If you’re a seasoned and successful recruiter, chances are you have fine-tuned your skills over the years by going through a gauntlet of stressful, maddening, or even downright demoralizing work days. Most of my fellow recruiters and sourcing specialists started their careers with jobs in high volume staffing or direct sales. They remember the cold calling, frequent hang-ups from candidates and customers, the long hours, and the tight deadlines. These roles have the potential to burn out anyone in a short amount of time. Some will exit the recruiting profession after a few intense months or years, and others will stick it out while gaining a realization of their actual capabilities. I have had more than my fair share of what I refer to as “hell jobs” before finding my more fulfilling place in the world of healthcare recruiting. Although it was a long, arduous road to get to my ideal recruiting job, I had to navigate through my early career by learning how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The first time that I ever got a taste of any skills applicable to recruiting was with my first job out of school in car sales. I was an ambitious but unworldly twenty-two-year-old, trying to start a career in the midst of the great recession and the implosion of the auto industry. Hardly anyone was buying cars the lot was always desolate, sometimes without a customer in sight for days. There were always, of course, the select few sales guys that would have customers regardless of how dismal the market.
What I quickly learned from the top earners in the showrooms was that they used many of the same strategies that I have seen employed by successful recruiters with the main one being pipelining. The top salesmen were always on the phone with previous customers asking for referrals, calling someone several months before a lease was up to probe as to what they were looking for in their next car, even handing out business cards outside of work to anyone who would take them. As someone who was new to direct sales, those tasks were the epitome of uncomfortable to me. It’s well known that next to telemarketers, car salespeople are some of the most hated professionals within the public. At a certain point, I had to accept that every customer I called or approached had already decided that they didn’t like me before I even had a chance to say a word to them. I had to change my mindset not to take every rejection personally.
My profession alone set the precedent that I was the stereotypical shady grifter that was only out to rip them off. The daily fight to change the customer’s opinion of me and to build that pipeline of potential clients was my initiation for getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Although I have it much more comfortable now since most candidates want to be called for an interview, the previously intimidating practice of cold calling has become second nature to me since my car sales days.
Later in my career, I got my foot in the door of recruiting by working for a marketing agency that required high volume staffing for brand activation events. I would staff an average of 30 to 40 brand ambassadors or promo models on a weekly basis. This type of staffing always presented a unique challenge as most of the positions were only for a weekend’s worth of work at a music festival, or giving out samples of a new product at a grocery store for a few hours.
Depending on the market, beverage promo models were very easy or very difficult to find. In Los Angeles, all I had to do was send a mass email through our ATS that we needed models to work an event on short notice, and it would be fully staffed within hours. It wasn’t quite as easy when Hangout Fest rolled around, and one of our adult beverage clients needed promo models in Gulf Shores, Alabama. In this area of the country, our ATS came up with next to nothing regarding potential candidates. Resumes on Indeed were scarce for promotional staff. At this point I had no choice but to get creative and dare I say, bordering on creepy. I had to find attractive women to be the face of a beer brand in an area of the country that isn’t exactly a haven for modeling careers. I figured that even in the most unlikely areas there had to be aspiring models somewhere.
That’s when I set my sights on Instagram. I was able to quickly geotarget users and posts tagged in locations near Gulf Shores, Alabama. I then searched for users in that area that used relevant hashtags related to the brand, or modeling. I would even look for posts tagged at local bars to find users that fit the profile of the candidates we were searching for. I would reach out initially by commenting on a user’s pictures or sending them a direct message to let them know about the opportunity to be a promo model at the music festival. This unusual recruiting method felt much stranger to me than cold calling ever did.
The important part, however, was that it worked. Almost everyone I reached out to responded and was legitimately interested in working the event. I attribute the success in large part to the fact that a considerable number of people are seemingly more likely to respond through social media rather than answering their phone to a number they don’t recognize. In the end, we successfully staffed the event and used the Instagram geotargeting method for future activations.
I could go on forever with examples of being uncomfortable at some point in the recruiting process. I also know that I will inevitably have many more cringe-worthy moments in my career. It’s a fact of life in this profession, and the ones that embrace it will go a long way in sourcing and recruiting.