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December 17, 2017

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Failure of The CRM Metaphor

By the end of 2002, we will not be hearing very much about Candidate Relationship Management Systems or other variants on the idea that candidates are customers in need of managed relations. The industry took off on this idea without much investigation. The result was a great deal of empty marketing promise and no real models for execution.

It is extremely clear that the ability to guarantee availability of labor over time will involve having detailed personal relationships with potential employees.

Marketing that works well has the net effect of reversing the flow of the phone traffic and lead generation. With no clear marketing strategy, the enterprise is forced to identify every potential sales target by name and then reach out and create the relationship. The hard work of physical lead generation is a part of building or rebuilding a business. Marketing, when executed effectively, is all about making the prospect of doing business with you so attractive that the normal dynamics of promotion become inverted.

It is an offensive game that deteriorates at the moment that it shifts to the defense. Recruiting, as currently practiced, is a defensive and reactive process full of promotional techniques. Placing an ad on a job board, hiring a staffing or search firm, and, filling a requirement after it is identified are all reactive behaviors executed in defense of a set of circumstances that happen out of the control of the recruiter. The industry has grown up to support Recruiters and other HR professionals.

The problem with promotion as a development tool is that it makes people want to run away. Promotion, as demonstrated by the cold call or the surprise demonstration, introduces the 'prospect' to a strange thing and asks that s/he consider it without regard to schedule, quality or need. The presence of fear in promotional tools is precisely the reason that cold calls and direct marketing approaches have such low rates of closing. When you reach out cold to a prospect, your batting average falls rapidly.

Attraction, on the other hand, gradually and interestingly introduces the prospect with no threat of immediate sales pressure. Usually, attraction oriented tools and processes give the prospects something of value well in advance of the sales pitch. Advertising is much more about attraction, through increasing brand awareness. Advertising takes time and focus. It operates on different rhythms than the direct approach. It is friendlier with a relaxed pace. Community development is an even longer path.

Now, of course, you have to beat the bushes to get started or restarted. Recruiting in an early stage enterprise has a higher promotional content than a mature operation should have. But, promotion as a development tool is best left to fly by night operations. The question is why the Recruiting industry has avoided the more productive approach of building attraction into its basic processes.

We think the answer lies in not understanding that the acquisition and maintenance of Human Capital requires a solid infusion of regular capital. Since the question is rarely understood in those terms, Recruiting is treated as an expense rather than as an investment. Recruiting is an investment and always requires an investment at the front end. Techniques that attract candidates are the best ways to convert so called passive seekers into active seekers.

- John Sumser

An excerpt from the 2002ElectronicRecruitingIndex