When I started out in 1994, my first manager was instrumental in helping me to develop my recruiting skills. Before the dawn of the World Wide Web, he taught me how to speak, how to dress and most importantly, how to network in the business community. I spent countless hours on the phone, in the car, at networking events, job fairs and industry related functions. I spent very little time in front of a computer. We had access to email but the phone still took precedence as a means of communication. I had to be aware of where to find the candidates my clients were seeking; whether they were still in college or working for a competitor. As if that weren't challenging enough, I had to convince them that the opportunity I had was the best one ever.
I learned not to be afraid to ask tough questions to qualify a potential candidate; and not to spend too much time on candidates you'll never put to work. In essence, I was given the opportunity to develop proper judgment and to refine my time management skills which are an essential component of good recruiting, as well as good networking.
Employment Moves Online
Then came the internet. At first it was cool; I had the opportunity to staff one of the first internet Help Desks in the country with a subsidiary of IBM in Tampa. Additionally, I was tasked with designing my company's very first website; which involved typing it all out in HTML in WordPad. No fancy WYSIWYG editors, just hours searching for that tiny error in your code. At that time, the most requested search from clients was for Y2K candidates. In addition to my normal channels, I used newsgroups and dial-up bulletin boards to find candidates and network. It worked! From that moment on I was a firm believer in the power of networking on the internet.
Y2K came and went uneventfully, leaving many out of work. Saddled with skills that were no longer in demand, Y2K candidates were forced to look at other careers or technology for work. Most flocked to the internet, looking for that "connection" that could land them their next opportunity. The dot com boom began!
Online Job Sites Arrive
Job sites like Monster and Dice began popping up, providing candidates with easy access to a large number of potential opportunities. Employers were delighted; these sites allowed them faster access to more candidates than ever before. Most assumed these new job sites would eliminate the need for recruiting agencies or headhunters.
However, even with the advent of job sites, most employers and recruiters struggled to keep up with the demand for "web developers"; they couldn't be found fast enough. A surge in candidates from other countries helped to alleviate some of the shortage but even that wasn't enough. Then just as suddenly as it began, the bottom fell out and we had the "dot com bust". That was only a few years ago - yet here we are on familiar turf forgetting all about our past.
I learned some important lessons in my formative years of recruiting. The cyclical nature of the economy dictated a need for constant improvement in strategy to survive. It became obvious to me that most "recruiters" in the industry weren't recruiters at all; they were simply people who knew how to use the internet and match key words. Picking up the phone was a thing of the past for them; now email was the way it was done. When the dot com boom went bust, so did a lot of those "recruiters"; the ones that didn't truly understand the art of networking, socialization and true headhunting were left behind.
The Basic Rule of Job Searching
With each downward cycle in the economy, the internet has continued gaining allure as a job searching outlet. With more technology, opportunity and ways to communicate, it's easy to forget that there are actually live human beings out there. Many job seekers fail to remember the basic rule of job searching which is connecting. The internet and social networking sites can be great sources of information and networking; but when it comes to giving yourself the edge for that job you're after, you have to step away from the box.
When times are tough, it's important to remember the basics. The internet isn't a replacement for your job search, recruiting efforts, connecting, selling, or whatever it is you use it for. It's an enhancement and only that.
Focus on Networking
Consider for a moment what you might do if you had no access to the internet. How would you conduct your job search? Basic networking is what job seekers should focus on first, using the internet as only one tool of many available. Pick up the phone, talk to people, get involved in groups that meet your interests, take a class. If you are out of work and still sitting behind your computer you might be there longer than you'd planned.
I have now experienced 3 downward cycles in the employment industry as a recruiter and a job seeker. I have remained successful despite tough times because of those basic fundamentals that I was taught 15 years ago. My network is key to my survival in a highly competitive and changing business. Yours should be, too.