Good Recruiters Don't Need To Be Experts In Who They Recruit

When I first started recruiting, I worked on tech jobs. These were desktop, and hardware, and sys admin, and then some developer and designer roles. I knew next to nothing about the technology, but in 1999, neither did anyone else. Heck - we were hiring kids out of college with C++ course to be Java programmers for $45-60,000.

As I got better, and the tech did as well, the old argument that recruiters should know what they were working on led some of us to get CIS degrees (most of them got out of the industry). I thrived by asking questions, and my business really went wild once I started posting interview questions like what to ask a Java Swing candidate. In addition to traffic, hiring managers would call me and argue about what I posted (managers don't call recruiters unless they have to - in case you're wondering. 

In 2006, when I rolled out of recruiting to join my wife's marketing firm, I focused on social media. Blogging, copywriting, and SEO were my bread and butter, matched with her design prowess (just check out Brandstorming.com for a taste). As I got better, social media exploded, and I found myself consulting with firms large and small to do the work I once recruited for. That led me to work hard at learning digital, including email, PPC, and the full marketing stack from story to distribution. That made me a better recruiter, because I was recruiting for the roles I performed (and later managed). 

And what I found out was the old saw that candidates wanted recruiters to understand what they worked on was not universally true. Calling as a peer, candidates found that lying to me was more difficult than the recruiters they were used to working with. I burrowed down into details, and I joked with them about using the wrong jargon. And you know what - they hated it. I didn't realize in technology how much I was missing - in my early career blindness, I was practicing matching candidates by how well they pitched a story and how serious they were about the job. In today's world, I see massive flaws in candidates, but I also see massive flaws in the job descriptions, and had to learn that the perfect candidate was one who could survive the interview and then thrive at the job. That's not always clear on the resume. 

It's true that knowledge of an industry helps, but after a decade in digital, I'm finding the gaps in my own experience. I don't have millions of dollars running through my fingers, which means that I'm behind the curve in understanding social display for the Home Depot. I'm not testing a 5,000 page sites traffic using eyeball tracking and service virtualization (no one is doing that last one, yet). I'm not up-to-date on the size of pictures of the best phones for Facebook live, and I've never looked at my website on the Microsoft Surface Pro. 

In short - the experience I've relied on to sell and recruit as a digital expert is no longer accessible unless you're actively inside a team of people doing the work. That doesn't mean I can't still place someone with experience using Facebook Ads to drive webinar sign-ups that fit into the Hubspot funnel, but it does mean that if I were tasked to do the job - I'm no longer able to sit side by side with a candidate and compare notes. 

It's a career arc that is strange. I went from knowing nothing to knowing everything (that you needed to know to hire for social) to knowing some parts of everything. My biggest challenges now are making sure I stick to the script, listen to the candidate, don't jump ahead, and most important - that I don't mistake nostalgia for technical competence. 

I once firmly believed that a career recruiter should be able to effortlessly switch industries, as knowing how to recruit was more important to knowing who to recruit. That insight wasn't wisdom, but rather the experience of working on different technologies that moved faster than our ability to learn them. If that's still true (and it seems a constant), then no recruiter can ever be expert in their field unless their field is dying. 

That's too much thinking, and it's the nostalgia trap instead of real understanding. Do you know why managers and candidates think they need recruiters who understand them? It's because our industry hires entry level recruiters and burns them through them. The number of inexperienced or new recruiters is always several times greater than the number of experienced recruiters. A new recruiter at a tech firm in San Francisco is going to talk to hundreds of people in a week, while I talk to the top 20% in the industry. This means that most of the people talking sand emailing with recruiters are talking to inexperienced recruiters. Internally, recruiters have multiple requirements and a lot of process to manage. The niched recruiters internally tend to work themselves out of the job and move on.

It's very likely that managers and candidates are mistaking technical expertise for a recruiting model that brings them recruiting expertise. It would have been simpler to point this out in the beginning, but for those of you who've read to the end of this post, would you have believed me?


TalentNet Live Dallas Notes And News

Sitting here at Capital One in Plano, which truly is a magnificent campus. I'll keep this updated throughout the day, but you can also follow along at #talentnet on Twitter and on the Facebook feeds of Dallas folks. 

First up - you have event sponsor http://www.ElevatedCareers.com, this is eHarmony - yep, the dating site, which is using its technology to leap into the careers and job board market. They're going to try and match you to a company's culture based on the same kind of personality matching they use to find your your life mate. It's still in beta, but you can sign up to learn more. 

Next we have a panel on sourcing. Jeremy Roberts, Kyle Lagunas, and Shannon Pritchett are on stage talking about the change in sourcing from entry level recruiter to marketing/profile building. This is a tougher one - they talk about marketing and profile building, but in my experience, and as many of you will know who are marketers and not recruiters, profiles are easier to speak about when you think like a marketer. This would be a fascinating trend if true. I'm not sure that the marketing mindset fits into trench recruiting. 

I popped into a section led by Matt Charney in conjunction with Aspen Dental. They were talking about the difficulties of hiring dentists in remote locations (which isn't really that remote, but more small town versus urban). They have two marketers and an agency, and are looking to increase their funnel, which suffers from conversion programs (how do you get a dentist to leave/dissolve their practice and start over in a new city?). 

 Capital One's Kara Augone is talking about using big data within the organization. This is very much an enterprise level talk, as they have access to hundreds of hires and the ability to track candidates through their ATS, but one big takeaway was the recruiters identifying characteristics of people who would leave in under six months. Tracking their hires using cookie tags, they were able to alter who they hired, and the insight came from the individuals doing the work instead of a "data" consultant showing them. The other big push Kara made, leaning on a Horatio Nelson historical reference, was the importance of giving teams the freedom to make choices rather than top down management. A final note is that they continually improve, making it clear they have a long way to go (despite that insight being a pretty good one). 4-5 people on their data insights team, just for their hiring. 

By the Way - I'm speaking at 1:30 on Intake Meetings - how to prepare for meeting with managers. My basic take is that you have to get the manager on board before you start asking questions - and I try to show examples of how we make those mistakes. It's posted up at Slideshare under "Intake Meeting: Is it worth $30,000 of your time?"

 

Hirevue's Phil Rodriguez is talking through using video to hire. Hoping to pick up some tips. His first one is to prepare the candidate for the interview experience.

 



 


Summer Hiring Season Is Over. Ready For September?

Best year in 15 years for hiring across the board, and as anecdotally reported by recruiters, permanent hires are through the roof, even in the month of June. That should tell industry veterans something. 

Normally, summer months are slower, because so many people are scheduled with vacations and early days off that interviews just take longer. It's also a weirder time, because companies who are hiring feel more pressure to get it done so they can head to the lake. That's certainly been the case this year. But like the winter holidays, those who work hardest in June reap the benefits of July hiring before August falls off the cliff. 

It's just hot in August, and it's a bad month to start for the kinds of jobs I work on. It is great prep time, as hiring in September is pretty much the last viable month if you want production out of someone in 2015. 

That's not just me yapping. An awesome digital salesperson in North Carolina told me to get on the phone and make his hire happen now, because if he started in September, with a month of training, his output for the year would be scraps, versus if he started now, he got the last great month in the year to grab his share of budget. 

In Retail Marketing, it's even more important. You can't hire a digital marketing in the 4th quarter, because they and you are so busy, getting together is nightmarish. 
 
It's July 17th. If your digital manager left this Spring after their bonus, and you've been searching since then, now is the time to call your recruiter or ramp up your sourcing efforts. September hiring starts day. You have 45 days to get it right. 


SourceCon Podcast: Meet The Speaker Series, Jim Durbin

Jeremy Roberts, the editor of SourceCon, is doing  a series for his speaker at the Spring Sourcecon In Seattle. This is a short podcast talking about my background, my likes, and some of my favorite tools.

The podcast is embedded below, and can be downloaded, and the full script is at the Sourcecon blog

 For those curious, Sourcecon this spring is in Seattle on March 24-25, and I'll be doing a session on how different kinds of recruiters would tackle a job req (contract staffing, exec search, internal, sourcer).

 


Coming To You Live From Digital Dallas Summit 2014

I'll be at #DDSum14 today and tomorrow, looking to connect with digital and social candidates, but also introduce myself to companies struggling to hire. 

Look, it's tough out there. The people doing the work are heads down right now in Q4, and it's really difficult to separate those who are on the team from those who are leading the team. Knowing isn't enough, as getting your program or campaign through the enterprise is the skill that is more important. 

So don't be afraid to say hello. Here's my smiling face. Just try to imagine me without a beard. or a hat. 


2012-11-18 07.18.24

I am looking right now. I have a Director level position for social commerce in Southern California - someone who understands social strategy but can integrate social display with their content team while interfacting with customer service. I'll take senior managers, especially those of you who are underpaid, and I'll take those of you paid just enough but who want to move away the coming Snowpocalypse. 


Either way - look me up. 

http://LinkedIn.com/in/JimDurbin

http://twitter.com/smheadhunter

http://about.me/jimdurbindallas 

 

Or you can text me at cyberdust, that new app by Cuban. 

I'm jimdurbin on cyberdust. 


DFWTRN Training Webinar And Chapter Fundraiser

I'm a board member with DFWTRN, the recruiting/staffing group for Dallas/Fort Worth, and we're doing  chapter fundraiser with training webinars for recruiters. 

This is the slide deck for it, and the description and the training is below. Everyone is welcome, and since it's online, you don't have to be in Dallas.  $30 per seat, or $99 per team. This if the first of four, and the work is below. 

 

To sign up, head to the DFWTRN.org page and check for the events tab

 

 

 

The first one is September 9th - next Tuesday, at 12:00, and the others are scheduled the second Tuesday of each month for the rest of the year. This is a chapter fundraiser for DFWTRN, and we decided to focus on basic skills involved in recruiting. 
 
We have four trainers - myself, Jeremy Roberts, Jim Schnyder, and Craig Fisher, who have all spoken at the chapter before, who will go through 60 minutes of material focused on entry level and intermediate recruiter. 
 
September is mine - I'll be handling writing job descriptions (both for third party and corporate recruiting), basic search engine uses, messaging candidates, and internet profiles, and some basic LinkedIn for the free account. 
 
Future months will be a more thorough LinkedIn course, Internet sourcing, and how to build and read social media profiles. These are all recruiting focused - it's not about using a platform, it's how finding and contacting people. 
 
Each course is $30, a team is $99, and all money goes to the chapter. 

 Sign Up Link


America's Got Social Media MarketingTalent

In the last two months, I've spoken with hundreds of social media consultants, managers, directors, speakers and strategists. 

That's what happens when you call people for jobs. 

And what I've found is that the level of talent when it comes to marketing and customer service integration has absolutely exploded. I'd say a good 20% of the people I speak to really get how to integrate social into their jobs. Many have other skillsets, including email, PPC, direct mail (I said it). event marketing, nonprofit selling, sales enablement, and even international logistics (how do you think you find trusted contacts in new countries without social media?). 

But, man are we bad at hiring. I can list five senior social media people who could run divisions for large companies who are out looking for work. I have a handful of digital strategists that are open to moving, are less than six figures, and have 8-10 years of experience. 

It seems that companies have done very well training their people to handle social, but when it comes to hiring social, we're failing. 

Part of the problem is everyone is calling themselves social these days. If we could just get more specific with our skills instead of lumping everything into social, I think we could bring down the noise ratio. The other part is the hot girl effect. If someone is really good at what they do, companies are sometimes afraid to approach them. Supposedly, really hot women date less than just attractive women because men are afraid of them (I'd like to note that unlike some of my peers, I didn't post a picture here to drive traffic). 

A third problem is that the higher up the food chain you go, the harder it is to fill a job, and the patchwork economy of today leaves some talented people in the wrong cities (remote doesn't work for everyone). 

I never do this, but here's my pitch - and it's to executives. If you think your social is dull, boring, not working, an expense, or something you plan to get around to, please call me. I can help you identify what you're looking for, and probably have the person you want to hire in my database. And I've probably spoken to them in 2014. 

There are too many talented people looking for their next big win. Not for jobs, but their next big win. If you want a win, please call.  

214-509-7262. Ask for Jim Durbin, the Social Media Headhunter.

If you leave a message, it will be our new company name, Brandstoming



Programmer Salaries By Region? Is It All About The Money?

hat tip to Recruiting Animal for the idea.  

I recruit across the county, hopping from city to city like a rock band on tour, and one of the things I notice is the difference in what's important to each part of the country. 

There's no scientific evidence to this, other than a data set of thousands of phone calls over the last ten years, but I wanted to try to explain the default setting for different regions when it comes to hiring in the internet space (digital marketing, mobile apps, start-ups). 

So ask yourself if this is  accurate in your part of the country, and if it applies just to technology, or to business as a whole:

Bay Area:

Low salaries and equity make sense because you get 5 or 6 bites at the apple.  The goal is to try out several companies, hoping to win the equity lottery so you can fund your true passion.  Contrary to popular belief, salaries are not high for most of the name brand companies.  Executives do make out, but that's often because they're moved from other areas of the country, and the cost of living is so high, they're actually underpaid in comparison.  Until they move to the Midwest, where they live like kings.  

Austin:

No one believes that any company is going to explode anymore, which means hiring is about salary. Austin also has the unique property of not discriminating about working in a startup.  You can bounce seamlessly from startup to large corporation and back again.  In most areas, once you leave the large company, you don't get to go back.  In Austin, that's not the case.

Dallas:

We fly under the radar because although we're about business, we don't get the attention.  Startups here are more like small businesses, looking to build up to 10-50 million and sell to larger companies.  This is possible because so many large companies buy small companies here.  It's not an equity event, so the goal is to get actual percentages of the company and be on the exec team. Labor is more of a commodity, which means salaries are competitive, but not high.  Cost of living is low, and that makes a difference. 

Washington D.C and suburbs:

A strange bird,  DC is about who you're meeting, and access to big fat government grants.  Salaries are on the high side, but you get locked pretty quickly into government work or private sector reliant on government work.  DC is about the rolodex and access to power. The goal is to know the right people so you can get in on the best contracts.  

 NYC:
Let's face it.  NYC is about coolness, which means depressed salaries and little equity, but a resume you can brag on to your friends. I can't tell you the number of resumes I get from NYC people with very low salary demands who brag about who they worked with.  While there is a booming tech company ecosystem, the people at the top make out like bandits, but the ones in the middle struggle until they move somewhere cheaper. 

Chicago:

It's been a while, but my impression of Chicago is that everyone asks for high salaries, but settles for far less.  It seems to be a performance based city, but watch out! Promises of success far outweigh what it takes to be successful.  It's been six years since I've recruited there, so I'm open to changing.  


Boston and Seattle and Denver and Atlanta:

I have no clue.  Someone fill me in?

Midwest and 2nd Tier Southern cities:

There are two flavors to the rest of the country.  While salaries are lower, the cost of living is so much lower that many of the people who live or who settle outside the biggest cities tend to actually do better.  They own homes, have children, a couple of cars.   Flavor one is the really talented person who wants more.  These folks are catnip to the big city companies, who get lower salaries and great talent draining brains from the Midwest (St Louis, Minneapolis, etc).  Flavor two is the people who convince themselves they can run successful startups with local talent, so they build a cult of personality that just can't hang onto talent, because they lack the ecosystem to make equity plays worthwhile for the jobseekers.  If your startup flames out in St Louis, what do you do next (remember companies have a bias against coming back).  If your startup flames out in San Jose, you'll have a new one by Tuesday. 

 

 


Social Media Headhunter Quoted In Sprout Social

A nice piece from Sprout Social that includes quotes from Steve Levy, and the in-house Sprout Social recruiter on how social media recruiting works. 

"Conversely, a good recruiter can use social media not only as a tool to weed out bad candidates but as a way to dig for diamonds in the rough as well. Durbin says the one of the primary benefits he sees in using social media is the education and learning it provides him about the specific job and the vertical for which he’s trying to fill a position.

“Not every one of us is a ‘niche’ recruiter,” says Durbin, referring to the specialization that some recruiters have for specific industries or job titles. “If I have to recruit for a position that’s new to me, social media allows me to learn as I research and connect with potential candidates. Each contact I make tells me more about the job I’m looking to fill and gives me all the vital context I need to find the right candidate for the job.”

That about sums it up for me.