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Five tips for recruiters on contacting potential job candidates in a tough job market June 15, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Staffing & Recruiting, Uncategorized.
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I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to job interviews — for the two ecommerce software companies I started back in the 1990’s, I hired hundreds of people, so I talked to alot of staffing firms and recruiters. In my current life as an IT Project Manager / Business Analyst / Program Manager, I have not only taken on a few contract roles in the Boston area myself, but I have also been tasked at various times with hiring other contractors to work on large software development projects. In all these roles, I have been in contact with staffing firms, agencies, and corporate recruiters that are not very good at their job. Many of the recruiters out there are great, but the majority are not great. After reading yet another drivel and platitude filled article about recruiters and “how to get a job” from the Boston Globe today, I thought it was high time for an article with some real-world tips and practical advice for recruiters on how to contact candidates out there in the midst of a tough job market. I found after writing these five tips for recruiters, however, that they are applicable in any economy. These five tips are fundamental imperatives for all recruiters to read, know and internalize so that they do not destroy their professional reputations and ruin the reputations of their staffing firms and employment agencies.

1. Do your homework on candidates before picking up the telephone – If you don’t have any jobs for a candidate, don’t call them up on the telephone. If a candidate is not a good fit for your particular search, then they are not going to be interested in hearing from you: think about it. Just because someone is a candidate and is out there looking for work, doesn’t mean they are going to be thrilled to talk to a recruiter on the telephone. They will really be perturbed at you when they realize that after an initial contact, you didn’t look at their resume or their Linkedin profile or really perform any homework on them until you get them on the telephone – only to tell them they aren’t a good fit, not what you’re looking for or you don’t have any jobs for them. You should have never called them on the telephone in the first place. Lazy recruiters are all too common these days, and nobody wants to hear whining about time constraints, number of candidates, or the rest of it. Get on LinkedIn, read the profiles of your candidates, and carefully read their resume. In this way, you can be ready to ask purposeful leading questions such as “So I read about your experiences with the Executive Dashboard application at Metatech; I know you wrote on your resume that it was an Oracle project, but I’m wondering if that was a .net or a J2EE environment. Can you tell me a little more about it?”… this is a great way to get the information you need from a candidate and it prevents you from looking like a brainless recruitron. If you are a recruiter and you are not on Linkedin yourself, the message you are sending out is that you are not a veteran, serious, professional recruiter, and you are, in fact, recruiter that has something to hide and should not be trusted. When you do get a potential candidate on the telephone, announce yourself with politeness: “Hi, this is Wendy Sprague from Recruit-Tech, and I’d like to speak with Susan Holmes if she is there please” is a great way to reach Susan about a potential job opportunity. “Hi, is this Susan?” is an example of a bad way to begin such a sourcing call. Be polite on the telephone! Do your homework on the candidates!

2. Don’t be rude on the telephone with potential candidates – The internet is a two-way street. In other words, people can write about you and your company / staffing agency / firm online. And they will. I started a few ecommerce companies in college. I used to tell my employees: “If someone has a great ordering or retail experience with us, they will tell two of their best friends – if they have a bad experience they will tell ten or fifteen people right away”. Not doing your homework on candidates before getting them on the telephone, wasting their time on the telephone, rudeness, insulting people’s backgrounds or resumes because they aren’t the pink unicorn you are currently searching for, cutting people off, telling them they “aren’t the right fit” when you should have been able to tell that before calling them up, etc. is going to work out badly for you in the long run. A candidate is just one person. A company is exposed to the public and a corporate reputation for rudeness and incompetence is alot harder to overcome than a single, individual’s reputation. In essence, a staffing firm is a very visible public entity and word gets around. Don’t forget: contractors talk to each other and to the clients once they are in the client company. Many are eventually hired permanently and even ones who remain contractors are often tasked with hiring other contractors. Remember this the next time you are speaking on the telephone with a candidate, because they will surely remember you.

3. Your candidates’ professional references are not marketing contacts – A typical ploy in the tough current Boston IT contract market is to call in job candidates for an in-person interview on the pretext of some nonexistent job or some vaguely-defined future contract. Then, in this challenging market for staffing firms, the account managers are tasked with getting the candidates to “Drop the cheese” and the candidate is then grilled for marketing information for the staffing agency or firm. Manager’s names at former employers, managers at the current employer, etc. are all gathered. Then, a bogus in-person “reference check” is set up. The staffing firm then essentially “calls in” the favor of an in-person reference check using the candidate’s name – to try and drum up new business for the staffing firm at the candidate’s former or current employer. Your candidate’s professional references are not marketing material for your staffing firm. What is likely to happen is the manager will call up or email the candidate and tell them about this marketing meeting, and that staffing firm will never get any future business from the candidate’s former employer. Again, people talk in this new age of social media and online blog posts. So don’t do it. Your candidate’s professional references and work history is not an opportunity for your staffing firm to “get in the door”. If you use these disingenuous methods, it will be exposed in public and also behind closed doors at the offices of your potential clients – not to mention all the contractors and potential candidates that will turn up their noses in disgust at the infinite re-telling of the story. Staffing firms have alot of competition, and there are so many other firms to go with — don’t accept this high level of business risk.

4. Don’t wear out your candidates’ professional references – Get the candidates professional references and then ask the permission of the candidate to call them. Don’t call them before you have a definite REQ for the candidate and they are indeed a primary candidate for the job. The reason for this is simple: professional references are usually busy people and it is not their job to give detailed references for former employees. It is a difficult and tense thing for managers to do even for people and former employees who were superstars and well liked. Most managers will give a candidate one or two really good references, but by the time they are called for a third or fourth reference, they are either not giving them or not giving good ones anymore. So don’t wear out the professional references of your candidates! Again, this is another point of which I must emphasize that word gets around – quickly in this world of blogs, twitter, and such.

5. Have integrity and follow-through – If you only have one job REQ (or no REQ) for a candidate, if you tell them your firm has lots of potential jobs for their title and role, which you don’t follow up on with the candidate, they will tell everyone they know that you and your staffing agency / firm lied to them. Eventually, they will get hired, but they won’t ever forget that you lied to them – why place an enemy in so many potential client firms? In matters of personal livelihood, people in general have long memories. So don’t think they forgot about all the jobs for them you told them about. To come and meet with you in your office, most candidates will have to use up a sick day or miss a day of work. So you better get down to business with your candidates quickly. To lie about these types of matters is not harmless to the job candidate, and it’s not harmless to the business of the staffing firm or agency, let alone your personal professional reputation. Again, don’t do it.

A good article I found online that makes some great points about hiring in a down economy is available here, and I recommend it highly.

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Comments»

1. ashley - June 16, 2009

In my opinion firms can turn to management recruiters to help them with talent acquisition as the recruiters always have a list of candidates who have the potential to be a leader in an organization. Often, it is a win-win situation for both employer and candidate.

2. ashley - June 16, 2009

From my experience, for people looking for a job, it is often beneficial to approach some of the job agencies around because they have the business contacts and you can get much more exposure through them than you would if you were to be looking in a newspaper or even online job search.

3. Camille Mendler - July 19, 2009

Excellent blog, Paul! Totally true about the shoddy behavior of many -but not all – headhunters. They are shooting themselves in the foot. Many jobhunters will only use their personal networks, and deliberately avoid such firms for the reasons you have succinctly outlined.

4. Embracing Opportunism | - December 13, 2011

[…] an opening for a better position with higher pay, they’ll present themselves as a potential candidate for the job. If there’s an audition looking for a specific type of actor, they’ll be there and […]


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