Every once in a while something or someone bothers you so much that you have to address it. Some people go to the gym and work out and get healthier. I sit down and write about it and get more sedate. Perhaps it is time to go outside.
The thing that got me going this morning was an ongoing interaction with a candidate. There are active candidates and then there are ACTIVE candidates. The candidate in question falls into the “God’s Gift” category of candidate, as in “I am God’s gift to employers so you better be talking to me.” It's not the attitude as much as the candidate's constant bombardment of emails about the fact that she / he will be in town at some point in the future and don’t I just want to drop everything and set up meetings for them with people who have already reviewed their credentials and decided they aren’t a fit. There is just such a disconnect between their espoused self-image and the desperate nature of their demands.
As I was getting worked up about the issue, with my thinking alternating between “I already said 'no' in the nicest way I could three times for goodness sakes!” and “Gotta admire their persistence!” I realized that I needed to get something off my chest to every candidate, recruiter and hiring manager out there who may be reading this blog.
Recruiting is one big transaction (a hire) composed of lots of little
transactions (identification, resume submission, phone screening, interviewing,
etc.). Each transaction is an exchange of value (which, by my reckoning, is the
definition of a transaction). Like all exchanges of value, you take on one of
three roles in the transaction: seller, buyer or brander.
The way to identify role in the transaction is very simple: if you want
something or someone more than it wants you then you are a seller. If something
or someone wants you more than you want it or them then you are a buyer. And if
you don’t know where which is you right now then you are a brander. Finally, if
you just don’t care about exchanging value then you are fourth category: piker.
If you are a seller (as the candidate of whom I am speaking quite
obviously is) then your job is to provide value before you expect value in
return. No kidding. I know that you’ve been taught that selling is all about
persuasion. It’s not. Maybe it used to be, but in a world of transparency and
information hyper-velocity all sellers are one smarmy “Did you get your teeth
whitened or what?” comment away from being crushed by your competition. A
seller's job is to figure out how to establish a relationship of credibility
with your potential buyer, and the best way to increase the trust that is the
foundation of all credibility is to provide value before you ask for any in
And what exactly is the meaning of value? In a free market, the concept
of value is whatever the buyer says it is. So your job as a seller is to figure
out how to deliver value to the buyer before you even mention what you expect
in return. Alternatively, if the seller provides value and doesn’t get any in
return, then the seller should drop the buyer like a bad habit. Always remember
rule number one of selling: you are not fighting a lack of opportunity, you are
battling a lack of time. Get to the next buyer that accepts what you offer as
value before you spend a lot of time on this one.
If you are a buyer (the role I play in the present dance with the
candidate who expects something for nothing), it is your job to only deal with
sellers who can provide you with value. If you aren’t clear what “value” is to
you in particular then you aren’t a buyer; you’re a piker. You think the world
exists to deliver variety to your table and you will see what strikes your
fancy. This is the very reason that most sellers think that good hair and nice
suits are the path to riches: if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for
In broader terms, your job as a buyer is to have a specification. This
is an important point to consider for all the hiring managers and recruiters
out there. When you don’t have a spec you are liable to be sold a bill of
goods. And you deserve exactly what you get. It is your job as a buyer to
ensure that sellers provide value before they take any more of your time and
the definition of value rests solely with you.
What about the scenario where there is no current transaction? What
about when you want people to consider you for some future transaction, but you
don’t know when and where that transaction is going to occur. Then you are a
"brander." Your job as a brander is to determine your potential
buying community, connect with as many members of that community as possible
(also known as the nodes in your value network) and provide value to them as
many times as you can afford to, in as many ways as are consistent with your
passions and objectives. This is the real definition of branding. It’s not
selling at a distance. It’s building relationships with potential buyers by
providing value ahead of any possible transaction the buyer may consider.
At any one time you are probably fulfilling all three roles. If you are
a recruiter you are buying from active candidates, selling with brand
candidates and branding with hiring managers and your extended network. If you
are a candidate you are selling to the recruiter who controls access to the job
you want, buying from the recruiter who is trying to convince you to take a job
you don’t want and branding to the nodes in your network which may just be
selling that dream job you’ve always wanted.
And where does that leave me and my candidate friend? To date, this person has not provided value to me and therefore as a buyer it’s my job to define my spec. The trouble is, I don’t have one. I am neither the hiring manager nor the recruiter: I am just the person who had the node in my network. So I guess I end this post with the observation that I am neither a seller, nor a buyer nor a brander: it appears I am just a piker.