Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Old Fashioned Way: One Person at a Time

If you believe the stats, there are currently more than 45,000 career related web sites, and the last time I looked blogs were being created by the thousands every HOUR! There is so much talk and hype around "Web 2.0"
MySpace,YouTube,Facebook, YourSpace, HisSpace, Everybody's Space, and God only knows what else that one would think that anyone who ever has a conversation f2f (as they say in the text messaging world) was in need of therapy or should simply be admitted to the local home for the bewildered.

Okay, maybe that's a tad over-stated, but nonetheless, as I was checking out another of my favorite blogs (Dave Mendoza's Six Degrees from Dave) I found a post by Steve Levy (post date: Nov 13th) entitled One Brick at a Time. Steve's article, which was the third in a series that he had written on different aspects of recruiting, was totally focused some of the techniques and tactics he uses to identify potential candidates and clients. Talk about a good use of your time! But even so, nothing totally revolutionary here just lots of common sense based on experience from someone who has been at the game long before email was a glint in Ray Tomlinson's eye.

What struck me, however, was that no where in the article did one find links to LinkedIn or Ryze or Spoke. What you did find were tips not just for recruiters, but tips which if followed by any proactive executive would work just as well for the to expand their network and there wasn't a bit or byte in the bunch.

So what were Steve's suggestions? Here they are:
1. Business card bowls. Ah, ol’ reliable. Do you know where your competitor’s HQ or other locations are located? Do you know where their employees eat breakfast or lunch? Have you ever seen those business card bowls that seat up by the register offering free meals if you toss in your card? Absolute goldmines. Ask the manager what they do with the cards at the end of each week. If you have to, offer them $10-$20 for the contents of the bowl. Then call the ones who seem to be on target. Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

2. Airports (or really any transportation hub). These are like open directories on the Internet with one great difference – real live people. When traveling, I always make a point of walking past telephone banks or people on cell phones – and listen (well, okay, eavesdrop but it’s a public place) to the conversations. More specifically, I listen very carefully to the details of the call hoping to catch a juicy tidbit that gives me an idea of who the person is, what they do, or for whom they work. If I do, the first chance I can I walk over and say, “Hello, my name is Steve Levy. I’m quite sorry for bothering you but I overheard your phone call and…” Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

3. I’m still at airports. This time sitting amongst other travelers waiting for my flight. Here’s another “must have” skill for all recruiters – the ability to read from the side or upside down. I mean it – and you can practice to develop this skill. So I’m waiting for the flight to be called and I’m severely exercising my eyeballs – left, right, up, down – spying the contents of laptop screens and paperwork of travelers. Eavesdropping? Darn right. But to the naysayers, it’s all public. Just as the telephone example, I use the same approach… “Hello, my name is Steve Levy. I’m quite sorry for bothering you but I caught a glimpse of what you’re working on and …” Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

4. Field Trips to Starbucks. I consider these to be the mainstays of brick and mortar recruiting. Don’t like Starbucks? Pick any gathering place in your area that offers beverages and Wi-Fi. I once took the recruiting team from a West Coast client to a local Starbucks and had them sit at different tables and listen to conversations or exercise their eyeballs for five minutes. Next was to introduce themselves according to the model and go from there. Sure it was difficult at first but in time it does become easier, more sincere, and more effective.

But here’s the one inherent problem with this approach to brick and mortar recruiting: It isn’t easy. And it has vexed most normal people practically their entire lives. Do you remember your junior or senior prom (or really any social event before you were an “adult”) especially if you went solo? Do you remember girls on one side and boys on the other, neither side approaching to ask someone to dance? Brings back some interesting memories, right?

Finally someone takes a chance and pops the question; soon enough, most are dancing and thanking the person who reached out their hand. Classic brick and mortar recruiting will always be like this with the risk-taking first-responders who recognize its value receiving the greatest accolades and the best candidates. At its core, recruiting really is just one hand shaking another, a human interaction versus a technological one.

Here are a few more brick and mortar examples to consider:

5. Commuting. If you commute to work via mass transit, do you just sit there cuddled up to your favorite newspaper or exercising your thumbs on your Blackberry, or do you introduce yourself to others? Do you sit in the same seat every day? For shame - your next hire is in the next car!

6. Conferences and Trade Shows. While attending trade shows, do you walk around collecting pens and squishy toys or do you show up early during set-up time with coffee and donuts and offer these to the people assembling the booths? Trade a treat for an introduction!

7. The Internet. I’m quite sure that searching User Groups is part of most of your sourcing strategies. But do you attend these groups’ monthly meetings? Or better yet, what I recently did for a client was to survey the landscape and realize that there wasn’t a dotNET User Group in their area and having recruited dotNET Developers, I knew who they were and where they worked. So I created one in an area that was in desperate need of one (in fact, others had failed to successfully create one in the past). The result was 62 dotNET Developers at the kick-off meeting and I strongly suspect at least 25% to 30% more attendees the next meeting. The group meets at my client’s office; however, the single most important goal is not recruiting but brand and relationship building – a staple of brick and mortar recruiting. The result will be that my client’s brand will be bolstered by this show of professional goodwill and in time, so will their talent pipeline.

8. Chapter Meetings. Hold as many meetings of the local chapters of the professional or technical associations in which your employees belong. You know all these groups from searching the Internet so my not really make this information useful? Why not build your company’s brand and expose your employees to new and fresh ways of thinking? Incidentally, when consider The Internet and Chapter Meetings one of your most critical tasks is to train your people how to network, how to introduce themselves to others, what to say, and how to offer and ask for business cards. Finally, you’ll have to debrief them afterwards and even give them homework to follow-up with the people they met. Now your employees are part of brick and mortar recruiting.

Ultimately, recruiting is all about building and building requires significant investments to ensure the building is solid and meets the needs of its occupants. We’ve invested in technology to the point where entire conferences focus on HR technology. But are there specific conferences that focus on recruiting at the point of the person? Sadly not. We’re so enamored by the technological solution that I think our eyes have come off the ball. Hard to believe but the politicians may actually have it right: Elections are won one vote at a time, shaking hands and kissing babies.

Talk about being on the "bleeding edge." Way to go Steve.

1 comment:

Doug Radford said...

Great ideas! Simple but effective.