August 2007 Newsletter

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We say people are our greatest resource. And Dilbert’s boss points out, “resources are our greatest asset.” But most companies put huge effort into attracting and retaining customers, and much less into attracting and retaining people. Salespeople get trainings, off-sites, apprenticeships, workshops, and books on finding and romancing customers. But rarely does a company jump so fully into finding and romancing their people (“our greatest asset,” remember?)

If your business depends on innovation, judgment, or in-person contact, people are key. MIT says 40% (yes, 40%) of its grads enter into finance or consulting. They don’t go because they like the fields, nor do they go for the money; grads go because consulting firms and I-banks put as much effort into recruiting as they do into sales. They recruit better than other companies. You could have those kids working for you instead. It would be better for you, and frankly, better for the country.(1).

When you want a customer, you go where customers hang out. You learn what motivates them. Why do they buy what they do? What are their needs? What do they think of you and your products? With your insights as a guide, you begin the dance that ends, we hope, with a nice new business relationship.

So where do new recruits hang out? What are their needs? Why do they choose the jobs they do?

Last week, I blogged about the absurdity of punting a job candidate after reading their MySpace page. I said it’s us old fogies who don’t understand that the World has changed, and we need to get with the program. It turns out, I was righter than I thought.

My friends Ian Ybarra, recent grad, Chris Resto, founder of MIT’s largest intern program, and Ramit Sethi just published “Recruit or Die.” Interviewing over 1000 students, they give a tour through the minds of today’s best candidates and how they make decisions.

Today’s job candidates research companies as much as companies research them. And then candidates swap notes. A lot. MySpace, Twitter, you name it, they use it. Successful recruiting means managing your reputation as much as selecting the people you want. When you ding someone, act rudely, show up unprepared, or rescind an offer, the news flashes through the social networks back to the people you most want to hire. If you’re less than top-notch, you’ll never even know you’re chasing away your best candidates.

What are candidates discussing in their online forums? Top performers aren’t looking for a salary; they’re looking for a career. They don’t want a retirement plan, they want growth, opportunity, and positioning for their next jobs. They don’t want to feel like a cog in the machine, they want a chance to have real responsibility to rise as rapidly as their talents allow. Take a look at your current recruiting pitch. Is there any overlap with what your recruits want?

Once your message is right, you need a quality recruiting process to deliver it. Sales has a century of research and frameworks. Recruiting, not so much. But just as sales builds on itself, so does recruiting. You research and contact your potential recruits. You build brand awareness among them, complete with all the brand attributes you want your company to stand for as an employer. Then you develop ways to identify your prospects early on, and begin building relationships far in advance with the people you someday want. The pieces of good recruiting aren’t hard, you just need to do them and put them all together.

The second half of “Recruit or Die” lays out the recruiting process start to finish—including what to do once your offer is accepted to build a strong partnership with your new employee. They make recruiting as rigorous as sales. In fact, just replace “job candidate” with “customer” and the book becomes a sales management handbook!

If people are key for your business, pursue them as you’d pursue your hottest prospect. Get inside their minds, provide real value (and not just money), communicate respectfully, and you’ll find you’ll attracting recruits of the very top calibre.

You can find Recruit or Die via my website: http://www.SteverRobbins.com/r/recruitordie.

(1) Stever’s over-the-top soapbox: This trend spells doom for America. Forty percent of MIT students go into consulting and i-banking? FORTY PERCENT? These are exactly the people we need innovating. We need them discovering clean, cheap energy, halting global warming, and helping us compete globally. If they get sidetracked into producing 500-page jargon-filled strategy documents, we’ll lose their potential forever.back

Are you as good at recruiting as you are at sales?…

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