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Recruiters can, and should, provide a great experience for the candidate. But very often, recruiters’ attitudes don’t match the organizations they represent. I’ve met plenty of recruiters with little to no interest in enhancing their emotional intelligence (EQ). In short, they don’t know why they are doing their jobs. They’ve lost their way in terms of how their identity relates to the work they do. They have lost their purpose; they have lost their “why.”

Knowing your own why and helping your teammates rediscover theirs helps you apply that why to your search for “unicorn” candidates. With artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning systems taking over large swaths of the recruiter’s job function, it’s more important than ever for recruiters to focus on the human-centered part of the job. At the end of the day, humans need someone they trust guiding them through the recruiting and onboarding process.

The Recruiter Satisfaction Gap

At The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter, my team and I surveyed more than 200 recruiters. Experience levels were pretty evenly split: 50 percent had worked in recruiting for more than 10 years, while 50 percent had been in the game for less than that. Our results were extremely telling (though not entirely surprising). We found that a huge majority — 92 percent — dislike aspects of their job. Oft-cited job stressors included communication failures, administrative mishaps, and the repetitive nature of the work. An astonishing 46 percent reported that they did not communicate their own needs.

Most disheartening of all was the number of recruiters who have a clear why for doing their job: 2 percent. That’s two out of 100. It’s shocking! Can you imagine any other profession in which such a huge majority of practitioners are as disconnected from why they’re doing their jobs? What if only 2 percent of doctors found meaning in treating their patients? Or 2 percent of teachers understood why their students should learn the subject material?

It’s no wonder so many candidates have such negative interactions with recruiters. That kind of ambivalence seeps into job performance. Recruiters — or any other professional — who are that disconnected from their why are distracted, stressed, and careless. They become little more than cogs in a machine, completely divorced from their own power in the talent acquisition dance. Resentment grows — of the hiring manager, the candidate, and the job itself.

Lagging Satisfaction Leads to Lagging Development

It’s little surprise, then, that recruiters are often uninterested in developing their EQs. We’re not interested in investing in ourselves unless we understand the value of the investment. Most recruiters are simply trying to get through each day. They are juggling the demands of hiring managers and the needs of candidates. They’re dealing with ever-changing schedules, communication breakdowns, missed calls, mounting pressures, etc. They are generally overstressed, overstretched, underappreciated, lacking direction and motivation, highly frustrated, and disconnected from their own curiosity and problem-solving abilities. No wonder they often cant find their why!

Yet their job is vitally important. Recruiters alter the course of people’s lives! They offer a tremendous boon to organizations as well: Talent is the biggest driver of success, and a recruiter’s job is to get that talent. Recruiting can be exciting and gratifying.

I recommend using the following questions to get a read on your recruitment team’s attitudes toward their own development. These questions are meant to figure out ways for the company to help the recruiter. Your show of good faith that you are invested in the development of your recruiters as both people and professionals will go a long way toward building trust. (That is, as long as you actually follow up by working to implement tools to help your recruiters grow.)

To help recruiters find their why, start by asking:

  1. What is the most stressful part of attracting and retaining talent?
  2. What tools could help you?
  3. What’s missing in the organization’s approach to attracting and retaining the talent we need?
  4. Why are you a recruiter?
  5. Why do you do what you do?

Your recruiters may not be accustomed to bosses who genuinely care about their personal and professional development. As individuals, we rise to the level of what’s expected of us. Your recruitment team is more than just the numbers they produce for the company — but in the past, they may not have been treated as such. This cold-hearted, bottom-line thinking will be transmitted to candidates. Conversely, when you nurture recruiters, you begin a chain reaction of connection. The recruiter extends this sense of connection to candidates, and relationships that have the potential to transform your organization are formed. It all begins with you.

Elephants Before UnicornsWhat Recruiters Can Learn From Agile Methodology

Agile methodology is characterized as a lightweight framework by which teams can respond to ever-evolving technology and deliver business value rapidly. Agile methodology is meant to take some of the risk out of experimentation. Developers can respond to changes and fix mistakes in real time, as technology and the business landscape evolve.

Agile methodology is contrasted with the traditional waterfall method, a more linear approach in which progress flows in one direction through conception to construction, all the way to deployment and maintenance. In the waterfall method, development flows downward. Agile development is better represented as a circle, and deployment of the product occurs before the circle is complete. The product is then tested and reevaluated, and then the circle of development begins again with any necessary adjustments being made.

Yet agile methodology is not only for technological and product development. Its tenets can be applied to the human-centered business of recruiting, too. Kelly Nestor, head of technical recruiting at CoverMyMeds, used agile methodologies to rapidly scale her teams and contribute to the company’s runaway success.

CoverMyMeds is one of the nation’s fastest-growing health-care technology companies. Since joining the organization in 2015, Kelly has tripled the size of the technical teams and built out the product management practice. She’s overseen the growth of the workforce from 135 employees to more than 800 in four years. With such a rapid rate of growth, Kelly realized that she and her teams simply didn’t have time for activities that were not adding value to the organization. “Value over everything” is their motto.

Kelly’s teams work closely with software teams that use agile principles. She was curious: Could incorporating agile methodologies with her recruitment teams make them happier and more productive at work? The short answer was yes!

Kelly spoke of the four core values that compose agile development:

  1. People are more important than processes.
  2. Collaboration is more important than negotiation.
  3. Solutions are more important than documentation.
  4. Responding to change is more important than following a plan.

By making these four values a bedrock of their practices, Kelly and her team experienced amazing results. They could do the most important things quickly, focus only on activities that added value, maintain a sustainable working pace, and experience better cohesion as a team. Most importantly, these four values allowed the team to retain a clear picture of their why. That’s pretty amazing when you consider how frantic and disorganized things can become when a company scales that quickly.

Let’s look at each value one by one to see how recruiters might integrate them into their work:

1. People Are More Important Than Processes

Never lose sight of the human being on the other end of the line, be it a candidate or a hiring manager. Dig into your own humanity. Deploy empathy and continually place yourself in the shoes of the people you’re serving. If there’s a certain process by which you’re required to contact people, follow it, but if you believe the situation calls for another approach, don’t be afraid to break with protocol to best serve your clients.

2. Collaboration Is More Important Than Negotiation

Negotiation implies that two entities are coming to the table with competing desires and only one can win. Collaboration is different: It’s when all parties are working together for the greater good. It’s not a zero-sum game: Everyone can come out a winner, and the recruiter plays a vital function in making this happen. The goal is for the hiring manager, candidate, and recruiter to walk away from the transaction satisfied, each with their needs met. It’s possible!

3. Solutions Are More Important Than Documentation

What procedures do you currently employ for documenting your interactions with candidates and companies? Are they helping your communication, or slowing it down? In agile development, documentation is meant to be as brief as possible. Communication should be simple but clear, geared toward finding solutions rather than documenting for its own sake.

4. Responding to Change Is More Important Than Following a Plan

If a recruiter can’t adapt to the changing technological landscape, they won’t be employed much longer. The AI revolution is transforming the recruiting industry much faster than other sectors of the economy. As new technology continues to be unveiled, recruiters must learn to work with the changes rather than fear them. An emotionally intelligent recruiter who understands their “why” will be able to ride the tide of change brilliantly.

Excerpted with permission from the book Elephants Before Unicorns: Emotionally Intelligent HR Strategies to Save Your Company by Caroline Stokes. © 2019 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc.

Caroline Stokes is a human capital entrepreneur and author of Elephants Before Unicorns: Emotionally Intelligent HR Strategies to Save Your Company. She founded FORWARD executive headhunting and executive coaching company and hosts The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter podcast and learning platform.

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