Virtual Recruiting Goes Old School

When I first became an executive recruiter, there was no computer on my desk; just a shoebox full of 4×6 note cards with contacts’ information. Newspaper advertising was still an effective means of generating a candidate pool, and the ‘facsimile’ was the vogue way to transmit résumés. The trusty telephone –and a healthy network- served as the primary means for finding needles in the haystack.

Today, social media affords easy access to a surfeit of talent-related information; the haystack has mushroomed into a ‘hay mountain’. The executive recruiter who keeps up with the trends and technologies can search smarter, farther and harder for a whole handful of talented ‘needles’. Greater choice allows our clients more exacting selectivity and less compromise on job requirements.

With that said, these tools are also responsible for increased job shopping and job-hopping, altering the structure and behavior of the executive recruitment landscape. The speed and frequency of talent flow between companies has been on the rise, in spite of the flat economy.

Although fewer people are using the phone, it remains an excellent tool for connecting the dots between the glut of data in the virtual world and the thickening relationship mesh in the physical world.

More information ≠ Better connections

While it’s easier than ever to find names, titles, email addresses, and numbers, the wide avenues of communication have simultaneously created new hurdles to connecting authentically. We must now compete with the constant clamor of emails and updates, tweets and texts. Today, sustained performance hinges on the ability to prioritize hundreds of messages, responding only to the information most relevant and critical to immediate objectives. Unless disgruntled in their current role, most executives will understandably overlook or ignore messages that aren’t relevant to their responsibilities.

So, how do we overcome this information barrier? With personal connections.

Initially this may sound daunting. Working as an executive recruiter, we need to generate a critical mass of contacts for adequate reach, but this isn’t just a question of numbers. More than ‘linking in’ with others, our work still revolves around cultivating relationships for talent searches today and tomorrow.

Sparks really begin to fly when we enlist advocates: those who will repeatedly take time out of their busy days to recommend us to the bright talent in their networks. That is still the most reliable way to align company culture with candidate capabilities, competencies, and motivations. It is also the slowest. Indeed, I know of recruiters who have forsaken the phone altogether, perhaps believing that they are faster or more effective working exclusively online. I would argue that this mentality unnecessarily sacrifices opportunity.

The trick lies in finding equilibrium. Dive too deep into the ‘hay mountain’, and you risk getting lost and wasting time on unproductive research. Conversely, just poke around the fringes, and you may not find the best candidates in time. Finding and remaining in the sweet spot takes a balanced approach and sound data analysis.

We have to become adept navigators in the ocean of talent information, tapping relevant relationships to draw a map to the best candidates. Think of it as crowd-sourced recruitment. It’s the combination of new and old technology and the ability to compile more data to make better-informed decisions.

Regardless of how communication preferences and trends evolve in the digital realm, actively building and cultivating personable relationships will reliably distinguish successful executive recruiter efforts. Once we’ve researched the most promising leads online, it’s ultimately the phone that allows us to get through to an audience immersed in digital communication. Though some argue that the phone may be at the beginning of its decline, I maintain that it still has a place among the emerging avenues of communication.

It just takes some old school persistence and patience, neither of which will ever go out of vogue.