Siofra Pratt
Posted by Siofra Pratt

Back in March this year, I was lucky enough to fulfil one of my bucket list goals – to perform with my choir on an international stage. On March 16th 2016, just over 60 of us made the journey from Dublin to New York city to perform at a variety of venues as part of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations including; marching in the parade and singing for a congregation in the Irish consulate.

For the duration of our trip I stayed with two others in East Village, an area known for its diverse community, vibrant nightlife and artistic sensibility. Walking back to our Airbnb apartment one evening, we came across a giant mural unlike any I’d seen before. Instead of a striking image or space filled with graffiti symbolism, this mural told the inhabitants and the visitors to Houston Street “How to Work Better”.

Yes, in just 10 simple steps the mural shared with everyone who cared to look up, how they could improve their working life and handle any and all corporate situations thrown at them. But as I stared up at the six story list, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly relevant each of the 10 points were for recruiters today:

1. Do one thing at a time.

Surely you can get way more done when you’re chipping away at lots of jobs at the same time, right? WRONG! Ask yourself this – how often do you stop working on a specific task under the ruse of ‘multitasking’, when in reality all that you’re actually doing is moving away from it because you’ve either hit a stumbling block or simply grown tired of the exercise? I’m guessing, quite a lot! So all that you’re actually doing is fuelling your procrastination addiction.

Instead of jumping from one thing to another constantly, try your best to focus on doing one thing at a time, no matter how painstaking that particular task might be. Tell yourself you will ignore all distractions, and it’s amazing what you will achieve in a small timeframe. If you can, lock yourself in your office, or a quiet room for this time, and take just one hour to focus 100% on the task at hand. That way, when it’s done you can move onto the next task, rather than half-heartedly working on lots of different tasks and not really getting anywhere. We’d also recommend limiting the the number of tabs or windows open on your computer too, so that the temptation to poke around isn’t there.

2. Know the problem.

In order to be able to find the right candidate, you first need to understand who you’re supposed to be looking for. To do so, you need to know what the Hiring Manager needs and wants. And that requires making time to discuss this with them in person.

Taking a job brief from the Hiring Manager is your opportunity to learn everything and anything you may need to know about the position and the person needed to fill it, so that you have the knowledge and insight to go out and find the right candidate for the job and company. But the problem is, many recruiters think that the best way to take a comprehensive job brief from a Hiring Manager is to send them a particular set of general, hypothetical questions in the hopes that the Hiring Manager will provide them with a unique insight into who they’re actually looking for. This is wrong on so many levels.

Find out how to take an effective job briefing from your Hiring Manager here.

3. Learn to listen.

Source: boweryboogie.com

The ‘How to work better’ mural was created by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. ‘Source: boweryboogie.com

“In order to both understand and shape your brand perception, you have to be a part of those conversations where they’re happening,” say the folks at AddThis.com. Which is why it’s so important for every recruiter to know what people are saying about their company online. And in order to know what they’re saying, you need to monitor and listen to people’s conversations.

Tools like Social Mention, Talkwalker Alerts, and Mention are time-savers that take the hassle out of monitoring. Many of them are notification systems that allow you to act when you see alerts, and best of all, most of these platforms have a real-time search component. Our favourites (and the social listening tools we currently employ at Social Talent) are Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

Once you can start to see what potential candidates and customers are saying about your brand, it’s up to you to answer questions, provide information, and send on helpful links. Get involved in the conversation. Remember that even if you respond to just a handful of LinkedIn updates/comments, Facebook posts/comments or tweets initially, you’re building relationships and brand awareness—not just with your followers, but with your followers’ followers as well. Bottom line: be aware of what people are saying about your company and get involved in the conversation.

4. Learn to ask questions.

Never, ever assume that every aspect of your recruitment process is working correctly, especially when it comes to things like your application process and your interview process. The best way to learn if these processes are working, is to ask those candidates about their experiences with them. And don’t just ask those candidates that got the job. Some of the most valuable feedback can come from those who were not so successful.

Try asking them whether the ATS application process was easy to navigate and use? Was there enough information available to them online in places like your careers site? How was the feedback they received? Did they receive any feedback at all? Was the interview panel too intimidating?

5. Distinguish sense from nonsense.

If you haven’t been able to take a job briefing from the Hiring Manager in person, it’s important that you understand how to decipher what they really need from the job description they give you. If they specify that they need someone with a first class honours degree would they really object to meeting a candidate with a 2:1 and great experience in the field? It’s exceptionally important for you to weed out which job description elements are 100% necessary and which elements are just a “nice to have”?

6. Accept change as inevitable.

Recruitment can be a very backward industry, especially when compared to the likes of Marketing and Sales which are always striving to find new ways to solve old problems. Sometimes, it seems that all we do in recruitment is try to solve old problems using old, blunt tools! We have a hard time getting our heads around how new and exciting tools could actually benefit us and make our lives easier, particularly when it comes to social media and specific tools like Snapchat and Instagram.

Change is good. It helps us innovate and find new people in new and interesting ways – ways that very often tend to resonate better with the candidates we’re trying to reach versus the standard InMail or email.

For some inspiration (and a kick up the backside as to why you should be trying new methods) check out these 4 super-creative alternative recruitment methods other companies have tried and succeeded with.

7. Admit mistakes.

Photo: Jason Wyche/Public Art Fund, NY

Photo: Jason Wyche/Public Art Fund, NY

Regardless of who you are, where you come from or the school/university you went to, each and every one of us has some form of unconscious bias towards a particular gender, social group, industry etc. For recruiters, these biases can colour our judgement when it comes to the candidates we put up for selection. Our biases affect our perception of people, our attitude toward them, our behaviours towards them, the aspects of them we focus our attention on and how much how or how little we comfort them in certain situations like the job interview. In fact, unaddressed unconscious bias is one of the biggest barriers we have when it comes to increasing diversity in our organisations.

In order to minimise its impact on the recruiting process, the first step we need to take is to recognise and acknowledge the biases we hold. And one of the best ways to do this is to complete what’s known as the Harvard Implicit Association test – a free online assessment you can take to discover your unconscious bias.

To learn more about how badly your unconscious bias affect your recruiting skills, click here.

8. Say it simple.

Back in 2014, the first extensive scientific study into job ad language and its impact on candidate application rates as well as application quality was conducted and published in the Journal of Business and Psychology. The results were undeniable. They found that language and tone can not only drive more applicants but can ensure that only top quality candidates apply to your jobs. After analysing a variety of job ads, researchers identified two different types of job ads:

  • Demanding – Job ads that tell the candidate what skills and experience they need to have in order to be able to do the job satisfactorily.
  • Supportive – Job ads that told the candidate what they’ll need to do in the role and how the organisation are going to help them do it.

After testing the success of both sets of job ads, researchers found that the job ads classified as Supportive received 3x more applicants and higher quality applications than those job ads classified as Demanding. In all tests, candidates that responded to Demanding job ads were less discerning and of lower quality to those who applied to the Supportive job ads. So, what’s the difference between the two ads?

Demanding Job Ads – Demanding (or “Company Centric”) job ads are written such that the company’s demands of the candidate need to match the abilities of the candidate. The job ad is focused on telling the candidate what is expected of them by the employer and typically contains more corporate jargon. A typical sentence from a Demanding job ad might look something like this:

“The successful applicant will have excellent written and verbal communication skills and be a motivated, self-starter who is able to complete tasks in a timely manner.”

Supportive Job Ads – Supportive (or “Candidate Centric”) job ads are written such that the needs of the company are matched with what the company can supply to the candidate. The job ad is focused on telling the candidate what is expected of them, but also what the candidate can expect of the company, and does so using slightly more human language. A typical sentence from a Supportive job ad might look something like this:

“As a core member of the Project Management team, you will be expected to work autonomously and deliver on project phases on time and on budget. We will help you achieve your goals by continuous professional development and regular career progression sessions.”

To learn more about why simplified, supportive job ads drive more high quality applications, see our post on 10 ways to instantly improve your job ads.

9. Be Calm

Between composing an initial contact InMail to a highly sought after developer, providing your last interviewee with detailed feedback by email and crafting a new Boolean search string for your latest open role, life as a recruiter is pretty damn full on! To reduce stress and relieve some pressure, you should get into the habit of making a weekly plan.

Have you got to jump straight into work as soon as you get in on a Monday morning? But do you end up wasting time trying to remind yourself of what needs to be done and where to pick-up from Friday? If so, what’s the solution? Well, a to-do list of course, but more specifically a to-do list that’s written on Friday afternoon.

Think of it as a brief handover, like one you might leave for a team-member when you go on holiday. Don’t rely on your memory on a Monday morning – you’re already tired, and suffering from post-weekend blues, so why put more pressure on yourself? As your day draws to a close on Friday, you can definitely find time to draft up a list of actions for Monday (and your whole week if you can).

10. Smile

It costs nothing, you’ll sound more personable on the phone and you’ll come across as 10x more friendly when you meet candidates/clients in person. So break out those pearly whites ad lib throughout the day.

(RELATED: 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Productivity – NOW!)

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