Recruitment's Problem with Persuasion

It was my great pleasure to speak at the excellent RecFest in London the other week. My presentation on “The Art of Persuasion” was inspired by some recent conversations with a number of employers who have found themselves struggling to recruit the talent they need in 2014.

Many employers are currently facing a big uplift in recruitment and some are going into a blind panic throwing money at projects that have been on ice since 2009 (new EVP, new recruitment website etc) to try and fix their problems.

I wanted to look at the root cause of the issues and think about how to actually solve them. This then lead to the realization that the biggest problem we have in 2014 is actually a persuasion problem.

I’ve produced a 20 minute webcast of my presentation which is embedded below where you can see and hear my thoughts on the problem and the potential solutions in more detail.

Here is a top line summary:

The Persuasion problem is being caused by:

  • The lack of any need for proactive recruiting through the recession
  • Technological and demographic changes which mean the old ways of doing things aren’t as successful as they used to be
  • The move from the "Desk Top Age" to the “Age of Mobile Devices”
  • The sheer amount of recruitment noise the best talent is exposed to
  • Generic approaches which result in a huge amount of “inappropriate” applications

The three elements of the DNA of digital persuasion are:

  1. Be Magnetic - Attracting the right audience to your content is vital
  2. Be Convincing - You can’t rely on the right people just wanting to work for you, you need to convince them
  3. Convert - Even the most convincing messages often have no call to action or are attached to a broken process. Getting people into and through your recruitment funnel effectively is absolutely vital.

More details on all of this in the video. I also give an example of great persuasion at work and a simple framework to help you make your recruitment communication work harder.

 



Recruiting Innovation and Kurt Cobain

A few weeks back I was asked to record a promo video for the forthcoming Rec Fest event. One of the questions I had to answer was what was the best festival I’d ever attended. The answer was an easy one it was Reading 91, I was 19, it was a fantastic line up of music and it was back in the days when you could bring your own cheap beer into festivals.

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly Nirvana playing near the bottom of the bill as a more or less unknown band, just a few short weeks before the release of their game changing NeverMind album. Here’s the video, me and my friend Simon are somewhere in the front row, pretty much opposite Kurt Cobain:

 

The really interesting thing I noticed when I watched this video back recently was the strangely muted audience reaction to Smells Like Teen Spirit (it's about 10 minutes into the video). Three months later every student union in the land would be blasting it out every five minutes but on this particular day in late August 1991, 99% of us in the audience were hearing it for the first time. The restrained reaction shows that no matter how things were post rationalized afterwards when we were in the moment we were blissfully unaware of the revolutionary nature of what we were listening to.

So why is this relevant to recruitment? While over the last 15 years we’ve been working through a time of monumental change. The Internet was the original game changer in the early 2000s, Social Media has rocked the boat in recent years and now the exponential growth of the mobile internet is pressing the reset button on everything. Employers and Recruitment Agencies are often criticised for being slow to change and certainly, for the last few years at least, they have been playing a constant game of catch up with their target audiences. It’s clear that no one sets out to be behind the curve but sometimes it is very difficult to spot what is front of you particularly when you’re as busy as recruiters are at the moment. As my Nirvana experience shows though, it is important to take a step back sometimes to question the status quo and take in some alternative viewpoints on what is going on. There could be something revolutionary right in front of you which, if you take the time to evaluate it, will give your company a competitive advantage for years to come.

So what about my own performance as a teenage future predicting music guru? Well on extracting our sweaty selves from the densely packed crowd me and friend had a post mortem on what we had just seen. “I think they are going to be the biggest band in the world, what do you think?” said Simon. "I think they were great but I doubt we’ll ever hear of them again” I replied

One of us of course was right and the other one had obviously overindulged in the cheap beer!

 

 

Why Job Boards need to innovate or die

First of all this isn’t another generic all job boards are doomed blog post. I wanted to put some recent thoughts I’ve had in writing that I truly believe represent the issues job boards are facing or about to face. My credentials to do this are 12 years experience of working with job boards in the UK market as opposed to mere speculative opinion! This post starts about 10 years ago. Back then I was one of the few professional buyers of job board space in the UK and my day was always a whirlwind of presentations from new job board launches. Some of sites don’t exist anymore; many more of them are now mainstays of the UK market. The one thing they all had in common though was innovation. Everyone was going to change recruitment for good, everyone had a new and interesting model, everyone was a disruptive force in a recruitment space that was over priced, old fashioned and out of touch with jobseeker and client needs.

Business models and market share were established and the job boards did indeed change recruitment, not as quickly or by as much as the initial optimism suggested but they were a truly disruptive force. However the dot com bubble bursting, a relatively small UK internet audience (back then anyway) and limitations in technology did take the edge off a lot of the promised innovation

Fast forward ten years and Job Boards are indeed a dominant force. With this though have come severe product commoditisation and a rather alarming establishment mindset that is personified by the frequently heard mantra - “but there will always be job boards”.

There in lies my issue because it’s not true; job boards have no more right to exist than the traditional publishers they have slowly been displacing. Don’t believe me? Then ask anyone over about 35 and if they think about it they’ll remember a significant period of their career when job boards just didn’t exist. The industry is far too young to have such a “you’ll never cope without us” attitude

Ten years later I’ve moved on as well,  I don’t buy job board space anymore but nevertheless as a consultant to the industry I’m getting a strange sense of déjà vu.  Once more a series of wide eyed keen young start ups are seeking me out for advice and presenting business models designed to disrupt the recruitment status quo. This time the perceived status quo aren’t traditional publishers it’s the job boards themselves.  Then there is LinkedIn probably the biggest potential disruptive force in our space that I’ve ever seen. Any job board owner who says it isn’t a threat to their business is either lying or hasn’t thought about it deeply enough.

Add in the embryonic force of social recruiting that is seeing progressive clients proactively undertaking activity with the aim of reducing or even eliminating their job board spend and you’ve got a heady mix of forces that should give job boards all the motivation they need to innovate and take their offerings to the next level.

What absolutely amazes me though is that with a few very notable exceptions (keen market observers will spot them!) this innovation isn’t happening. It seems to me that most job boards are expending all their energy either denying that there any threats to their model or doing whatever they can to maintain the status quo and in so doing are potentially taking their business models into a commoditised death spiral

I’m not writing all of this because I want to see job boards disappear in fact quite the opposite. I truly believe that they have a small but significant window of opportunity to innovate and thrive. Once the window closes though I’m afraid there will be no way back. So this is my challenge to the job board industry, put more of your energy into planning for the future and make me eat my words by creating some innovative disruptive business models that will drive the industry forward. I know you can do it because I still remember the year 2000 and how we’ve all been in the same position before. This time though the audience, technology and timing are all perfect……

Recruitment predictions for 2010

With a very challenging 2009 finally drawing to an end, now seems like the perfect time to make some predictions about what we can expect in the world of recruitment during 2010. Before I do that though I wanted to briefly reflect on the last 12 months. Although it may well be remembered for a number of other things, 2009 was certainly the year that the term Social Recruiting began to enter the broader recruitment lexicon. There has been a huge amount of talk about how social media will change recruitment and unfortunately much of it is just self-serving rubbish.

With this in mind my heros of 2009 are ERE who put on two excellent Social Recruiting Summits to unpick what is actually happening by bringing people together to discuss genuine case studies. I attended both events and they were real highlights of the year for me, with the opportunity to meet some truly great thinkers and practitioners. November’s summit illustrated just how quickly the companies embracing social recruiting are making progress and I'm now absolutely convinced that what we’re seeing is a genuine revolution and not just the latest fad

So what’s in store for 2010? Here are a few thoughts: -

The Recruitment Market

A quick Twitter poll I did the other day revealed that most people are rightly cautious about 2010 and I would predict that we are in for another challenging year. Corporate recruitment will most probably pick up but this will be potentially overwhelmed by acute difficulties in the public sector.  While some people will still do well; it could be a very painful year for those in the industry who aren’t innovating quickly and effectively enough.

Social Recruiting

The next 12 months are going to tell us everything we need to know about how much time it’s going to take for Social Recruiting to move through its adoption curve. There are lots of smart companies who have been using a quiet 2009 to plan social activity for 2010 and I’m really looking forward to seeing much experimentation, a growing body of case studies and more great events to discuss them. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable proliferation of bandwagon jumping and snake oil selling which could make “caveat emptor” the most used Social Recruiting phrase of the year!

Job Boards

The future of job boards seems to be a much discussed topic at the moment and something I’m going to be writing a bit more about next year. The key thing is that the debate shouldn’t be a live or die one; it’s all about the shades of grey. Job Boards are not some kind of unified entity, they are all different depending on the industries they serve and countries they are based in.  With the pressures in the marketplace and the growth of social recruiting, 2010 should be an interesting year for many of them. As well as some inevitable market consolidation I’m expecting to see more innovation in the next 12 months than we’ve seen in the last ten years

Newspapers

By this time next year we’ll know whether pay walls work and once we do it’ll certainly move the debate about the future of newspapers forward. I could be wrong but I’m expecting the default “but we’ll always have newspapers” camp to be slightly less hardcore in 12 months time

So all in all 2010 may well be challenging but it certainly isn’t going to be dull!

Have a great Christmas!

Six key elements of Social Recruiting

Well deserved congratulations to Mike Taylor for organising such a well attended and well received conference last week.  It was great to have such an event in the UK and really interesting to see the momentum building behind Social Recruiting, something which will be  force for  seismic change in our industry During my presentation at the conference I defined what I believe to be the key elements of "Social Recruiting". I wanted to blog them as my "beta" attempt to draw a line in the sand and get some discussions going. I've no doubt people will have some very valid alternative views and I'd be really interested to hear what they are

In my opinion the key elements that make up Social Recruiting are:-

Social Advertising

Often dismissed as not being "proper" social media marketing, there is no doubt that advertising in social channels is an important and effective tool. Highly targeted and available across most social platforms (including LinkedIn), social advertising is already delivering bottom line results in the recruitment industry

Portable Content

Increasingly, more companies aren't just putting their content on their corporate recruitment sites they are letting the content go to their candidates and travel around unhindered in the social space. Platforms such as YouTube and Facebook are already being utilised to take key content (with video being one example) beyond the traditional company web site

Referral Networks

Expect to see much talk of "Social Graphs" , "Nodes" and "Ties"  in our space in coming years. Referrals and word of mouth have always been key in recruitment and technology is going to turbo charge this as we move forward

Authentic Conversations

Profiles of current employees have been a big part of recruitment websites in the last ten years. Things are now moving towards more authentic real time communication. Conversations between current / past employees and future hires whether officially sanctioned or not are already becoming an important part of the recruitment process

Reputation Management

A highly complex area in which no two situations or responses will be the same. The key thing here though is for companies is know what is being said about them and where it's being said

Social Sourcing

I really liked the phrase "chatter mining" which Bill from TwitterJobSearch used at the conference.  In areas where the best talent still remains difficult to recruit, social media is offering more and more ways for skilled recruiters to identify and engage with top quality prospects

So, what does everything else think?

Linktastic Friday

One of the reasons I started Recruiting Futurology (it's still a catchy title!) was because of the sheer amount of really interesting articles I've been bookmarking over the last couple of months. I'm going to write more about my thoughts on some on them in due course but thought it might be a good idea to start sharing a few every week or so. Not all of them will be recruitment or career related but if I've bookmarked them it means that there is some angle on the future of recruitment in there somewhere!

This week's Links -

How Twitter Can Help at Work - Shifting Careers - Small Business - New York Times Blog

Analysts predict 'horror show' year for media firms - Media guardian.co.uk

Can LinkedIn win from losers? - bbc.co.uk

Professional social networking Facebook for suits - The Economist

Recruiting Futurology

Welcome my new blog! It's fair to say that the recruitment industry as a whole is on the cusp of dramatic change. Developments in technology, irrevocable shifts in media consumption and global economic instability are all converging to make the next 18 months look like very interesting times indeed.

I read a lot of blogs in our space and while there is a lot of content on this topic I've never found one exclusively looking at emerging trends and predicting where they might take us. So I thought I'd start one...........

I'm not intending this blog to replace the contribution I make to the Digital Recruiting blog. instead I want to use Recruiting Futurology (catchy title isn't it!) as a place to link to relevant articles about the future of recruitment and debate specific trends in more detail.

I'm hoping it will become a useful resource that people will subscribe to, link to and most of contribute to.

Matt