In both working with and hearing the stories of thousands of job seekers over the years, I have noticed that many of them — regardless of age, socioeconomic status, gender, or cultural background — face the same challenges and frustrations on the job hunt. I’ve also noticed that job seekers frequently place the blame for these problems on recruiters, who they feel are ineffective and unsupportive.

But I also possess an understanding of and level of empathy for recruiters that most job seekers don’t, because I’ve done some freelance recruiting myself. I know firsthand the needs, demands, and challenges of recruiting and how the industry has changed over the past decade.

However, regardless of the reasons why recruiters use the methods they do, job seekers’ frustrations with those methods are valid. Companies and recruiters could learn a lot from candidates’ complaints if only they’d listen more carefully.

Candidates Want More Support

According to LinkedIn, “89 percent of job seekers say being contacted by their recruiter can make them accept a job faster,” and “87 percent of active and passive candidates are open to new job opportunities.”

My interpretation of these statistics is this: There are many people open to hearing about job opportunities, but they are craving more attention and support from recruiters in the process.

Now, those of us with experience in the industry know recruiting is a complex field with many different types, processes, and demands depending on the circumstances. Addressing the nuances and needs of every different type of recruiter in a single article would be impossible. Instead, I am going to speak as simply and directly as I can about two of the general building blocks of better recruiting.

Bringing Back the Old School

These are principles that once formed the bedrock of recruiting, but they have fallen by the wayside in recent years. However, if recruiters were to adopt them again, I believe they could craft recruiting strategies that meet the needs of candidates, companies, and recruiters alike.

1. Establishing Connections

Connection matters — and not just the existence of connection, but also the quality of it.

When I was doing freelance recruiting, I would often work on split placements with other recruiters. It was quite common for me to notice serious disconnects between the recruiters I worked with and the candidates they put forth. For example, a typical scenario might go something like this:

Recruiter: “Yes, I spoke to so-and-so. They want this type of job, have these needs and requirements, etc.”

Me: “Okay, I am going to do a follow-up call to see if I can gather any additional information we can use to more effectively place them.”

And so I would call the candidate, only to find out they were looking for something nothing like what the recruiter had reported. On more than one occasion, I also learned the job seeker was lying on their resume about something that would very likely impact their chances of being hired by a company.

I don’t necessarily blame the recruiters for this disconnect, nor the job seekers. The problem is that there hadn’t been a quality of connection established between recruiter and candidate. There hadn’t been much, if any at all, rapport. No trust was built between the two parties.

Recruiters are often juggling tens or hundreds of candidates at a time during the sourcing process, with maybe enough time to have a five-minute conversation with each promising prospect if they’re lucky. Of course there are going to be major gaps in communication.

But perhaps the fact that a large majority of our points of contact with candidates these days are digital — LinkedIn messages, emails, etc. — contributes to the disconnect between recruiters and candidates. I’ve observed more now than ever the lack of quality interpersonal connections many of us feel because we spend so much of our days on our phones and computers, and I am definitely not the only person to speak on this subject with growing concern.

Taking this into consideration, I’d like to propose an alternative: What if recruiters decided to meet with great candidates face to face instead? What if you could simply and effectively conduct a needs assessment and have an informal conversation with the candidate all in the span of 15-20 minutes? It would take much less time than messaging back and forth, and it could establish a better initial connection that fosters more trust quickly and effectively over time.

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In my town, there are many large job search workshops that occur on a regular basis. I’ve attended many of them, and I have to say, there are some very talented candidates at these things. And the craziest part is very few of these workshops or meetings have recruiting firms they recommend to participants. That’s a major opportunity for you as a recruiter.

Why not dedicate a few hours every week to attending these workshops and meetings instead of sitting behind a computer all day? Not only will the candidates likely be very excited to speak with you, a real live human recruiter, but the facilitators may just be thrilled to have additional support. You could even become their go-to recruiter for all future workshops.

Sure, it’s old school, but you’ll establish stronger connections with candidates when you see them as living, breathing human beings instead of just resumes on a screen. Plus, because few recruiters are taking this approach, you’ll have very little competition in winning over top talent and becoming a preferred recruiter.

It’s almost like going to fish at a river that everyone else abandoned years ago. Maybe there was some kind of environmental catastrophe back then, but the river has replenished itself now. It’s a thriving ecosystem full of fish, and nobody aside from you knows that.

2. Genuine Conversation

Building on that theme of connection, another step recruiters can take is to make initial conversations with candidates more informal and less coerced.

Many candidates have reported to me that they’ve received phone calls from recruiters who speak fast, immediately drilling them on their qualifications without seemingly any concern for the candidate’s needs. These recruiter often sound like they’re just reading from a script.

One person, who is currently employed and getting these calls, told me, “I am not necessarily looking into another job right now, but I definitely have no interest in a job when the first interaction with a recruiter feels like this.” I’ve been on the receiving end of conversations like this myself, and they do feel very aggressive and transactional.

Of course recruiters need to be effective with their outreach, and they need to take certain steps to qualify candidates and ensure only the right ones move forward. However, there is a way to have these conversations while still making the interaction feel like, you know, an actual conversation. That means establishing a genuine rapport and even taking some time to let the job seeker share their own concerns.

In my experience, this can be done effectively and efficiently if you just shift your intention a little bit when engaging candidates. When I get into the mindset of making a connection while honoring both my own needs and theirs, the magic happens. Not only do the candidate and I enjoy the conversation more, but I’m also able to organically get the information I need to qualify the candidate. And the phone call doesn’t have to last longer than 10-15 minutes.

Interestingly enough, when I’ve come in with this mindset, I’ve had candidates realize they weren’t a good fit but want to stay in touch with me. These candidates refer me to their friends and connect me with other people in their networks who could be good fits.

Overall, the takeaway of this article is that recruiters need to bring back the old school. Focus on quality of connection, establishing rapport, and building trust and mutual respect. It sounds simple enough, but you might be amazed at where it takes you.

Scott Engler is the author of The Job Inner-View and Legends of the Recruiting and Career World. Read his latest, The Problem and the Solution, on his website.

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