Dear Recruiter - Whats in it for me?
Maybe I am beginning to show my age - the grey hairs are starting to come in fast! - but I truly believe Social media has had a significantly detrimental effect on the headhunting industry.
There used to be a time when a headhunter working for an agency was seen as a trusted partner and adviser. They were seen as a well connected and knowledgeable professional who knew their market well, understood their clients needs and were able to connect their clients with the talent they needed. A shortlist was never more than 3-5 CVs long, and from that group, more often than not a hire was made and a fee was earned for a job well done.
When I joined a headhunting firm on a graduate scheme 10+ years ago - I wasn't allowed to call a client until I had passed a test. I was training to be a headhunter in the Accounting & Finance industry. Before I was allowed to call a client, I had to show my bosses, that I had spoken to a certain number of professionals in that space, that I understood the difference between qualifications such as ACA, ACCA, CIMA and CFA. That I understood what the Ledgers were, how they fed up in to the General Ledger and created the Trial Balance. How that then led to the P+L, how accruals and prepayments and adjustments were taking in to account, what variance analysis was and how this all led to a final set of accounts. And what each role a person within the finance function will play as part of this process. It was similar when I moved in to the technology industry, if I didn't understand what they did, how could I find them what they needed?
The same principals were applied when a client asked me to help them fill a position. Before I would call a candidate, I needed to understand their particular business, what were the challenges they needed this person to solve, where was the business going, what career paths would they offer, why should someone want to join their organisation and so on. If a client just sent me a JD and a budget, but could not provide the above information, I would not work with them and even if I wanted to - I wasn't allowed! How could I articulate to our network what they were looking for and why they should switch roles with just a generic JD?
However, with the rise of sites like LinkedIn, the quality of recruitment seems to have gone downhill fast. As both a potential candidate and client, I am bombarded all day every day with lazy messaging, emails and invites. With people now so easily accessible, its opened the door for thousands of individuals and companies to flood the market to the point where headhunters are no longer seen as trusted advisers, but instead pests who know very little and just send as many CVs as possible if there are the right number of key words on it - and this is coming from an ex-headhunter!!
As a potential candidate I am flooded with emails from "headhunters" offering me a new role. 90% of them are irrelevant. My LinkedIn profile has the word technology on it, so any vacancy that is associated with technology seems to result in me receiving an email stating I am a great fit for the role. To date I still have no idea how to code, but apparently I have the perfect profile to be a software developer...
As a potential client I receive even more messages. Most of them are a generic email stating that the person is a specialist, that they have attached the terms of business and I should send them all the vacancies I need help with. I am still not sure how someone with 10 weeks experience recruiting administrative roles can be an expert in helping me find niche Insurance talent, but apparently they can...
I am sad to say this practice also sometime extends in to the corporate world, I have many ex-colleagues who have moved in to in-house talent roles, and it seems a corporate digital recruitment strategy amounts to little more than posting a job description or link to a career site on LinkedIn. I looked at an ex-headhunter colleagues profile recently who is now working at a retail company. Their last 27 updates are just job descriptions! There is no information on the company, the culture, career paths, no hook points at all.
So to the recruitment industry I repeat the words drilled in to me on a daily basis by my very first boss - he used to say "Lee, if I am the candidate/client - What is in it for me?"
When looking for candidates, do not just send a generic mailshot or post a JD with no context - 80% of individuals are not actively looking for a new role, and among top performers this number rises to above 95%. This is usually the talent an organisation should be looking to hire - so why would a job description attract this person if they are not looking to move. If you want to attract them, you need to give them a reason to engage - what is in it for them?
When approaching new clients, do not just send a generic email mailshot. That client receives dozens of them daily. Why should they engage with you? What is in it for them?
There are still good Headhunters out there without a doubt and I partner with a few that have added tremendous value. To the rest I simply ask - what is in it for me?