but the other day Jim Durbin sent me an article about a trial going on in my own hometown that put the fear of God into me. This guy is on trial for harassing three women on Twitter.
The police admit that he didn’t threaten them or harass them sexually. He just pursued them from one conversation to another and criticized them and that made them feel unsafe. And, now, he might go to jail.
I like to argue, and that scared me. I know it’s hard to believe but some people don’t like me.
At least that’s what I’m told. And I don’t want anyone calling the cops on me because I argued with them on Twitter. Also, just this past week I got involved in some conversations about social issues.
My sense was that if you disagree with the people you are talking to some of them are going to be eager to demonize you in print. I don’t mind if someone says I’m dumb or rude but I don’t want someone to search my name on Yahoo and see “Recruiting Animal is a warmonger” or “Recruiting Animal doesn’t like cats”. That’s not me and now I feel I might have to watch my step to protect myself from slander.
JDC: Why did you write The Psychology of Job Hunting?
RA: I was thinking about the keys to a business that requires communication with strangers and I felt that I could reduce it to a few easy-to-learn ideas.
You have to know 3 things:
- It’s okay to bug people.
- There’s no big danger if you screw up.
- You don’t have to submit to punishment if you goof up.
The last one means you don’t have to feel guilty because if you feel a need to surrender to people who don’t like you, you’re going to be too scared to move forward.
It’s the same on my show. People complain that it’s too critical. But it’s good to let your ideas get criticized. That’s how you learn the truth. You can’t handle it, though, if you’re afraid of making a mistake. A lot of success books talk around this subject but they don’t explain this too clearly so I tried to do that but it didn’t go over too well so I’m going to try again.
About the Author: Jeff Dickey-Chasins, better known as The Job Board Doctor, is a veteran of the job board, publishing, and e-learning industries. Jeff was the original marketing director for Dice.com, growing it from $7 million to $65+ million in three years.
He has worked with 450+ job boards and HR-related sites over the past 20 years, in almost every sector, including finance, technology, education, health care, sales and marketing, energy, and specific geographic regions.
He has published research, e-books, and blog posts on almost every aspect of the industry. He also speaks at industry conferences on key topics in the online recruiting industry.
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