I’ve spent 25 years recruiting in corporate HR, and over 4 years at PeopleSuite supporting our corporate clients. I’m a dad to three daughters and I play flag football on a local team. I’ve had my share of achievement, conflict and life lessons through the years. But whether I’m scoring touchdowns, closing deals or parenting, the invisible thread through it all seems pretty clear: Authenticity is not a buzzword, it’s a requirement. And when everything is truly above board, the right kind of success occurs.  

Here are my three pillars for authentic recruiting:

Communication: (i.e. Show the Love)

Candidate: Remember that for a candidate, a day feels like a week and no news is bad news. Keep the candidate updated not only on dramatic changes, but on next steps, your feedback and client feedback. And throw in a call of sheer support, too. (i.e. how’s it going? I’m still working hard for you). In today’s multi-channel world, email is your first go-to, but talking live provides better understanding, empathy and clarity for all parties involved. In the final stages, have the hiring manager reach out. “We’re really excited for you to come on board!” Without that personal contact, you’re just another employer, and candidates can become disenchanted.

Hiring Manager: In contrast, for a hiring manager, a week feels like a day. It’s your job to determine your client’s rhythm, choice of communication channel (phone, text, email) and frequency of updates. You’re building a relationship–ideally a long-term one–so adopt that mindset. You want to be not just a vendor, but a partner and a co-creator. “They communicated too much,” said no one ever.

Connection. (i.e. Get Personal)

Candidate: In your initial conversation, go deep. This happens in two steps. First, prior to the call, look them up online and find a connective thread–sports, college attendance, home state, whatever. Next, dig deeper into their personal goals during your initial call. What’s their dream job? Why did they leave their past employer? Do they have a family? What do they do on the weekends? Where are they from? These basics establishes the rapport that creates a solid relationship, builds trust and enables a better match. And as the candidate becomes more comfortable with you as their advocate, the more they’ll share.

Hiring Manager: Direct access to the hiring manager is your goal, but in dealing with them or HR, you need to connect as a co-creator. Be yourself. Ask questions. Anticipate needs. Demonstrate a vested interest in the process and show commitment. Sometimes it will be your job to break down the silos of your client’s company. Inquire about their motivation. Make their days move easy with well-organized emails or a Starbucks delivery. Most of all, be authentic about what you’re seeing in the market.  It’s imperative to avoid surprises – a long, drawn out “no” can be devastating to everyone involved.

Clarity (i.e. Be a Detective)

Candidates: Remember that they’re often in an open-minded mode. When you say: “Did you want to hear about this opportunity?” they’ll often say “yes”, even if they don’t mean it–or would never move out of state. Always qualify a “sure” with a response: “So you’d move to Alaska?” In addition, getting clear on expectations around spouse approval, compensation, remote working, or extenuating circumstances like family health or school changes are critical. Clarity can accelerate success, avoid disappointment and filter bad matches before they go too far.

Hiring Manager: When talking to a hiring manager, don’t wing it. Job descriptions are often outdated, owned by HR or written for a superhuman. Most are full of platitudes. Your curiosity is valued, so be prepared with questions and be ready to improvise in real-time with questions.  Who will this person be working for? What is a day in the life of this position? What skills are a “must-have” and what are a “nice-to-have”? What kind of candidate would be a disaster in this job? What does success look like? Also, make sure the client organization shares “internal clarity” around the opening.  If there are multiple decision makers in the company, do they all agree on what the ideal fit looks like?


~Jeff O’Hanlon is a managing director for PeopleSuite and was most recently VP of Corporate Recruiting for Belk. He plays a mean flag football and is a parent to three teenage girls.

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