Must-have HR skills: Proactive recruiting

Headhunting isn’t what it used to be, according to Greg Savage, a corporate recruitment advisor with nearly 40 years’ experience. In fact, the man behind The Savage Truth doesn’t even use the term anymore – he prefers to talk about “proactive recruiting”.

Here’s why proactive recruiting is a more sophisticated way to source and seduce great candidates, and how to do it.

What’s the difference between headhunting and proactive recruiting?

Whereas our traditional idea of headhunting might involve a more direct approach – putting the hard sell on a candidate to get them to move today – a proactive recruiter takes a much broader view of talent acquisition.

“A modern recruiter is proactive,” Savage says. “They build communities of people and engage with people – this is the important part – before they are looking to move.

“Modern recruiters are sourcing. They are engaging, they are building a brand, and they are building communities of potential candidates who they believe will move at some point, which is pretty smart because everybody moves.

“So why wouldn’t you start talking to people and building up trust with a candidate – particularly in skills-short areas – in the knowledge that one day they’re going to say, ‘I’m thinking of moving. I trust you. Can I come and chat to you?’”

Be a modern recruiter

  • Choose the right medium.
  • Be empathetic & personal.
  • Be innovative around timing.

Modern-day recruiting: Sourcing and reaching out

Savage says recruiting is “a marriage of science and art”. The science is the sourcing, screening and matching of candidates, followed by the art of engaging and influencing them.

Sourcing means finding people through a digital search, which is a lot easier than it used to be thanks to online recruiting tools such as Boolean and X-Ray, Followerwonk and others. Just make sure you’re looking in the right places – identify where your target audience lives online so you can choose the right medium to connect with them.

The next step is reaching out. If you want to stand out from the spam, Savage recommends an empathetic and personal approach.

“I call it modern outreach,” he says. “It’s bespoke and it’s tailored for the individual. A typical example might be that you’re contacting an accountant and it’s toward year-end, so you might say, ‘I know it’s financial year-end and you’ll be under pressure. I also know that you’re dealing with the XYZ tax ruling, but I’ve got this opportunity I want to talk to you about.’”

Timing is the other area where a little innovation can really pay off. For example, through Google Analytics, Savage knows he gets a massive spike in UK readership of his bi-weekly blog around the time they’re commuting to work.

“There is a lesson in that,” he says. “So if I had a company in the UK, I would encourage some of my recruiters to come in at 7am, because they would speak to so many people between 7am and 9am – before those people get into meetings and get on with their day.”

Essential skills of modern recruiters

Since technology can now perform many traditional recruiting functions (e.g. sourcing, screening and matching), being a people person is a modern-day must.

“I believe a good recruiter is a great seducer,” Savage says. “And that is a word I use advisedly, because obviously I don’t mean seduction in a romantic sense. But I do mean it in the sense that seduction requires empathy. It requires relationship building and it requires trust.”

He says good recruiters must be digital natives “It’s not about age. It’s about attitude,” he explains. They must also be good writers, and have advanced networking and influencing skills. In this way, they can land talented candidates without giving them an over-inflated sense of self.

“There is no doubt that if you’re approaching someone for a role, it’s an ego stroke,” he says. “The recruiter needs those influencing skills to then manage that through the process. So you’ll approach someone, but then you’ll have a conversation where you’ll subtly point out some of their shortfalls, just to bring that balance back into place.

“That’s why I say it’s an art, not a science.”

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