When I think about how recruiting has evolved over the past 15 years (wow – I suddenly feel old!), I’m amazed by the changes and feel very lucky to have witnessed and participated in this massive evolution firsthand.
Mid – Late 90′s = A Desk and a Phone (and a Big, Boxy Computer)
Back when I first started recruiting, the Internet was a pretty new-fangled thing, “green screens” weren’t uncommon and there weren’t many resources for recruiters who wanted to reach out to candidates. We would actually receive paper resumes in the mail, scan them with some scarily inaccurate OCR software that made every resume look like it was written in Russian and then input them into our internal database. (Said database had 20K resumes in it, something we bragged about at the time… I now have more first-level LinkedIn connections than that! haha) We did use a couple of fledgling online resume databases, attend job fairs and post to online newsgroups (remember those?) or in the newspaper (yes, print advertising!). I lived on the phone, cold calling into target companies (via clandestine phone lists, after-hours phone trees, unsuspecting receptionists or sheer random extensions) and praying that people wouldn’t curse me out or hang up on me. Times were hard for recruiters!
Late 90′s – Mid 2000′s = The Job Board Era
Then came the dot com era when the Internet was booming and there was a website for everything. Recruiters embraced this new technology, posting jobs on Monster, MonsterTrak (remember that one for college recruiting?), CareerBuilder, niche sites, local yokels, mom-and-pop sites, etc. We’d advertise our positions, wait for people to apply online and then scour the internal database for candidates. It was the “Post-and-Pray” method of recruiting. The “proactive” ones among us would go out and search online resume databases and reach out to candidates directly. Of course, all of these candidates (those contacting us and those we contacted) were all active jobseekers and, therefore, not exactly ideal. Amongst HR/Recruiting management, there was constant talk of reaching those passive jobseekers but it always sounded more like a vague wish for the future rather than an actual plan of action. (A very small minority of us were out there doing AIRS sourcing and internet mining to source passive candidates, but these folks were definitely the exception, not the rule.) And, yes, we were still attending those job fairs, hoping that this one would be different, but they never were… You know why? It’s because those job fair attendees were the same exact people we were already finding online – active job seekers. In some ways, we were less effective than we were in the mid-90′s when at least we were cold-calling and reaching those passive job seekers. Scary thought, huh?
Mid – Late 2000′s = The Dawn and Expansion of LinkedIn
We were still heavily using job boards and resume databases during this era, but there was something new on the horizon – LinkedIn. I remember when LinkedIn first came about. I received an invite to join and accepted it without giving it much further thought. Then came another invite, which I actually ignored because I foolishly thought at the time, “He wasn’t a very strong hire. I wouldn’t recommend or hire him again, so don’t think I’ll link up with that guy.” Several weeks later, I needed to hire someone with his exact skill set and realized that even if HE wasn’t a viable option, he was probably connected to lots of other techies who might be a match. I went in and accepted his invite and was suddenly linked to a bunch of great PASSIVE candidates for my opening. This was 2004 and I was officially bitten by the LinkedIn bug.
The next big “lightbulb” moment for me was when the TopLinked Top 50 list crossed my desk. I realized that by linking to these superconnectors, I could increase my network exponentially and have my own built-in Monster database of sorts. And it would be full of those ever-elusive passive candidates. Wow! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?? I was off and running, connecting with everyone and anyone who would link up. It couldn’t hurt and it only expanded my reach and gave me more recruiting options.
Fast forward a few years and there I was, working my way toward that Top 50 list myself. Why not become one of those superconnectors rather than riding their coattails? It took some effort, but I finally made it and eventually capped out at 30,000 first-level connections in June 2009. Made it to the Top 10 list and have never looked back.
What surprises me most is that, even today, many recruiters still hold that same sentiment that I held in 2004. “If I don’t know you or can’t recommend you, I won’t connect with you.” Huh?? I can see where that policy makes sense for many LinkedIn users, but for a RECRUITER? You need to have as many options as possible. Why limit yourself?
2010 – Onward = The Social Recruiting Era
These days, it’s all about social recruiting, making connections, engaging your target audience and expanding your reach. It’s all about social influence, Klout, increasing your network, growing your followers, getting your message out, building your brand and evangelizing your company, its culture, etc.
LinkedIn has grown to be a household name with more than 100M users worldwide. It has become THE business networking site and the life blood of most recruiters. It’s the first place I go when I have a new opening to fill – searching my network database, networking with my connections, sharing openings via my LinkedIn status, posting jobs to LinkedIn groups, etc. For recruiters, it has become the standard, just as job boards were in the 2000′s and job fairs were in the 90′s.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, Meetup and other social networks are also proving to be valuable tools in a recruiter’s toolkit. These forums haven’t yet been fully adopted by the recruiting community as effective sourcing tools, but they are growing every day. I hear these sites talked about in the same wishful-thinking way that we talked about reaching passive jobseekers back in the 90′s. Everyone KNOWS they need to be more active in social recruiting, but they’re not yet sure how it all works, what to do, how to get there, what to measure, what it all means, etc. We’re all learning as we go, making those inevitable but necessary mistakes that help us grow and learn.
It’s an exciting time to be a recruiter, watching this massive evolution take place. If you’re not already “out there” and giving social recruiting a shot, then you will soon find yourself behind the curve and outdated in your skills. Now is the time to be embracing all of this change and keeping up with it as best you can. Log out of Monster for the afternoon and go create a Twitter account! Start your own LinkedIn Group (or two). Create a YouTube video to share your company’s unique culture. Join a Meetup group and go say hi to a potential hire face-to-face (yes, you can be “social” in person!)
And remember, social recruiting isn’t meant to replace the skills you’ve acquired over the years; it’s just another skill for your bag of tricks and a great vehicle to leverage all of those hard-earned recruiting talents. The payoff is huge, your network will grow, you will get some GREAT hires from it and you will make yourself VERY marketable to future employers.
Which era best describes YOUR current recruiting style? If you haven’t yet embraced social recruiting, now is the time. What are you waiting for??
- San Diego, CA, United States Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn ~ Blogging about Social Media, Recruiting, Networking and Job Search Tips & Tricks… Pay It Forward!