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 Kennedyâ€™s Recruiting 2006 Conference (a MUST attend conference â€“ the next one is May 2007 in Viva Las Vegas), and vowed to show this former metro area resident New York Cityâ€™s finer sites.
Our first major stop after dropping his gear off at the hotel was McSorleyâ€™s Old Ale House. â€œâ€¦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 frontâ€¦while civil rights attorneyâ€™s Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow had to take their case to the Supreme Court to gain access. Women were finally allowed access to McSorleyâ€™s in 1970!â€ 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 â€“ 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 â€œold daysâ€ â€“ for most that would be either before the Internet boom of the late 1990â€™s or before the Internet began its prowl during the mid 1980â€™s â€“ 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 Iâ€™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 peopleâ€¦I asked them, â€œWhere are you hoping to go?â€ 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 stayingâ€¦ 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 â€œbrick and mortarâ€ recruit for talent. First, the obvious:
1. Business card bowls. Ah, olâ€™ reliable. Do you know where your competitorâ€™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 â€“ real live people. When traveling, I always make a point of walking past telephone banks or people on cell phones â€“ and listen (well, okay, eavesdrop but itâ€™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, â€œHello, my name is Steve Levy. Iâ€™m quite sorry for bothering you but I overheard your phone call andâ€¦â€ Classic brick and mortar recruiting.
3. Iâ€™m still at airports. This time sitting amongst other travelers waiting for my flight. Hereâ€™s another â€œmust haveâ€ skill for all recruiters â€“ the ability to read from the side or upside down. I mean it â€“ and you can practice to develop this skill. So Iâ€™m waiting for the flight to be called and Iâ€™m severely exercising my eyeballs â€“ left, right, up, down â€“ spying the contents of laptop screens and paperwork of travelers. Eavesdropping? Darn right. But to the naysayers, itâ€™s all public. Just as the telephone example, I use the same approachâ€¦ â€œHello, my name is Steve Levy. Iâ€™m quite sorry for bothering you but I caught a glimpse of what youâ€™re working on and â€¦â€ Classic brick and mortar recruiting.
4. Field Trips to Starbucks. I consider these to be the mainstays of brick and mortar recruiting. Donâ€™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 hereâ€™s the one inherent problem with this approach to brick and mortar recruiting: It isnâ€™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 â€œadultâ€) 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. Iâ€™m quite sure that searching User Groups is part of most of your sourcing strategies. But do you attend these groupsâ€™ monthly meetings? Or better yet, what I recently did for a client was to survey the landscape and realize that there wasnâ€™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 clientâ€™s office; however, the single most important goal is not recruiting but brand and relationship building â€“ a staple of brick and mortar recruiting. The result will be that my clientâ€™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 companyâ€™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, youâ€™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. Weâ€™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. Weâ€™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 timeâ€¦