When Recruiting, Small Differences Add Up

By Leon Rubis Apr 28, 2015

SAN DIEGO—When it comes to progressing from good to great, “small things can have a massive impact,” believes Johnny Campbell, CEO of Social Talent in Dublin, Ireland, a provider of online and social media training to the recruitment and staffing industry.

Campbell’s company has studied the daily activities of more than 1,000 recruiters to discern “250 tiny things [great recruiters] do differently.” Some of his tips surprised and delighted attendees of his concurrent session, “Good to Really Great: The Five Things That High-Performing In-House Recruiters Do That Others Don’t,” at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2015 Talent Management Conference & Exposition here.

First on his list? “They search with precision.” The average recruiter looks at 110 web pages a day, Campbell said. Paradoxically, high-performing recruiters conduct 65 percent fewer online searches than low-performing recruiters, because they make more effective use of Boolean formulas and other advanced search tools. The result is a higher percentage of candidates worth contacting, and better response rates from them.

Campbell reminded attendees that search engines on LinkedIn, Monster and other recruiting sites can be quite literal in returning results. An audience-pleasing example started with a LinkedIn search for “engineer” in the San Francisco Bay area that turned up plenty of people. But a search for “enginer” turned up 169 more, and a search for “enginner” returned another 420. And lest a recruiter think that poor spellers would also be poor employees, many of them work for Apple, Google and other market-leading high-tech firms. “So put in all possible ways of expressing search terms,” including misspellings, Campbell urged.

High performers also leverage a range of channels, are on social media sites eight times more often, but also use email and the phone . They tend to do online searches more frequently between 2-6 p.m., with mornings typically reserved for talking to people. “The single best medium is the phone, the oldest technology,” he said.

But phone calls will often lead to encounters with “gatekeepers” who can be barriers to contacting candidates. To get around them, “you have to be in control, and you do that by taking control.” Instead of answering questions (“Who’s calling?” “What’s this in reference to?”), ask them instead: “Is he at his desk now?” “When might he be back?" “Can I leave him a voicemail?”

And “remember the purpose of your pitch is not to get a resume, it’s to get to the next conversation.” Be prepared to engage with candidates. On average, it takes four interactions to get a candidate to apply for a job, he said, although women often require more interactions, perhaps because they may lack the “overconfidence” of men.

So “perseverance pays off.” After 24 hours, an e-mail has only a 2 percent chance of receiving a response, he said. But by following up in multiple ways, great recruiters raise their response rates from 20-30 percent of passive candidates to 65 percent.

Campbell said the best time to send an e-mail is 6 a.m. because many people use their smartphone as an alarm clock, or check their email and social media pages first thing in the morning. “At 4 p.m., however, people are thinking about going home, picking up the kids” and other chores. Of course, there’s no need to arise at dawn to hit the send button; emails can be scheduled in advance.

The result of these and other techniques, Campbell said, are “more candidates, faster; better qualified candidates; and people who want to work for you.” A version of his presentation is available here.

Leon Rubis is vice president of editorial at SHRM.


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