Asking Questions During the Interview Process

Interviewing is never easy no matter how skilled or comfortable you are when it comes to selling yourself.  Preparation prior to the interview can be involved and the amount of interviews within an interview loop can be demanding. The agonizing waiting period between the final interview and offer can be stressful. But, throughout the whole process, many job seekers are more focused on impressing the interviewer and landing that offer, causing them to forget that the interview is mutually beneficial for them, as well. This process is a prime time for a job seeker to investigate the company by asking deep questions to as many interviewers as possible. This can ensure that the company is worth the effort.

When I was in talent acquisition, I’d often ask my candidates if they had any questions at the end of the interview. A good portion of the time, candidates didn’t have any. Or if they did, they were often very basic. The questions typically covered things like pay, expectations, management style and so on. Many of those questions could have been answered by simply reviewing the job description or doing research on the company. In the end, the responses didn’t clearly show a candidate why this is a good employer for them for the long-term. Knowing salary details and day-to-day duties are important, but it doesn’t get to the core regarding what else the candidate would face if they accepted an offer. More importantly, the answers could easily be a canned, elevator-speech that gives no deeper insight. When all is said and done, a candidate may accept a job only to realize that there are a ton of deal breakers that they missed.

Whenever I’m interviewing somewhere, I like to take the time to ask each interviewer unique questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about their experiences and the variations between them, allowing you to get a fuller picture of the company. It doesn’t necessarily have to be job-specific; the questions can have a range between job details, company culture, values, general experiences/examples and so on. The important thing is not to just listen to the responses, but also to take notice of their reactions when answering. Does their face light up? Do they seem cautious and guarded? Is it a genuine answer or does it seem practiced and calculated? These things can help you see which responses are more honest and which ones seem suspiciously reserved.

Some questions might include:

  • What was a defining moment at the company that made you say, “This is why I’m here”?
  • Do you have an example of a situation internally or with a client that resonated with you?
  • What makes you proud to work here?
  • What is the dynamic of the team you work with? How do they function during good times? More importantly, how do they work together during the bad?
  • What makes your experience with this employer different from previous ones? What makes you stay?
  • What is one project that you could work on at the company, whether you believe it would be implemented or not?

Hearing their stories is a great way for a candidate to envision themselves at the company. Even if all of the responses are positive, some of the answers might shed light on things that a candidate does or does not want to face at their workplace. These things should be considered heavily along with the traditional aspects such as compensation, benefits, perks, culture, employee value proposition, job, department, managers and the like.  When an individual spends a significant time at work, it’s best to identify whether it is a right fit or not.

The Importance of Accurate Interview Notes

Interviews have evolved. No longer do people go through one or two face-to-face interviews before landing a job. The interview process has become more complex, with variations of interview options and multiple people involved in the process. With that in mind, it’s not impossible for candidate information and responses to get lost in translation. Could interviewers create issues by filling in the blanks while writing up their interview notes?

Recently, I’ve been thrown back into the trenches of recruiting. Although my current job deals with strategy, it’s amazing to see how much recruiting has progressed since the time I’ve been directly involved in it and it’s great to remember all the little things that go into the recruiting and interviewing process, from sourcing, to outreach, interviewing and submittals. In the current project I’m involved in, we’re even utilizing the live video interviewing technology. And as always, HR compliance is definitely stressed through this process.

As I’ve been going through the interviews and getting back into the swing of things, I recall the importance of keeping interviews conversational. Rather than interrogative, it’s important to cover the questions on the interview screener and even more important to ask follow up questions throughout the process.

But why are follow up questions important?

As the candidate is moved throughout the process, many people will come in contact with them. From recruiters, hiring managers, department heads, and so on, many people will be interviewing them on different things. And, as such, many people will rely on the previous interviewer’s notes to get a background story prior to interviewing them. Certain questions need to be documented and a detailed synopsis should be written up and passed on to the next interviewer. But what happens if responses get misconstrued?

Communication is fascinating and many different people can perceive the same information in different ways. Additionally, people’s minds can connected points A to B with little information. But, how things are understood (or misunderstood) and people’s ability to fill in the blanks can affect the end result of what the candidate really meant. This can skew information and potentially disqualify a candidate from progressing when they were actually a great fit.

So recruiters, don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Don’t even be afraid to touch base with a candidate after an interview for further clarification. It’s better to cover your bases than miss out on a great hire.

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LinkedIn Mistakes Job Seekers Make

LinkedIn Mistakes

As an active or passive job seeker, the job market can be a bit tricky. Even more so, job seeking can seem intimidating when a seeker is constantly reminded of all the things they need to do in order to stand out to a recruiter. One of the popular tools job seekers and recruiters now utilize is LinkedIn. Although this has been used for several years now, seekers who are new to the platform or haven’t used it often enough may not know the ins and outs of this social media platform, including the expected etiquette. As a recruiter, I’ve seen the painful misuse of this site which may or may not have cost candidates a job opportunity.

Yes, LinkedIn is a social media platform. Yes, it’s used to build networks and communicate. However, LinkedIn is NOT a lot of things. For example:

  • LinkedIn is not Match.com: this is by far the worst offense myself and other recruiters have experienced. LinkedIn is a site for professionals to network and shouldn’t be utilized as a primary source to find an intimate relationship or hook up. More importantly, these intentions (either sweet or inappropriately worded) should not be the first form of communication to a new connection. If you are a job seeker at a job fair, would you approach a recruiter at their booth/table and say the same things? No.
  • LinkedIn is not Facebook: LinkedIn is a fantastic way to share news, industry-related content or even promote your own content to build a personal brand. Plenty of professionals have used this well and I’ve found it to be a great source of information. However, there are a few people out there who use the “update status” section as a way to post useless information. Honestly, there are plenty of people who misuse the same feature on Facebook, but at least that site is a bit more casual in comparison to LinkedIn. If you’re a job seeker trying to get your name out there, do you think irrelevant or inappropriate posts are going to help you show prospective employers your worth?
  • LinkedIn is not Instagram: Of course, some professions are much more creative than others and LinkedIn can definitely be used to promote these portfolios. However, if you are in this type of profession or even if you’re not, there should be a limit to what you post. Much like the inappropriate dating emails or irrelevant status updates, images shared on LinkedIn should be reflective of how you’d want to present yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager. Nix the awkward selfies as your profile pictures. Try to avoid “oversharing” by posting pictures unrelated to what should be shared to your network.
  • LinkedIn is not Twitter: Twitter is a great way microblog, self-promote, network and just post a quick update. It’s not uncommon for people to post several times a day and with Twitter chats being a great way to virtually network, it’s not uncommon for people to post several times an hour. However, this elevated amount of posting should be kept exclusively to Twitter. LinkedIn’s newsfeed is already bombarded with an obscene amount of content. Limit your LinkedIn postings to a reasonable amount on a daily basis or weekly basis. You don’t want to annoy people with your over-posting to the point where they end up hiding your updates. This could seriously work against you if you ever do post any updates you want seen.

Of course, no one is perfect and there’s no perfect way to be a LinkedIn member. Even I’ve been an offender of some of these situations. Some people might like what you share, while others won’t. Some posts might work for certain professions while others don’t. The important thing is to do your homework, understand how this platform works and really research your “audience”. And always err on the side of caution. If you think your postings can work against you in your job hunt, then reconsider before you post.

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Do You Have an Effective Onboarding Program?

A strong and efficient onboarding process can make or break the engagement of your new employees. Unfortunately, the onboarding process is often overlooked. How can your company ensure it’s hitting all the key points of an effective onboarding program? Check out my recent blog post on WilsonHCG to find out more: What You Can Learn About Onboarding From the Sochi Olympics.

Recruiter Spam and Other Recruitment Fails

someecards.com - Thanks so much for calling to tell me about this exciting opportunity! I'll just file it under

Throughout my career, I’ve been a sourcer and recruiter for various industries and positions. I’ve learned what works for each industry, new tricks and new tools to make the most out of recruitment initiatives. I attempted to perfect the process but even I’ve slipped up a few times and have made the faux pas that many recruiters make at some point in their careers.

Although I was deeply involved in recruitment and interviewing, it’s been a while since I’ve been a job seeker so the opportunity to help friends during their hunt has helped me gain perspective of what it’s like to be on the other side of the recruitment process.  Seeing the job hunting process in motion has brought to light the many things job seekers face that contributes to a poor candidate experience.

The most common recruitment mistakes I’ve seen:

  • Recruiter spam: One of my friends who is a software development is constantly blasted with emails from contracting agencies, third-party vendors and the like. All of the messages are impersonal, don’t seem to match his experience except for a couple of keywords and require him to apply to their jobs. This basically takes recruitment to the laziest form by requiring the candidate to put in the work before physically having a conversation, especially since the recruiter was the one who reached out to the candidate first! Also, it’s noticeably a template. He’s gotten to the point where he automatically deletes the emails without even looking at them, rendering this recruitment process useless.
  • Lack of candidate profile competency: Similar to the recruiter spam issue, I’ve had another friend deal with recruiters reaching out to her about jobs that aren’t even remotely relevant. Of course, we all experience companies reaching out to us about its sales jobs if we post our resumes on the job boards. But in this instance, it’s even worse. She connected with a recruiter via LinkedIn and the recruiter seemed to quickly respond that he wanted to speak to her about positions at the company. She decided to apply to their graphic artist position just to be in the ATS by the time the phone screen was set up. A week later, she finally got to the phone screen stage in which the recruiter spoke to her about their account executive positions. Not only was my friend annoyed by the fact that her resume had NOTHING to do with sales, but also by the fact that the recruiter didn’t check their own systems to see which jobs she applied to. This was enough to turn her off from the company completely and she decided to opt out of the interview process.
  • Poor communication and updates: As a recruiter, I completely understand how hard it is to move the process along. Sometimes other people drag their feet. Sometimes it’s impossible to get updates from hiring managers in a timely manner. Sometimes the job has been put on hold and that news hadn’t trickled down to you yet. Things happen but it’s no excuse not to be respectful to your candidates, especially if they reach out to you about updates. Even if you have no update, it only takes a few minutes to respond back to tell them as much. So many people have become disengaged due to the lack of communication that candidates actually pulled themselves out of the process and recruiters lost out on great talent.
  • Broken processes: In another example, a friend recently had a phone screen with a company that reached out to him about one of their positions. It turned out this position was more senior-level but the candidate was more of a fit for junior-level. The recruiter informed him that there were entry-level positions within the organization but he didn’t currently handle them. After they got off the phone, the recruiter emailed him the name of the recruiter handling those entry-level positions but made no effort of passing along his resume to one of his own coworkers. Perhaps he wasn’t recruiting for the position, but the company should all be on the same page when it comes to filling their jobs. For example, if I couldn’t use a candidate but thought another recruiter could, I would instantly pass it along even if I wasn’t 100% sure if it was a fit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to bash recruiters. That would completely go against the industry I love dearly. I’m writing this to bring awareness of things recruiters may be doing wrong and even pinpoint my own mistakes as I progressed in the industry. As a recruiter, it’s important to realize these things and make adjustments so you can create a better candidate experience. As a candidate, I understand how frustrating these situations may be. Some of them might have been caused by poor training, poor business processes or maybe a recruiter is just new to the industry.  Be patient but also know your limits and know when it’s time for you to walk away from a bad experience.

Why I Can Picture Life at Adobe

 

Due to my passion for employment branding, I often take the time to research different ways that companies showcase their brands. In my recruiting days, I realized how helpful or hurtful a brand could be when it came to attracting talent. I recalled the challenge of overcoming candidate concerns due to unfavorable reputations. This was especially true when I had to battle against poor employee reviews on public forums, such as Glassdoor. Once I moved into the marketing function for HR, I dove into the topic of employment branding and explored the ways that a company could successfully market itself. These examples were essential when it came to educating people on the differences between an effective or ineffective brand. Upon my research, I discovered the “Adobe Life” page and it has easily become my “go-to” brand to promote.

Even a person who was happy and secure in their job might be lured by the Adobe Life page. Not only does it display anything and everything you’d want to know about its company culture, but it also does it in a visually stimulating way which simultaneously shows what its quality product is all about. Before I even research further, I often sit there to watch the images flash by at the beginning of the page. This is saying a lot, as I’m a person with practically no patience whatsoever. The five images that rotate through is the hook. It inspires curiosity, making it effective right off the bat.

Below are a few key areas that show why Adobe is a top brand:

  • Sense of community: Adobe is a massive company, spanning over several continents, but it doesn’t let its size stop it from seeing its employees as individuals. Its culture also encourages employees to support one another. If it has an employee in accounting who plays in a folk band, the team will go out and see him/her play. Someone in engineering who is participating in a triathlon to support veteran PTSD might even have a few additional co-workers signing up for the cause. Photos and videos are used to showcase such events on their Adobe Life page which humanizes this person to both employees and non-employees around the world.
  • Connectedness around the globe: Connectedness goes hand in hand with the community aspect of this brand. One the most interesting things I’ve seen was the “Adobe Around the World” campaign. With this campaign, individuals at Adobe locations took pictures of their offices and the surrounding views and then posted on Instagram. I loved the fact that multiple offices around the world participated. This is just one of the many things that Adobe does to promote the unity of its branches.
  • Strong values and culture: During my time in talent acquisition roles, I often heard that companies were focused on promoting diversity.  Although it was preached a lot, I sometimes saw companies struggle to embrace the concept. Adobe clearly doesn’t have this problem. I recently saw some postings in their “Adobe Clubs” section. Sure, it’s something so simple but it was great to see the different clubs around the world partaking in activities that are native in their countries. It was nice to know that they promoted the cultural differences from area to area.
  • Career progression: In my recruiting days, I often had candidates ask me about career succession within the organization. Of course, there were always the usual responses I would provide that were almost elusive and redundant. I always wished I could provide more information to help candidates get excited about a long, progressive future with a company. Thankfully, Adobe recognized the importance of showing people a future in their careers. Moreover, they did it in a way that brought it to life—through informative, entertaining videos.
  • Focused areas: After people have investigated the overall “Adobe Life” pages, they have the ease of looking further into the areas that are relevant to them. Are you a student who’s about to graduate? Check out the University page. Are you an engineer looking to switch to a company that offers more challenges with some of the latest tools? Don’t hesitate to watch the engineering videos. Adobe Life makes it effortless for people to envision themselves at the company and in a specific job function.
  • Options for additional research: Even if you don’t have time to log in and check the Adobe Life website regularly, it still offers you plenty of options to keep up with the company, such as Twitter or Instagram. You can also stream the hashtag #AdobeLife. If you don’t want to be bothered with all of that information, you can chose to follow one of the many specified handles they have available, such as a handle for their careers or university team.
  • World domination: It’s one thing to have a great employment brand, but what about a consumer brand? After seeing the economy rise and fall, many candidates are cautious about the stability of a company. Adobe doesn’t miss a beat and made a section to present all of the exciting things in the works that will be launched in the future. Maybe the company isn’t exactly dominating the world (yet) but it can ease a candidate’s mind by displaying how it plans to continuously progress in impressive ways.

In the war for talent, especially tech talent, it can be fatal for a company to neglect its employment brand. A strong brand that offers something for everyone can be the key to engaging active talent. Even passive talent could be so moved by a brand that they would be willing to share it with their networks (much like I’m doing right now). Companies should take note and review Adobe Life as a prime example of how to do employment branding right.

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Employer Brand: Is Yours Costing You Candidates?

After being in the working world for a few years and seeing the many different working environments an individual could be involved in, I believed that performing extensive research on a company’s brand was important for me once I returned to the job market. When I looked for jobs a few years ago, I never thought to look further than the job description I was applying to. Needless to say, I was often unprepared and didn’t have any intelligent questions to ask the recruiter once I landed an interview. Even worse, I wasn’t prepared to make an informed decision if I was offered a job and would occasionally find myself in work environments that were less than appealing. After seeing the difference that research can make, I often try to preach this to the candidates and job seekers I speak to.

Recently, I saw how helpful research could aid in a job seeker’s journey for a new opportunity. One of my good friends had just graduated with a new degree but was having a hard time moving up in her current company. Her current company was a tech giant and although it offered great opportunities and benefits, red tape and politics made it nearly impossible for her to transition into a new role. Reluctantly, she decided to apply to jobs outside of the organization to see if there were better chances for her elsewhere.

A few weeks into applying, she received a call from a recruiter asking to set up a phone screen. I told her the first thing she should do to prepare for the interview is to complete in depth research of the company. This included anything from press releases, social media, forums, Glassdoor sites, etc. Of course companies try to do a great job of presenting their employer brand in a positive way on their career sites, so it’s important to get some feedback from real people, such as employees or previous interviewees. Needless to say, she saw some red flags via employee reviews on their Glassdoor page. With this being a job out of state and with a company that wasn’t as secure or well known as her current company, this was a bit disturbing. I urged her to bring up these questions in her interview.

The first phone interview went well but when it came time for her to ask the recruiter questions, she completely stumped the recruiter. Apparently, the recruiter had no good response to the probing questions referencing what their current employees were saying about the company. Despite the poor responses, the recruiter suggested that my friend ask the hiring manager during the next phone interview. Although hesitant, she agreed for the next interview just to hear the hiring manager out. Unfortunately, the hiring manager also didn’t have much good to say ease my friend’s mind. It’s a bit concerning when members of company don’t even know its own brand well enough to be able to answer these types of questions during the interview process. How did they expect to convince people that they were competitive against tech giants?

Candidates should take note of the situation to properly prepare themselves to make good career moves. Additionally, companies should work with their recruiters and hiring managers to ensure they prepared for these sorts of situations. Needless to say, when my friend received a job offer from the company, she quickly rejected it. She was thankful to have taken the time to research its reputation otherwise she might have left her great company for something that was an awful career move.

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Gen Y: Generation of Entitlement?

I regularly research different topics surrounding Gen Y. Being in HR definitely sparked this interest because this is the generation that will be dominating our workforce in a few short years. To be ahead of the talent acquisition game and to be effective in restructuring leadership efforts to impact this generation, I’ve been taking time to read the many insights about characteristics that make up this generation. Of course, there are always conflicting thoughts about which ones are good or bad but one statement truly stuck out to me: Gen Y comes off as “entitled” in the workplace.

Not to make an overall sweeping statement of this group, but generally speaking, this statement came off both true and false to me. Can Gen Yers come off as entitled in the workplace? Sometimes. Are they completely at fault for having that mentality? Not entirely. With that said, it may be time to refocus the expectations of Gen Y while simultaneously giving awareness to “outsiders” as to why this may occur.

Gen Y grew up in a time where recognition was given out frequently and sometimes without merit. They were given a gold star or a high five for showing up or just for simply participating. They were given the belief that they could be anything they wanted to when they grew up. Technology had made life easier and things occurred a lot quicker because of it. These simple things have shaped individuals of this generation while growing up, and eventually leaked into the workplace. So when Gen Y workers complain that they aren’t moving up fast enough or that their boss blocks them from opportunity, does that mean they’re entitled? Not quite. Some may be misguided due to the things they were exposed to while growing up.

Falling into the Gen Y category myself, I learned the hard way. I eventually figured out that although recognition is motivating and that I truly do believe I can be whatever I want to, there were a few steps that I forgot about in between. “Showing up” to your job is one thing but showing up AND making an impact is another. I used to believe that just because I did a job function satisfactorily for a year, it would be enough to be promoted. I soon learned that I was wrong. Any average person could go to work day in and day out and get their job done. But a person worthy of moving up had to go beyond that.

Satisfactory work shouldn’t have been an accomplishment for me. I should have continued to find ways to excel at work and let my superiors know. I shouldn’t have thought I deserved a promotion just because I had a year under my belt. I should have done my current job well and then I should have taken on stretch projects to show that I could handle my job and also handle the additional tasks for the job I was aiming for. Did this mean I would be putting in extra hours and I wouldn’t reap the benefits instantly? Definitely. But why would an employer invest in me if I don’t show them I’m worth investing in? More importantly, why would they invest in anyone who isn’t invested in the work that they do?

The belief that you could be anything you wanted when you grew up isn’t far out of reach for those who work hard. Unfortunately, some give up early in the process because of the amount of dedication it takes to get there. You can’t wake up one morning and think that this will fall in your lap. And luck has absolutely nothing to do with it. To get where you want to be is comprised of long days of work/study, persistence, research, and the ability to keep pushing through pitfalls and rejection. The sooner that this is realized, the sooner people can start working on it. Additionally, maybe this realization would help people reduce the anger they feel when they don’t achieve their dreams right away.

The greatest thing I learned in my years as a Gen Y worker is patience. I grew up in a time where instant gratification trumped everything. I used to abandon things that didn’t seem to work out quickly enough. Now that I have learned the art of patience, I see that the fruits of my labor actually turn out better than I would have initially thought. I often wonder what would have happened if I gave other things time back when my need for immediate results blinded me from the big picture. Would I have been further along in business? Would I have accomplished more? I’m not sure but I’m glad that I figured it out early enough to change my approach and make a difference.

I don’t believe that all of Gen Y is entitled in the workplace. I think that sometimes we’re a little ill-advised. This could have happened because we were told that we were bound for greatness but never were told the amount of work it would require nor where to start. The greatest thing I was given was a few mentors along the way that showed me the reality of the world of work. I hope more people take time to guide Gen Yers as they make their way into the workplace.

Disclaimer: This post was not intended to generalize any group of people.

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Taking Social Media Recruitment to the Next Level

instagram and vine

For years we’ve been hearing about utilizing social media for recruitment. Over time, this developed beyond sites like LinkedIn and has now spilled over to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Open Source. But are you still missing out on available talent?

With more candidates finding ways to creatively share their personal brands, it might be wise to start tapping into other social media sites like Instagram and Vine. Not sure where to start? Check out a blog I wrote on SourceCon last month.

“Let’s Get Visual: Attracting and Sourcing Candidates Using Instagram and Vine.” Click here to read the original blog post on SourceCon.

Marketing and the Recruitment Professional

Don't jump bus advertisement

I remember when I first started learning about talent acquisition and recruitment. It seemed like the role focused more on keyword searches to find a bunch of resumes on job boards. Once a large stack of resumes was acquired, I then spent time interviewing individuals for jobs. If a job wasn’t open, I performed discovery calls to proactively build talent pools in the event that a new position opened up. Search, review, interview, document, and repeat. After a few months of going through this cycle, I felt turned off by the systematic approach. I thought this function was supposed to be about communication and genuine human interaction, not a robotic process. I bowed out from the recruitment role and eventually came back a couple years later to discover that it had morphed into something bigger and better.

When I originally decided to pursue a degree and career in human resources, I never dreamed that marketing skills would be imperative to have. When I returned back to the recruitment field, I soon learned that the role had taken on a new form and the successful recruiters were the one who blended talent acquisition skills with marketing. No longer did recruiters source the job boards for hours on end. Instead, they had structured their day to have equal time for sourcing/recruiting, interviewing, and now, marketing. After I got a sense of what people were doing, I dove right in and created a marketing strategy of my own.

  • I said farewell to posting and praying: Instead of posting job openings and waiting for people to apply, I became more proactive. How was I going to share this with people? More importantly, how was I going to make this engaging? My job promotions had started off as a link to the job with the title and location. Soon, I developed it into mini-marketing campaigns. These campaigns offered details that job seekers really cared about: company culture; things happening in the company; details about the office environment; details about the people they’d work with; and more insight to the projects or things they’d impact if they took the job.
  • I went to the places that allowed resumes to come to life: If you guessed social media, you’d be partially correct. Although social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have been great, there is so much more out there. I started researching candidates and found blogs, portfolios, interest groups, other specialized social sites, and more. This helped me see more of what they had to offer than what their resume initially stated. It took their resume and made them into a 3D version of a candidate. I loved it.
  • I nixed the template messages: When I receive a message that seems even remotely “spammy”, I typically delete it before I even read it. How do you think candidates feel when it’s obvious that they’re just another person on a list for recruiter spam? I took this into serious consideration and decided to spend more time on message customization. After I researched the candidate thoroughly through social sites, read more about what they like, or learned about what opportunities they were looking for, I got cracking on some message creations. I let them know why I was contacting them and what individual characteristics stood out to me. Additionally, I’d include specifics about the opportunity based on what the candidate seemed to be interested in. Does it take extra time and effort to do this? Sure, but the response rate increased because of it.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that a recruiter can do to blend marketing skills into their recruitment strategy but these were some of the first ones I eased into once I got back in the game. It was nice to start seeing a candidate as an individual, talented person rather than a keyword search result. It was also amazing to see how people responded to my creativity. In a sense, it felt honest because I was spending more time connecting opportunity with the right people and vice versa. If you’re in talent acquisition/recruitment and you haven’t tested these skills out yet, I highly recommend it.

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