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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crank Yankers: Staffing Special

Part of growing up with three brothers is learning to take a joke and the art of playing practical jokes. Growing up, my brothers and I were constantly at it and constantly pissing one another off with things we thought were downright hysterical. Whether we were locking Casey in my mom's trunk and "forgetting" about him, putting peroxide in Ryan's shampoo, tainting the Hawaiian Punch with soap and laxatives, or pretending like we ran away, Ryan, Kevin, Casey, and I were ALWAYS up to no good.

Part of our reign of terror also included making inappropriate phone calls. Lots of them. Some of our favorite people to call included the 911 operator, adult phone operators (we LOVED trying to convince them we were 18), and Ryan's second grade teacher. Occasionally we'd just get the White Pages out and start dialing. We passed many a summer (and winter, spring, and fall) day messing with other people and it was wonderful. As we got older, we began to see that calling 911 was not acceptable, nor was it OK to call "Destiny" to talk about going on a hot date. Instead, we resorted to physical forms of entertainment and would just beat each other up. When we tired of that (Who am I kidding? We never grew that tired of punching each other in the face.) we decided to act like normal humans. Kind of.

When I went away to college, I lived with all girls for the first time in my life. As "non girly" as they were, I still had no idea what to do with myself. I was used to my brothers walking around with their hands in their pants, farting, and making insanely inappropriate jokes. As hard as I tried to fit in with the girls, I could not shake my natural inclination to joke around and tease others. Fortunately, I got to know two of the girls on my floor pretty well and discovered that they weren't nearly as girly as they seemed. In fact, personality wise, they were pretty "manly", in that they loved a good practical joke. We quickly hit it off and began to terrorize each other and the rest of Flagler Hall on a regular basis. Still, though, aside from them, I really didn't have too many girlfriends.

One of the reasons I loved the Kforce team in Orlando is because in many ways it was like a locker room. For a long time, my team was all guys...and me, and I was pretty much considered one of the guys. Alysia soon joined us, too, and fit right in. Jokes of all form were made on a daily basis and there was a lot of "ball busting" to be had. One of our favorite jokes to play on one another was the classic crank call. Angel, the ultimate joker, would typically be the caller while I died laughing in the background. He would call our fellow recruiters, managers, my now name it, and keep them going for as long as possible. For us, it was the funniest thing in the entire world. Typically, for the person on the other end who was trying to figure out who was really calling them, it was annoying, frustrating, and a huge waste of their time.

Since I've joined Signature Consultants, I have been working at rebuilding my candidate network. Part of this, obviously, is speaking to a lot of people on the phone. The other part is meeting these people and trying to develop a lasting relationship. The practice of meeting my candidates is not new to me. It was part of my job at Kforce, and frankly, I assumed other staffing firms required this, too. Apparently, I assumed incorrectly.

Last week I was having coffee with a woman I located on one of the job boards. We were having a great conversation and she happened to mention that she was shocked I actually wanted to meet her. As it turned out, in the six months she had been searching for a position, NOT A SINGLE recruiter that called her actually expressed an interest in meeting her and getting to know anything about her other than what was written on her resume. Instead, they'd call and tell her they'd call if they got a bite on her resume. Nothing more. Half of the time she didn't even know who was calling her, where they were located, and why exactly they were contacting her, as nothing about her resume matched their position. For all she knew, it was some weirdo (...or bored 12 year old kid) calling her to waste her time. As weird as I found this, I thought that this couldn't be the norm. It made absolutely no sense to me.

After my coffee with her, I began to ask candidates I met with how many other recruiters had asked to meet them in person. Alarmingly, my inquiry was met with the same response every time. The majority of the candidates in San Francisco (both active and passive) were not meeting their recruiters in person, and not by their choice. To them the interactions were all very transactional and left them feeling very uneasy about their job search. They had no earthly idea who they were giving their information to and who they were trusting with their livelihoods. A lot of the companies that called them weren't local, many had zero web presence, and almost all were impossible to track down for a followup conversation. Clearly, this does not inspire a lot of confidence for the job seeker.

This really disturbed me because if you can't feel comfortable with your recruiter you aren't off to a good start. A candidate shouldn't wonder in the back of their mind if they are getting a crank call (and yes, that was a concern of some), and if some wacko sitting in their basement was just calling them to make a quick buck. Back in the day, this industry was based solely on relationships. With the good recruiting firms, it still is. There is no reason a candidate shouldn't be able to put a face to the name of the firm they are working with. People work with people they trust and are less inclined to work with a person they've never met and never hear from. To me, that is pretty freakin' obvious.

One thing I like to urge candidates to do is keep track of the recruiters you are working with...and don't work with everyone and their mother. Typically working with about three recruiters you trust is a good number. Make them earn your trust and business, because even though they are a free service to you, if they do manage to find you a position, they do profit. If you can help it, only work with people you can meet. Go to their office. See their shop. Know about their clients. Interview them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions. A recruiter should be honest and forthcoming with follow-up. You shouldn't have to pry it out of them. Set your expectations with your recruiter upfront. Ask how frequently you are going to be speaking. If a recruiter tells you they'll call you once they have feedback and that's it, that's a pretty crappy answer. A good recruiter should make it a point to connect with the people they speak with and meet about once a week. They don't have to be calling about a job; touching base is always good because it is nice to know what is going on in each other's world. I'm pretty involved with the majority of my candidates and call many of them friends. This doesn't come from calling them solely when a position is released.

Just like dating, if the relationship is a priority, it tends to be positive. That recruiter might not end up finding you a position, but at the very least, you will have the peace of mind knowing you aren't talking to a complete stranger. At the end of the day, you are putting your career in the hands of the recruiter so whatever you do, educate that way, when a pack of brats crank call you, you'll know what's up and have the last laugh.

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