For more than 20 years I’ve been involved with talent acquisition, starting as a healthcare recruiter in the US Navy.

I recruited nurses, physicians, dentists, and other patient-facing healthcare positions.

And while my background was Information Technology, I really fell in love with recruiting. There’s nothing like the ability to empower people’s lives by helping them connect with career opportunities.

Change

Although the tools used in recruiting have changed over the past two decades, the fundamentals of recruiting haven’t. Good recruitment practices are essential.

The biggest changes in recruiting are the tools and techniques for sourcing and finding talent.

In some cases recruiting has become more transactional and less strategic, but great recruiting should always start with a strategic alignment to the business needs of the employer.

When I started recruiting, we didn’t have all the technology that we have today. AI, social media and other sourcing tools and platforms were not available.

Recruiters had to rely on good research and “detective-like” skills. We used the library, city directory, white pages, yellow pages, newspapers, and other print media to find people.

Sometimes we showed up at the golf course on Wednesday afternoon or the bowling alley on Friday night to connect with and meet people who matched our target roles.

We spent more time using the telephone to get past gatekeepers and reach our prospects. Today we use email, Inmail, tweets, and other electronic messages and social media to reach these people.

I believe the things that haven’t changed are the focus on connecting great people to great opportunities and making sure we do the right thing to make people’s lives better and not work just to make a placement.

Impact of technology

I think that the biggest driver to the changes in recruiting is technology.

The tools available today are superior to the phone book, print, and networking that were used when I first started.

Today, tools change so quickly that a recruiter has to be a continuous learner. A recruiter who loves the profession and is hungry about learning and always trying to get better at engaging talent has the advantage.

The days of just being a transactional paper pushing recruiter are numbered.

Many of the transactional tasks can be automated or outsourced to someone who doesn’t need to be a strong recruiter or sourcer.

To succeed as a recruiter, an individual doesn’t have to be passionate about technology, but they need to accept it as part of the profession and use it to be competitive.

In short, embrace the technology. Actively seek to learn how to use it, be ethical, be brief with outreach and show value.

But, it’s not just about the technology.

Recruiters must have the communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and relationship building skills to gain trust and build relationships with both the employer and the candidate.

This has not changed as a requirement, but many recruiters lack these fundamental competencies.

Technology and users’ rights

While it’s a little early to truly understand the real impact that GDPR will have on how recruiters connect with candidates, it’s important to look ahead at how changes will impact the industry.

Even though GDPR is a European Union (EU) Regulation, there is a global impact on recruiting because of the nature of the global economy and the increasing number of multi-national corporations with global hiring needs as work becomes more virtual.

There are more systems collecting personal information and recruiters depend on those systems to reach candidates. GDPR is not isolated to the EU, so recruiters will need to ensure that their tools are compliant.

They can do this by reading and understanding GDPR and how it is being implemented in the countries they recruit for.

We can’t just stick our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Asking more questions from tool providers and ensuring that they implement processes and the right capabilities in their tools and systems will be key to helping recruiters continue to do their jobs.

Recruiting for diversity

Diversity recruiting can be confusing.

It’s difficult because recruiters and companies are still in the early stages of figuring out how to increase diversity in the candidate pipeline without implementing discriminatory practices against demographics they’re not looking to hire.

In short…they need and want their hiring practices to be transparent and equitable across the board.

For example, some companies take the extreme measure of saying I only want to see candidates from a certain demographic.

This means recruiters will need to become more knowledgeable and confident with advising their employers and clients on the implications, risks, and approaches to hiring for that demographic while maintaining a fair and unbiased process.

Recruiters and employers will have to work to achieve balance in the area of diversity recruiting.

The “Diverse Recruiting Experts” Way

My approach is to make diversity recruiting part of our normal process. We see diversity recruiting as an integral part of what we do and don’t make it a special program.

I have dedicated much of my career to including diversity as part of the process. It means looking for a broad range of people with a variety of backgrounds, skills, and demographics as part of the normal recruiting process.

Finding the talent is one challenge, but the other challenge is preparing hiring teams to assess people among the diverse pool of candidates during the interview process.

Lots of work to do with finding and assessing the talent.

Interviewer capability is probably the more difficult problem to solve.

 What works best now

The best option for successful recruiting is to take a long-term view of getting to know the talent.

Recruiting is a simple business.

We need to understand what the company needs in order to meet their business objectives, and we find the people with those qualifications.

We partner with hiring teams to look for people who have the competencies, skills, and behaviors to do the role today or potential to grow into the role.

The best approach is to understand what you’re looking for and proactively engage the talent by building trust, adding value and developing relationships before you ever know about a specific job.

Companies with strong employer brands and recognition in the communities where they want to hire will be better positioned to hire the people they need to meet their current and future needs.

Looking ahead

We need to make recruiting a recognized profession where there is an actual degree in recruiting and not just a subset of the HR function.

Recruiters are an interesting breed.

We are part HR, part marketing, part sales, part researcher, and part business developer. Our profession requires a life-long learning mindset, organizational skills, communication skills and influencing skills.

Recruiters must be curious, problem solvers, creative and empathic.

We must also be able to balance rules that are black and white against gray areas that require judgment and courage to stand up against things that are not right.

What doesn’t work

Just putting butts in seats to make a placement without having empathy for your candidate or the employer is out!

You must care about the people and employers to be successful.

The talent market is competitive…candidates have choices and want to work with people they trust and if a recruiter doesn’t build trust and make the connection, it will be difficult to hire.

No longer can you just post a job and have people apply.

Sourcing and finding talent are required to attract and hire great people. If you are not looking for candidates, chances are they are not looking for you either.