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Ten Minutes with Gerry Crispin, Industry Expert

Gerry Crispin, Chief Navigator at CareerXroads, shares recruiting trends to watch in 2010 and how recruiting differs around the world. Read on to learn some best practices for recruiting in different cultures and how to effectively use social media to attract high performers. Tell me about CareerXroads and how the recruiting industry has changed since the company’s founding. What trends do you expect we’ll see in 2010?

CareerXroads began as a directory of emerging technology - especially job boards as they were evolving in the ‘90s. Over the course of eight years [1996-2003] we reviewed hundreds and thousands of job boards and produced eight editions. In 2002, we created the CareerXroads Colloquium, a platform where recruiting leaders could meet in a small and intimate setting to share new and changing practices. We've been running six of those meetings each year and focus on individuals within the HR community who are critical in their thinking and focused on sharing.

In terms of 2010 trends, we will see significant beginnings of major shifts. One of them will be toward a more contingent workforce. That's in part because the cost of maintaining a worker has risen extraordinarily due to issues such as healthcare insurance. A contingent workforce tends to make these costs more predictable. The obvious concern is whether staffing and HR leaders have strategically gotten their arms around a non-F/T workforce or are simply letting purchasing work it out with other internal stakeholders.

Another obvious trend is that social media will have impact far beyond where it is today. One example is in how you source candidates. If a job seeker understands and learns how to use social media appropriately, then the connection between the job seeker and the hiring manager can be direct. That doesn't mean you eliminate recruiters, but it does mean you're going to reduce the number of them by a huge amount.  As a result, staffing strategies as well as roles and competencies of recruiters will shift. The change will not be driven by recruiting and recruiting leaders; it will be driven by job seekers.

We will also continue to see a strong shift in the geographic “center of gravity” of recruiting. The staffing leaders who will be leading the future of hiring will no longer reside in the U.S. That’s because it's not going to make sense to be doing recruiting for companies like IBM in the U.S. when the majority of their workers are located outside the country. Staffing leaders will be required to have international experience and without it, you’ll be obsolete.

You’ve recently returned from a trip to India. How does recruiting differ culturally there from the U.S. and other parts of the world? What do organizations need to consider when recruiting a global workforce?

Every single culture looks at recruiting differently. We tend to think of it from our own perspective as we look through the “window” of another culture but the biases that are embedded in recruiting - as well as the workplace - differ and impact everything that might be done. Sometimes it is the smallest thing you notice like the size of the space that's used to interview candidates to the kinds of questions that are asked.

For example, in China you need to deal with the fact that most people you are interviewing have never met, worked with or played with anyone from a family with more than one child. What does that mean to a company that depends upon collaborative work? Everything from your interview script, how you handle onboarding and to the way you choose to start a meeting comprised of international members might impact your success in selection and retention. There are many similar cultural differences that are less obvious.

In India they really did not have the beginnings of a market-driven environment until 1991. From the country’s independence in 1947 until the ‘90s, outside corporations were not welcomed. Most people grew up with parents who did not work in Western style corporations or, if they did, they left and went to other countries.

India is challenged by many things. Education is arguably the most critical to its future development. With approximately 1.2 billion people, fewer than 50% of the men and 25% of the women have access to education. Rich in the quantity of labor but poor in the availability of qualified workers prepared to tackle the mounting challenges in the country’s infrastructure and environmental deficits, there is an unbelievable war for talent in India.

Deciding what you're recruiting for also changes when  the question is whether an individual is trainable versus whether they can start a job and “hit the ground running”.

Despite the many challenges in India, I’ve never seen a more engaged culture. Everyone is in a constant state of motion with somewhere to go and something to do. Several studies suggest the potential here is truly unlimited.

In the U.S., we get concerned with regional differences but it's exacerbated when you go to South America, Europe or Asia and see country by country all the differences.

Here, we’re focused on skills, competencies and knowledge as the main things that we seek in prospects. In other cultures, the U.S. is considered somewhat stunted by its focus on performance regardless of the context. Elsewhere there are other aspects of work that are as important as skills, knowledge and experience. In China, it might be how well connected your family is to the government that adds value to your candidacy. In India, corporations (more so than the individuals in them) define themselves and are committed to investments in education, sustainability and infrastructure. 

There's so much going on in other countries that has little or no analog in the U.S. that you need to get on the ground, examine the similarities and differences and then configure or reconfigure your recruiting capabilities to adapt to and assess local conditions and understand how to work with them in order for your company to thrive. Unless many of the recruiting leaders in the U.S. begin that course of study, they will not be as competitive as their more international counterparts.

Social media is changing the recruiting landscape. How can organizations effectively use social networking to attract and retain top talent? What are some best practices?

Social media is not a matter of tactics. It’s a matter of strategy. Most people look at tactics around social media as a means to find and seek out candidates as opposed to having a strategy that allows prospects to seek out and find them. Microsoft’s Marvin Smith is one visible example of a best practice of the latter. He not only has his picture and profile out there, but he also identifies when he is in or out of his office so you can instant message him. He has chat room time set aside for when you can go and talk to him. He has listed all of his contact information and encourages you to connect with him.

If you were to look for a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, within 90 seconds you can find not only the recruiter responsible for hiring people in the area that you are interested in, but his or her phone number, email address and a promise from them that they'll connect to you. They have a Facebook widget they've offered to employees to put on their individual Facebook pages that basically says “work with me.” Scrolling through the widget are jobs that are open in the area where that employee works. That increases the ability to connect with prospects.

Employers need to think about the rules of this new playing field and if they only think about the rules they set up, they are missing the boat. Job seekers are shifting the rules as well. That's why you're seeing more companies offer multiple ways to connect to them. If you're using Twitter, your blogs, the FAQ section of your website, etc. to communicate, then you're moving in the right direction. The point is to make it valuable when people come, that they can find the information they are looking for, and easily interact when they can’t.

What are the characteristics of a great employment brand and how can organizations effectively use social networking and Web 2.0 technologies to boost their brand building?

Corporations are getting clearer about their messaging around the essence of ‘why did I come to this company’ and ‘why do I stay’. I would tell any job seeker that if they went to a company’s website and cannot uncover that information they should not apply because the company is not able to recruit effectively.

To build a solid employment brand, staffing leaders must understand what is fundamental, if not universal, for their entire company and what is specifically true for a job family, class of worker or location. Companies that are able to articulate a memorable, distinctive message on their Web site, in their social media, at the interview, in discussions with the hiring manager, etc. are going to be able to attract and retain the best talent. It's really as simple as have stories and keep them straight.

Since different stories resonate with different people get together your best performers who have been part of your organization for a while as well as those who have demonstrated early capabilities and define your employee value proposition.

The other thing we need to do in order to leverage an employment brand is to prove the claim. Most companies claim that they “develop employees” yet not a single company in the U.S., with one exception, actually proves it online. More firms could leverage their employee value proposition by actually publishing the number of openings filled internally through development and promotion  in addition to anecdotal evidence presented through video of employees online and case studies. Data rules!

You’re an extensive traveler. Where are you headed next and what countries or places have you most enjoyed and why?

I've been to a couple different places in Europe, Japan, China, Australia, Singapore and India. I would like to go to Brazil but I don't know if I'll be able to get there next. When I select a destination it's not just for visiting the country. It’s having enough opportunity to meet with business leaders, colleagues in corporations responsible for hiring and others- especially students to learn their perspectives and opinions.

I also love the differences in our own country. I continue to look at regional differences because what I've learned has given me a different perspective in how I look at recruiting in the south versus the north, Midwest versus the coast, rural versus city, or unusual conditions like hiring after Hurricane Katrina. So, I'm not just interested in looking at other countries, but what we can learn from them and how we might improve the way in which we recruit here.