Today we’re honored to have a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article.
Marketing 101: You need a product that meets the needs of your target customer or audience, then you need to promote it where it will be seen by and sought out by potential customers.
Branding 101: Define what you are about and what space in the market you occupy. Stand for something you believe in. Build such a strong connection with your audience that they take on your brand identity on as their own.
Wait, this is an HR blog, right? It is. Why are these concepts so basic when building a business and customer base, but relatively foreign in the HR world? Human capital is critical to the success of a company, yet basic marketing principles and resources are rarely allocated to our teams. It seems silly. A business cannot succeed without both the right product or service and the right people to deliver that product or service.
I suspect many of you don’t have marketers on your team, but there are some simple steps you can begin to take on your own to differentiate yourself and strengthen your employer brand to attract a better pipeline.
Understand your value proposition. What value can you deliver to prospective candidates? Examples include: location, work/life balance, opportunity to work with cutting edge technologies, top-of-the-market pay or great mentorship and development programs. Ask your current employees what the best part of working for your company is. And market it! Make sure pictures and language on your website highlight your differentiators. Invite employees to write testimonials or post to Glassdoor. But above all, be honest.
Figure out your market and focus your advertising appropriately. Each position has a unique market and needs to be treated as such. For example, we ask our team to review our job descriptions when we’re adding to the team to give us feedback – the oozing-with-personality job descriptions we use for entry level positions just may not appeal to senior level developers or a CFO. When I’m looking for an engineer, I ask our current team where they spend their time browsing and to tell me about the most effective cold call or email they have received and I tweak my recruitment approach accordingly. Finally, when we land a fantastic candidate, we take note of how so we can better focus our efforts next time.
Deliver. You need your public persona to match the candidate (and employee) experience. If you differentiate by the intelligence of your team, candidates expect to talk to smart people. If you pride yourself on corporate values and culture, the interview experience and questions should reflect that. You cannot attract or retain the right people if you aren’t able to deliver on the experience you’ve marketed. Just think – would you go back to a hotel that showed beautiful rooms and an ocean view but delivered an inferior product? Neither will candidates.
No company is perfect in every area, but you can be much more successful if you are able to identify what your strengths are, how you compare to the competition, and your audience, then relay that message in an effective way. How do you stack up? What differentiates your open reqs and opportunities from the competition?
About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.
Recently I was talking with a friend about recruiting, and LinkedIn came up. I mentioned my success with the tool, and that led to some discussions around how to use it, what to do, how to connect, etc. In the video below I go over my tips for how to use a free LinkedIn account to recruit like a rockstar.
In the video I cover three key areas for the newbie or the advanced HR pro to take advantage of LinkedIn for recruiting.
Searching LinkedIn with Google using the site:linkedin.com operator
Crafting a connection message that people want to respond to
Leveraging new contacts’ connections for referral purposes
Have you used LinkedIn for recruiting? What has been your experience? Any other questions I could answer?
Earlier I posted on career growth and development and some ideas and insights from the SHRM Talent Management Conference, and as I was looking through some of the results from a SHRM survey released this week I realized that there is an interesting disconnect. While we want to look at employees as more valuable than their current job title for development purposes, we don’t want to do do that up front when they approach us as candidates. In fact, 66% of organizations prefer chronological resumes to functional resumes (source: SHRM). Keep reading…
One of the highlights of my early career days was a year spent in a group called NMU–NASHRM Mentor University. I learned much, developed some amazing friendships that I still appreciate to this day, and got to participate in a pilot program to improve the career prospects of local HR professionals. This year the group is still going strong, and one of the assignments was to create a blog post and have it published online by a known HR blogger. Donna Quinney, an HR pro from Huntsville, was paired with me. Her first ever blog post is below. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Donna!
Social Media Recruiting: Should You Believe the Hype or Not?
I had the privilege of serving as a Mentee with NASHRM Mentor University program this past year. As part of the program, we were asked to prepare a 30 minute Powerpoint presentation, present to the class, and develop a blog post from that information. My presentation was titled “Social Media Recruiting: 7 Good Benefits Every Recruiter Should Know.”
Much to my surprise, I found that there was less negative and more positive information out there on social media recruiting. I’ve heard a lot about the security risks associated with having too much of your personal information hanging out on the internet. That’s it…the only negative I could find on social media recruiting. But I must say, that one negative could potentially cause some major problems for you, your financial state, and most importantly your family. So be careful with that!
But, on the flip side, there are several positives for implementing a social media platform in your recruiting strategies. Here are just a few that I discovered:
Cost Saving – Post positions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s basically free!
Improves Talent Pool – Connects you to the largest active and passive job seekers!
Fill Positions Faster – Compared to traditional approaches: newspaper ads and/or job boards!
Increased Candidate Diversity – Helps widen your search options even further!
Company Branding – On-line presence gives candidates a glimpse into the company culture/ environment!
Now that you are up to speed on a few benefits of social media recruiting, are you ready to jump on board and recruit your next new hire via LinkedIn or Facebook? Are you convinced that social media recruiting is here to stay or is it just the next big hype? I’ll let you decide!
Thank you NASHRM Mentor University for a great year…and the yummy cookies! I’ve officially been HR stretched!
I can find admin staff easily enough. However, hiring a person for xyz skilled trade takes forever! I need to find a talent pool to tap into, but so far nothing!!!!!! Rebecca
The comment above was a piece of a recent conversation with a friend and reader up in Canada. We chat back and forth occasionally about recruiting topics, and I told her I would discuss the concept of finding/developing/building a talent pool for a skilled individual. I don’t know it all, but here’s how I have been able to develop a talent pool in an area that most would say is pretty tough to break into.
First, find one
It’s a much easier proposition if you have one to start from. Preferably a current employee or friend, because you’re going to be asking them a lot of (seemingly simple) questions. Occasionally we need to find a “provisioner” for our technical publications team. I’m still not 100% sure what these people do, but I know enough generally to understand if someone has what it takes or not. When I started my first search for one of these openings, I realized how little I knew. So I decided to remedy that situation.
I grabbed one of our current guys with a solid provisioning background and asked him a list of questions:
What do provisioners do?
What background makes someone good at provisioning?
What sort of companies hire provisioners?
What are some keywords I could use to find a provisioner’s resume?
Do any schools have provisioning-like degree or certification programs?
What sort of questions would you ask a provisioner to determine if they are proficient?
Those are a few, but they hit the highlights. I’m building a profile for what a provisioner looks like. Just like the police build a profile for someone in a criminal case based on what they know about the crime combined with statistical data, I do the same thing (minus handcuffs).
Expand that network
As long as you’re asking questions of your existing person, you might as well ask one more: who is the best you’ve ever seen at this job? That’s your #1 target. They won’t always be accessible, but it’s a good place to start. If it doesn’t pan out, leverage that connection into the person’s network. Here’s an example:
Hey, Bob! Glad to hear you’re enjoying your current work. Brian said you were great at what you do, and I’m always glad to see people excelling at what they love. If you ever change your mind or want to talk more, feel free to reach out to me and I’d be happy to discuss a position with you. In the meantime, is there anyone else you know who might be qualified/interested in a position like this?
That serves two purposes. First, it leaves the door open to future opportunities. People hate to shut doors, and I always leave it open, even if just barely, so they always feel comfortable reaching out. It swings both ways, too. If I ever have another opening in their field of expertise, you better believe I’ll be reaching out to find out if they are still happy at work. There have been plenty of times where that conversation turned into a job offer itself.
Always be looking
If you wrap up a hiring action and make an offer to a candidate, hang onto the next few if they are still qualified. You never know when the next batch of candidates might not be as strong as your second best pick this time around. And for everyone who turns you down, they are a potential “in” with a new networking chain.
Get a few champions
I have a few “champions” that I turn to fairly often. These people have great networks and are phenomenal about helping to find new staff, even when there isn’t a bonus or other incentive on the line. Recently I had a guy contact me, and I looked back through the email chain. There were seven connections between our “champion” and this guy. If any one of those people had stopped the chain, the guy would have never found the job. However, because of the credibility of the first guy in the chain, it kept rolling until the right guy saw the email.
As I said earlier, this isn’t the end, it’s just a beginning. Every position, company, and market is different. However, with the right attention to detail and persistence, you can create your own talent pool and rev up your recruiting for months to come.
Several months ago I was looking for some recruiting training opportunities, and I ran across a few promising offerings. I ended up not pursuing those for a variety of reasons, but I recently had an experience that gave me a different perspective on the subject.
I recruit often for helicopter pilots. It’s fun, interesting, but also tough (these guys usually aren’t hanging out at the employment office). I’ve always thought it would be fun to take a ride in a Black Hawk, but it’s not easy to do since the majority of them are government/military aircraft. However, a few months back a friend was able to secure a ride for me on a UH-60M, which is the model I most often recruit pilots to fly.
The ride, in short, was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to paricipate.
A more familiar example
My friend Michelle previously worked for a manufacturing company. A few days a month, the accounting and HR staff had to jump onto the line and help the workers get all of the work accomplished to meet their production quotas.
As the HR manager there, she learned just how important it is to ensure proper rest breaks, adequate safety measures, etc. The insights gleaned from those experiences made her a better recruiter and HR professional.
The question I have for you is how deep is your knowledge or understanding of the positions you recruit for? Can you at least carry on a conversation about the key concepts, or are you lost without another person as a translator?
My initial learning curve
It’s more embarrassing to not ask a question and look like an idiot than to ask the question and get an answer. At least that’s my philosophy, anyway. So when I started getting open requisitions for positions like “provisioners” and “UH-60M instructor pilots,” I started asking questions.
What does a _____ do?
What are a few keywords that I should look for in a resume?
What sort of background prepares someone to be good at this job?
How do you tell if someone is qualified or not?
Based on those answers, I can at least do a good preliminary review and find some qualified people. I’m still not qualified to do a full technical review of the person’s skills and abilities, but that’s why we allow technical people to participate in interviews! I think what helps me to do well as a recruiter is not necessarily my technical knowledge, but just being excited about the company, the work, and the people.
I’d encourage you to dig in and learn what you can about your employees’ jobs. You never know when that information will help you relate to them in a meaningful way or enhance your recruiting abilities.
This year I’ve had to don my recruiting hat more and more often, and I am astounded by the number of people who apply with absolutely no experience in the specific job, despite a specific set of required skills. However, I think it’s even worse when I receive a resume that lists those skills and abilities, yet when I’m interviewing I quickly determine that they have stretched the truth considerably or outright lied just to get an interview.
For the candidates
It might seem like common sense, but be able to do the job if you apply for it. Don’t tell me “I just need a little training to get up to speed” or “I have a friend who says it’s not that difficult” or “I’m a fast learner.”
We aren’t a charity and we need to find the best person we can afford with our hiring budget. If you’re lying and I waste the time to bring you in to interview only to determine your resume is overblown and false, I will remember that for a long, long time.
Be truthful. Apply for jobs that you’re qualified for, and don’t assume that the employer owes you training or another benefit unless you have something very unique to offer.
For the recruiters
This was spurred by a combination of current interviews and a friend sending me an article about using a quick (and simple) coding test for software engineering jobs.
I love that, and that’s why I always have a technical expert in interviews with me. I don’t know enough about this stuff to always dig deep and determine a candidate’s claims of proficiency.
As simple as it seems, we should be trying harder to disqualify people for a lack of substantial job-related skills. We need to be doing sharing realistic job preview scenarios to ensure a proper candidate fit. Don’t feel bad for rejecting someone who isn’t qualified to do the job. Just because they are likable doesn’t mean they are the right person!
One interview I participated in several years ago fits into this discussion very well. We had an opening for an electrical engineer. We brought in a candidate who was very personable and had what seemed like a good bit of experience to fit our needs. However, when one of our guys gave him a simple electrical schematic to explain, he was unable to fulfill the request.
And I don’t mean he stumbled around, guessed, or made an incorrect assertion. He just sat there and said he had no idea. This was one of the key skills we needed out of the person taking the position. Whoever had the job would be creating, reviewing, and proofing these types of documents from day one. And this guy failed miserably.
Sometimes we like to pitch softball questions. We like to talk more about ourselves and the company than the candidate. We like to prompt responses instead of allowing the person to respond without help.
Let’s step back from that and try to incorporate job-related assessments (as in the electrical engineering example above) into the hiring process. It will make for better hires, fewer headaches, and a stronger workforce overall.