Five Smart Strategies for Sourcing Mobile Application Developers

Smart phone users have a cornucopia of applications to choose from for their mobile devices. Apple’s App Store alone offers more than 250,000 iPhone apps – and counting. It’s clear that applications for mobile devices including the Android and Blackberry are big business, which is why finding experienced mobile application developers is causing big headaches for recruiters around the nation.

In a recent Dice survey, more than half of recruiters and hiring managers said that quality mobile software engineering and design talent is “scarce.” To underscore that demand, job postings that require Android proficiency have risen from 150 to 700 over the last year. Postings for iPhone app developers have risen from 210 to 790. As a whole, there are currently more than 1,700 job postings on Dice related to mobile development.

The number of searches by recruiters looking for technology professionals with mobile application experience has also increased, up fivefold during the past year. A search of the Dice resume database yielded more than 26,000 candidates with mobile experience, with more than 2,000 of these resumes being added or refreshed in the last month.

Survey respondents indicate that trend will continue with 57% saying they expect a slight to substantial increase in mobile specialist hires in the next 12 months. Considering the surge in demand, it’s not surprising that 27% of respondents say the salary trend for this group is “higher than normal.”

Now the challenge is sourcing these hard-to-find tech candidates. Some companies are going to the extreme of acquiring other businesses that have strong mobile application development expertise. But that’s not an option for most companies. So if you need to hire a mobile application developer, what should you do?

Key search strategies

Look within – Peter Weddle, HR consultant and publisher of WEDDLE’s Guides to employment sites, says that if you already have talented mobile application developers on staff, you should start by gathering strategic intelligence from them. Hold a focus group to learn how they spend their time, what they read and how they communicate. Then use that info to form your recruiting process. “Most of us fly off and do 100 things but we’re clueless about whether we’re going to the venues where the best and brightest hang out,” says Weddle.

Personalize your process – These niche candidates are the superstars in the technology sector right now, so use extra care recruiting them. Create personalized approaches and develop a truly compelling sales pitch about your opportunity. One way you can do this is through the Dice Talent Network, where you can communicate with candidates on a personal level and build a network of candidates that have your desired skill-sets. Remember these candidates are hearing from a lot of recruiters; what can you do to stand out – without annoying them?

Enlist support – “A-level people attract other A-level people,” says Weddle. He suggests enlisting the help of high-achieving technology professionals in your organization to connect with potential mobile application development candidates through industry events and online forums. “The fact that they’re not mobile app developers, doesn’t mean they don’t know mobile app developers,” comments Weddle. Over time these connections between tech professionals just might lead to new hires.

Prepare to pay – Recognize the positive impact this specialized candidate could have on your company’s bottom line and prepare to compensate him or her accordingly. To be competitive, you may have to go above and beyond what you would consider a generous compensation package. The national average for a tech professional with mobile experience is $75,600, according to the Dice Salary Survey. Remember: if this hire creates a “killer app” for your company, the investment will be worth it.

Hire then train – If you can’t find technology professionals with mobile application development experience, consider hiring highly motivated professionals with related experience – such as Java or software development – then train them in mobile application development.

As demand for mobile applications continues to skyrocket, finding talented mobile application developers will become even more difficult. To compete and attract the best and the brightest, learn about your prospective candidates, build relationships that can yield future prospects and prepare your best compensation package to entice these superstars to join your team.

The Future of Recruiting: Impact of the Social Web


Over the next few years, recruiting will make a sharp departure from the recent past. With a looming talent shortage – complicated further by pent-up demand among employees to change jobs – the rise of the social Web as a communications platform, and the higher expectations of the Millennial generation, recruiting is entering a new, more challenging era. Understanding these trends, especially the benefits and limitations of the social Web and the very different and concrete ways that Millennials differ from older generations, will be crucial for recruiting success in the future.

In this new era, recruiters and hiring managers will have to focus on building relationships with pools of talent, using both existing tools and the social Web to engage professionals, as well as changing the mix of the rewards they offer – both monetary and not – to attract the most highly skilled and experienced workers.

Recruiting Becomes More Challenging

Skills shortages are appearing again. Yes, it would seem almost impossible given that U.S. unemployment is nearly 10% after nearly two years of recession. But it’s not. For example, in the United States, despite 15.3 million unemployed workers in April of 2010 (1), there are still about 2.7 million jobs that employers have been unable to fill (2). And, the unemployment rate for college-educated workers is only 4.9%, about half that of the general population (3).

To give just one example of the talent shortage, Siemens, the German engineering group, told the Financial Times that it currently has about 600 vacancies for engineers in the U.S., up from 500 last year (4). And the shortage isn’t limited to the U.S. A global survey from Manpower Inc. found that 31% of employers worldwide are having difficulty filling positions because of the lack of suitable talent in their markets (5).

In the past, U.S. employers responded to skills shortages in technology and engineering by using H1-B visas to import workers from abroad, or in some cases, outsourcing jobs to countries where talent was readily available.

However, these safety valves are not as open as they used to be. The U.S. has tightened restrictions around visas, lessening the inflow of talented professionals. Meanwhile, demand for skilled workers is increasing throughout the world, especially in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), thereby reducing the global talent pool. Adding to the problem is the fact that U.S. students have largely turned away from science, engineering and technology studies. Unbelievably, the United States had fewer college students pursuing engineering degrees in 2005 than in 1985 (6).

The shortage of skilled professionals is likely to become even more acute as the Baby Boomers, those born after World War II and before 1960, reach retirement age. Even if the Boomers delay retirement, there aren’t enough younger workers to take their places. Gen Xers, those born in the 1960s and 1970s, number only about half the Boomer cohort. Unfortunately, these shortages are likely to be felt hardest in the fastest growing segments of the skilled labor force: professional and business services and healthcare and social assistance (7). This is not the ideal outcome from a public policy perspective.

A more immediate challenge for hiring managers will be the surge in employee turnover over the next few years. During the Great Recession, many professionals stayed put in their jobs. This has created pent-up demand for changing jobs. A recent survey by, the leading career website for technology and engineering professionals, found that 70% of technology professionals expect mass turnover in their departments as the job market recovers (8). Similarly, a survey of employees by a Manpower subsidiary revealed that 60% of people intend to pursue new job opportunities if the economy improves this year (9).

As you can see, hiring managers and recruiters should prepare for a very different skilled labor market.

The Social Web Raises Expectations and Concerns

The social Web, most often identified with sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, has created new ways for people to connect and interact online. Through the social Web’s functionality, users become both content producers and consumers, enabling a higher level of engagement and connectivity with one another. Individuals also have greater access to detailed information about companies, products and even other people generated by the parties themselves or through other individuals’ comments. This has created a rich set of information for users to access and raises expectations for how people and institutions should interact online.

Companies and recruiters need to recognize these higher expectations and provide robust profiles of their companies and employment opportunities online. They need to “get their message out” or someone else will shape it for them. Further, successful companies and recruiters will offer ways for candidates to connect directly with them online, offering a more personalized experience. One-to-one communication is gradually becoming the norm.

While the social Web has raised expectations, it has also raised concerns. With so much unfiltered information available online, individuals are increasingly concerned with what information is “out there” about them and how it will be used. They are seeking more control over their information and its use. Job hunters, for example, have learned that prospective employers can glean substantial information about them from what they have written, photographed and shared on the social Web, and that their online “paper trail” may not always leave a positive impression. Privacy settings, an obscure concept even five years ago, is now a prime topic of discussion. Many companies have learned the hard way that mishandling personal information can lead to a public relations disaster.

Companies and recruiters need to handle personal information with great care and work to create trust within a safe environment. The breadth of information available online can even be dangerous. A social network created for another purpose may contain information which should not be considered in the hiring process. Recruiters in particular need to be careful to avoid viewing information that might be inappropriate for use in recruitment. Age, race, religious affiliation and sexual orientation are often listed or referred to within social networks. Even if this information is viewed accidentally, such knowledge could create the appearance of biased recruiting in hindsight and unnecessarily expose hiring companies to frivolous failure-to-hire lawsuits. Recruiters should seek out services that filter information or minimize such exposure.

Millennials, The Fastest Growing Part of the Workforce, Expect More

Part of the challenge facing recruiters is how to tap into the talent of 20-somethings. Whether you call them Millennials, Generation Y or the Trophy Kids, they are twice the number of Generation X. Already they are 15% of the workforce and its fastest growing segment. According to Forrester Research, 30 million Millennials are ready to join or have joined the workforce. Another 46 million are coming soon (10).

This generation appears to be dramatically different from its predecessors, holding very different values and views of the workplace. According to the Pew Research Center, this generation, born after 1980, is very comfortable with technology, integrating it into their lives in ways that far surpass earlier generations (11). Three-quarters have created a profile on a social network (versus 50 % of Generation Xers and 30% of Baby Boomers). One in five has posted a video of themselves online, and slightly more than 80% sleep with their cell phone close at hand.

What they want from a job may startle older generations. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, has found that on a scale of rewards, Millennials place dollar compensation fifth (12). She believes that Millennials (and to a degree, Baby Boomers) are looking for what she calls a “remixed” set of rewards. Most important for Millennials is a sense of what Hewlett calls “odyssey.” According to her, Millennials crave a range of new experiences: global assignments, three-month sabbaticals, and new ways to search for meaning. The chance to give back to society – maybe done during a sabbatical – trumps the size of the pay package.

After odyssey, according to Hewlett, Millennials want a rich form of flexibility, giving them a measure of control over how work is done. They want their work to have a meaning and a purpose, and they want to be challenged. They want to work closely with a range of colleagues and they want a measure of altruism in their work. Millennials, it should be noted, eagerly embrace volunteer work. These desires are not that different from those of prior generations. What is different, however, is that the Millennials expect to fulfill them in the workplace.

Millennials believe they can afford to be choosy as they watch Baby Boomers retire. In the words of one Millennial, “They (employers) are finding that they have to adjust work around our lives instead of us adjusting our lives around work. What other option do they have? We are hard working and utilize tools to get the job done. But we don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week, and we want to wear clothes that are comfortable. We want to be able to spice up the dull workday by listening to our iPods. If corporate America doesn’t like that, too bad (13).”

What This Means for Recruiting

First and foremost, the war for talent is back. With the shortage of skilled professionals, recruiters and hiring managers will have to compete more aggressively for talent at every level. This will require more time, energy and focus than in the recent past, and the way recruiting is done and the rewards offered candidates will have to evolve as well.

Turnover will increase and companies will need to hire — and perhaps hire repeatedly — for the same position. Recruiting will evolve from an intermittent exercise to a continuous commitment, even for smaller companies. This will mean a significant change for businesses as they devote more resources to finding candidates to support their needs.

To succeed in this new era, companies and recruiters will have to increase their presence online, offering robust information and resources to promote their employment brands. The notion of employment branding will become more nuanced as Millennials will expect to be sold not only on the job opportunity but also its greater meaning. In addition, highly skilled workers will expect to connect on a one-to-one basis. This means that recruitment will have to evolve from a transaction-driven activity to more of a relationship-building process. Companies will need to identify and nurture multiple candidates and stay engaged with them over time, and recruiters will need to extend their networks to ensure a sufficient flow of candidates. The most efficient way to succeed in this new era will be to develop pools of talent that can be drawn upon as needed. Companies and recruiters should start building these pools by networking in communities of qualified workers, developing relationships in an environment that is safe for the individual as well as the recruiter. This represents a new way to do business – and a greater commitment to human capital.

This new era of recruiting is one that will shake up how recruiters, companies and individuals engage and interact. For those who understand the trends and take advantage of new capabilities, this can be a time of great reward as they find the best talent to propel their companies and clients forward.

(1) BLS Employment Situation,
(2) BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey,
(3) BLS Employment Situation,
(4) Financial Times, html
(5) Manpower, cfm?releaseid=4717516
(6) National Science Foundation,
(7) BLS Employment Projection 2008-2018,
(8) Dice Retention Study, 2010
(9) Manpower, cfm?releaseid=458528
(10) Forrester Research, “Social Recruiting is a Competitive Advantage,” 2009
(11) Pew Research Center, “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next,” 2010
(12) Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Laura Sterbin and Karen Sumberg, “How Gen Y and Boomers will Reshape Your Agenda,” Harvard Business Review, 2009
(13) Ron Alsop, “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace,” 2008

Overqualified Candidates: To Hire or Not?

As the economy continues to stabilize, recruiters and human resource managers continue to see a trend in the hiring process: more applications from overqualified candidates.

While a job requisition may require five years of experience, recruiters are receiving plenty of applications from candidates with twice as much work history – or more. Similarly, applicants with advanced degrees are applying for jobs that only call for a bachelor’s degree.

Many in human resources are leery of hiring an overqualified candidate for fear the employee will be difficult to manage or leave as soon as a more attractive position comes along. And some hiring managers are reluctant to hire someone who has more skills and might outshine them in the workplace.

Don’t Disqualify Experience
Recruiters and HR managers who do hire overqualified candidates urge their peers not to overlook these skilled professionals, citing these benefits of having an overqualified candidate on the team:

  • More Flexibility – “Do we hire overqualified candidates? Yes!” exerts Len Costa, director of talent acquisition at Windmill International. The firm hires security-cleared candidates for government agency contracts with organizations including the Air Force, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and NATO. “The term ‘overqualified’ is hugely misleading. If a person has skills that are applicable to other areas of our company, we can use those skills not only for the job they were hired to do, but also in the company at large. That makes the person flexible to us.” Costa says, “When you hire the best and the brightest, by definition they have the skills and abilities that exceed the stated qualifications for the position. So, naturally we have quite a few member-owners who exceed the position description requirements.”

He notes that utilizing an overqualified candidate’s broader skill set doesn’t just benefit the company. “It also engages the candidate and tells that person that we value them and their experience.”

  • Extra Motivation – When overqualified candidates join a team, they often inject a new energy into a group by sharing their skills and inspiring an existing team to “up their game.” They can also bridge the gap between employees and management says Cotton Phillips, service director for MurTech Consulting, LLC, which provides staffing services to Fortune 1000 companies and IT service companies. “The individual can provide balance between junior- and senior-level skill sets and the expertise can come from the team, not management. I think there’s a tremendous value there,” explains Phillips.
  • More Value – When it comes to overqualified candidates, Costa says you often get more than you pay for. “When you’re hiring an overqualified candidate you shouldn’t overpay, but you may have to stretch and pay at the high end of the candidate’s range,” he says. “In return, you’re likely to get more bang for your buck because the candidate can inspire other team members, and has the additional skills and knowledge to move up quickly and help the organization grow.”

Onboarding – Make Extra Preparations
Even with all the potential benefits of hiring an overqualified candidate, recruiters advise careful consideration during the hiring process and extra preparation when you onboard them. To ensure you make the best hire – whether the candidate is overqualified or not – take these factors into consideration:

A. Conduct an Honest Interview – During the interview, ask the candidates directly about how they’ll handle their overqualification for the job. “With overqualified candidates it’s important to put all the cards on the table,” says Phillips. “Early on we acknowledge to the candidate that they’re overqualified. I also ask them to convince me as to why they want the job and I try to gauge whether they want the position for the right reasons.”

B. Do a Personality Check – The fundamental rule of liking the person you hire still applies, even more so for overqualified candidates who already have the skills and education required. Ask yourself: Would you want to ride the elevator with this person each morning or share an office with him or her? “Someone’s resume can speak to many different aspects of the job, but what it really comes down to is the individual and how they approach their work,” says Phillips. “The person’s attitude and demeanor and how well they’ll fit into the work environment are still very important.”

C. Set Clear Expectations – Some hiring managers may perceive overqualified candidates as threats, people who will try to use their additional knowledge and skills to change processes or take control, while other team members may resent the new employee’s extra experience. Management and Human Resources can alleviate some of those concerns early in the onboarding process by clarifying where and how the overqualified candidate fits into the organization and by being specific about what his or her job parameters are.

D. Plan Ahead – Look around your organization for other opportunities to maximize an overqualified candidate’s skill set – then use them. “You would be amazed at the people who are multifaceted and have so many skills in an organization, but they go untapped. We do everything we can to tap those skills,” comments Costa. The more successful you are at challenging an overqualified employee, the better the chances your new employee will feel invested in your company and remain a strong contributor — even as the economy improves and other opportunities arise.

The next time a resume from an overqualified candidate comes across your desk, don’t discard it. Remember: by conducting a thorough, honest interview and adding a few extra steps to your onboarding process, hiring an overqualified candidate can be one of your most strategic hiring decisions.

Five Steps to Getting Quality Referrals for Tech Professionals

By John Vlastelica

Yes, you can hire an ad agency to help you create award winning employee referral posters, or give out big awards to drive awareness. But, top technical recruiters and hiring managers know that it takes a lot more than big bonuses and attractive posters to get their referral pipelines filled. Below are time-tested, practical techniques you can use — today — to generate more quality technical referrals for your organization.

1. Solicit leads and referrals from top technology professionals
Top performing recruiters make referral solicitation a regular part of their week; some even carve out several hours once a week, on their calendar, to help them focus. And, rather than sending out generic “please review our open jobs and refer great people” messages to the whole company, top recruiters make very targeted referral solicitations to the technology employees who are  most likely to have relationships with their target candidate.

How do you know who to target? Ask HR or tech leaders for the names of top tech performers and keep a spreadsheet of all of the tech people your team has hired in the past year (including prior company names, prior job titles, prior school experience, and any association affiliations). Then, make — via email or in-person — personalized referral solicitation requests. Let them know why they’re uniquely qualified to help identify top talent, e.g.

“Based on your prior experience working at XYZ Inc…I imagine you would know someone who’d fit this profile…Who do you know that’s good at…”

Be sure to talk about more than what’s simply on the job posting — discuss why it’s critical that we hire someone with a specific background, why this position is especially challenging and interesting, and how you’ll personally reach out to anyone that they endorse or pass along.

2. Reposition the way you talk about employee referrals
Yes, money can be a motivator. But it’s not the only motivator. Sometimes, you can get tech people to invest more time in referrals by speaking to their sense of ownership, and their personal interest in working with quality people. Try leveraging a theme like…“Help hand pick the people you work with.”

It speaks directly to their desire to work with quality tech people that they respect and can learn from. And it reinforces the culture of recruiting ownership and accountability that great companies strive for.

3. Move beyond New Hire Orientation Announcements
New Hire Orientation is overwhelming. It’s fine to talk about your employee referral program and bonus eligibility. But it’s not really the best time to generate quality referrals. Brand new employees are in information-overload mode, and don’t know the organization — or its culture — well enough yet to make great referrals. So, what can you do?

Try scheduling a monthly — or quarterly — meeting with all of the recent tech hires. Get your tech VP to send out the invitation — and include “free pizza” — so that attendance is high. The agenda should include:

  • an organizational overview by the VP,
  • a discussion of critical technology projects in the coming year,
  • critical recruiting goals,
  • general Q&A about the company, and
  • an introduction to the role each employee can play to help build the company.

You co-lead this meeting, and come armed with a “leads and referrals” request form that you hand out to each attendee. Be sure to ask each employee to differentiate whether they’re making a referral (someone they endorse) or passing along a lead (someone they know by reputation only). Additionally, find out whether you can use their name when making contact.

Once the tech VP finishes introductions (and learns where each person worked) and finishes talking about the organization and key recruiting goals for each department, you jump in and talk about how each person can help to build a great company. Promise to follow up with each employee after they complete their form to talk about the best way to approach these leads and referrals.

4. Encourage your tech employees to leverage their own networks
How? First, you can ask to be a guest speaker at tech departmental staff meetings. Bring a list of some of the places you’ve hired people from…specific industries, companies, schools. Then ask the team to think about their current networks, and — just as important — what they’re doing to grow their networks. Ask people whether they regularly:

  • attend user group meetings,
  • participate in alumni networks,
  • use tools like,
  • attend conferences, or
  • read or write technical blogs

Help them to think about how they can leverage their relationships outside of work to generate quality tech leads and referrals.

Second, arm them with the tools they need. Create a template email that they can send to their network, which includes:

  • a quick company overview,
  • a description of critical tech jobs,
  • an overview of the meaty tech challenges that exist here,
  • links to articles on the web that highlight why your company is great, and
  • your personal contact information.

Make it easy for them to help, and they will.

5. Reward good referral behavior and performance
We need to take the lead to publicly recognize employees who make quality referrals that get hired. Beyond the bonus your company may offer, find ways to reinforce employees who make time to help build the company.

Ideally, get your tech VP a list of all of the referrals made each month, and shadow-write a “thank you” note that he or she can send out to the employee and the employee’s direct manager. Or, when it’s performance review time, send a note to top-referring employees and their managers, recognizing the extra effort they put in over the past year to help recruit great people.

The key is to reward good behavior, publicly. Send a message that people who make time to refer quality employees are not only making money, but they’re doing their jobs and spending their time wisely.

Outside of $50 for pizza, none of the tips above require you to spend additional money. Yes, it may take a few hours each week to generate additional quality referrals. But, it’s time well spent. Companies that employ these techniques regularly see more than 1/3 of their hires from employee  referrals. The key is to focus on those efforts that generate quality — not just quantity — referrals.

About the Author

John Vlastelica is a former Corporate Recruiting Director with and Expedia, and is a regular speaker at top recruiting conferences. He is currently Managing Director of Recruiting Toolbox, Inc., a consulting and training firm focused on helping corporate recruiters and hiring managers improve their sourcing strategies, employer branding presence, interviewing process and tools, and system effectiveness.

Recruiters: How to Get More Business – Part 3

By John Vlastelica and Jenifer Lambert

Learn how to better connect with your buyers and build critical relationships and credibility that will lead to more business.

In the last article, we talked about best practices for demonstrating your expertise as a recruiter and building trust with your buyers. Now, in Part 3, we’ll address one of the biggest issues to create friction between corporate HR and outside recruiters.

“ Why do recruiters insist on going around the process? While I appreciate their interest in making money, end-arounds don’t help them. I want a partner that I can trust (especially since I use recruiters for confidential searches or high-visibility searches), not just some money-motivated recruiter who’s in it for the short-term sale.”

Best Practices for Building Profitable Client Relationships Based on Performance and Trust
In Stephen Covey’s best-selling “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he advocates the habit of “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” If ever there was a situation where that habit could be applied, it is in the sometimes tenuous relationship between corporate HR and outside recruiters. Too often these relationships are viewed by one or both parties as unnecessarily adversarial. Bad intent is inferred where none may exist. Assumptions are made about motives, boundaries are broken and trust eradicated. This is a recipe for a dysfunctional relationship at best. Worst case scenario—the recruiter is locked out of that company for good.

A common hang-up is that many recruiters, overeager to make a placement, fail to understand the importance of building trust-based partnerships with HR. Even if they are fortunate enough to win the battle (make the placement), they lose the war (long-term client relationship). The good news is that for recruiters who invest the time and energy necessary to forge a productive partnership with their corporate counterparts, they can create a differentiation that pays dividends.

1. A little empathy goes a long way. Empathy is really nothing more than the ability to see something from another’s perspective. Relationships without empathy will never succeed. It’s difficult to have empathy for someone you view as your enemy so the first step is to realize that HR is not your enemy. They don’t exist inside a corporation to serve as a roadblock for your business development efforts. In fact they spend a lot less time thinking about you than you imagine. Their first priority is the same as yours—to be productive and stay employed. If you start from that understanding, you can now look for opportunities for genuine cooperation where you can both win. You need to understand:

  • What does she want to accomplish by working with an outside recruiter?
    • How can I help her meet her goals?
  • How will this affect her personally and what are her concerns?
    • Is she under pressure to fill a key role that I could help with?
    • Is she under pressure to reduce her company’s total spend on recruiting?
    • Is her hiring manager struggling, and not taking enough personal responsibility for recruiting the right kind of talent?
  • What has been her past experience working with recruiters?
    • Has she been burned by recruiters who’ve ignored the candidate submittal or screening process required by HR and legal?
    • Does she feel she has paid fees to recruiters who didn’t earn their fees, but just got lucky with shotgun pitches to her managers?
    • Has she had a tight partnership with outside recruiters, and leveraged them as a strategic resource to make her look good and help her managers find the top talent they need?

2. Respect the process. As a good recruiter, you probably have a methodology or process that you use to get repeatable, consistent results. Most companies have their own process for the same reason. While most hiring managers are less concerned with the hiring process than the end result, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore established processes altogether.

An HR process is in place to protect the company from unnecessary fees (i.e. paying a fee to an outside firm for a candidate already discovered by the company). An HR process is in place to create the right candidate experience and protect their employment brand (i.e. all candidates talk to someone in HR about the company, the job, immigration, relocation, work culture before being presented to a hiring manager). And a process is there to address compliance and diversity goals.

Sometimes HR’s typical process is not conducive to landing high-demand, low-supply candidates. If you are doing your job properly and surfacing candidates who aren’t actively seeking new employment, you may need HR to modify their process to attract a candidate who isn’t throwing himself at the opportunity. Instead of ignoring their process, which will be perceived as disrespectful and will erode trust, take the opportunity to recommend process changes that will help your HR contact get what she wants.

Here’s the formula:

A. Acknowledge the process. “I know that your process is typically to have the candidate go through a phone screen with HR first so you can spare the hiring manager from wasting time with unqualified candidates.”
B. Provide market data. “This candidate is currently employed and was not actively looking to make a change when I contacted him. He’s intrigued by your opportunity, but at this point has questions that are going to be best answered by the hiring manager because  they are so specific to the role.”
C. Suggest a process change. “What do you think about having the candidate talk to the  hiring manager first, to get his questions answered and get him invested in this role and  opportunity? After that, if he is interested, we can put him through the standard process.”
D. Show her how she wins if you get pushback. “I don’t want to put you in the awkward position of trying to answer questions that you couldn’t possibly be expected to have answers for. I know you want to get this position filled quickly with a high-quality candidate and this guy has all of the experience the hiring manager requested. I think it makes sense to get the hiring manager involved in helping to land him. Can we get the candidate on the phone with the hiring manager? ”

3. Earn the right to be introduced. The old adage that “you are known by the company you keep” applies not just to personal friendships but to vendor relationships as well. In speaking with HR leaders about best practices in partnering with agency recruiters, time and time again they spoke of the importance of the outside recruiter being a good reflection on the HR department as well as the company as a whole. Not only is HR willing to give recruiters access to hiring managers, they understand the value of doing so, but that access must be earned. The way to get that access has everything to do with demonstrating your value and the only way to do that is to deliver high-quality candidates that the client cannot find on their own.

Again, look at the situation from the HR professional’s perspective. If they give you access to a hiring manager and you don’t produce, they have just wasted that hiring manager’s time and created the perception that they aren’t skilled at selecting strong vendors. You should always ask for access to the hiring manager. If your HR contact is reluctant to grant that access, be prepared to work directly with HR until you establish a track record of delivering strong candidates. If you are doing your job well, doors will begin to open for you. Direct access and referrals to other  departments come from strong performance. Ask again, after you’ve demonstrated that you can deliver the goods.

4. Seek out opportunities to make a contribution. Your goal is not just to make a quick score. You want to provide a competitive advantage for your client and to be irreplaceable. If you want to make yourself irreplaceable, look for opportunities to give. Give information, give time and attention. Above all, give impeccable service. The axiom that all things being equal, people do business with people they like, has never been more true. Being the first to give in a relationship pays huge dividends. As human beings, we are psychologically wired to reciprocate. That means when you extend yourself and give value and service to your clients, you create a situation where they reflexively want to reciprocate. And that’s how bonds are formed. Average recruiters worry about “what’s in it for me,” while top-producing recruiters know that what they give will come back to them tenfold.

Look for opportunities to bring value even when you’re not actively engaged in a search with your client. Passing on industry information, making them aware of changes inside a competitor (provided you’re not violating any ethical boundaries), and keeping them informed about potential high-value candidates in their industry are all ways of demonstrating your commitment to the relationship and can often surface new business opportunities.

5. Embrace HR. We know there are plenty of trainers in the recruiting industry who will teach you all sorts of techniques and tactics for skirting HR. But that approach begs the question: “So, how’s that working for you?” When HR comes into the process late, it’s never good. The hiring manager might be sold on you, but the HR professional sees you as a “necessary evil” and feels forced into working with you. Now, not only are they not going to be a helpful ally, they are actually rooting against you. Not exactly the best way to build a long-term relationship.

Forging relationships with hiring managers should remain your goal and proactively making hiring managers aware of top-shelf talent that you believe could make an impact on their department is still a smart marketing strategy. Keep doing that! The only difference is that instead of avoiding HR, ask to be introduced. When a hiring manager tells you that she wants to interview a candidate you marketed to her, arrange the interview and ask her to introduce you to the appropriate HR contact. “I’m sure at some point HR will need to be involved in this process. I’d like to keep that person informed early.” The sooner HR is involved, the less likely they will be to question your intentions. If you have a legitimate business agenda and your goal is truly to be of service, you don’t need to hide from anybody.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of “Recruiters: How to Get More Business.”

About the Authors:

John Vlastelica is a former Corporate Recruiting Director with
and Expedia, and is a regular speaker at top recruiting conferences. He is
currently Managing Director of Recruiting Toolbox, Inc., a consulting and
training firm focused on helping corporate recruiters and hiring managers
improve their sourcing strategies, employer branding presence, interviewing
process and tools, and system effectiveness.

Jenifer Lambert is a VP with Terra Staffing Group, a Pinnacle Society
recognized Executive Recruiter, and President of Elevate Performance
Systems, LLC, a consulting and training firm that helps third party
recruiters grow their business.

Recruiters: How to Get More Business – Part 2

Learn how to better connect with your buyers and build critical relationships and credibility that will lead to more business.

In the first article, we talked about how to get around the perception by some HR managers that they don’t need to pay a fee to find talent. Now, in Part 2, we’ll share best practices for demonstrating your expertise as a recruiter, building trust with your buyers and getting more business.

“ It’s silly to me that these recruiters – who claim to be experts at sourcing – are cold calling me, with no research into what our company does, who I am, or what kind of people we need. They just start selling. Their lack of research and listening skills is a real turnoff.”

Best Practices for Demonstrating Expertise, Building Trust and Getting Business
Just like a candidate’s initial interview forms a first impression with a hiring manager, your initial contact with a potential buyer of your services is a demonstration of your competence as a recruiter. If the value you promise to your client is based on your ability to source high-caliber talent and artfully persuade them to consider a career move, this is an opportunity to demonstrate that skill. Quite simply – the research you did, your  understanding of that prospective client’s business and needs, and your tone and approach on the phone are an audition.

Unfortunately, many recruiters treat client development as a numbers game. The thinking goes like this: if I just make more calls, I’ll eventually stumble upon the few who are hiring. The problem with this approach is that to increase the volume of calls, recruiters forego any sort of thought or pre-planning going into the call. When your potential buyer feels like a number you can forget about winning their business. The best recruiters use intel to accelerate the sales process.

1. People first. Companies don’t buy anything. People do. And people who work in companies would prefer to do business with people they like and trust. Obviously, you are going to do some research to understand the company. Go one step further and use social networking tools, general web searches and your personal connections to do some preliminary research on your target decision maker. Here are some factors to consider when approaching this hiring manager:
What does she emphasize in her own background? Technical competence, leadership skills, educational background, the social impact of her work? Understanding what she emphasizes may give you insights into what she values most in a candidate.
What does her past employment and career progression tell you about her? Does she come from big, more stable multinational organizations or small high-tech startups?

Beyond title, what is the scope of her role and size of her department/function at the company? How does her role fit into the organization’s primary goals? Is her department/function likely to be impacted by recent company announcements? Does she likely hire for many different types of people, or just one primary profile (i.e. Test Engineers or Program Managers)? Does she hire in multiple locations?

What professional organizations does she belong to? Do we have people or groups in common?

Armed with this information you’ll be able to make a better, warmer connection with her when you call, better understand the business context for any needs she may have and get a jump start on her candidate preferences.

2. Get referred. While most recruiters understand that referrals are the lifeblood of their recruiting efforts (we have no problem asking for candidate referrals), many fail to leverage the power of referrals when it comes to developing new business. What works for accessing hidden talent is equally effective at opening doors with hiring managers. All of the people with whom you interact (placed candidates, active candidates, existing clients, colleagues, etc.) are potential referral sources. You just have to ask.

As you are researching the hiring manager, you will uncover information about her that you can use to make credible connections to other people in your network. Use personal  networking to uncover groups to whom your target is already connected:

  • Industry user groups
  • Business networks
  • Academic, professional, company and alumni associations
  • Service, social and philanthropic organizations

The best referral is a personal introduction. So, asking someone you know to introduce you to the hiring manager is obviously your best bet. Short of that, simply dropping a mutual connection’s name is likely to get your call returned. It’s a good idea to check in with your referral source before using their name since your prospect may check in with them first before calling you back.

3. Fish in a stocked pond with a baited hook. In what other profession do potential buyers advertise their intent to buy? Think about it – employers who are hiring often make it known publicly through job postings and other forms of advertisement. You can cut out a lot of unproductive cold calls by calling companies you know are hiring.

Average recruiters approach the hiring manager with an obvious question: “Would you like some help recruiting for this opening?” and they get an obvious answer: “No.” Instead, approach the hiring manager with an informed opinion of the market (“here’s what I’m hearing from my clients in this market”) and a solution in the form of a candidate that you believe is qualified for this position.

Here’s the formula:

A. Identify the need: I see that you are currently recruiting for an XYZ position.
B. Diffuse the objection: I assume you are getting a lot of responseto that advertisement.
C. Create differentiation: I wanted to connect with you becauseXYZ searches are one of my areas of specialization.
D. Demonstrate your market insight: My clients are telling me that they’re getting more quantity than quality and that the high performers they need are hard to find and recruit.
E. Provide a solution: That’s when they call me. I am working with several very strong XYZ candidates that I thought you may be interested in hearing about as a comparison to the response you’re getting on your own.

4. Let your candidate open the door to new target companies. Candidates with specific knowledge of a particular market or industry are not only valuable to your client but also to you. The best recruiters leverage the power of a well-connected candidate to get referred, create opportunity and to provide inside information that builds your credibility.

Enlist your candidate in helping you create a target list of companies. “Based on your knowledge of this industry, you must know companies where you can make an immediate impact or bring some strategic value.” Have him articulate specifics about what he knows about each of the companies on his list and why he thinks he would be a good hire for that company. This helps you deliver a credible presentation to your target hiring manager and has the side benefit of testing your candidate’s job search seriousness and industry knowledge.

5. Balance preparation with execution. With the amount of information available with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, there’s no good excuse to approach a potential client blind. At the same time, some recruiters get so bogged down in the research, they never find the time to actually act on it. All the information in the world is useless if you never actually initiate contact with a prospective buyer.

The best recruiters strike a healthy balance between planning and action by reserving large scheduled blocks of time to initiating contact and dedicating separate time for planning and research. Jenifer studied some of the top producing recruiters in the U.S. and found that they spend approximately 1 hour of research and planning for every 3-4 hours of actual contact. While they have a strong bias for action, they understand that a little targeted research makes their contact time even more productive.

The adage that your calendar reflects your priorities is true. Carve out separate blocks of time in your calendar for calls and for research and you’re essentially making an appointment with success.

Read Part 1 and Part 3 of “Recruiters: How to Get More Business.”

About the Authors:

John Vlastelica is a former Corporate Recruiting Director with
and Expedia, and is a regular speaker at top recruiting conferences. He is
currently Managing Director of Recruiting Toolbox, Inc., a consulting and
training firm focused on helping corporate recruiters and hiring managers
improve their sourcing strategies, employer branding presence, interviewing
process and tools, and system effectiveness.

Jenifer Lambert is a VP with Terra Staffing Group, a Pinnacle Society
recognized Executive Recruiter, and President of Elevate Performance
Systems, LLC, a consulting and training firm that helps third party
recruiters grow their business.

Recruiters: How to Get More Business – Part 1

By John Vlastelica and Jenifer Lambert

Learn how to better connect with your buyers and build critical relationships and credibility that will lead to more business.

Insights Into the Buy-Side

No matter your location or industry, as a recruiter you’re always looking for better ways to do business. You want to work smarter, more quickly and do more with less. Your buyers – HR and hiring managers – feel the same way. To build your business, take cues from this three-part series of articles about:

  • What you need to know about your buyers’ mindset to grow your business
  • How you should engage with corporate recruiters and HR managers so you’re top-of-mind when they’re ready to work with an outside recruiter
  • How to address the misperception that companies don’t need or want to work with you

“ I understand that you would like to fill this position on your own. However, I have a candidate who won’t be responding to your posting because she’s not actively looking for work. She’s currently employed and succeeding where she’s at. She is working through me on a confidential basis to be kept aware of opportunities that could be the next step in her career. I’d like to have you speak with her as a comparison to the candidates you surface on your own. If you find a stronger candidate, there’s no harm done. You only pay a fee if you decide that she’s the right choice for this role. Are you willing to have an exploratory conversation with her on that basis?”

Best Practices for Developing Opportunity & Demonstrating Value

Companies are posting jobs every day that create prospective business for you. But to convert these opportunities into closed business, you need to be savvy about uncovering the opportunities and demonstrating how and where you add real value.

1. Leverage technology. Set up job search agents on your job boards and on your target clients’ corporate career sites to learn about new openings. Watch for jobs that have been posted for more than 30 days. It’s quite possible that your client may have hit a wall with their own efforts and they will be much more receptive to your offer of assistance. Also watch for roles that were posted, then taken down, and then reposted weeks or months later. The company may have frozen hiring temporarily, and – therefore – lost internal sourcing momentum. The fact that they’ve reopened a job may tell you that it’s a critical opening (or a bad hire was made); the HR team may need significant, immediate help to generate candidates.

2. Be prepared to audition. When responding to a posted position, you must: 1) do something to differentiate yourself from every other recruiter who saw the same posting and 2) overcome a general reluctance your buyer may have to see candidates from an outside recruiter. Do this: Instead of asking for the exclusive search, offer a really strong candidate as a comparison to their internally generated candidates.

3. Put a “game changer” on the field. Look beyond just chasing open requisitions and use high-value candidates to create openings. For any company, in any economy, there are some candidates they simply can’t afford not to hire. Ask a hiring manager: “What direct competitors do you want to target? Are there key people that you know by name that you haven’t been able to successfully land in the past? Describe the type of candidate who could make a huge difference in your business.” Once you know what type of talent this hiring manager will find irresistible, have recruiting conversations with these candidates. If they’re open to making a move, you make the introduction and reap the rewards.

4. Show your sourcing expertise. Route your clients screened candidates that you have found. Give them insights into your sourcing expertise and tools in your toolbox. Talk about the niche candidate sites you use, the personal networks you’ve developed over the years, your success at pulling passive candidates out of top companies, and the speed at which you can develop a quality slate of candidates.

5. Strategically approach fee objections. In general, you never want to reduce your fee. But if we’re realistic, we know that sometimes we must to get a foot in the door. If you decide to offer a lower fee, don’t do it from a position of weakness. Instead, acknowledge their budget issues and let them know that you’re willing to temporarily work for a reduced fee during this first search (the “audition period”). But don’t just give it away. Negotiate something in return, like some money up front, faster payment terms, or a testimonial that you can use in your marketing materials upon placement. And when you invoice them, show – right on the invoice – your regular rate first, then the special discount, and then the final fee. Remind them that your “special, temporary deal” can also make them look like a cost cutter within their organization.

Read Part 2 and Part 3 of “Recruiters: How to Get More Business.”

About the Authors:

John Vlastelica is a former Corporate Recruiting Director with
and Expedia, and is a regular speaker at top recruiting conferences. He is
currently Managing Director of Recruiting Toolbox, Inc., a consulting and
training firm focused on helping corporate recruiters and hiring managers
improve their sourcing strategies, employer branding presence, interviewing
process and tools, and system effectiveness.

Jenifer Lambert is a VP with Terra Staffing Group, a Pinnacle Society
recognized Executive Recruiter, and President of Elevate Performance
Systems, LLC, a consulting and training firm that helps third party
recruiters grow their business.

Top 8 Techniques to Improve Your Tech Job Postings

By John Vlastelica

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Remember that, from the shampoo TV ad? Job postings often create candidates’ first impressions; sometimes they’re the first — and only — shot you have at convincing a tech candidate to apply. Unfortunately — and I don’t want to make you feel bad by saying this — our job postings are often horrible; they’re uninspiring, they’re all about us, and they’re just not nice to look at.

So, what can you do to maximize your job postings and turn them into a more competitive weapon in your quest to find great tech talent? Here are 8 practical tips to get you started.

1. Job postings are not job descriptions
Job postings are marketing tools. If we let our job descriptions — which are often two pages of detailed responsibilities and wish-list requirements — make it to our career site and job boards, we’re not going to attract great people. Job postings are ads, and should be written to appeal to our candidates, not simply to comply with HR/legal requirements.

2. Speak to what the candidate cares about: What’s in it for me?
The key to writing a good ad is to speak directly to the motivators of our target audience. We must speak to “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me?). My experience has been that A-player tech candidates are primarily motivated by:

  • Challenging work. Great tech people are great problem solvers. We must help them understand what kinds of interesting problems they’ll work on. Give them some “meat”; describe the challenging work, not just fluff about responsibilities.
  • Opportunities to learn and grow. We must help them understand how — by joining our company — they can continue to grow their skills and learn from other smart people. Nothing’s scarier for some tech people than boredom and stagnation.
  • Making an impact. Show them how the work they’ll do will impact their division, the company, maybe even the industry or the world. No great tech employee wants to work on projects that don’t matter. We must show them how they’ll make a difference.

These bullets are general. How might you develop a specific list for your target candidates? I’ve had success getting recent hires and longer-term high performers — who do this job today — into a room to lead them through a discussion that focuses on what kind of work here is challenging and engaging, what kind of opportunities they’ve had/will have to learn and grow, and what kind of difference they’re making. I then write up their feedback — in a job posting format — and validate it with them before posting it.

3. Sell benefits, not features
Fortune 500 Company. Five million customers. Start-up. New team. These are all features and matter-of-fact descriptors. Nothing’s wrong with mentioning them, but we want to give them meaning, and convert them to benefits.

For example, what’s more appealing…“New team” or “Build from scratch opportunity”? We should rethink some of our standard descriptors/features and answer the question, “so what?”, for our readers. Why should I, a top candidate, care that you’re a Fortune 500 company? Does that impact the stability of your company, the international opportunities, the ability to get your/my product out to a mass audience, the quality of your pay or benefits? Or, what if you’re a start up? Does that mean I’ll get to play a larger role, be more involved in key business and technical decisions, get more stuff done in a shorter amount of time, or change the world with our new ideas? The key is to sell the benefits, not just the features.

4. Draw them into your ad with the first few sentences
Great ads draw their readers in. One effective technique to connect with tech candidates is to leverage what I call “identity questions”. These questions are designed to 1) help the candidate identify with the job, 2) make the job sound a little more exclusive, and 3) compel them to keep on reading. (Note: A side benefit, if these are written to appeal just to our target candidate, is that people who don’t identify with these questions may not apply, which may save us from reviewing 50 extra, unqualified candidates).

Here’s an example of some questions and a short summary I might put at the top of a job posting, right underneath my company logo and the job title:

  • Are you the go-to person in your company for the most challenging tech support issues?
  • Do you live by the “teach a man to fish” philosophy, and take the time to teach end users how to solve their own tech problems?
  • Do you get frustrated by bureaucracy and red tape that keeps you from quickly getting your internal customers the tools and software they need to do their jobs?

If so, we’d like to hear from you. We’re building a world class internal tech support organization and need you to help us build it the right way.

5. Lose the internal acronyms
BAC II. FSC. SCOS. EOS. These are actual terms I’ve found in job titles — not just within job postings — for tech jobs on a job board. Now, imagine you’re a tech candidate, searching for a job. You get 200 hits from your job board search. Will you take the time to click on  any job titles that don’t make sense to you?

We must convert our internal acronyms — in job titles and in our posting content — into industry standard, candidate-centric terms that appeal to our target audience. Granted, some terms — like RF or QA or DBA — make total sense to our target audience. But those are industry standard acronyms. We have an opportunity — as recruiters — to convert our internal mumbo-jumbo into terms that our candidates relate to and use as keywords when searching for jobs.

6.Formatting matters
Using bulleted lists, HTML, color, bold titles, and even white space (so not all the text is crammed together) can make our job postings much more appealing to a candidate. And job boards have tools to help us.

7. Make your website/ATS application form more user friendly
Once you get a candidate to click your “Apply Now” button, they’re often taken from your posting to your website or ATS-hosted application page. It’s critical that we recognize that even the best job postings — the ones that really draw a candidate in and get them excited — are wasted if the candidate arrives at an application page where they have to jump through 15 hoops to apply.

All candidates expect to paste/upload their resume into your system, but be careful about the number of steps it takes to actually apply. Some organizations turn on page after page of questionnaires, force users to create accounts, and ask for information upfront that seems premature to a candidate (like salary requirements). Drop-off rates go through the roof when candidates have to suffer through more than a few questions and clicks before getting you their resume.

Bottom Line: Make it easy, quick and user friendly.

8. Get professional help if you don’t have the time
Many of us just don’t have the time to rewrite all of our postings. We often let bad postings or muchtoo- detailed, boring job descriptions get up on the job board because we’re swamped, not because we’re bad recruiters. So what do you do?

First, don’t try to do everything I’ve outlined in this article for all of your postings. If you’re a busy recruiter, there’s no way you’re going to have the time — or maybe even the marketing/writing skills — to fix all of your postings. Instead, focus your re-writing efforts on your higher volume and/or most critical openings. Then leverage a lot of the same intro language, benefits, formatting, and call to action language across many postings.

Second, if you can’t do it yourself, get some help. See if your internal marketing/PR/communications department can help you. (One way to motivate them to help is to set up a meeting with them where you take in your “bad” job postings, and place them side-by-side with very well-written postings from your competitors; they’ll begin to think of job postings as more than just HR stuff when we talk about how many potential customers, investors and college students use our career site to research our company.) If they can’t help, they can probably connect you with a professional outside writer that already works with your company and knows your company’s “voice”.

If you’re completely on your own, you can often find a writer to help by posting a “gig” opportunity on It doesn’t cost anything to post it, and you’ll often find people who will do this for $20-30/hour. In the grand scheme of things, $100 for a well written, reusable posting is well worth it.

Wrap Up
Top candidates are in demand. There are often hundreds of companies that need the same type of candidate you need, and they’re often posting jobs in the very same places you post. By creating great job postings, you attract more great candidates and maximize the hundreds or thousands you spend on your job board ads.

About the Author

John Vlastelica is a former Corporate Recruiting Director with and Expedia, and is a regular speaker at top recruiting conferences. He is currently Managing Director of Recruiting Toolbox, Inc., a consulting and training firm focused on helping corporate recruiters and hiring manager improve their sourcing strategies, employer branding presence, interviewing process and tools, and system effectiveness.

The Rising Demand for Tech Talent

How you can win the battle for tech talent
“The Rising Demand for Tech Talent” report from Dice highlights trends in technology job postings and recruitment activity over the past year. With employers across the country moving tech projects to the front burner, steady improvements in IT hiring are evident in all major markets.

This hiring environment is good news for recruiters who are adept at delivering candidates with hard-to-find skill-sets. But it’s about more than just highly targeted recruiting. Employers will need to put together more creative offers to attract the best candidates. As well, they may want to reconsider the incentives in place for top tech professionals so they aren’t poached by competitors.

Unemployment Trends
The unemployment rate for technology professionals has been generally half the rate of the overall labor market in the U.S., according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment rates: Overall U.S. and Computer/Mathematical
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall U.S. unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted. Computer/math unemployment rate is not.

Tech Job Postings by Position Type
Overall technology job postings on Dice have grown 30% year/year, reflecting increased recruitment activity and the dynamic need for tech professionals. The demand for full-time hires is growing faster than the rate of contract demand (35% vs. 22%) illustrating that employers are gaining confidence in their business outlook.

This resurgence of full-time hiring amplifies the challenge of retaining top tech talent.

Available Tech Jobs
* Jobs posted on Dice as of March 1, 2011. A single job posting may reflect more than one skill, location or type of position; therefore total figures for those attributes may be greater than total jobs posted. ^ Source: 2010-11 Dice Tech Salary Survey.

Tech Job Postings by Region
The East and West Coasts continue to dominate the number of tech job postings, which is impacted greatly by the large metropolitan areas of New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco/Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.

Percentage Job Postings by Region

The North Central and South Central regions have shown the largest growth over the last year with increases of 43% and 39% respectively. Strong job posting gains in Chicago, Detroit and the state of Ohio have helped fuel growth in the North Central region.

Job Posting Trends
* Jobs posted on Dice as of February 1, 2011. ^ Source: 2010-11 Dice Tech Salary Survey.

References that Reap Rewards

By Jenifer Lambert

Busy recruiters have one common wish: more hours in the day. Their to-do lists are long and growing: schedule interviews, debrief hiring managers, check references, prepare offers and, of course, recruit more candidates. Since each of these tasks are important and urgent, what’s an overloaded recruiter to do? The answer: get more mileage out of every activity by accomplishing multiple purposes with each task. The easiest way to do this is to turn references into a recruiting and referral goldmine.

Reference checking is often seen as a time-consuming, low-value activity, when it should be viewed as a significant opportunity to mine conversations for hidden talent.

As you prepare for your next reference check call, the following steps will add significant value to the process.

1. Gather as you go

Start by reviewing the candidate’s resume. For each employer listed, ask the candidate the following:

A. Who did you report to? Get the name and title.

B. Who, besides your boss, was instrumental in your development? Again, get names and titles.

C. What teams did you work on? Who did you interact with frequently? For example: A Java Developer you’re interviewing has probably worked with Project Managers, System Architects, QA Specialists, UI Designers, and even more developers just like her. Gather names and titles as you go.

The key is to make this conversation relaxed and natural. Don’t ask for contact information as you’re gathering names, since this will often cause the candidate to become guarded.

Side-benefit: In addition to the obvious recruiting benefits of gathering these names, collecting this information during the interview can be very helpful when it comes time to check references. If the reference list the candidate provides doesn’t include some of the key names you gathered during the interview, address this:

“You mentioned that you reported to Michael Smith when you were at ABC Company but I don’t see his name on your reference list. Why is that?”

Also be concerned about any candidate who is hesitant to answer your questions directly or is evasive. Good candidates know they will get good references and are happy to provide the names of people who can attest to their good work.

2. Connect the dots

By the end of your interview, you will have compiled a nice list of potential recruiting targets. If you have an immediate opening for a Project Manager and your candidate has told you that she worked closely with Project Managers in her last three jobs, connect her past coworkers to the present opportunity by saying something like:

“You said you worked closely with several Project Managers in your last couple of jobs. Which of those would you want to work with again? We are currently hiring Project Managers and I’d love to reach out to anyone you respect enough to refer.”

Get the contact information for anyone she recommends and ask if you can use her name when you contact the person. Using a referral with the name of a respected coworker will help to warm up a call considerably.

many managers3. Look for additional opportunities during the call

Remember your goal of getting more out of every reference check and having a plan before you make contact. In addition to getting reference information on your candidate, look for additional opportunities to get referrals while on the call:

A. Recruit the manager. Even if the manager isn’t open to making a change at the time of your call, take the opportunity to capture his contact information for the future. Find ways to connect with him and keep him aware of future opportunities.

B. Who else? At the end of the reference call, ask the manager who else has worked closely with your candidate who could comment on her performance. This serves two purposes — you can gain additional insight into your candidate and you have another potential recruiting opportunity if you choose to make contact with this “backdoor reference.”

C. Get referrals for your other open positions. Keep all of your open searches in mind when making contact with a past manager. If you’re looking for a Business Analyst, ask him about the best Business Analyst he’s ever worked with.

D. Leverage layoff remorse. Most managers have had to lay off good people in the past several years. If the candidate whose reference you’re checking was let go as part of a layoff, find out from the manager what other good employees he hated to see go.

So the next time you’re faced with an impossibly long list of things to do, don’t think either/or. Think how you can turn routine activities like reference checking into recruiting gold.

About the Author

Jenifer Lambert is a VP with Terra Staffing Group, a Pinnacle Society recognized Executive Recruiter, and President of Elevate Performance Systems, LLC, a consulting and training firm that helps third-party recruiters grow their business.