LinkedIn’s Talent Connect is a recruiting festival of lights, sounds, new tools and new ideas. After years of cynicism I left last month’s October 2016 conference convinced that the recruiting industry has finally turned a corner. High touch recruiting is back after an absence of 25 years. The merging of high tech and high touch promises a brighter future for those companies willing to invest their resources in hiring stronger people and for job seekers who want to find better jobs.
The Sad Cost of High Tech
From my perspective the cost of high tech recruiting, i.e., job boards, pre-qualification assessments, AI, applicant tracking systems, and the like, far outweighed the advantages. In its wake it caused excessive turnover, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and underperformance. It also created the hidden and public job markets. The public job market is the one you’re all familiar with. It’s the 5+ million jobs found collectively on all of the job boards. This market is impersonal, vague, where people are filtered by arbitrary criteria that neither predicts performance nor ensures job satisfaction, and at best the jobs that are offered represent ill-defined lateral transfers.
The hidden job market is entirely different. It represents all of the jobs that are filled before they’re ever posted. These are the ones filled via internal promotion or referrals from trusted sources. Even better, these jobs are typically customized to better fit the career needs of those hired. The pre-public and hidden market is where careers are created. The public market is where the leftover jobs are filled.
Use High Touch Job Seeking Techniques to Get a Job in the Hidden Market
The best jobs are in the hidden job market. Here’s how to get one:
Understand how you’re being evaluated. Watch the Lynda.com video above (the trial is free). It explains how recruiters and hiring managers should interview candidates. More important, by reverse engineering the process savvy job seekers can be sure they’re being interviewed properly.
Implement a 50-50 high touch networking effort. Recognize that networking is not meeting as many people as you can in the hope that someone knows about an open job. Instead, it’s meeting a few well-connected people who can vouch for your performance and introduce you to a few other well-connected people. By expanding your network this way, you’ll soon learn about an open opportunity in the hidden job market.
Use the job post as a lead to the backdoor. Forget about applying to a job unless you’re a perfect fit based on the criteria listed. However, if you believe you could handle the job you need to find someone who can get you an interview with the hiring manager or department head. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this purpose. For example, one candidate for a senior engineering position in the construction industry told me the other day he got an interview with a VP by using a professional society connection.
Prove you’re worthy by being different. The backdoor is a great way to find who you should contact but unless you’re able to get a referral from a trusted source you’ll need to prove you’re worthy to get an interview. One way: Do some type of mini-analysis and offer to discuss your findings.
Control the interview. While getting an interview is a big deal it’s not enough. You need to ensure you’re being interviewed properly. Unfortunately too many interviewers overvalue first impressions, technical skills and generic competencies. So rather than leave the process to chance ask the interviewer to describe real job needs in terms of challenges and objectives. Then give examples of work you’ve done that best meets their needs. (This video for job seekers shows how to use this type of "forced choice" questioning process.)
Push the process along using advanced selling techniques. Getting a job in the hidden job market is similar to consultative selling. One way to check if the first interview is going well is to ask the hiring manager about next steps. If vague you need to ask something like, “Based on your job needs do you believe my background meets your requirements? If not, what do you think is lacking compared to others you’re meeting?” This question requires the hiring manager to rank you against other candidates by highlighting any deficiencies.
The best jobs are in the hidden job market, before they’re publicized to the world. Even better, since nothing has been finalized, it’s easier to modify the job and compensation package to best meet the candidate’s strengths and career needs. Getting this type of position requires a high touch process involving networking, strong selling techniques and a track record of comparable – not identical – past performance. It’s a highly personalized approach but far more rewarding than applying to dozens of jobs and then waiting and hoping. More important, the end result of this high touch process is a career opportunity, not a lateral transfer.
Implementing a 20-20-60 strategy to a job hunt could land you more interviewers (and better jobs).
Ten million job applications resulted in 100,000 hires.
That's 1 percent.
Worse: Only 15 percent of these 100,000 people applied through a job board; the rest got their job via networking or by being found on LinkedIn. That means applying resulted in hiring only about 0.1 percent of the time. I was at a recruiting conference this past week where this information was presented, discussed, and validated.
That's why companies need to minimize their use of job boards to find candidates for critical positions. More important, for the jobs posted it's better to replace the laundry list of must-have requirements with a summary of the importance of the job and what the person hired will learn, do and become. This marketing technique will attract more of the more qualified.
Coincidently, on my Lyft ride back to the airport, the driver -- a PhD in foreign languages -- was lamenting about her inability to find another full-time teaching position. She told me she applies to 15-20 postings a day in search of a job. I told her it was a waste of her time. I went on to tell her unless she were a perfect on all of the "must-haves," was fully employed and had limited turnover, she would not get an interview. And even if she got an interview, she would be competing with 15-20 other people for the same job.
To improve her odds I suggested she implement a 20-20-60 job hunting plan. While it was OK to spend 20 percent of her time finding jobs where she was a perfect fit, another 20 percent of her efforts needs to be focused on improving her resume and LinkedIn profile in order to be found by a recruiter or hiring manager looking for someone with her background. Branded.me might help on this part, too. However, the other 60 percent is where she needed to become very creative.
For the balance of the ride we came up with the following ideas for the other 60 percent:
1. Find some alternative jobs that could use her foreign language skills.
Online training programs headed the list, followed by translation services. Those needing such services included attorneys, patent offices, companies involved in developing learning management systems, and any international company that required materials to be prepared in multiple languages. It took only a few minutes to prepare this list.
I then asked her if she went to any job boards that posted jobs that were written exclusively in Spanish and Italian. Of course she said no but she instantly knew this could be another source of job leads.
If we had another 10 minutes we could've developed a longer list and developed some specific companies to target, but we had to move on since the airport was almost in sight. I suggested she scour the job boards for these types of jobs but she shouldn't apply directly. Instead she should use one of the following backdoor techniques to get an interview.
Announcement: Getting to the top of the candidate list is more important than getting the interview.
The reason is obvious: Recruiters stop looking at candidates once they find a few good ones and applying directly is the least best way to get to the top of the list. Being referred by a trusted common acquaintance is the best way. You don't even need to be fully qualified in this case. Demonstrating your competency via a mini-project or a temp-to-perm or intern job is the next best way to get to the top of the list.
These backdoor techniques are very effective. Since we were just arriving at the airport, I gave her a short example of this approach. I told her about an MBA student in Italy who wanted a marketing position at one of the big European telecom companies but he wasn't having any luck getting interviews. I suggested he first prepare a competitive analysis of each company's primary product line with some recommendations for increasing market share. Then he should send a short summary and video to the head of product marketing at each company asking for a short meeting to present his conclusions. He called me a month later thanking me. The technique yielded two interviews. If the project was any good I'm sure he got at least one job offer.
As you likely read the other day, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that there were 292,000 new jobs filled in December 2015. This brings the total in 2015 to 2.7 million new jobs, on top of the three million in 2014. Given the instability on the world economic front, you need to wonder if this rapid increase in hiring is sustainable. This has significant impact on job seekers and employers alike.
Before the DOL report was released, I predicted the following 2016 hiring trends. The DOL report increases the chance they'll occur.
Hiring growth will continue for at least three to six months.
Voluntary turnover will increase as recruiters pursue more passive candidates.
Salary growth will accelerate to enable companies to compete for the best talent.
Job dissatisfaction will increase as candidates overvalue the short-term rewards without due consideration to the long-term consequences.
Companies will overreact to these short-term trends and attempt to keep their best people from leaving using the wrong inducements.
This vicious cycle of job dissatisfaction, low performance, and high turnover will accelerate until some macroeconomic event breaks the bubble.
Whether you're a job seeker, employer, or recruiter, the current diametrically opposed world and U.S. economic trends urge caution. For example, consider this fresh-off-the-press Fortune article summing up why people leave what appear to be dream jobs. The big takeaway: What you get on the day you start and the related glitz does not determine happiness, success, or job satisfaction. It's what you do every day after that, and who you do it with, that counts.
Given this state of affairs, here's some rational advice for employers and those who are actively seeking a new job or are considering an offer for a dream job.
2) Time is your most valuable asset. Use it wisely. If your current job does not provide you the opportunity of getting better at what you want to do, you should seriously consider changing jobs despite the turmoil and potential risk. There's often more risk in not changing jobs.
3) Strategy drives tactics, not the other way around. Whether your job-hunting strategy is to just pay the bills or something more significant, every job change you make should be considered with this strategy in mind. Whether you're actively looking for a new position or not, do you have a personal career strategy driving your actions?
These points are all captured in the Job Seeker's Decision Grid graphic I introduced last year. It offers a useful guide for helping job seekers figure out whether an offer is appropriate and for employers to better describe an open position.
People leave jobs for the reasons on the bottom half of the grid and accept them for those at the top. These reasons can be divided into short-term extrinsic reasons (on the left) and long-term intrinsic reasons (on the right). Regardless of why people leave jobs, when they accept them for the short-term extrinsic reasons in the upper left, the job can quickly become disappointing. This is how the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction, underperformance, and turnover is created and perpetuated.
So regardless of the economic conditions, the decision whether to accept an offer needs to emphasize the intrinsic long-term criteria in the upper-right quadrant--what the person will be doing, learning, and becoming. Here's some advice how to evaluate a job offer on this basis. It starts by categorizing the offer into these three components:
Day 1 Criteria This is what a new hire gets on the start date--a job title, a compensation package, a specific location, a company name, and its Glassdoor.com reputation.
Year 1 Criteria This is the doing and learning part, including the work itself and its importance to the candidate and the company. This is influenced by the quality of the hiring manager, the team, the culture, and the work-life balance.
The Future This is what the person can become if successful. It depends on the company's growth prospects, the quality of the leadership team (especially the hiring manager), and the long-term compensation package.
So whether you're not job hunting or have one or more offers, compare your current job and each opportunity on these three measures side by side. (There's a formal chart on page 268 in The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.) As long as you weight each component equally, you'll quickly discover if you should begin looking if you're not and how to correctly evaluate an offer when it's received. This will be how you can prevent or break your personal vicious cycle. More important, it's how you build a career worth building.