- James Stewart
Digital technology has transformed recruitment over the past 25 years, paving the way for faster communications with candidates and clients.
However, with the growing number of channels available, James Stewart, director of business systems at Macildowie, says recruiters should never lose sight of the thing that matters most – human relationships. Young recruiters, taking their first steps in the industry today, may be forgiven for thinking they can spend the whole day at their desk, sending out cut-and-paste emails and LinkedIn messages to multiple candidates.
Today, digital technology pervades every aspect of our professional and personal lives, to the extent that we rarely have to pick up the phone or organise a face-to-face meeting if we don’t want to. But without these real conversations, which form the bedrock of lasting relationships, it’s almost impossible to succeed.
I’m sure that anyone under the age of 30 would balk at the idea that, when I started out with Macildowie 25 years ago, my ‘tools of the trade’ consisted of a local Yellow Pages, a set of index cards and a landline phone. Access to a computer was shared between everyone in the office, and we had to return to our desks at 6pm if we wanted to speak to a candidate at home.
In a world of email and social media, it’s easy to feel like we no longer have to hit the phones after hours because candidates can be contacted discreetly while they are at work. Nevertheless, I always urge caution because constant messaging is a real distraction in the modern workplace, and it is certainly no substitute for actually speaking to someone. The quality of the conversation is almost always better when the candidate is at home and relaxed.
Experience tells us that even star candidates sometimes submit a mediocre CV to a recruitment agency, and it’s our job to uncover them. Instead of simply accepting what they put down on paper or write on their LinkedIn profile, take the time to meet them. I firmly believe that recruitment is a contact sport – you need to have those all-important conversations over coffee, to really find out what someone can bring to a role. Once that relationship is established, chances are the candidate will return to you again as they make their way up the career ladder.
The trick is to use technology to speed up everyday processes in a way that adds value, without letting it control you. Our consultants use software to post job opportunities across all social media channels instantly, meaning they don’t have to manually upload each one. By automatically feeding applications from electronic job boards, they are also able to process as many as 10–12,000 applications a month, compared to around 2,000 a few years ago.
While emails still have their place, one of the major changes on the horizon will almost certainly be the arrival of ‘chat bots’. Consultants, who are currently tied up answering emails or taking calls, could use them to provide updates to candidates on how their application is progressing. Less time-consuming than replying to a multitude of individual emails, it means they can focus their attention on those jobseekers that are most likely to secure a role, rather than those who sign up to a string of different agencies.
Whatever innovations we see over the coming years, and whatever new channels become available, we should never forget the importance of excellent service. Staying in contact with a candidate at every stage in their application is crucial, but consultants need to be realistic about what they can achieve and manage their candidates’ expectations accordingly. There will be times when you are unable to speak to someone, so make sure you manage their expectations and explain why. It may be, for instance, that there aren’t any suitable roles for an applicant at the moment, but that’s not to say there won’t be in the future. Having an honest conversation with them shows you have their best interests at heart and helps ensure you won’t damage any future relationship.
Alongside communication, what sets great recruiters apart is their deep understanding and knowledge of the market. Candidates always ask about salaries, what the best companies to work for are and how they can improve their CV and interview skills – and it’s the recruiter’s job to add value in these areas. In other words, they have to offer advice and expert insight that couldn’t be obtained with a quick online search. In the same way that you should always be suspicious of an estate agent who values a house way above the market rate, so too should jobseekers be cautious about recruiters who vastly overestimate what salary they can expect.
For me, good relationships with candidates and clients stem from the close bonds that are forged with colleagues. Working together on the same activities, while promoting a culture of excellence, gives the next cohort of recruiters the confidence to build meaningful relationships in person and on the phone, as well as online.
James Stewart is director of business systems at Macildowie
For more details on Macildowie, visit www.macildowie.com