I have seen some articles of late that suggest corporate recruiters will soon be unnecessary. They typically tout the power of the internet to attract and screen candidates and imply that “old-fashioned, human-to-human” recruiting has become too much of a cost center, without enough benefit. Destined, perhaps, for extinction.
In my world of sales, I’ve seen articles that also predict the demise of sales people simply because today’s buyers have access to so much information and typically are almost completely through their buying process before even talking with a sales person. Yikes.
Before we get too depressed, I want to offer a suggestion — and a challenge — to help ensure that you, as a recruiting professional, continue to be seen as a critical, value-added piece of the hiring process. In fact, I believe that recruiters can (and do!) create tremendous value for hiring managers, prospects, candidates and companies.
The biggest problem, though, is that recruiters often don’t effectively rise above the crowd and create more value throughout the entire recruiting (and ‘buying’) process. In other words, they find out (too late) that their competitors have done a better job of understanding their prospects and markets and they don’t know how to gain a key, competitive advantage when it comes to engaging with prospects.
I’d like to propose a simple 3-level taxonomy to make my point. And the question you need to ask yourself is, “What level am I?”
Level 1 Recruiters: Pitching jobs and companies
Level 1 recruiters may have excellent knowledge of their companies and/or open positions. But the mistake they make is they spend way too much time simply “pitching” or talking about their “awesome opportunity”. They spend very little, if any, time asking questions about their prospects. It’s all about speed and filling open requisitions.
Nothing special here. Your competitors also know their products very well. In addition, you run the risk of truly alienating prospects — especially your passive prospects. The old-school “pitchman” is a thing of the past. If you recruit at this level, you will certainly become extinct.
When you think about it, what would distinguish a Level 1 recruiter from an awesome landing page on a well-presented corporate career website? Probably not much. Why would a company invest in someone who simply is a “talking brochure”? Stated another way, what would a prospect learn from you they wouldn’t be able to learn (on their own) from the website?
And what can the Level 1 recruiter do that a highly sophisticated resume key-word search program wouldn’t do when it comes to initial sourcing?
Level 2 Recruiters: Solving problems
In Level 2 recruiting, you identify (through your questioning and listening skills) a solid set of items that are important to your prospect, and you carefully align your job/company to match what’s important to your prospect.
Level 2 sellers are skilled at developing unique value proposition statements and know how to tailor their product or service to address a specific problem or need. A Level 2 recruiter would be able to discover key “pain points” (e.g., desire for career growth, or opportunities to work as part of a high-performing team). Then, the “product pitch” would focus on exactly how this opportunity can “solve” the problem the prospect is experiencing.
If you recruit at Level 2, you are probably providing a very similar experience as your competitors, and you are likely getting decent “sat scores” from hiring managers and candidates. From our experience — spending thousands of hours working with hundreds of recruiters — I would say most recruiters are at Level 2. But that brings me to my point. I am not sure that Level 2 recruiters are really showing key, competitive advantage.
So although Level 2 recruiters certainly can help prospects and candidates solve problems and prove value in opportunities, there’s still one more level that will set you apart from your competition and keep you from becoming extinct.
Level 3 Recruiters: Proactive, strategic partners
I think there’s some evidence that in the sales world the very top performers exhibit some other characteristics that truly set them apart. One of those characteristics is the ability to become a strategic partner with clients — one that helps clients see common business problems in a new light. Level 3 sellers are able to create insight — offering possibilities or a future that even their clients can’t yet see.
Level 3 sellers are very smart. Using high levels of customer, industry, and product knowledge, they put together insights that challenge the status quo and thinking of their customers. They put problems in a new light, and they offer innovative ways that their products and services can solve troubling business problems.
Level 3 sellers are proactive, aggressive and strategic. Using business acumen and product knowledge they position themselves as key, collaborative partners with their clients — not just “peddlers of products”. They have truly earned a spot at the decision-making table.
A Level 3 recruiter, then would be one who comes to each encounter prepared. Level 3 recruiters have done their homework — they not only know their product, but they know their markets, prospects, and trends very well.
Level 3 recruiters know how to ask the right questions at the right time — ones that help prospects see opportunities in new ways. To make the distinction between Level 2 and Level 3 recruiting, let me offer an example.
A Level 2 recruiter would be adept at identifying work-life balance as an important driver and (rightfully) share how the position or company would be able to provide the balance that’s important for the prospect.
A Level 3 recruiter, on the other hand, would ask powerful “implication” questions to help the prospect think through how having work-life balance might affect other aspects of the person’s life. In doing so, the Level 3 recruiter might help clarify or solidify the prospect’s thinking — possibly expanding it — and deepening the value proposition.
The Level 3 recruiter might also help the prospect identify new opportunities or challenges that were not originally identified. In our example of work-life balance, the prospect might begin to think about how much more important it is to have opportunities to volunteer in the community (as a result of better work-life balance), or give back in some way. And perhaps … this line of conversation might even open up more opportunities to sell value (especially if your company prides itself on having strong community service ties).
And one more piece for thought …. I believe that when it comes to engaging top, passive candidates you must be a Level 3 recruiter. No other level will set you apart. Not Level 2 — and certainly not Level 1! You absolutely need to earn your right “at the decision-making table” as a trusted, strategic partner. And I believe that top, passive candidates expect Level 3 recruiting as the “price of entry”.
You get the point. Level 3 sellers — and recruiters — are not in any danger of becoming extinct. They have done their homework and create value by helping create new ways of thinking and new insight.
What level are you? What level do you think your prospects need? Your hiring managers? What can you do to make 2015 the year you move to a new level?
To your success!
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