Freewheeling conversation with sourcing expert, Jim Stroud

Freewheeling conversation with sourcing expert, Jim Stroud

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We catch up with global head of sourcing and recruiting strategy at Randstad, Jim Stroud, during his visit to Singapore for secret tips on bringing up candidate's interests during an interview, getting recruiters to look after their personal brand, and the value in hiring people with disabilities. 

Q. What's new in the sourcing landscape in the US? Any tips for recruiters in Asia to do the same things - differently?

Recruiters can casually identify and bring up different interests that they mutually share with candidates, as the key lies in engaging them. You’re going to have to do different things to get their attention. Sometimes these things can be very rudimentary, for example, if I find the candidate likes Justin Beiber, I could have his music playing in the background somewhere during the interview.

Something really small that can connect you with people.

There are other tools online I’ve been tinkering around with that are really scary but useful. One is called Crystal; it’s a Google Chrome extension. Once you’ve installed it into your browser, if I visit any person's profile on Twitter, Facebook, etc., it will give me helpful hints about the person's personality - for example, she’s very straightforward, always be true and authentic with her, things like that.

It does this by scanning through someone's public social media profile. If you’re very active on social media, like the average Millennial, it will have good stuff to work with. If you’re not that active, then it’s going to say this person is not that active, there’s a 40% chance this is how you should reach them.

Q. In our experience, recruitment is a priority across Asia - yet we don't seem to have enough people who specialise in sourcing. Do you agree with that?

One thing I read recently that surprised me, and I saw some research that backed this up – everyone here has a smartphone, everybody’s on social media, but I’ve read reports on how a majority of companies don’t have a mobile strategy. In the States, for most companies, if you visit a website on your phone, it automatically goes to the mobile version.

If a company here was to really jump on that trend, they would have a leg up on so many competitors at a time when everyone’s fighting for talent.

There’s this one mobile app that's really spearheading this movement, called Anthology, formerly Poachable. It works on what I call the Tinder principle - when a job seeker thinks a job is cute, he/she swipes right, and if the company thinks the job seeker is cute they swipe right and they can connect. The only thing that’s different is that the company doesn’t know who the job seeker is.

The company starts talking about the skill set and the role, and if the job seeker doesn't like it, he/she can just walk away from the conversation, and the company would never know who the job seeker was.

The app is great when a company wants to put the word out that it's hiring, and we know a lot of people are looking for a new job but don’t necessarily want to risk the position they’re in.

Q. Apart from mobile optimisation, what are the other sourcing channels that you think recruiters here can leverage? 

We try to use different social media to a recruiting advantage. So we’ll either monitor our personal brand – the same way recruiters can check out candidates, candidates can also check out recruiters. On our LinkedIn profiles for example, we would list out our successes and how we’ve recruited in the past.

Q. One of the things that employers here often say is that there is a lack of talent in the market. Everyone has different reasons, but do you also believe our recruitment models are not approaching candidates the right way?

I see two things at the top of my head. One is flexibility - the more companies allow their people to be flexible, maybe work from home or for certain hours around their schedule, the more people will be open to work for them.

I think here it’s more authoritarian, and maybe the stereotype is that while the boss is there, everyone else is afraid to leave, ultimately being unproductive. Which is why some people here are just beginning to get into the gig economy, doing more freelance stuff. They lose some security, such as a regular pay cheque or benefits, but they get the freedom to work as long as they want, wherever they want.

Another observation is that a major talent pool is being overlooked - to cure the world's talent shortage, we need to train and hire people with autism. I have tried to prove through several case studies how companies have successfully recruited people with autism. Stereotypically speaking, they are very loyal, because it’s hard for them to get a job.

Tim Hortons is one restaurant that intentionally hires people with disabilities. They have talked about how the average worker stays there around a year, but someone with disabilities, stays on for an average seven years. There are cost savings involved too - every time someone left and they had to train someone, the loss of productivity and the cost of training were about US$4,000.

Temple Grandin, an American professor at Colorado State University, and world-renowned autism spokesperson, did some research on the type of jobs that people with autism can be trained for. People on the autism spectrum are in two categories, the visual and non visual thinkers.

The non visual thinkers could be trained for accounting, for example, while the visual thinkers would be good game developers. I looked at all her research, and then looked at the 2014 list of most difficult jobs to fill by CareerBuilder. I put the two together and realised people with autism could have performed 40% of those jobs.

Q. We also hear a lot about bringing-family-to-work days - sons, daughters, and parents. Is that a trend for recruiters to look out for?

Yes, that's the new recruiting. There’s this old American song called Cheaper to keep her, where he says things like - "Marriage is grand, but divorce is 50 grand", and the same philosophy applies to work. It’s so much better and advantageous to keep your employees happy.

Some companies, to their credit, are doing very innovative things. There’s one called Geeks2U, an Australian tech support company. Once a month, they send out a survey, using TinyPulse, to their employees, asking them if they’re happy working there. The results are automatically posted on the company's career site. Anybody who visits the site can see how employees feel about their company in the last 30 days – which is closer to real time than Glassdoor.

Even if the company's results are trending downwards, they are addressing it with total transparency - that resonates so much more with candidates than saying there are no problems. People want that authenticity. They know it’s not perfect everywhere, but they want to feel like you’re at least doing something about it.

Q. Another issue we often face in Asia is that the business scales faster than our ability to recruit. Any tips for companies going through these growth pains?

Sure. Let’s say you have a job title you need to hire for - take off 30% of the duties in the job, reduce the salary by 30%, and then starting hiring for that position, telling the candidate the next benchmark you want them to reach (the 100%). Let them know once they hit it, their salary will go up 30% too.

To the job seeker they’re thinking, this is awesome - they're hitting their benchmarks and going up the company ranks. From the company's side, it's great too - this person is working really hard, and you're getting work done cheaper, along with enthusiastic employees.

A lot of Millennials job hop for as little as a thousand dollars or more, so if you give them a little bit of care, it enables them to stay a little longer.

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