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Steve Levy: Part 3 – One Brick at a Time

Posted on November 13, 2006
Filed Under People, Recruitment Industry | 9 Comments

By Steve Levy, Principal
Outsideâ– theâ– Box Consulting
Talent Acquisition and Organizational Effectiveness Consulting


I volunteered to pick El Dave up at the airport this past Monday on his way to Kennedy’s Recruiting 2006 Conference (a MUST attend conference – the next one is May 2007 in Viva Las Vegas), and vowed to show this former metro area resident New York City’s finer sites.

Our first major stop after dropping his gear off at the hotel was McSorley’s Old Ale House. “…McSorley’s [boasts] of being New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon. Everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon have passed thru McSorley’s swinging doors. Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement from a table in the front…while civil rights attorney’s Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow had to take their case to the Supreme Court to gain access. Women were finally allowed access to McSorley’s in 1970!” With a reputation for social networking and a place where passive superstars congregate, it is definitely a place for recruiters to visit. Yes, it is original – sawdust on the floors, a glowing coal burning stove heats the front room, and the cobwebs on the ceiling, if carbon dated, would have shown a date of 1854. Old school at it finest.

Talk to any old-school recruiter about the “old days” – for most that would be either before the Internet boom of the late 1990’s or before the Internet began its prowl during the mid 1980’s – and they would likely respond with how they built their pipelines by first developing relationships the political way: Shaking hands and kissing babies, one person at a time. Now hold onto your breath because I’m going to tell you about the best way to source talent for your company or client.

Standing against the bar with Dave, I was next to two women with obviously Cockney accents looking intently at a map of NYC. Now here comes the best way to source people…I asked them, “Where are you hoping to go?” I talked to them. What a shocking revelation!

From this simple question came a flow of information about the NYC Marathon one had run the past weekend, where they were from, where they wanted to go, where they were staying… Get the picture? If you cannot do a cold meet and greet with someone, true full lifecycle recruiting may pose a significant challenge.

Let me offer you some specific, somewhat creative ways to “brick and mortar” recruit for talent. First, the obvious:

1. Business card bowls. Ah, ol’ reliable. Do you know where your competitor’s HQ or other locations are located? Do you know where their employees eat breakfast or lunch? Have you ever seen those business card bowls that seat up by the register offering free meals if you toss in your card? Absolute goldmines. Ask the manager what they do with the cards at the end of each week. If you have to, offer them $10-$20 for the contents of the bowl. Then call the ones who seem to be on target. Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

2. Airports (or really any transportation hub). These are like open directories on the Internet with one great difference – real live people. When traveling, I always make a point of walking past telephone banks or people on cell phones – and listen (well, okay, eavesdrop but it’s a public place) to the conversations. More specifically, I listen very carefully to the details of the call hoping to catch a juicy tidbit that gives me an idea of who the person is, what they do, or for whom they work. If I do, the first chance I can I walk over and say, “Hello, my name is Steve Levy. I’m quite sorry for bothering you but I overheard your phone call and…” Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

3. I’m still at airports. This time sitting amongst other travelers waiting for my flight. Here’s another “must have” skill for all recruiters – the ability to read from the side or upside down. I mean it – and you can practice to develop this skill. So I’m waiting for the flight to be called and I’m severely exercising my eyeballs – left, right, up, down – spying the contents of laptop screens and paperwork of travelers. Eavesdropping? Darn right. But to the naysayers, it’s all public. Just as the telephone example, I use the same approach… “Hello, my name is Steve Levy. I’m quite sorry for bothering you but I caught a glimpse of what you’re working on and …” Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

4. Field Trips to Starbucks. I consider these to be the mainstays of brick and mortar recruiting. Don’t like Starbucks? Pick any gathering place in your area that offers beverages and Wi-Fi. I once took the recruiting team from a West Coast client to a local Starbucks and had them sit at different tables and listen to conversations or exercise their eyeballs for five minutes. Next was to introduce themselves according to the model and go from there. Sure it was difficult at first but in time it does become easier, more sincere, and more effective.

But here’s the one inherent problem with this approach to brick and mortar recruiting: It isn’t easy. And it has vexed most normal people practically their entire lives. Do you remember your junior or senior prom (or really any social event before you were an “adult”) especially if you went solo? Do you remember girls on one side and boys on the other, neither side approaching to ask someone to dance? Brings back some interesting memories, right?

Finally someone takes a chance and pops the question; soon enough, most are dancing and thanking the person who reached out their hand. Classic brick and mortar recruiting will always be like this with the risk-taking first-responders who recognize its value receiving the greatest accolades and the best candidates. At its core, recruiting really is just one hand shaking another, a human interaction versus a technological one.

Here are a few more brick and mortar examples to consider:

5. Commuting. If you commute to work via mass transit, do you just sit there cuddled up to your favorite newspaper or exercising your thumbs on your Blackberry, or do you introduce yourself to others? Do you sit in the same seat every day? For shame – your next hire is in the next car!

6. Conferences and Trade Shows. While attending trade shows, do you walk around collecting pens and squishy toys or do you show up early during set-up time with coffee and donuts and offer these to the people assembling the booths? Trade a treat for an introduction!

7. The Internet. I’m quite sure that searching User Groups is part of most of your sourcing strategies. But do you attend these groups’ monthly meetings? Or better yet, what I recently did for a client was to survey the landscape and realize that there wasn’t a dotNET User Group in their area and having recruited dotNET Developers, I knew who they were and where they worked. So I created one in an area that was in desperate need of one (in fact, others had failed to successfully create one in the past). The result was 62 dotNET Developers at the kick-off meeting and I strongly suspect at least 25% to 30% more attendees the next meeting. The group meets at my client’s office; however, the single most important goal is not recruiting but brand and relationship building – a staple of brick and mortar recruiting. The result will be that my client’s brand will be bolstered by this show of professional goodwill and in time, so will their talent pipeline.

8. Chapter Meetings. Hold as many meetings of the local chapters of the professional or technical associations in which your employees belong. You know all these groups from searching the Internet so my not really make this information useful? Why not build your company’s brand and expose your employees to new and fresh ways of thinking? Incidentally, when consider The Internet and Chapter Meetings one of your most critical tasks is to train your people how to network, how to introduce themselves to others, what to say, and how to offer and ask for business cards. Finally, you’ll have to debrief them afterwards and even give them homework to follow-up with the people they met. Now your employees are part of brick and mortar recruiting.

Ultimately, recruiting is all about building and building requires significant investments to ensure the building is solid and meets the needs of its occupants. We’ve invested in technology to the point where entire conferences focus on HR technology. But are there specific conferences that focus on recruiting at the point of the person? Sadly not. We’re so enamored by the technological solution that I think our eyes have come off the ball. Hard to believe but the politicians may actually have it right: Elections are won one vote at a time, shaking hands and kissing babies.

Recruiting – one brick at a time…


Maureen on Names Sourcing


Steve on Innovation in Recruiting


Steve on Regulations in Recruiting

Comments

9 Responses to “Steve Levy: Part 3 – One Brick at a Time”

  1. Restaurant Recruiter on November 13th, 2006 4:37 pm

    I gotta meet Steve. I’m so there for Kennedy next year… but I have to warn ‘ya… I’m a poker junkie so I’ll probably miss a few meetings.

    Steve, always love hearing stories, tips, and tricks from you. -Carl

    Restaurant Recruiter | Restaurant Jobs | Restaurant Recruiters >> Blog

  2. Steve on November 13th, 2006 5:07 pm

    Carl- The next Kennedy Conference is this coming Spring in Viva Las Vegas. Think it’ll be safe?

    Imagine all the people we can recruit at craps tables!

    Do you have any thoughts on why bricks and mortar have taken backseats in the repetoires of many recruiters?

  3. Restaurant Recruiter on November 13th, 2006 5:56 pm

    Yep, I’m definitely planning on going. Safe, I doubt it. 😉

    I didn’t learn recruiting in the old days. But I did learn to be friendly and meet people in the old days.

    I think that most recruiters (the numerical majority) are younger, have not been around long and were taught to take advantage of technology. Plus, their teachers may not have shared brick and mortar techniques… heck their teachers might not even know them.

    Restaurant Recruiter | Restaurant Jobs | Restaurant Recruiters >> Blog

  4. Jason Alba on November 13th, 2006 6:08 pm

    Steve, as a job seeker (well, kind of ex-job-seeker) I love to hear this. Ok, the eavesdropping thing is kind of eerie, considering you can kung-foo me to death also, but it is refreshing to hear you talk about the personal side. Get to know the person, don’t be afraid of a real off-line relationship, etc.

    I hope to be in Vegas next year (can non-recruiting regular types go there too??) – and can’t wait to see Carl’s poker face.

  5. Restaurant Recruiter on November 13th, 2006 7:38 pm

    Jason – my poker face gives no indication that I’m even alive… 😉

  6. Steve on November 13th, 2006 10:34 pm

    Jason Jibber Jobber-

    Let’s think B&M – imagine how much you could help job seekers if you knew the inside of a recruiter’s brain (I know, scary, but consider the upside).

    I used the word eavesdropping because – well it is eavesdropping – but it’s really just listening. If everyone just minded their own beeswax nothing would ever be accomplished, relationships would never be forged. You get the picture.

    As far as Carl’s poker face, don’t worry about it; his cackling high pitched laugh will give him away…

  7. Restaurant Recruiter on November 13th, 2006 11:02 pm

    Steve, I never laugh at the poker table… until after the last hand. 😉

  8. Daily itzBig Links 2006-11-14 - The itzBig Blog - Serving the Unserved – Recruiters, Job Seekers, Quiet Working Professionals on November 14th, 2006 2:35 pm

    […] Six Degrees From Dave: Steve Levy: Part 3 – One Brick at a Time “Talk to any old-school recruiter about the ‘old days’ – for most that would be either before the Internet boom of the late 1990’s or before the Internet began its prowl during the mid 1980’s – and they would likely respond with how they built their pipelines by first developing relationships the political way: Shaking hands and kissing babies, one person at a time. Now hold onto your breath because I’m going to tell you about the best way to source talent for your company or client.” […]

  9. Job Boards: Can We Make the New School, Old School? - The itzBig Blog - Serving the Unserved – Recruiters, Job Seekers, Quiet Working Professionals on November 21st, 2006 5:57 pm

    […] The above quote is shared by a range of angry recruiters, job candidates, hiring authorities, and others who have had it with same old online job boards. Their solution? Go “old school” on them: “Talk to any old-school recruiter about the ‘old days’ – for most that would be either before the Internet boom of the late 1990s or before the Internet began its prowl during the mid 1980s – and they would likely respond with how they built their pipelines by first developing relationships the political way: Shaking hands and kissing babies, one person at a time.” (From Six Degrees of Dave) […]