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Let’s Electrify Recruiting
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I am so bored with recruiting, or rather, not being recruited. I threw yet another application over the wall for a great job with a great company with little hope of being on the receiving end of a phone call. In this hyper social world, why does recruiting seem so terribly formal and impersonal?

The Applicant Tracking System machine gobbles up my handcrafted resume and converts it into an ugly mess of keywords, over which I have no control. And I will turn out flattened, utterly unimpressive, devoid of character. I’m bored just reading about myself, so how can I expect a recruiter to see the sparkly me. Please read on, I promise it gets better.

At a conference recently, while quietly schmoozing the room (I’m an introvert by nature), it confirmed for me that the traditional recruiting process is a truly artificial way to get to know people. The way I meet a new person is to have a little something in common to generate an interesting two minute conversation. We break apart, speak to others, and maybe come back and continue the conversation with many smiles, nods, and handling of tea cups bridging the space in between. It’s a dance to slowly build trust – moving from stranger to friend through unfolding stages of self-disclosure.

It should come as no surprise that personal networking is considered the most successful way to land a job. So how can we mimic real life in the recruiting process? And please don’t say “job fair.” If you are not convinced you should shake things up, let’s set up the argument. I would like you to become aware of systemic bias that may be hiding in your recruiting processes, limiting your company’s ability to build competitive advantage.

Company Side

  • We know that qualified candidates are not being interviewed, thanks to ubiquitous automation – you don’t know who you are missing. (Lengthy personal aside: I was electronically turned down for a knowledge manager position without so much as an email inquiry despite 17 years of living and breathing KM at the poster child company for KM.)
  • Cultural fit is impossible to assess on paper.
  • Some companies are not very experienced at the recruiting process and may not be describing the job accurately, nor understanding the skills and behaviours needed to succeed. Have you evaluated your top performers and captured their success factors?
  • Does an external recruiter really know your company’s culture? The ones I’ve talked to barely understand the job, let alone the company.
  • You need to diversify your team. You have to get past the “looks like me” bias. Homogeneity prevents successful innovation. Since you aren’t sure from where the new talent might hail, let’s invest in serendipity and cast a wider net.
  • People are your IP, your future, the reason the company exists. That’s why they call it human capital – attracting new talent has to be a priority to get right.

Candidate Side

  • The candidate wants to know that you are the best employer – you have to sell your culture, service/product, future career growth. The best candidates won’t work for just anyone.
  • Different personalities perform better or worse under intense interviewing. How can we help everyone shine?
  • Resumes come in all shapes and sizes – some candidates sell themselves well, others not so much. Have we proven that the paper persona directly correlates with success on the job? Lots of people don’t even write their own resumes anyway.
  • People seeking new challenges do not want another job where they’ve been there, done that. Yet, companies look for a track record of having done the exact same job with the same titles. Yaaawn. Do you want a bored employee who will leave for something better?

Let’s Throw a Recruiting Party

I would like to propose a different approach to recruiting next time you are in urgent need of new blood to grow the company.

My friend is a VP for an awesome international marketing consulting company, but can’t get more than 10 people to respond to her job postings. She needs to hire to stay on top of the growing Toronto office, but since the company is new to Canada, people have never heard of the company, don’t know it’s growing, nor that it has a kickass fun culture.  She needs a new approach to recruiting – the traditional methods are not working.

I know you realize you can’t carry on short-staffed, but you dread the time it’s going to take to find and integrate new people. You are risking your long-term growth outlook if you don’t get more hands on deck. Overloading existing staff will lead to disengagement, burnout, and departures of top talent. If yours is a fun and daring company, why don’t you throw a recruiting party? I have thought through the process to help get you started. I’m sure once I have you thinking about these steps, you will be able to customize my suggestions easily.

Strategize and Prepare

  • Advertise the party concept internally and assemble a small team to strategize on the party arrangements.
  • Engage your current employees in the hiring party – they have a vested interest in hiring competent and amiable co-workers.
  • Your existing team will be the party ambassadors, so have it in the office – no more than 2 hours needed.
  • Be clear that this is not a job fair. It’s a party. So get everyone energized.
  • Interview your top performers to develop a solid candidate and job profile for writing the ad.
  • Place a job posting in as many places you can find.
  • Take all the resumes and review every single one in original physical or electronic form, remove only the most egregiously unqualified people. Or maybe don’t – keep everyone – they applied for some reason, you just don’t know it yet.

Invite Your Guests (candidates)

  • Arrange the date and time that fits with your culture. If everyone rolls in at 10 am, then don’t try an 8 am meet and greet. If traffic is brutal before 10 am, schedule it closer to lunch.
  • Write a great party invitation that reflects your culture – be sure to explain this concept clearly in your email and blog postings.
  • Social media the heck out of it. Build buzz. Build energy.
  • Set a shortish RSVP deadline to ensure you have only candidates who are highly motivated. Have a plan to deal with people who cannot attend but who may be desirable on paper.
  • Use a survey feedback form to gather registrations and close the form when the deadline arrives. This helps if the volume is high.
  • Ask guests to sum up their personal brand in 3 words and include it on their name tags as a conversation starter.

Figure Out the Format

  • I know I said it was a party, but in this case, skip the booze.
  • Hold the event in the office – there’s no sense in hiding where they will have to come to work every day.
  • Consider a pot luck, each dish labeled with a fun description by the contributor. BBQ if weather is nice. Think of a fun theme to run through all the planning.
  • Make sure you have plenty of chairs and chose a cozy space, not cavernous. If you are worried about having enough space, err on the side of too small, not too big. Nothing breaks the ice like stepping on toes.
  • Have a formal presentation component – I recommend company history, examples of client successes, future growth plans, as well as work highlights from ambassadors holding the position on offer, and a perspective on the culture. This is your opportunity to sell both the company and the job you are trying to fill. Don’t forget a Q&A portion.
  • Assign a small number of candidates to each ambassador – say 1:3 or 1:5 (accounting for inevitable 10% attrition). Their job is to meet, greet, answer questions about the event’s format, and create a safe, personal environment.
  • Make sure ambassadors have company materials they can give to candidates with contact information.
  • Create a feedback mechanism for candidates as they walk out the door. Provide each with a card to stuff in a ballot box – name, call me (yes/no), comments (optional).
  • Use name tags creatively to group people via colour codes or personal statements. MAKE SURE I CAN READ IT AT 20 PACES.
  • Sprinkle in conversation starters everywhere possible – what things can people notice and chatter about BESIDES THE WEATHER? Decorative theme, crazy hats, displays, balloon man, caricature artist – keep thinking.
  • Create fun exercises to get the crowd interacting. Consider moving groups from station to station to learn about the company or a scavenger hunt.
  • Put numbers on name tags and raffle off your company’s product. If ball bearings are not really useful to the average person unless installed, perhaps a gift certificate, event tickets, tech widget.

Follow up With Interested Candidates

  • Wind up the party explaining the next steps for follow-up.
  • Debrief directly after the party with your ambassadors – who would they like to see again? Pull out the resumes and schedule the interviews. Get on it TODAY.
  • Include the ambassador in the interviews to increase comfort levels. I love 2 on 1 interviews – it takes the pressure off and feels more like a conversation rather than an inquisition.
  • Schedule a full day to interview as many people as possible and debrief as a team to see who should continue on to final round interviews.
  • Don’t forget to contact everyone who applied or attended to let them know when the position is filled.
  • Follow up with candidates to learn how you can make your next party event better.

I hope you find this idea electrifying. Imagine the buzz you will begin to create. Make sure you chronicle it on your company’s blog.

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About The Author
Maradene Wills
Maradene Wills lives in Toronto, Canada. She worked for McKinsey & Company for nearly 18 years in strategic human analytics, knowledge management, and technology development.

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