Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How The Internet Has Changed Recruiting

Back in the 1980’s when I first started recruiting, the was no internet.  There wasn’t even fax.
We actually spoke to our clients, took job specs verbally and then, when we had lined up candidates, sent a messenger or mailed the résumés.  In the meanwhile, we called our clients and told them about our candidates.  We told them who they were; we explained why we were submitting them and we talked about why we thought they were good for the job.  The personal contact allowed us to establish great client relationships.

Then in the late 1980s, we got a fax machine.  I was one of the first advertising recruiters to have one.

 There was no such thing as a plain paper fax.  Faxes were received on this expensive, shiny paper.  Funny thing was, on our fax cover sheets, we had to put “location” (the recipient’s floor or some descriptor like “Human Resources”) because most companies initially only had one fax, sometime one per floor.  HR, as I recall, had to beg management to get their own faxes, which started happening in the beginning of the 1990s.  Faxing lasted well into the late 1990’s.

But faxing changed everything.  Suddenly, many HR people and hiring managers no longer wanted to discuss candidates (there were a lot of agencies where HR was not involved in screening or interviewing).  “Just fax the résumé and then we will discuss”. We would then get calls telling us who they wanted to see; We no longer had discussions about why..

Our receptionist used to be responsible for faxing résumés to clients.  She also received them from candidates. Our receptionist was busy.  But then, along came emailing.

It started happening gradually in the mid to late 1990’s.  Since everyone had an email address, recruiters did their own résumé submissions and reception.  One day in about 2000, I realized that my receptionist was merely answering calls, but most of the day, she was just sitting there with nothing to do.  That was, sadly, the end of reception for us.

One day in the early 2000 or 2001, I became very depressed because our phone wasn’t ringing.  And then I realized that what used to be a phone call was now an email.  A lot of personal contact was lost.  Today, the emails simply arrive, either through our website or directly.  Almost all our clients now want us to simply send the résumés via email.  Most will review them, then tell us who they want to see, generally by email.  There is little or no discussion – it has become very impersonal.  I still have one or two clients who call me and ask me to describe candidates.  I much prefer that because it allows me to become enthusiastic, to answer tough questions and to be able to tell my candidates what issues, if any, came up during the introduction. The nuances of that conversation are often very revealing.  I often find out things which were not part of the initial job specs, for instance when a client asks me to describe the candidate’s personality and they give me feedback on that.  These small comments and questions greatly helps us to understand the job.

I once ran a post called “Emails are Hurting Us”.  It is true.  Emails have depersonalized much of our communication.  I cannot begin to count the number of candidates I have placed whose résumés did not necessarily match the job spec.  But in a simple call, I could persuade my client to see the candidate.  Not so much anymore.

In the early part of the last decade, the job boards appeared.  For a while they were really important and many ad agencies used them exclusively, especially for junior positions.  Ironically, my clients have had the same experience I have had with them – candidates may list their résumés, but more often than not, do not respond to calls or emails (weird, right?).  The job boards have somewhat fallen out of favor now although they are still sometimes a thorn in my side (a candidate whose resume was downloaded months ago,but never contacted, may be precluded from interviewing because, "We already have their resume."

Then there is LinkedIn, which is easy to mine, good for me, good for companies doing their own recruiting, but I am not sure yet of its long term impact. The problem with LinkedIn is that most of the people on it still don't know how to use it effectively so it provides little relevant information other than name, title, company and tenure.

Just a quick word about Skype.  In the past couple of years I have been using it extensively for out of town interviews.  It is almost as good as an in person interview and is far more personal than a phone interview.  Ironically, there are many companies and recruiters who won’t use Skype.  There are even some candidates  who resist it. 

Not just because I am a recruiter, but because I believe in person-to-person contact, nothing takes the place of a real, person-to-person conversation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Return to Business after Maternity Leave

I promised that I would write this in my previous blog post about returning to business after a hiatus.  Maternity leave is different. I don't pretend to be an expert, but based on countless interviews with returning mothers (and occasionally, fathers), here are my observations.

There are a couple of essential points to remember once you go on maternity leave – and it doesn’t matter if it is three months, three years or eight or nine years. 

First, getting back to your previous job is relatively simple, provided you have stayed in contact with them.  If you are only out for a short period of time – under six months – your job will more than likely be waiting for you.  The law allows three months.  If it is slightly longer and you have stayed in touch, there should be no issue. 

Second, it is essential to keep in contact with key people from your old company and from your industry.  Staying in touch is essential.  You are far more likely to be hired by someone who knows you than someone who doesn’t.  An occasional lunch, drink or even a phone conversation, can do wonders for your career.  Some women are concerned that if they haven’t been in touch for a while, it is awkward to then get together with friends and associates.  Not so.  Believe it or not, people are flattered to hear from you.

Third, be active.  If you can do freelance work that is relevant to your professional career, you should do so.  If you do other work, keep a good list of your accomplishments, add them to your résumé and make sure that the way you list these things are relevant and connected.  For instance, if you are involved with the PTA and organize events, fund raisers or other things, these experiences are very relevant – fund raising involves selling, contacting, persuading, all of which are connected to your profession.  If, during maternity leave, you can do some freelance projects for an old firm or client, that will be immensely helpful.

Fourth, when preparing your résumé, it is literally better to list maternity leave as an item rather than leaving a gaping hole in your résumé.  Under that item you can and should list things you have done.  If you have done nothing but stay home and taking care of the kids, that is hard work and perfectly permissible.

One thing I see all the time, however, is women who I know who contact me, come to see me and then do nothing to advance their cause.  What I mean is that I ask them to make changes to their résumés and then I hear nothing back. Or I call them on Monday and don't hear from them for five days.   I can only assume that these women are dabbling and not serious about getting back to work – actions speak louder than words.

The fear of employers is that they want to be sure that you are committed to working again.  Advertising requires long hours.  You have to be prepared for that.  You must have child care and they have to be willing to stay late, if necessary.  These arrangements should be made before you begin looking – it communicates to potential employers that you are serious and prepared.

If you have been out for a while (more than three or four years), you should be prepared to start at a lower level than you had previously achieved.  This in itself is an issue because someone who is junior to you may be unwilling and threatened to have a more senior person reporting to them.  The trick will be to try to find a job where this is not an issue.

There is another aspect to returning to work.  Many mothers want to work on a limited basis, say, four days.  Agencies are not great about flex time.  Once upon a time, a recruiter I know hired someone to place women in agencies on a flex time basis.  I believe that she ended it after a year because not a single placement was made. My observation is that ad agencies will only agree to part time work if they know you and trust your work ethic.   
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