YOU AS A "RECRUITMENT PROFESSIONAL"
“What made you become a recruitment professional?” When I ask people who have chosen a career as recruitment professionals, especially within the agency or executive recruitment areas, this question, I am often told by people that the profession was not a first career choice for them, they learnt about it from job fairs, or they worked with a great recruiter in assisting them with their careers and decided to enter into the same field as well, some really enjoy working with people and see the recruitment industry as an extension of that, others want to make as much money as they can by leveraging on the commission based, agency environment. In my case I was actually looking for a career change, at the time I was working as an analyst with a crown corporation in the UK and after studying a Post Graduate in Property Investment, wanted to work with a private company within the property industry in the UK. While looking at various options and meeting with three recruitment companies I was asked by one of them to consider a career as a recruitment consultant due to my communication and interpersonal skills as well as my business acumen, so I did, starting with a publicly traded recruitment company in the UK, one of the worlds largest, progressing from consultant to Director level moving with them to set up their operations here in Canada.
Whatever the reasons that brought you into the recruitment industry, the fact is that your are in it and if you are, my suggestion is to make the best out of it and, to coin a cliché, be the best that you can be at it so if I can crave your indulgence, I'm going to talk about about, Your Professional Brand and Professional Conduct.
Your Professional Brand
As a professional you will have your own professional “brand” within your industry or Core Market, the good news for you is that you do get to choose what “brand” you want to have and start working towards it. Some professionals in our industry are known as “experts” some are known as “great” some are referred to as “great at understanding their clients & candidates” some are “hardworking” professionals who are described in this way are highly regarded and as a result are more exposed to success. On the other hand, unfortunately, there are many recruitment professionals who are described by candidates and clients using a myriad of negative connotations some are too strong to publish in this blog but I can assure you that these professionals described as “just another recruiter” “unprofessional” “resume warrior” “dishonest” “unethical” “used car salesman” “rude” “unreliable” “big headed” are not the ones who are experiencing much success in their roles and certainly not on a consistent sustainable basis. People work with people so whether you work as a self employed professional or with an organization, if you have a strong professional brand, your colleagues, clients and candidates will want to work with you consistently. What do your clients say about you? How would the people who you work with, candidates, clients and colleagues describe you to others? What do they think about your services now? They are the recipients of your service so ask them how you measure up, get this feedback from people who you trust regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry and use it to improve your brand. A good way to pose the question is to ask, “What areas could I improve my service to you to ensure that you refer me to all your contacts?” Ask as many people as you can and on a regular basis also. If you work with a manager or coach or strategist(and you should be!)Work with them and get some actionable points here.
Your clients and candidates will treat you the way you ask to be treated and you ask how to be treated by setting professional standards for all the people who you will deal with throughout your career. If you want to be dealt with like a professional, you have to run your career like a professional. Professionals get respect from peers, clients and candidates, professionals get referred as the “Professional of Choice” by those who they deal with. Professionals are sought out by those who they deal with, and others, for advice and guidance. Professionals get the “choice” assignments to work on by clients. Professionals get to work with the candidates who are very good at what they do and highly marketable in their industries. Bottom line, those who are seen as industry “Professionals” and experts in their chosen “Core Market” make more money consistently even (and in some ways especially!) in a down or recovering economy.
To stand out as a “Recruitment Professional”, you should have a strong professional brand. Now, I don’t mean the brand of the company you work for, I’m referring to your own personal brand. Think about this for a second, think of someone who you feel is a credible professional in the industry could be a colleague, competitor, or maybe your boss, here are some questions to ask yourself and ask them. What makes them stand out?, What specific things make them successful?, How do they conduct themselves?, How do they manage their time?, How do they carry themselves?, How do they deal with others? Do they have a routine that they follow? How do they manage their jobs? How much time do they spend sourcing for candidates on any given assignment? What times of the day do they spend on interviews and when do they source for candidates? What do their clients and candidates expect from them? If you ask the professional these questions personally, they should be able to give you answers to each and give you specific reasons why as well. How is this possible? Do they know the answers to these BECAUSE they are successful or Are they SUCCESSFUL because they know the answers?
As a Professional in the recruitment business you should have standards if you want to stand out and be viewed by the recruitment industry and your "Core Market" as such, your standards set the bar for your clients and candidates as to what to expect from your service and allows for you to know when you are actually doing a great job for them and when you haven’t met their expectations.
The quality of your standards will determine the quality of your service and how you are viewed by your industry, if you have low standards as a professional your industry will both see you as well as compensate you as such and if you have high professional standards these will reflect the way you’re seen and compensated by your industry. Yes! your compensation, if your industry sees you as a professional they expect to compensate you fairly for your services.
To understand and set higher standards and start developing a quality brand for yourself, lets look at four:
STANDARDS FOR “PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT”
PRESENTATION: Present yourself like a professional and take a pride in your appearance if you turn up for a meeting or event looking like a professional first impressions demand that people respond to you as such. The way you dress is the first thing people see and react to when they are forming an opinion of you as a professional. If you are not used to putting your personal appearance on the top list of your priorities, start now. Each person, even when we have “cleaned up” looks different so keep your individuality and your own style in this regard, but my point is “Clean Up” from head to foot and you don’t have to (and I would strongly advise you don’t!!) turn into a shopaholic and buy all your clothes from expensive stores, you don’t have to go into huge debt on your credit card for this, these days it’s a consumers market so if you shop around, (yes guys, you too!!), you’ll be able to pick up some great clothes at great bargain prices. Presentation isn't just about the way you dress, its also your mannerisms and how you present yourself to others, how do you present your solutions to your clients. How do you conduct yourself during your candidate interviews? When presenting, do you make it a point to maintain a personable demeanour even in challenging situations?
COMMUNICATION: This may well go without saying and may seem elementary but it does more good or harm than we may appreciate. People respond both to what you say to them and how you say it. As a professional choose your language wisely and structure your sentences properly, this goes for when you speak with both your candidates and clients as well as when you communicate with them via email or professional media sites like LinkedIn or Twitter. Pay special attention to the emails you send out both for grammar (always use spell check!!!) as well as content. Most people feel comfortable using “slang” and there is no shortage of abbreviated words through the form of communication known as “texting” as a professional I would suggest that you leave these slangs and abbreviated words out of your communication with your clients as well as candidates. Communication also involves your active listening and empathy when necessary. There are a many different seminars, books and CD’s you can get (and I would advise that you do) on communication skills as they go a long way in establishing your “brand” as a professional in this industry.
TREAT PEOPLE LIKE PEOPLE: As recruitment professionals we are in the business of PEOPLE, managing a process that connects people with skills and experience to the people who need them in order to achieve corporate goals, but at the very heart of what we do is PEOPLE, always, always treat your clients and candidates you speak to, with respect, you will reap what you sow in this business and if you treat people with respect it will come back to you through referrals and “good will”. And yes, we do deal with people who can often times be, impatient (to say the least), annoying, emotionally distraught, unreasonable, aggressive and in some cases inappropriate, but your job as the professional is to use your skills to bring these people back on track so that you can achieve your business goal, which is to find them a new role or find them their next employee. In order to do this you’ll have to negotiate, mediate, set expectations, listen, advise, correct, and maybe even decline to deal with an individual depending on the situation, but in any case, do it respectfully and objectively.
Objectivity will go a long way in helping you deal with the different types of people that we come in contact with in this business it also allows you not to take a candidate or clients “bad” mood personally as it may have nothing at all to do with you, and if it does, objectivity allows you to look for a solution that will benefit both parties.
Respect means calling a candidate back if you say you are going to, and if you can’t help a candidate at the moment, let them know that you cant help them. Set the expectations early with both your candidates as well as clients, if your candidate expects you to call them with feedback after a client interview(and they normally do!!) then call them, if you are not going to call them right away, then let them know when you will be, my point is, set the expectation and do as you say you will. Clients and Candidates have expectations that they have set for you when they are working with you, so if you don’t set the expectation from your end there is a strong likelihood that someone is going to be disappointed and as the professional, you will generally get the responsibility for this dissapointment so set the expectation early.
We've all heard statements like “Work Hard, Play Hard” and Work Hard, Play Harder!!” “Work/Life balance” “All work and no play…” I don’t think there is really any rule of thumb here, as to what you choose to do from a “play” standpoint and these days there are an increasing number of both the self employed as well as “mobile employees” who work from a “virtual” office. To add to this people also have family commitments that they want to keep on a regular basis, if you have any children you’ll know what I mean and if not, the summer months sometimes pose a great “encouragement” to drive up to the cottage early on Friday afternoon or just head out to a patio and relax with friends.
One of the best pieces of advice that I ever had was from one of the most successful sales professionals in North America, who said, “Work while you are working” So whenever you are working, WORK. In order to meet your goals no matter how ambitious they are and to achieve your personal “Key Performance Indicator/Metrics” goals each day and each week, you will need to get your work done and “WORK, while you are working”. A great way to do this is have your day planned and execute your plan each day. Leave your personal social networking and other “personal stuff” to when you are either on a break or before or after you WORK. We should all have a full personal and work life, so, as much as possible schedule your personal life, AS WELL AS, your work life, this works and can help you experience a full and lucrative career as a recruitment professional.
Gerard Ezinwoke is an award winning recruitment professional, trainer, recruitment coach, and strategist based in Toronto, Canada to individuals and organizations with experience working in Europe and Canada.
"The Business of Recruitment" Series aims to provide productive strategies for each aspect of recruitment & staffing for recruitment agencies and headhunters. These strategies are based on experience of high performing recruitment professionals across North America and Europe.