Recruiting is Selling

Aug 25, 1997

From my experience, I’d say that most owners and managers of A/E/P and environmental firms have forgotten that recruiting is selling. Instead of trying to create the best impression they can on every person who comes through their door, they act as if it is up to the prospective employee to sell them on why they should be allowed to work there. This may be O.K. in a double-digit unemployment market like architects faced six years ago, but it’s absurd today. I know a fair amount about recruiting. I have personally been involved with hiring literally hundreds of professionals and support staff in A/E/P and environmental firms. Here’s more of what I think about this subject: Your goal should be to create such a good reputation that everyone working for your competitors wants to work at your company. They should practically be beating the door down. Your reputation should be so good that you don’t even need to advertise much— they seek you out. But the only way that happens is by treating everyone who comes through your door like they are gold— anything less creates ill will that then has to be overcome through higher than normal salaries, more involvement of the CEO in the hiring process, and so on. In some cases, it can never be overcome— you just can’t hire! You need to educate your managers on the difference between a recruited candidate and one who approached you. Both types of candidates should be treated well. But I find that engineers and architects seem to be obsessed with questions such as: “Why do you want to leave ABC Associates?” or “Why do you want to live in Tupelo?” when the truth is the candidate may not know the answer themselves. If you work with outside recruiters, there’s a good chance (if it’s a decent recruitment company) that the recruiter contacted the candidate, not vice-versa. The candidate’s ego was stroked so he or she decided to cautiously investigate. But if your managers treat these candidates in such a way that their egos get bruised, you can bet they’ll lose enthusiasm for a job change, and fast! Then the candidate will appear laissez faire, or raise a lot of objections about your insurance plan, or tell you that their spouse is scared about a move. In a worst case scenario, your managers may treat these recruited candidates so badly they just stop returning phone calls or send you a letter saying “no thanks,” even before you’ve actually made them an offer. It happens all the time. Yet some managers believe they are above selling when it comes to getting someone to work at the firm— it’s somehow beneath them. They like candidates who are desperate, who need the firm, who grovel, who jump through hoops. But the problem is, by and large, these are the worst candidates! If you are good, you don’t need to do that! Every manager who comes in contact with a prospective employee better be able to sell your firm. Most cannot. Many people with direct hiring responsibility are capable technical people who rose through the ranks to become a manager, yet they have limited interpersonal communication skills. They may have a low affect. They don’t vary the rate and pitch of their voices. They don’t gesticulate. They bottom line is that they just don’t seem to be energized. One thing’s for sure— if you have one of these managers and they get involved in hiring people, do not let them be the first or last contact with job candidates! Get someone else to handle the front-end process, to explain what the firm is about, perhaps even warn the candidate about the personality of the hiring manager. Turn the candidate over to the hiring manager after this step. Then, when the hiring manager is finished with his or her meeting, have your energized person be the last person the candidate meets with. Do they have questions? What is their impression? Starting and ending the interview with someone who is bubbling over with enthusiasm is critical to hiring. You need materials to help sell the firm. Do you have a video? Do you have a trade show booth set up for recruiting? Do you have a recruitment book, one that presents all the facts on your growth rate, philosophy, ownership plan, and so on? Do you have a Web site that is set up for recruiting? If not, why not? What’s wrong with you? Get with it. Get on it. Get it done. Originally published 8/25/1997

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