Recruiters: The Real Brand Ambassadors
I think a lot of my work was inspired by Punk Rock HR, which was the only recruiting related blog I actually read when I was actually recruiting; I didn’t want some pedantic professional “thought leadership” in the few minutes I had between meetings, interviews and phone screens. The reason I loved that blog – and the various iterations that have followed – was because there was a clear and distinct voice that wasn’t afraid to state the obvious, call out the asinine and undermine the conventional – and it came from a real person.
Laurie Ruettimann, for me, was the voice of that part of HR that still cared about humans beyond their utility as a resource, the part that wasn’t afraid to be snarky or subversive when they stopped being HR and started being, well, human beings instead. The kind I got along with the best at work, and the kind I learned work best from. The accidental recruiters, the coincidental generalists, the existential specialists, those smart enough to have gotten world class educations and world class experiences, but not smart enough to major in something actually applicable in the world of work. Which, in this gig, is most of us.
That’s the part of HR and recruiting I love – the part that’s working behind the booths at SHRM, not the part that hangs out in the certification lounge and feigns indignation when speakers say the word “shit” (to cite personal experience). It’s a part I didn’t really know existed beyond the pocket of weirdos on my team, and one I wouldn’t have found if it wasn’t for the fact that Laurie decided to start blogging.
This led me to others: Joel Cheesman, Talent Anarchy (Jason Lauritsen & Joe Gerstandt), Kris Dunn and Tim Sackett, to name a few of the OGs of this now over saturated, over commoditized content marketing market that places a higher value on volume than voice – although the best in the business still seem to demand a premium, probably because their bylines have become brands better than most of the HR and recruiting vendors they write about or work with.
In short, Laurie was a “brand ambassador” for the badasses in HR, and one of the key reasons I started turning my writing from screenplays into snapshots from this weird world of corporate talent acquisition I randomly found myself thrust into until the whole writing thing worked out. And thanks largely to Laurie’s precedent, it’s that weird world that ultimately helped me find a career as a writer.
That’s why I was so thrilled to be a part of the panel Laurie moderated last week, “Social Recruiting and Branding for Employers” at the 2014 Summer Brand Camp (#SBrandCamp) in Dallas. I was way out of my league next to the head of recruiting for the Cheesecake Factory and the head of product strategy for one of the premier HR tech brands in the foodservice industry, but in a room full of recruiting and marketing leaders who actually represent some of the biggest brands on the planet (think: Denny’s, Taco Bell, Sodexho), the normal “brand ambassador” talking points were rendered moot. After all, when you’ve got a talking Chihuahua or a brand that’s got an illuminated sign on almost every corner of the country, you’re doing OK on the brand ambassadorship to begin with.
So in rethinking my schtick when the topic of how to “empower” brand ambassadors (read: deputize employees to do our work for us or at least let us leverage their networks) during this session, I had something of an epiphany, because in the past, my pat answer about brand ambassadors was, simply, that every employee was effectively a brand ambassador in every external interaction, and social was merely a medium to amplify those interactions.
But here’s the thing: telling recruiters how to train brand ambassadors is like telling accounting how to balance a checkbook. Being a brand ambassador is the entire point of recruiting, and done well, its entire competitive advantage.
One of the questions Laurie asked the panel was which channels worked best for sourcing candidates, and the answer, for me, at least, mimics the same ones that, in aggregate, are our top sources of hire. These start with referrals, followed by job boards and agencies; social media, in fact, lags far behind “traditional” recruiting sources significantly, at between 2-3% of all external hires.
Tracing the source of every top source of how organizations make hires all leads back to a single core function: recruitment. Recruiters have relied on referrals well before social, and have always been the arbiters of the referral process.
I asked the Brand Camp crowd how many of them searched their ATS or HCM before posting job description when they open a req, something only 2 out of 50 attendees actually do as part of their recruiting process, meaning that in almost every scenario, no matter how strong a talent brand or social recruiting presence an employer has, the people who get end up getting hired come through just-in-time recruiting, and in all cases, have their hiring process overseen, facilitated and often decided by in-house recruiters and talent acquisition professionals – even if that’s just getting a pre-determined hire through the compliant opening and closing of a requisition.
No matter how they get there, the first interaction candidates almost unilaterally have with an organization, either by submitting a resume (active) or being proactively engaged by an employer (passive), is with someone in recruiting. Even if they’ve spent hours engaging with your careers-related social accounts, chances are that you’re the first real person at that company they’ll actually interact with around careers in a meaningful way, and the first person who they’ll really get to know there outside of the employee who might have referred them.
The relationship you have with the candidate, the way you communicate and interact with them during the hiring process, the trust you build before ever making an offer, all represent the most meaningful forms of employment related brand ambassadorship – and will often be the difference in whether or not a candidate will consider a company or even if they’ll accept an offer to become your newest coworker. That’s because recruiting, at the end of the day, comes down to being a brand ambassador – and recruiters are still the most important brand ambassadors out there, because being the face of the company isn’t just a core competency – it’s the whole point of the job.