Many successful, high-profile recruiters have figured this out already—think Rachel Saunders of Yahoo!, or Axel Koster of the Manhattan Group. Both are example of how recruiters are using old-fashioned relationship building, but doing so using new tools.
Saunders, for example, likens her approach to that taken by luxury brands: “When it comes to recruiting, I see candidates as my customers. I want them to have a very special experience with me, something different and better than what they normally have with other recruiters.” Those experiences rarely involve costly meals or lavish corporate gifts. Rather, Saunders simply does her homework, seeking to connect with candidates in personal ways.
As counter-intuitive as it might sound, automation is playing a larger and larger role in the drive for more personal interactions. Koster is a great example of this in his approach to recruiting. Originally, Koster was a skeptic on the role that social media and automation could play in the world of business, particularly recruiting. But he soon changed his thinking as his followers began engaging with him and turning to his feeds instead of job boards for current listing.
What Koster stumbled upon was a simple principle: The more helpful content he shared with his followers, and the more he engaged in conversations, the greater his following and influence. That content could be anything, from articles to job opportunities to inspiring quotes. The key was that it had to be valuable to his audience. Value meant repeat traffic and engagement, which lead to his becoming one of the biggest personal brands in recruiting.
So, can these two approaches be combined? Can high-touch personal service really be fused with a high-tech, social-media-minded approach? And can either take advantage of today’s automation?
The answer is a guardedly optimistic “yes.” In fact, automation might well be the key to fusing high-touch and high-tech.
For example, imagine that you’ve stayed in contact with a candidate, let’s call him Aiden. Based on conversations you’ve had with Aiden, you know he is a fantastic coder with management experience; he loves dogs and owns two golden retrievers; and he is actively involved with certain tech sites and bulletin boards. Aiden is not actively searching for a new role, but you suspect he would listen if you brought him the right opportunity.
So you stay in touch. Over the next two months, you exchange articles and insights based on what is being discussed on those tech sites. Those shares start a conversation about what future technologies hold, and so you mention Kevin Kelly’s new book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. Aiden, of course, pre-orders a copy. And when he is finally comfortable enough to share his frustration at his dogs’ habit of getting into the trashcan, you are ready with links to some products and services to help him keep domestic harmony with his best friends.
How will a story like this end? I would guess that, after a few months of personal connection, Aiden would come to trust you—and would be much more open to hearing about the tech job offers you are trying to fill. By helping him and earning his trust, you become his go-to advisor and advocate in the business world. In short, someone he will listen to.
Today, new automation tools have begun to make these kinds of small gestures easy and repeatable. They are going beyond social media, which can all-too-easily lull professionals into a false sense of “connecting,” and actually helping impose the kind of structure and discipline needed to keep up a regular campaign of personal engagement.
The result is that recruiters can engage with candidates and clients in a consistent, meaningful way.