The World Needs More Recruiters

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Today’s guest post is from Martin Snyder — President of PC Recruiter.

The Cynical Girl (and its progenitor PunkRockHR) have been on my list of must read blogs since I first discovered Laurie’s unique voice a few years ago.  Laurie cuts thru the BS of business-speak and lives up to her Cynical handle, yet she consistently advocates for fairness, compassion, and breaking down barriers in HR practices, especially relating to the treatment of unemployed candidates and irrationally narrow hiring criteria.  She manages to do that while being interesting, provocative, and responsive, which is why this blog sports a sophisticated (and diverse) readership.  A few weeks ago, Laurie made an offhand remark that nobody asks her to guest-post on her blog.  I immediately responded that I would love to do a guest post, and she came back with an elaborate (exactly one word) reply: No.

Being stubborn and accustomed to rejection, I kept at it, telling Laurie that I had something serious to say to her readership.  She finally relented and offered me the post on the Ides of March.

What I want to share with you today is a simple proposition:  to mitigate unemployment and increase economic development, the world needs more recruiters.

Before that can happen, the world needs to better understand the recruiting profession.  I wrote a heavily referenced whitepaper on the subject, but rather than use that academic approach here, in the style of the Cynical Girl, I’m going to use plainer language.

Many people, even savvy business professionals, have little understanding of what recruiters actually do.  When recruiting is described, it’s one of those things easier said than done.

In January of this year, a blog post was published on Recruiter.com touching that subject which to date has generated over 2,000 tweets and nearly 2500 “Likes”.  The post starts with the story of Twenty Heartbeats.  In an ancient country, a rich man wants a painting of a beloved horse. He takes the horse to an artist, and pays much gold in advance.  The artist looks the horse over, and then goes off to paint. After years go by, the horse is old, and the rich man is angry by the lack of production of the painting.  He confronts the artist, who whereupon paints the horse in a few brush strokes (twenty heartbeats of work), and the painting is incredibly brilliant and lifelike in every way.  Enraged by this display, the rich man turns his back on the artist, but as he is leaving the artist’s home, the man sees the thousands of studies, scraps, and nearly complete paintings of the horse that the artist made in preparation to be able to create the stellar work in just twenty heartbeats.

The metaphor, of course, directly applies to recruiting; while it looks easy enough to persuade a person to move from one job to another, in the real world, it actually takes years of study and expertise to be able to reliably make it happen.  I think there are further metaphors that can helpfully describe what recruiters do, and why recruiting is so essential and difficult (and thus high-value).  A house is a pile of sticks, a car is a hunk of metal, but a job is identity, security, ambition, and social position.  Moving from one job to another is really moving from one tribe to another, and that movement is a high-stakes decision.

HR people are constantly talking about “fit” and “culture” when they talk about recruiting and staffing — possibly because moving between tribes is choreographed with deep evolutionary roots.  There is another word for a big part of a recruiter’s job: ethnography (from Greek ethnos = folk/people and grapho = to write), which is a method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena reflecting the knowledge and meanings guiding the life of a cultural group.

Superior recruiters are superior ethnographers who are able to understand and manipulate the knowledge and meanings that create the culture of organizations — both the sources of and targets for the candidates that they work with.  Superior recruiters are also market makers of Social Capital.  Social capital refers to connections within and between social networks, which helps explain why modern Social Media has had such an explosive impact on the profession.  As a sociological concept, the prevalent view among economists is that the greater the stock of social capital, the higher the likelihood of positive economic outcomes for any given group.

To be sure, recruiters are capable of creating jobs were no job actually exists according to econometric models.  According to The Establishment Level Behavior of Vacancies and Hiring, in most models of search, matching, and hiring in the labor market, employers post vacancies to attract job seekers. Many establishments with zero reported vacancies at month’s end do hire new employees the following month. Establishments reporting zero vacancies at month’s end account for 42% of all hires the following month. Only about half of that gap can be explained with current econometric models, implying that many hires are not mediated through vacancies.  Recruiters know how many of these hires are made: an organization has presented with the opportunity to bring on a person with a given set of attributes, and a latent or new role is created as a response to that presentation.  That presentation is often the work of a professional recruiter.

Coincident with the rise of social media in recruiting, the subspecialty of Sourcing has become recognized.  Recently, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), for the first time ever, recognized a standard for HR (Cost per Hire), which identified Sourcing activities as a distinct component of staffing operations.

By whatever name and in whatever environment, recruiting is a basic economic activity.  Recruiting takes place everywhere that organizations are built.  Effective recruiting means understanding cultures and effective management of social capital.  Applying recruiting skills more formally in economic development efforts, taking a market-based approach to working with unemployed candidates, and identifying and developing the sales talent inherently required for superior recruiting results are ways to enhance economic results for individuals and organizations.  In my opinion, it is an undeniable fact that the world needs more recruiters and greater respect and understanding for what recruiters really do.

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