When It Comes to Talent, Innovate, Don’t Inundate

Recruiters advised to be creative and more personable when approaching passive candidates online

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright December 13, 2016
When It Comes to Talent, Innovate, Don’t Inundate

​It's no secret. If you're a recruiter, finding talent is hard.

Even though the ratio of unemployed people to recruiters is 202 to 1, said Steve Levy, principal of Recruiting Inferno Consulting in New York City, finding that elusive "purple squirrel"—what recruiters consider the flawless job candidate—remains difficult. And it is especially hard if you're stalking passive candidates' online profiles and then bombarding them with interview requests.

"People don't like recruiters," Levy told attendees at Recruit DC, an annual recruiting conference held in Bethesda, Md in late November. He said it's imperative that recruiters rely on more than just posting positions on job boards and repeatedly blitzing passive candidates with job offers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.

"If you type 'recruiters are' and don't hit the return key in Google, what [autopopulates] are the words stupid, worthless, evil, dumb and rude," he said.

"The three most important recruiting tools are the phone, the handshake and your brain," he said. Innovation is important when it comes to sourcing and approaching candidates, yet "we limit ourselves by what we did yesterday. We think, 'It worked last year. It will work again today.' "


[SHRM members-only resource: How to Target Passive Job Seekers]

Levy said recruiters devote a lot of their time to sifting through social media profiles looking for good candidates, but that may not be the way to find what they are looking for. Around the world, people are spending less time and sharing less original content on social media. For example, "Facebook has been struggling to reverse a 21 percent decline in 'original sharing,' or personal updates, from its 1.6 billion monthly active users," Forbes reported recently.

And experts say many in-demand candidates—especially those in the tech industries—have abandoned LinkedIn because of recruiters inundating them with pitches.

That's a concern for recruiters, especially since 95 percent of them use LinkedIn to find talent, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And recruiters are going to be busy next year: Levy said that "72 percent of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills and 48 percent are planning to increase head count in 2017."

Levy had some unorthodox suggestions for recruiters, including new ways of communicating with and finding talent. Levy suggested that recruiters be personable when reaching out to potential candidates—especially those who are likely to be inundated with requests from recruiters. Try sending e-mails, text messages or InMails (e-mails on LinkedIn) using almost the same types of one-liners one might use when connecting on a dating site, such as:

  • Is your name Wi-Fi? Cause I'm feeling a connection coming on …
  • Is your name Waldo? Because someone like you is hard to find.
  • Are you a magician? Because whenever I read your tweets about cybersecurity, everyone else disappears!
  • Life without you at my company would be like a broken pencil ... pointless.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, you're a 9. I'm the 1 recruiter you need.

"Be creative and experiment," he said. "Ask your current employees how they would respond to requests like these," but above all else, be original and innovate.

Levy said recruiters should also expand their search beyond the typical social media sites or job boards. A site like the conference directory website lanyrd.com can be used as a search engine to find people. Type in a word like "cybersecurity" and sourcers can find people listed as speakers on that topic who may be experts in their fields. After finding their names, go to their Twitter handles to assess their expertise, Levy said.

He also suggested that recruiters create lists of people to follow on Twitter as a way to let them know you are interested in them without sending dozens of messages.

"Let's say you're looking for accountants. Make a list and call it 'accountants I covet.' That person then gets a notice letting them know [you find them interesting].

"You can use Hootsuite or TweetDeck to subscribe to [other people's] lists" and then access "everyone's activity on that list. I can spend probably a half hour a day trying to interact or having a conversation or retweeting" a candidate's comments to make a personal connection, he said.

Levy also said that recruiters sourcing talent can use Riffle by CrowdRiff, which displays the most active hashtags for an account, so they can pick up key words and topics the candidate is talking about and then personalize their interactions.


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