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Recruiting & Candidate Development

What IS Recruiting, Anyway?

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altQuite frequently, I run across discussions on the nature of recruiting- is it Art or is it Science? There seem to be two extremes- those who believe that most recruiting  problems can be solved through technological fixes, and those who decry (or at least minimize the importance) of technology and say that the fundamentals of recruiting are developing personal, qualitative relationships whit individual candidates.

I'd like to propose a third possibility: that recruiting is an ill-defined mess.

While many recruiters started out as salespeople or as experts in the field that they recruit, I was not. I was trained as a scientist: I have a B.S. in Astronomy and a minor in Physics. While I never worked as a scientist, I still have a bit of curiosity about me (Why doesn't hard cider have as many well-known varieties as wine?

Why does rabbit taste like chicken, but turkey and duck don't taste like chicken? What useful things could be made from dryer lint?) and did get used to the Scientific Method (more about that shortly). Consequently, I wondered why we know so little about what really works and doesn't work in recruiting, and why people can make money saying virtually anything about it. I am quite puzzled why after all the time, effort, and money that goes into recruiting no one has come up with fairly standard set of best practices to follow, or worst practices to avoid.

 I would have thought with so many bottom line-oriented managers, there would have been some effort to find out what really does and does not work in the real world or organizations, but I see hiring managers and staffing professionals alike following processes which range all across the board, usually based on the GAFI Principles (Greed, Arrogance, Fear, Ignorance) which controls so much of our work life.

 Without some type of GARP (Generally Accepted Recruiting Practices), the field of Recruiting Consulting seems to be full of two predominant types of advisers:

1) The Marketing Hypester- well equipped with the jargon of the day ("Web 2.0, Millennials, Employment Branding") to extract the maximum amount of money from his/her willing corporate clients.


2) The Ivory Tower Academic- impeccably credentialed, his/her advice for the same type of clients is so carefully crafted that they do not even realize that is it is too arcane and impractical to work in the real world, probably due to the fact that those who often make such decisions are often far removed in time and function from having actually recruited candidates.

I have seen precious little that says to me this person "has been there and done that", and therefore know what s/he is talking about. 

Back to the Scientific Method mentioned earlier: in a (simplified) nutshell, it says that if someone else can't prove what you claim, your claim isn't valid.  I would apply this to recruiting claims as follows: you simply state the nature of your claim- proven through formal survey, asserted through a large number of cases (anecdotes), or your opinion.  This would be a  type of"Truth in Labeling" (or should it be "Truth in Recruiting"?) requirement. 

I would like to assemble a group of experienced recruiters/recruiting managers to create an anecdotal (if non-scientific) real-world methodology applicable to a wide variety of recruiting environments. I see a need for a number of types of participants- grizzled war horses like me who've worked in a great variety of environments, deep specialists who know specific environments or industries very well, and high-level mover/shakers with the political savvy and connections to effectively get "the word" out and implemented in some significant organizations.

 I can see a variety of resulting scenarios :

1) We're able to actually find out what works in real-world recruiting environments.
2) We can't determine what works, but we can determine what doesn't work and should be avoided.
3) We learn that it is theoretically possible to accomplish our task, but beyond the scope of  our resources.
4) We learn that it is inherently impossible to determine what works/doesn't work except in very specialized/limited types of environments.
5) We learn that it is inherently impossible to determine what works/doesn't work in almost any environment and that what you do/don't do is inconsequential to the organization's hiring results. (Even I am not this skeptical...) 

Regardless of the outcome, doing this would greatly enhance the statureand professionalism of recruiting. IMHO, this would do far more to "gain a seat at the table" than simply relying on adopting more recruiting metrics which is often advocated by the "experts" .

However, I also suspect that it would still leave the issue of "What is Recruiting?" unresolved.


BIOGRAPHY

Keith D. Halperin, SPHR (Emeritus)
84 Hazelwood Avenue
San Francisco, California 94112 +1.415.586.8265  kdhalperin@sbcglobal.net (home e-mail) 

 •Keith Halperin has worked in recruiting, placement, search, and research for highly diverse clients (from startups to Fortune 500 firms) throughout the San Francisco Bay Area since 1986.

•He conceived, designed, and implemented corporate recruiting strategies, and developed a white paper for a $70 million, 5-year NASA CS recruiting project.

•He developed the Recruiting Process Methodology, a comprehensive open-source roadmap of recruiting.

•He co-founded MyIPOJob job fairs for pre-IPO companies, and founded Recruitersforum http://www.recruitersforum.com/), an on-line job site for all types of recruiting positions.

•He possesses an aggressive commitment to client satisfaction.

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