Imagine that you're a surgeon, stepping into the operating room. The nurse is standing by with a tray filled with scalpels, scissors and clamps. In the corner, there's an oxygen tank and a mile-high bank of sophisticated monitors and medical equipment. And in the center of the room, lying on the operating table, is the patient.
You've got all the tools to perform the operation. The only problem is, no one told you what's wrong with the patient, or why the operation is necessary.
This is precisely why I hate job descriptions. They tell you—usually in great detail—the precise tools the perfect candidate will need to perform the operation: the training, education, work experience and so forth. But they almost never tell you why the job is open, what problem needs to be fixed, or what the company hopes will happen if all goes well.
As a recruiter, this puts you in an awkward position. You want to fill the job—and act as an advocate for your client—but you have very little information to work with, other than the job company's official filibuster of keywords and bullet points.
The problem with keywords
Keywords are fine, if you want to recruit with one hand tied behind your back. But a recruiting campaign based on keywords won't help you to:
Any minimum-wage telemarketer can paraphrase a job posting or rattle off a string of keywords. But is that the best way to attract the highest caliber candidates?
And now you know the rest of the story
if you can sidestep the keywords and tell a story—something that's cool or interesting or intriguing about the job—your presentation will sparkle. To illustrate, consider this tired old keyword-based recruiting script:
"Hi, I'm a recruiter, and I'm looking for a Sales Engineer with a four-year degree and 5-10 years experience in mining safety instruments who can sell direct and through distributors. The ideal candidate will travel 75 percent of the time and call on end-users located at bituminous extraction facilities in a five-state territory. The company offers a competitive salary and medical, disability and rehabilitation benefits. Doesn't this sound exciting?"
Now compare the keyword script with this:
"Hi, I'm a recruiter, and I'm working with a company that's got a pretty amazing goal: To lower the cost of electricity, protect the environment—and more importantly—ensure the safety of the men and women who help us meet our energy needs. The company's mission is to launch a new generation of mine safety instruments and help the industry raise its safety standards. Is this something you might be interested in?"
"Hi, I'm a recruiter, and I've got a pretty intriguing situation. A client of mine is about to launch a revolutionary line of mine safety products. The only problem is, the products are more sophisticated and effective than the company's sales force. But instead of laying people off, the directors decided to recruit a brand-new team of all-stars, hand-picked from the best in the industry. The challenge will be huge—but so will the upside. Is this something you might want to take a look at?"
Notice the difference? The two new scripts tell a little story. Not a complete story, mind you; but enough to spark the candidate's interest and begin a conversation. Which is the whole point of your initial presentation.
Take a look at the jobs you're trying to fill. Do the descriptions tell you anything about the problem the company (or department or manager) is trying to solve? Or what drives their decision to hire? Or what it will mean to fix the problem in terms of customer satisfaction, company growth or upward mobility for the candidate? Probably not; that's the type of value-added information that requires some detective work on your part.
The more you understand the story behind the job, the more effectively you'll attract the right candidates—and distinguish yourself from other recruiters who rely on keywords to do their matching and selling.
- Bill Radin
Bill Radin is a top-producing recruiter whose innovative books, tapes and training seminars have helped thousands of recruiting professionals and search consultants achieve peak performance and career satisfaction. Bill’s extensive experience makes him an ideal source of techniques, methods and ideas for rookies who want to master the fundamentals—or veterans ready to jump to a higher level of success.