On Becoming Discoverable – advice for job applicants

Eventually there comes a time in every period of employment that an employee starts to imagine the greener pastures that exist in other offices.  It’s not that they’ve been courted by an unscrupulous recruiter, it’s not that they are moving town or countries, it’s not even that they’ve been fired for stealing stationery supplies and selling them on eBay. They’ve decided it’s time to leave and it’s on their own terms.

They lovingly craft themselves a new CV. They toy with the idea of of a video resume, or an infographic to show their creativity…then fire up Word and smoosh their details into a template.  They search the internet for a new role. They trawl LinkedIn and then they  find something; a glimmer of what might be.  They measure themselves against the requirements, ask friends about the company, research using Glassdoor and finally they click “Apply”.

Then… nothing.

They were right for the role.  All the requisite skills, even a few extra ones that the hiring managers would love. So why are not being courted, loved, made to feel like the beautiful and unique snowflake they are by a whole gaggle of in-house recruiters?  Why are they lost, trapped in a black hole, ignored?

The answer…because they applied.

In many of the recruitment teams I have managed to date there is a odd behavioural pattern that I have noticed more than once.  Those CV’s that have arrived through direct application are not as valued or deemed inferior to those that have been head hunted or sourced through some circuitous route.  This leads to a selection bias on the part of the recruiter to over state the suitability of a candidate that has been sourced through toil and denigrate the suitability of those candidates who apply directly because of their availability.  Because we have been told many times that the “good” candidates “aren’t looking” or are “passive”, those that are active must be inferior. This despite metrics that directly show that 10 to 15% of hires had come through direct applications!

There are many reasons why this could have happened.  The “groupthink” or herd behaviour of the team seeking to emulate a strong performer, a little cultural inheritance from a previous job or even an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect – the recruiter valuing their own perceived skills over that which lacked their “superior” touch.

It may not be the fault of the recruiter.  Some of the organisations I have seen use an applicant tracking system that deposits CV’s of applicants to be viewed into “bins” or “buckets”.  There has to be some linguistic reinforcement of perceived value here.  When I think of the contents of these inanimate objects I don’t really see it positively.  In British English a “bin” is where we put rubbish or trash and a “bucket” is used for cleaning, it’s association is with dirt or grime.  How many bins and buckets are filled with gold, or diamonds, or unicorns!  Institutionally we can do something to aid the shaping of behaviour here, why not refer to an internal talent “pool” and try to excise the negativity that could aid prejudgement?

So what can a candidate do?  My advice to a candidate looking for work is to make themselves discoverable.  Prior to applying, try to ensure that you have a footprint that means you can be found on the internet.  Google yourself.  Know where it is that recruiters will look for people with your skills.  For the developers and software engineers that I recruit there are a wealth of venues to utilise.  I am assuming you’re OK with surrendering a little privacy to be discovered…

Firstly, LinkedIn.  Have a profile, make that profile detailed, feel cheap and dirty with all the spam you’ll get you can always shutter it or delete it all together when you’ve found that dream job.  For a growing majority of recruiters LinkedIn is the first port of call, for some it’s their only port of call.

Secondly, as a developer or an software engineer if you don’t have an account on Stack Overflow you should. Any forum which is monetised for recruiters is a sure sign that recruiters are there and searching for candidates.

Thirdly, broaden your other social media footprint.  Have a G+ account, have a Twitter account, take down the drunken photos on Facebook because the more savvy recruiters out there will be looking here for you too.  If you list a job title or a company this will make you more likely to be found – check that “other” message inbox from time to time too!

Even if you only did these few things, pretty low effort, you’d be on the radar of more recruiters more of the time.  Now add to this your own blog, open source software contributions, your own website to further aggregate this stuff and you’ll be surrounded in no time, of course when you’ve found that dream job you can take back some privacy and close or hide these accounts – you’ve only had to deal with those rascally recruiters on your terms and when you wanted to, that has to be better than sending that CV into the void, only for it to land in a “bucket”, right?


Why you should make friends with Recruiters.

Johanna Rothman over at Hiring Technical People has recently blogged a colleague’s comments about the benefits of befriending those of the Recruiting persuasion. Although being aimed more at those recruiters working in Agencies I’m not 100% sure I agree with them all.

1. Some of the best jobs / candidates are rarely advertised

This is largely true. When I used to work in an agency often we didn’t advertise because we were already calling a contact we knew was right for that particular role. When a requirement arrived from a candidate it was immediately followed up with a call to discuss the finer points and acknowledge receipt, then with the call finished a “top 3” candidates landed in the client’s inbox. These were people with whom I had an existing relationship and the only way you can get into this “first pass”…befriend a recruiter.

2. If you refer people to your friend the recruiter, there is the possibility of a finders fee

For some agencies this is true, I wouldn’t hold your breath! The best way to supplement your income in dealing with a recruiter is to let them find you a better paid role. It’s a little mercenary to trade on your friends. That said, referral networks are big business, look at commercial ventures like LinkedIn, now a billion dollar company. These networks are not closed shops to recruiters and if you have any form of online presence you should expect to be contacted.

3. They can keep you aware of trends in the local market

Absolutely, if you want to know about hiring trends, downturns and new projects launching it’s the Recruiters who will have the inside track. Whether it’s official or not, one of the first questions a recruiter will ask a speculative candidate is “Why are you thinking of leaving?”. Ask that question to 100 people, a week and eventually you’re going to build up a pretty good picture of the business landscape.

4. You might be able to get a free lunch every so often.

I’d hope this is a joke, and if it isn’t candidates need to be aware that the impression they give to Recruiters will speak volumes about the professionalism the recruiter believes they will display to their clients. Chances are that to an agency recruiter a client relationship is worth more than a candidate relationship.

I’d add one major exception to the list, make friends with a recruiter you trust. It’s all too easy to fall foul of an inexperienced “Recruitment Consultant” so it’s important that your career aspirations are in the hands of someone you trust. Use agencies wisely and if there’s a company that you know you’d like to work for contact them directly. Send a speculative CV if necessary and follow up with a personal touch of a call or email – you can further gauge the reality of that company based on the type of response you get. If you think you we’re treated shoddily in the hiring process what makes you think things will be different on the other side? Recruiters are the reflection of the internal culture of any company, it’s their job to find out what’s best about their employer and project it further – a recruiter with nothing to be passionate about may well be working for an organisation that there is nothing to get passionate about.