What a great year...2013! I'm sure for many of you the lump of coal for 2013 will the be taxes you owe. Obviously, the flip side of that is that if your recruiting practice isn't on an upward climb right now, you might want to review what's going on. I just finished working out on the elliptical for an hour and watched a documentary on the initiating boot camp of becoming a US Army Ranger (called in the documentary as the toughest military training anywhere in the world). (Credit: Netflix: "Surviving the Cut")
There's no comparison to the less than 1% of people make it through the training, but there is some overarching observation of the focus and motivation it takes and it lends itself rightly to recruiting in a six year (so far) recession. I figure three or four recruiters out of ten are in this career for the long haul through good and bad. What of the rest?
Santa's elves are NOT making toys for the good kids (and expensive collectibles for successful recruiters). Sorry. Santa's elves, whom not a single human on Earth has ever seen, are actually the half-million professionals who are involved in the US domestic design of automobiles. Ultimately, the vast majority of Ford, Chrysler, GM, Toyota, Hyundai, and Nissan vehicles sold in the USA are designed in the greater Detroit metropolitan area. Over 90% of these half-million professionals reside in a 60 mile radius of Southfield, Michigan.
There are approximately 3,500 companies labeled Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, and raw material suppliers. Tens of thousands of salaried employees are among the ranks of the OEM's, also known as the automakers.
This is the bounded territory of recruiter gorilla warfare!
I once again put my small contingent of recruiters into mental sleep with a one hour and fifteen minute farewell address regarding 2013. I have several challenges for them as well as myself on what we face in the automotive industry next year. We had three recruiters who didn't make it this year. No offense to them but they simply couldn't handle this environment.
I looked it up. Four of us average as an office total of approximately 2,300 calls to candidates Monday through Friday from around 8:30AM to 5PM. 2,300 phone calls! We're looking for elves and this is real and not make believe because we don't make it unless we find them. I'm referring to the automotive professionals we call who give a "yes" when it comes to job hunting. Or in our case, you might even call it job jumping. There's only so many places a Front End Module HVAC Engineer can go around here. Company A needs a new one and you've B, C, D, or E to find them. Otherwise, forget it.
To my audience, our different industries demand different approaches in recruiting and the tactics will be eternally debated. For our world over here in Detroit (as we call it), of which Henry Ford chose the location, best practices have to be identified and honed in order to be part of the elite.
My office strives for that. I believe that 2014 is a pivotal year for the hundreds of recruiters around here.
See, at so many of our target client companies in the automotive supply base, recruiters working with one company versus another was often an HR preference of choice. You get yourself in and can stay productive and helpful, you get to keep your spot. Break the rules or cause static or even possibly have a bummer placement, you could quickly be out shopping and marketing for new clients. Many of the suppliers here will juggle anywhere from three to six "preferred" agencies. Often two of them will be the big name brands that offer engineering contracting.
So as to the challenges for 2014, these are what I'll be considering and meditating over as I take the next nine days off to rest:
1. Don't be a wimp. This is granular. This is grass roots. This is ground level. If you have people interviewing and you sense the company is at a critical place in their interviewing campaign, you must get the answers to important questions. You must suck it up and ask these questions. Don't "let it ride". Make a two minute call to either HR or the hiring manager, whichever is harder, and ask how things are going. Ask them if they like the candidate(s). Face the fear of having them slam your candidate. This isn't 20 questions. Be sensitive to their time and strike at your target with a couple key questions. These will indicate your next move.
2. I have terminated the use of the words "perfect candidate" in my office. I am actually sick of hearing that. I'm tired of hearing anyone, including myself, being so arrogant as to label as candidate as "perfect". Two weeks ago, at 9AM on Wednesday, I got an application from candidate who had been working with a critical software for the last three years. He explained all the right stuff why he wanted to change jobs and had his spouse's approval. He was on vacation that day and I actually got him into an interview at 3PM that same day and he got an offer on Friday. The job offer took him from $36K to $52K with my Fortune 500 client. Four days later, he declined the job offer. Even though I have banned the words "Perfect Candidate", I have also redefined the definition of the "Perfect Candidate": He or she is the one who takes the job. Period. The point is to keep hunting until the position is filled. Stop if the indications are there which one of them can be that you're wasting too much precious time, as an example.
3. We're adopting positive affirmations in plain language. Occasionally, and I really mean sparingly, we need to have a brief and pointed dialogue with HR and/or the hiring manager. For that call, we need to ask questions and make statements like a three year old for about two minutes. (Don't laugh at this. I'm not a genius but this is something I am committed to.) Some examples: "I really like working with you and your company"; "do you think we can really find someone like that...where?"; "you gave me this JO three months ago and you interviewed eight people, where do you see the problem"; "can I work on another position for you" OR "what's the biggest thing on your radar". This point comes from my own observation that I think it's important for our clients to REALLY KNOW that we care and obviously, especially for the third party recruiters out there, it's the way we make our living. But back to the "care". Maybe for those C-level executive recruiters out there and the relevance of professionalism, this isn't so good. I think in our office this could go a really long way at planting the seed that we're the one HR wants to work with.
4. At the final interview, we're taking pre-closing to hand-to-hand combat level. Again, no more of this "let it ride" boloney. By the way, this doesn't have to take a long call. I'm challenging my team to find out why the candidate wants the new job at our client. This may sound obvious and simple and it's important to confirm the candidate's trajectory. Also, I'm witnessed this phenomenon of inflating income as the candidate heads into the final interview. Though we always tackled candidate target income prior to interviewing, we're going to revisit this prior to the written offer. Then, accordingly provide "intel" to our clients.
5. In my office, as the manager, I will be involved in developing a circumstantial strategy with the lead recruiter who has been told that his/her candidate has been chosen for a job offer. We will formulate a customized plan of execution in each case of a job offer. Sometimes this might involve the "buddy system" between two recruiters (otherwise known as good cop/bad cop). Sometimes we may request the offer made face-to-face with the candidate. There are a myriad of circumstances so we will face each one as it's own.
6. I've challenged everyone here to seek out their primary weakness. This comes in all forms: Poor planning, fear of marketing, poor candidate identification, weak follow-up, lousy phone time, lack of QTIP (Quit Taking It Personal), etc. As brutal as this may seem, we will occasionally talk about these publicly in the office and privately with me as the manager. If someone finds themselves dying on the vine, they sure better start addressing it soon.
7. Creation of a vision board. We take a poster board and draw or paste the things we want in the future. This might include stuff, places to go, savings, a new home, or anything else. (And by the way, all but one of my own vision board items has been fulfilled from 2007 and the final one is slated to occur in 2014. Very exciting, visual, and tangible. Try it.)
Our office has an excellent core group of recruiters and we're eager to find a couple more people to join us. Everyone knows our non-traditional approaches lend to success in our industry but we have one really big goal for 2014 and you may find this very aggressive.
We are going to try to unseat our competition with our clients. This is a strategy. This is planned. We know how our competitors are organized and how they recruit. We know that whoever the recruiter who finds the candidate that accepts the job offer is the winner. My group has committed to being quicker and we're going to work on the "quality" of the candidates we present on a day-to-day and ongoing basis.
Our HR contacts have reflected to us that they are often juggling too many agencies. We want to offer them an "out". And we're prepared to do this in any form that we need.
We also will be marketing for new clients on a more regular basis. This will offer us synergies with our candidate base and broaden our exposure.
Finally, if you've made it this far, our 2014 strategies have nothing to do with advertising or social media. To us, this is window dressing and it's already in place. So if professional networking sites want to double or triple their fees and the job boards want to keep calling and soliciting every hour, let them. Also, the raging battles of mobile recruiting (I can't help but chuckle when I think of that) or finding candidates via Facebook and Twitter can bubble away. No matter. We're sticking with the basics.
In summary, the big changes for us center around human-to-human contact and obviously not in technology. I say this because I see these debates going on endlessly in the recruiting industry on how to improve our business through technology. I say "no". I say we're doing it organically by spoken word and I'm predicting a banner year in 2014.