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Mark McMillan | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Please welcome Mark McMillan back as a returning contributor to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Mark is co-founder of Talent Function, where he combines executive coaching expertise with ten years of recruitment software industry experience. He started his software career for the Oracle Corporation and later joined BrassRing as a Director of Strategy and Business Development. Full Bio…

The Darwinian Evolution of the Recruiter

by Mark McMillan

For the next 19 years, 10,000 baby-boomers will retire each day, leading to the hackneyed conclusion – recruiting is going to get harder. That phrase should start paragraphs, not end them. Like all species, the “recruiter” must evolve to survive. Recruiter’s need to grow a new compassion appendage that is going to make them look, more and more, like a coach.

The changing contours of the labor supply mean that recruiting is changing in importance and complexity. Recruiters cannot simply rely on passive candidates. Let’s examine passive candidate recruiting:

Recruiter Inquiry Effort LevelPassive Candidate StateDescription
Level I Passive “Aggressive"Candidate is performing a high level and they have made the decision to check out the market. They will have not posted their resume, but they are talking to headhunters and are working their networks to get a new job. They are making a move, but they will play their cards as a passive candidate. They are in the border region Afghanistan and Pakistan in the “active” – “passive” schema. They have emotionally quit their job. They are ready to negotiate.
Level II Passive “Ripe”Already has a clear idea of what they are looking for in a new job and a new company. Possesses a flickering desire to make a move depending on the day. They feel like they should make a move to improve their career trajectory. They may have a particular dissatisfying issue that is a deal-breaker with their current company. If you can get a hold of them, because they are busy, then you could get them to negotiate very easily.
Level IIIPassive “Latent”They are humming along in their job. They are happy and haven’t given any thought to leaving their current job and company. They haven’t done any of the soul-searching required to make a move to another company. They have not done any career reflection. They don’t know what they want because they haven’t thought about it.

The prevailing definition of passive candidate recruiting includes Aggressive and Ripe candidates only. This is when the hunter archetypes swoop in and close the candidates. You can picture the aggressive, type A recruiter pushing for the decision. This is all about closing skills. These skills are important and will only get more important going forward. But they will not be enough.

Recruiters will also have to learn how to work with Latent candidates. The recruiters that I know run from Latent candidates. They send them to their friends (like me) that are coaches.   The recruiters simply don’t have time to invest in an inquiry process that might not result in an active candidate. For many of them, it also isn’t in their make-up. What makes these recruiters successful is their certainty, and, to a degree, their impatience. They wield certainty. They don’t have time for candidate fog.

In the new world order with a smaller workforce, recruiters won’t have the luxury of turning away latent candidates. The Type A, hunter, closer approach doesn’t work with these candidates. That coaching appendage will be necessary to provide recruiters with the insight to give candidates a hand.

The coaching skill set is required to recruit Latent candidates. Coaches are trained to produce and control conversations that yield what is really going on inside someone’s mind. They are masters at rapport that enables them to get to trust quickly. And with that trust, they can control conversations that lead to the candidate stepping into their own new thought meadows. I am not saying that Latent candidates are going to be easily sold by the coaching skill set. What I am saying is that if there is any real opportunity for a job change, then the coach stands the best chance of uncovering it.

If you want an exaggerated, entertaining glimpse into the mastery of coaching, then I suggest you take a look at the television show, Lie to Me

Good coaches are masters at detecting changes in physiology. They learn to read body language and voice intonation that enable them to make split-second decisions on where to take the conversation. They do this on the phone and in person. Coaches are trained to identify underlying beliefs, fears, and desires. They are trained to facilitate people that are not clear in the head about what they want. It is an inherently personal business. And if it is done well, the coach becomes a trusted figure that wields considerable influence.

In order to be successful in the coming years, recruiters will have invest more time in candidates and to learn to understand and guide them. This may or may not result in filling the current requisition on the desk. But I do believe that the candidate, recruiter and importantly, the client, will be more satisfied with both the process and results.

That new appendage emerging is just the hand that both candidates and clients will require in the coming years.

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  • GerryGerrcrispin, sphr

    I do think we’ve characterized recruiters on a 1-dimensional plane as hunters and/or farmers for quite a long time. But these terms reflected recruiter approaches to how they ‘sourced’ their bread and butter- quality, salable candidates and did not represent how they treated them once they were sourced.

    You are suggesting a coaching dimension as a component that would be in the mix
    I assume either in advising a prospect who may not choose to be a candidate for some time or, more importantly, the highly qualified candidate faced with a critical life choice. My question is whether recruiters can/should morph or whether the incentive to meet goal the short term goals of the firms that pay them is just too high to expect the recruiter to act in the candidates best interest if it conflicts with firm. Would you propose that in this future the highly evolved coach/recruiter would be paid by both parties?

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