A few years ago when I was running a recruitment business in Hong Kong the server went down unexpectedly one morning. I distinctly remember watching as many of my team immediately began packing up their stuff and heading for the door like it was the end of the day.
“Where’s everyone going?”, I asked casually as the stampede gathered around me as if there had been a fire evacuation.
“There’s no internet connection so we can’t work”, one of them replied.
“There’s absolutely no point just sitting around without Internet access”, somebody else chimed in, rallying the troops to all bail out with her.
If I’d had a whistle I would have blown it like a coach summoning the team back in off the field.
But I didn’t have a whistle so I just asked everyone to head straight back to their desks.
I suddenly realised that I had a team of supposedly very experienced recruiters who actually believed they couldn’t work just because we’d temporarily lost our access to the Internet.
It was time for some basic Recruitment Training 101.
A few of them looked like I was talking Swahili as I explained that nobody would be leaving the office even if the Internet was down all day. (And no … the blank looks were not as a result of my Cantonese!)
As far as I was concerned it was business as usual.
I started off by reminding everyone that when I had first got into the recruitment game, there had been no Internet at all.
“So what did you do?” – I couldn’t believe someone had actually asked me that question!
“Made a hell of a lot of money”, I responded cheekily (but truthfully nonetheless).
A sea full of horrified faces stared at me unresponsively.
I then explained that while the server may well have been down, the phone lines were still alive and well and so I expected everyone to spend the day actually talking to clients.
You should have seen their reaction to that suggestion!
So here are 7 recruitment strategies (think of them as practical ‘recruiter survival tips’) if for whatever reason you happen to find yourself back in the Dark Ages as a result of a 21st Century technological ‘meltdown’.
1. Call your clients more. Email your clients less.
How would you react if you had to (cold) call 25 clients every day? Not 5 clients … but 25 clients! It was par for the course ‘back then’ but for some reason today it would seem like an insurmountable task (or at least a completely unrealistic expectation!) for many recruiters.
Give it a go … and at the end of the day, rather than looking at the number of emails you sent out to clients (emails which may well just get deleted in a nanosecond) have a look at how many outbound calls are actually in your call log.
Trust me … meaningful conversations are far more effective than meaningless emails.
Gosh you could even call those clients where you have successfully made placements in the last few months and actually talk about how your candidates are going rather than waiting for a one word response to a blanket quality check survey blast.
2. Ask for client and candidate referrals.
I am the first to admit that LinkedIn is an awesome tool. I mean by the time you read this blog post, I will have already shared it to all my LinkedIn groups!
But before the creation of the professional networking phenomenon, recruiters had to actually ask for candidate and client referrals.
And guess what? It worked!
The “Six Degrees of Separation” theory isn’t a myth. So go ahead and ask your favourite clients if they could share the details of a few of their colleagues with you. And then ask your top candidates who else they might be able to recommend.
Good people will happily recommend other good people.
Voila … LinkedIn 1990’s style!
3. Follow up prospects from networking events.
I’m sure even if you’re a “500+” active LinkedIn user, you still have a box of business cards somewhere on your desk. Or if you don’t have a box of cards, then somewhere in your top 2 drawers are bundles of business cards probably being held together with an elastic band.
Remember from all those networking events you’ve been to? Those business chamber drinks nights? Industry lunches?
Now why don’t you go through the cards, and actually call a few of the numbers and speak to the people behind the email addresses.
You know what? They may even pick up the phone!
And by the way … you might then just find yourself having one of those meaningful conversations I mentioned earlier.
Imagine if they have a role they want to brief you on!
4. Keep in regular contact with your candidates.
“How do I let all my temp candidates know about an assignment without Twitter or Facebook?”
Here’s a secret. I was a top billing temp consultant for a long time before the little blue birdie and ‘thumb’ icons were even a glimmer of a thought.
If a temp assignment came up, I would just stay in the office making call after call, explaining the role over and over again to every suitable temp candidate I had on my books until someone told me they could start tomorrow morning at 8:30am.
That’s right … I stayed in the office since not everyone had a mobile phone (let alone a smartphone) and if you left a message on a home voicemail, you had to wait until they called you back!
You know who your top available temps are. And they actually like hearing from you every now and then.
So don’t just call them about an assignment. Try calling them just to see how they are. It’s amazing what market intelligence you can get from your temp or contract workforce.
5. Never stop promoting your A-grade candidates.
“I won’t be able to advertise my jobs if I can’t access the job boards“.
I have two words for you. “Reverse Marketing”.
If for some reason you can’t access your job boards, try refocusing your energy. Rather than casting the net out there for new candidates (the majority of whom you will probably never even contact anyway), pick your top five candidates and just do everything you can to get them in front of your prospective or existing clients.
That means getting back on the phones (are you starting to see a common pattern emerging here?) and promoting your A-grade candidates.
Potentially making a placement without even having to go through any ad response?
Who would have thought …
6. Whenever possible, talk through our shortlist personally.
“The Internet’s down. How am I supposed to email my shortlist across to my client?”
Flashback to 1996: “The fax machine’s broken. How I am supposed to get my shortlist across to my client?”
I’ll give you one guess!
True story: I once had a client who had set his fax machine up so that the receiving pages went straight into the shredder. I’m serious. He just refused to acknowledge faxed CVs and only agreed to meet with candidates if the recruiter had convinced him personally as to why they were suitable.
So if you’ve got a killer shortlist, either give your client a call and save her reading through all your consultant summaries, or suggest you both meet for a coffee and talk through your Top 5 candidates face to face.
Besides, how many times have you emailed your shortlist to your client only to be let down by an Out of Office reply delaying the process anyway?
7. Phone interviews are a great way to cull.
“If I can’t get on to Skype, I’ll have to cancel all my interviews!”
Can you see me playing my ‘air violin’ for you in sympathy right now?
First. World. Crisis.
Think of The Voice ‘blind auditions’ and just do a phone interview where you can decide whether your candidate is perfect for the role based on how they communicate, how they talk through their career to date, and whether or not they can impress you over the phone.
And heaven forbid you have to invite them in for an interview, or meet them at a café in person later …
* * *
Not only was I personally a very successful recruiter sans social media, but I also managed many recruiters who consistently hit annual billings of in excess of $750K.
This was without LinkedIn; without Twitter; without Facebook; and for many years even without Google!
What would your bonus look like if you billed $750K?
So here’s an idea. Why not step back in time and spend a day in the 1990s every once in a while. You might even enjoy speaking to your clients and candidates as opposed to just watching their online activity.