State of the Recruitment Union

3/1/12

Recently we hosted a roundtable discussion at Rapid7 titled “New Year, New Job,” attended by some of the best recruitment minds in Boston. The idea was to create an open forum for these leaders in talent acquisition (from companies like HubSpot, Vistaprint, and Bullhorn) to discuss the relevant topics of the day around the hiring process from both sides of the coin, covering both the employer and candidate perspectives. Here’s a recap of some of the insights and observations we shared on recruitment best practices, which offers advice to candidates looking to stand out from the crowd in their job search.

We first tackled the state of the current employment market in MA. While all the attendees’ organizations (including Rapid7) are in growth mode and doing significant hiring, we did note a few trends worth mentioning. We all agreed that a lot of the more “traditional jobs” are disappearing as the economy is in transition; verticals like manufacturing are disappearing or changing dramatically. Some attendees commented that our educational system and what people are studying are disconnected from what the market actually needs, resulting in fewer qualified applicants, not fewer jobs per se. With this skill and education gap, we then discussed if companies have the “appetite” to take risks on candidates whom they feel they can teach these skills to or have them grow into these roles—as opposed to looking for that “perfect candidate.”

This ignited a great discussion around not just skills, but how cultural fit is just as important in the hiring process. We shared some “war stories” about trying to work with managers to encourage them to be more open to attitude and aptitude with a candidate, as opposed to seeking key bulleted items on a resume. We’ve seen success in this aspect, as well as the need for improvement.

Note to employers: the perfect candidate does not exist.
Note to candidates: “fit” is just as important as any skill or degree you may have.

From the candidate perspective, we also discussed how social media presence and activities could affect them with potential employers—both positively and negatively. This all becomes a “part of the candidate’s brand” in the potential employer’s view. A person’s profile is their way of conveying who they are, and we agreed that job seekers should use tools like LinkedIn to the maximum effect, ensuring that their profile there mirrors their resume. Recruiters like us look at whether a candidate uses Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc. This is particularly important for technology organizations, as they typically like to see people who are connected and up to date with social media tools— candidates who “get it.” Apply for roles and organizational cultures that make sense for you: if you still use an AOL address or are sending out resumes on letterhead by snail mail and don’t tweet, applying to a company that is focused on innovation and forward thinking is probably not the best bet.

Several other tips and best practices were thrown out there on how candidates can stand out. It was pointed out that often times candidates draft one resume and send it to every job they apply to, when they should be tailoring their resume (within the facts of their experience of course) to the jobs they are applying for. The job descriptions are written with detail for a reason, and if your resume doesn’t call out the experience required, you won’t get noticed. Assuming the person reading the resume can scan your experience to match what they are looking for is a huge leap of faith and often times a fatal one in the application process. There was also a consensus that a cover letter is a bit dated—often approaching by phone or email is the preferred method for candidates expressing their interest and qualifications outside of the standard resume process.

We also took a look at how—in a climate where competition for jobs is as fierce as ever—do you communicate most effectively with candidates that are not selected? We concluded it’s important to understand just how emotional the process is for candidates and treat them with the respect and timely communication they deserve. However, we also observed that people are not always open to the true honest feedback from the process, and thus it is important to be communicative but also keep it professional and less personal and specific. It is tough to honestly look in the mirror as a candidate sometimes.

The conversation then moved to the ways in which we find candidates—and of course social media was a big part of the discussion. The days of “posting and praying” are over and the traditional job boards are something of a dinosaur today. Recruiting has really transformed back to good old fashioned headhunting—finding the right candidates who may not even be looking to make a career move. We all shared past experiences of the power of a good referral program and how a lot of our companies’ hires come through referrals as opposed to candidates applying online and the like. Employees do a good job of screening out candidates and there’s a sense that those candidates come with the “good housekeeping” seal of approval. After all, if you are referring someone that will ultimately be a colleague—there is sense of accountability there to be sure.

These are just some highlights from the discussion, which cast light on the complex process of hiring the right candidate for a technology company.

Ed Nathanson is Director of Talent Acquisition for Boston-based Rapid7. Follow @

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