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In true St. Louis “baseball fanatic” fashion I want to talk a little about what I affectionately call the “curve ball”…   I was thrown said curve ball late last week and my lack of refinement in my initial response to it immediately reminded me of just how important flexibility and a dynamic attitude can be in recruiting.  To be honest, it’s been a little while since I had a pitcher who really “stepped up to the plate” and surprised me – (okay, I’m done with the baseball lingo now, I just wanted to use the title!) so as I was driving home, feeling a bit bent and nearly broken, I was reminded of a toy I used to play with when I was young.   Gumby… Remember him from the TV show?  He was made of green rubbery material on a wire frame, perfect for moving and shaping into exactly the pose you wanted.  Ideally flexible while still holding his shape – just like we must be.
gumby1
Flexibility is so important because our business is incredibly dynamic, whether you are an internal or third party recruiter, your day can change completely with just one call from a hiring manager.  We must be committed to dealing with changing priorities, and adept at seamlessly managing new needs.  Even when it means starting from scratch or swallowing your pride.  What I have learned is that while we have to be flexible, we need to not break that wire inside of us.  It’s what helps us to bounce back, to push back when necessary.

 

I’m interested, when a situation calls for an about-face, how do you manage it?  How do you maintain the integrity of your position while affording your client the flexibility that they have come to expect from you?

How do you swing for the fences on even the tough pitches that catch you by surprise?

As a Corporate Recruiter my job is to make sure that I assist in finding the best candidate for our open positions, simple right?  It really, truly is – simple that is.  But that doesn’t mean that little ol’ me isn’t going to do my absolute best to make it complicated.  No doubt I pride myself on understanding my hiring manager’s needs, asking tough questions and pushing them just a bit harder than they would probably like, but the simple fact is that sometimes they are going to see candidates that they are going to take a pass on.  In fact, some managers NEED to see a longer list of candidates to choose from than I would like.

What this means for me is that once I’ve invested myself in a candidate, qualified them well and presented them to my hiring manager, I really and truly care about the outcome.  Not because it looks good against my numbers to have a position filled quickly, or because it shows off my marvelous sourcing and pipelining skills, but because I feel a great deal of sympathy for my candidates.  I know when they talk to me it’s a big decision to consider a new position.  It’s my job to get them excited.  To help them to understand the facets of the decision to consider joining us.  And, unfortunately, sometimes it’s my job to knock over the house of cards after I’ve carefully set it up.

I suppose I could take a page out of Simon Cowell’s book (sorry for the Idol reference!) and just be blunt, “it’s a no”.  Even with a direct approach, which I discovered very early on is the only way, it’s difficult not to feel for candidates when I make that call.  I imagine this is something that isn’t going to change for me, that I’m never going to get used to it, and in fact I really hope it doesn’t.  I really just makes me human, right?

In any case, if I had to choose a part of my job that was my least favorite, making the “we’re passing” call would have to be it.

I wonder how the candidates perceive this…?  Am I helping or hurting in my carefully executed delivery of bad news?  Has anyone ever asked them?

MCU035I’ve always felt a bit as though a New Year’s resolution was contradictory to my practice of setting progressive goals throughout the year, but looking back over the last few months – and the way that those goals have morphed – makes me wonder if a strong resolve at the beginning of the year isn’t a bad thing after all. 

 

As I began 2008, I had as many openings to work on as I could want, which is the way I like it.  I’ve always been most productive when my plate is near overflowing and I’m being pulled in a million different directions.  As the year progressed and the economic news grew more and more disheartening, I began to hear from more and more people who were going through tough times.  At this point I realized that in the midst of being so very busy, I wasn’t paying as much attention to the experience my candidates were having as I should.  The more stories I heard of folks who were “actively under-employed” (check out this post from one of my Twitter peeps on the benefits of Twitter for the imminently employable) and going through painstaking interview processes with companies who did not set upfront expectations and offered egregious lack of feedback, the more I wanted to be sure that I was different.  Not just so that I could be set apart, so that I could be considered an honest and compassionate recruiter – but to actually BE one and make some sort of difference. 

 

So when things slowed as the end of the year approached, I took the time – which I have always considered too valuable to be spent on much else than being on the phone or doing intense internet research to find the candidates to get on the phone – to reflect on how to improve on this important aspect of my job.  I’ve made many adjustments to the way that I work, added a lot to my personal and professional brand – particularly in efforts to be highly visible, approachable and as transparent as possible (Twitter, LinkedIn, RBC, etc).  Of course, these things have a positive effect on my ability to recruit, but they’re doing double duty.  In addition they are also improving candidate experience, when the mysterious corporate recruiter becomes more human, the situation suddenly becomes less traumatic. 

When a candidate receives clear expectations about what is coming next, when the enigma is removed and they have someone they can rely on to be upfront with them – the game changes.   

 

So this year I’m not knocking New Year’s Resolutions… I think I’ll be working towards the same progressive goals, but perhaps with a broader view.  I resolve to keep a “big picture” mentality when it comes to recruiting, improving on the different facets of my role before the need for change smacks me straight in the face. 

 

Oh… and maybe I’ll try to cut down on the caffeine…. 

Yeah, yuck.

Yeah, yuck.

As I sit here lathering on another fistful of Purell I began to wonder, “Who brought the sniffles to the office for Christmas?”.

 

 

 

 

Unlike the person who brings in the insane amount of Halloween candy the day after the festivities, whom we both adore and despise at the same time, this person who brings in this sinus-swelling case of the sniffles gets no love from me. 

 

I’m reminded of my days as mom to a toddler, bringing her home from daycare with her unending, year-long colds.  Of course, the reason for the endless need for tissues is always blamed on these children who simply go around all day sneezing and touching and licking and… eww, all the other things they do because they are kids. 

 

So, I guess what I am wondering is, it is supposed to be different here at the office, right?  I mean, of course we aren’t running around putting each others office supplies in our mouths, but we must be doing something to perpetuate this irritating cold-weather inevitability. 

 

Alas, I have no answers; I am simply ranting about one of the world’s little mysteries.  But here are a couple of hints for the “well-meaning” co-workers who are sharing their holiday spirit with your immune system.  Maybe I should have gone ahead with that flu shot… 

I’ve been talking with people in various stages of panic over the past few weeks (ummm, months..?), from those beginning to hear the rumblings of imminent layoffs, to those just having felt the axe drop, to those having found themselves on the market for longer than they expected or are comfortable with. 

 

The bad news is that I’m going to continue getting those panicky calls, there is no swift end to the concerns that folks are having about their current or impending unemployment. 

 

The good news is that there has been an unbelievable outpouring of positive and productive support, in many unexpected places.  As a collective group I’ve been seeing the members of so many communities turning stereotypes upside down and I am loving it!  Not just out to make a buck (but who are we kidding, we are all still hoping to get paid here) our minds have turned to helping each other and the candidates we deal with daily. 

 

Maybe it’s in the spirit of this holiday filled time of year, but I tend to think not.  It is so much bigger than that.  The fact that the economy is taking a profound hit and individual’s lives are being hugely impacted seems to have brought us all together.

 

 Grinch

 

I’m reminded of the scene in The Grinch Stole Christmas where he realizes that the Whos have begun singing on Christmas morning, presents or not – and his heart swells.  Because when it comes down to it, what is happening to us is happening collectively is being felt across the board, and what has me singing is the good that is showing through.  We’ve all at times been misunderstood and perhaps a positive attitude and a helping hand have their place after all…

So yesterday was parent-teacher conferences.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) for my daughter her teacher was way more excited about sharing her slide-show of the kids and the new gadgets around the classroom (one of which would actually allow her to record a lesson outside the classroom and present it later) than actually telling us about issues she was having.  These new toys are all cool, most definitely, and I would be excited about them too.  I am very glad that our PTO fund-raising and all the recent votes for the various Propositions have done the kids some good (I guess… I’m not sure this is all that exciting to the kids, but she sure got a kick out of it). 

But, um, I’m here to learn if the kid is doing okay in class.  I mean, she got a “B” in science.  What is that about?  Why?  Oh, she has a specials class that takes her away during that time, hmmmm, that may have something to do with it.  Good to know.  We’ll work extra hard on that at home.  She hasn’t been doing the homework?  Oh, again, good to know!  It alarms me that for the second year in a row we’ve come into first trimester conferences without having had teachers reach out to let us know that there are things that need to be addressed.  I nipped this one a bit earlier by asking the teacher about a month ago if she was having trouble turning in homework.  The response?  “Oh, yes, she hardly ever turns in assignments.”  WHAT???  Why did I have to ask about this!!! 

I could go on and on…  I don’t remember as a child being able to walk all over my teachers this way…  And of course it’s not the teachers fault – she, by the way, is just a delightful lady, really sweet and very animated – but the heart of this issue goes much deeper.  When we learned that she was having some trouble in math (which her father was appalled by as he’s the engineer of the family) we asked if there was anything else she could give her for extra practice since the homework that comes home usually consists of a problem or two from the worksheet that is specified in the “Syllabus” (Gosh darn it now, we can’t go beyond the guidelines which are set out for us!  It’s of the utmost importance to insure compliance with the No Child Left Behind act which I have a whole other set of opinions on).  The answer, oh yes, I’ve got lots of those sheets (makes a note), I’ll get those to you.  Yeah.  OK.  I heard the same thing last year…   If I could stand staying at home I might think about homeschooling.  I just don’t think I could take it. 

One thing about the technology and this particular teacher that I do like is that she’s putting homework up online now.  This means no excuse for the kid to come home and tell me she has none.  See, because I believe in a parents responsibility here.  I’m not laying it all on the schools.  But how can we be responsible when the information is not provided to us?  When a teacher waits until the first trimester conference (or for when a parent reaches out to see if their child is doing okay) to let parents know that they never do a lick of homework I just don’t understand that.

I recently happened upon a post about “how to work with a recruiter” which got me thinking about what I would really like people to know about how to work with me…  http://www.careervanity.com/working_with_a_recruiter.htm

Since moving from the staffing world to the corporate “dark side” I’ve moved on from hearing a lot of the negative stereotypes that people threw around about third party recruiting and gained a whole bunch of new ones about “HR”.  Truth be told my role is neither…  As a corporate recruiter I’ve been able to move from staffing positions for multiple customers on a third party basis to being a valued part of the internal team partnering with a set of hiring managers who I have direct and productive communication with.  They trust me to help them find, attract and on-board candidates for the positions which are so crucial to the organizations success. 

As a candidate, you should be aware of this role in an organization because your initial contact with a recruiter is the “first impression” you are giving a company.  My opinions matter!  There are some key things you should probably keep in mind when having a conversation with me about employment with my company.  1) I should not be hit on…! 2) Honesty is the best policy, if I feel you are not being honest, or that there is something your aren’t telling me I’ll pass that along.  3) Professionalism is key (see #1).  I’m a salesperson at heart, making you comfortable in our conversation helps us to develop a good relationship and allows us to get to know each other – an important part of determining if you would be a fit for us and of course if we are a fit for you.  Just because we are getting comfortable doesn’t mean that I’m your best friend.  Profanity or any other unprofessional behavior (including looking for a date!) is inappropriate. 

I DO NOT have anything to do with benefits administration, employee conflicts or, thankfully, termination of employment.  While traditional HR professionals play an extremely important part in an organization, I can’t count myself among them.  I AM however committed to a good candidate experience and you and I will get along best if you understand what I do for the company.  My job is two fold, on one hand I’m here to make sure you are a fit for the company.  On the other hand, if you are, it’s also to make sure our company is a fit for you.  And then to share with you all the wonderful reasons why!  You’ll hear about my personal experiences with the company, the experiences others have shared with me and the facts about what a position with us offers.  You’ll get it straight.  Because that’s what we’re about.  I have found that “trust” and “recruiter” aren’t really words that folks put together.  It’s unfortunate, because there are lots of really good ones out there, and I’m doing my small part to try to change it…

A bit ago I tried this new thing, this thing everybody was simply raving about, this thing which everyone is doing.  It’s called Twitter, maybe you’ve heard of it.  A very terrific tool for instant communication and exchange of thoughts and ideas.  Problem is, it limits you to a very brief 140 characters to say what’s on your mind.  Which is great for the most part, for the little snippets I want to share throughout the day, but I found myself a bit long winded and with much more to say on the subject at times.  So, in my typical late-adopter fashion I decided to jump on the blog bandwagon as well.  Seems a bit backwards, I think most people go from blogging to microblogging and not the other way around, but hey – I never have been much for conformity. 

I have to say one thing about this technology though, I just clicked the spell check button in my wordpress tools and the only words it pulled out as being misspelled were “blog” and wordpress.  Just found that to be rather cute…  I guess I am easily entertained.