Innovation and Humanity in Recruiting

I’ve been in staffing and recruitment for 20 years. As many have heard me share, I love this profession.  Without it, I probably would have jumped from job to job looking for purpose, but I fit here.

What surprises me the most is that over the last 10 years the explosion of new technology tells us WHAT will innovate our whole industry.  With all of this progress, we as an industry, have continued to dig in our heels and are actively fighting innovation. Why?

Why We Do What We Do

I don’t know about you, but in my years as a Recruiter and Sourcer, I spent so many weekend hours reviewing resume applications, sourcing manually, and wading through massive amounts of data. Why did I work that way?

To defend reality and overcome misperceptions

When you’re battling comments like, “I see 1,000 Product Managers on LinkedIn, why can’t you find me one tomorrow at ½ the market pay rate?”, you need to be ready to share the truth.

To be equitable to every human that applied to the job

I have an obligation to review every applicant! The platinum rule here: Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Because HR systems were not built for the mass amounts of data that internet applications made possible

Cloud interfaces, click, wait, click wait, next screen…reviewing one applicant can take 3-5 minutes based on the legacy of your system.

Failed HR Tech systems have left us jaded and disenchanted.  Can I get an amen? There are over 100 HR Tech add-ons on the market today (as of writing this), and we don’t know who to trust!   

Innovation in Recruiting

I read an interesting story recently about an innovation that never happened back in 1936. Did you know that we could have increased typing speeds by 40%?

The original keyboard, QWERTY (named for the top row of keys from left to right) was developed in 1873. It was designed to slow down the human typist because if they typed too fast the typewriter would jam. That’s right! The typewriter would jam! 

Why, oh, why then did the Dvorak keyboard, designed and proved to be more efficient in the 1960s, not become a commercial adoption? 

Image comparing the Dvorak keyboard and Qwerty keyboard

Innovation, even if it is great, takes time to learn and adapt.  It takes conscious effort, time, and patience to learn and adapt to a new way of working.

I have NOT heard a recruiter (except our customers, of course – shameless plug) say in the last 10 years, “I feel amazing about my process, systems, and technology” or “I feel so effective when I use my recruiting software.”

Innovation is a new idea or the application of better solutions to meet new requirements and existing needs. If 80%+ of the industry indicates frustration, obstacles, and challenges around the processes and systems required to do our daily jobs, then innovation is needed

However, as we have learned from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Thomas Friedman, “humans ease of adaptability has been surpassed by the speed of the innovative technology.” Friedman and other innovators in the book suggested that in order to solve this problem we must: focus on lifelong learning, acknowledge the anxiety around adapting (yet, again!), and see adoption as a way to enable the one thing we are now missing more than ever: human-to-human connection and empathetic interaction.

What Recruiting Could Be

A computer will never be able to have a real inspirational conversation with a high-quality talent that you want to attract to consider your company.  Nor will a computer be able to empathize with a person evaluating the risk and stress associated with a job change. But machines give us humans the ability to do those things while they read resumes and unify, sort, and catalog big data. Adding the right technology to your human-based recruiting processes will lead to you being the recruiter that everyone trusts.

I know it’s scary and time-consuming to learn something new and change your processes. 

What if the technology fails your expectations, or it requires you to change something else? Is the change never-ending? 

But what if one innovation frees up 10 or 15 hours per week?  That’s over 40 hours a month! That difference could help you stop working during off-hours just to review that last group of applicants.

That’s the time you need to sit with your family at the dinner table.

That’s the time you need to watch a movie with your kids without a computer on your lap.

That’s energy not wasted reading resumes, but redeployed into human-to-human interactions that will serve your recruitment services long-term.

I don’t want to be tied to my QWERTY keyboard spending hours reviewing applications. No one wants to live their life behind a computer. I want to live a life filled with more human adventures.

I want my evenings to be family time and my weekends to be filled with adventures like these.

Heather Thomas skydiving while wearing a HiringSolved tshirt

What about you?

It’s time! Take the jump and innovate!

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Recruiters & Sourcers: Time to Value Up!

Earlier this week, a former colleague of mine reached out on Facebook and asked, “Hey, can you come and inspire my team on how to use this downtime? I have a great team and they just need a pep talk.”

I was honored, of course, then terrified. All of my speeches have been about how to survive talent scarcity at 2.5% unemployment and find the time in your day to learn new technology.  “Adapt and Evolve” was my drum. In a few short days, could I come up with three activities that really add value for a recruiter or sourcer that can help them survive these dark times? 

Then it hit me. I survived the dot-com bubble, Y2K, the 9/11 recession, Telecom scandals, and 2008. What did I do then? What would I tell my BFF tomorrow if they wanted to survive as a Recruiter/Sourcer today?  (You all know by now that I use these titles synonymously. Love to debate that someday…but focus, Heather, focus…)

Top 3 Things Recruiters / Sourcers Can Do Today

While the Economy Rebounds

Study the Art of Storytelling

It doesn’t matter if it’s a candidate or a hiring manager; we as professionals need to be able to bring people on a journey of understanding. Science and research shows the fastest and best way to influence is through stories. But storytelling is a skill, not a gift. Like any other skill, you can strengthen it by practicing it and learning from others. In time, you will sound like it is your gift, and you can be proud because you developed it within yourself.

To get you started, check out this blog on the subject by Jan Tegze, published by Sourcecon.

In 2016, I learned it was necessary to tell hiring leaders a story in order to help them understand that the current talent market we were facing was one of scarcity.  Operations managers and vice presidents are so busy doing their own intense day-to-day work, that they don’t know of market constrictions and the reality of competition. They only saw and heard that on the internet that LinkedIn had 400 million members. They believed that if you searched for an industrial salesperson with an MBA from your competitor, you would find a whole list of “applicants” right at your fingertips. 

“So why, Mrs. Recruiter, are you telling me this job is hard to fill? I can see 100 people right now, right through this Gogglebox on my office desk.”

I hope you can see the problem. They were not privy to the reality that just because someone is on LinkedIn that they want to come work for YOU!  

Now that the world is flipped upside down, I can just hear the hiring managers…”There are millions of people out of work. All I need you to do is find me a Quantum Scientist with a PhD that is published in an academic journal that has been read by a thousand people. This should not be a problem with 20% unemployment.”

The hard truth is that certain talent markets are always going to be hard to fill. It is our job as Talent Acquisition professionals to help them understand the realities. Maybe there are a bunch of Quantum Scientists looking for work, or maybe there are only 100 in the whole country that meet the qualifications and all of them are gainfully employed.

Now you need to get the skills to bring the facts plus connect the dots (i.e. story) to be the partner you need to be to the hiring leader.

Aggressively Map Your Talent & Build Relationships

Now is the time to aggressively build relationships. Pick up the phone. Make 20 calls and send 30 emails a day.

“Hi, how are you? Let’s be friends for whatever future might come. Let’s chat, human style, no hard agenda.” That’s the tone you want to be bringing to these moments. 

You don’t have to have a job open if you are talking to the right people in your industry. Being in their business gives you the credibility to speak with them. Reach out to talented people and connect the dots for them too. Tell them about your company’s long-term vision. Be memorable.

Think of yourself as an agent of serendipity; who knows how the world may lead to you helping that person land their next job or fill the job you need filled when hiring returns. 

You don’t have to talk to people that have zero connection to your business. That’s unnecessary. Talk to people in your industry. Collect business intelligence, but also share what you see, hear and feel. Business is all about relationships.

Now, what do you do with the intel?  If you have a CRM or ATS, collect it there. If not, this Sourcecon article has a great way to do it manually using Excel.

Shameless plug: HiringSolved software does talent mapping and insights automatically. You can email me at for more info.

Have a Growth Mindset

Sometimes we don’t have a choice about how we can react to a trauma. In this pandemic, we can control ourselves. We can stay home, take care of ourselves, take care of people around us and do what we can to support others. And goodness knows we have time on our hands.

  • Start reading anything that inspires you. Join a reading club. Use Audible or Even local libraries now offer digital apps where you can download books to your smartphone. Some of my favorite reads have been:

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Predictably Irrational by Daniel Ariely
Power of Moments by Chip & Dan Heath
The Rare Find by George Anders
Zero to One by Peter Thiel

  • Start mapping your candidate experience and analyze all of your HR Technology. Kevin Grossman and the Talent Board hosted a very good webinar on April 7th that identified the gains a department can achieve by using this time to improve candidate experience. We all talk about wanting the time to map out the process and improve the gaps. Well, maybe now is the time! It will pay major dividends if you can focus a small team and identify the problems and solutions during this downturn. 

Of course, what the future looks like will be uncertain. But what is certain is that any employee that is focused on adding value to their company increases their personal worth. 

If you have the time, do what you can to fight the black hole of depression and despair. Instead, invest in valuing up. I promise it will serve you for the rest of your career.

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Bring Back the #LoveofRecruiting

The recruitment profession is growing in prominence. Talent Acquisition (TA) now has over 160 job titles and functions with over 1.8M people titled recruiter on LinkedIn as of February 6, 2019. With all of this distinction, why does there seem to be a growing sense of despair among TA practitioners? Regardless of company affiliation, recruiters and sourcers from agency and corporate seem to be sharing intense concern over the direction of their jobs. They are spending more time than ever direct sourcing candidates while navigating complex systems for what feels like unappreciative business leaders.

This profession used to be filled with folks who loved people, felt a sense of purpose, and showed passion for putting people into great careers.  What factors are affecting us and how can we bring back the #LoveofRecruiting?

Recruiting is and always has been the task of getting someone to join your group or corporation. It is a job filled with human interaction, influence, enlisting, connecting, and enrolling. Sourcing evolved as a function of recruitment to find, obtain, and procure talent so that then they could be enlisted i.e. “recruited.”

By 2019, we seem to have accepted the impact of low unemployment rates, hyper-competition, and what some consider “The Goldilocks Syndrome.” That painful scenario of “keep sourcing” because the current applicant has “too much” or “too little” experience which is code for – the Hiring Manager doesn’t have time to train so the problem becomes the responsibility of TA to fix. The demand is to source for the “perfect/just right” candidate.

Today there are additional demands on recruiters and sourcers related to big data. It is almost as if TA practitioners need to operate like data actuaries; compiling data, analyzing statistics, and mapping insights in addition to posting and filling jobs. Talent sourcers are being asked to operate like researchers, recruitment marketers, and magicians by pulling purple squirrels off of the internet on demand.

Indeed global changes due to the “Age of Accelerations,” a phrase coined by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Thomas Friedman, have added complications. In his recent book, Thank You for Being Late,  Friedman outlines the innovations that converged in 2007; social media, iPhone, and the “supernova cloud” have had dramatic effects on the way we live and work. Friedman contends our frustrations are due to the fact  we have already hit the point where “technology has surpassed humans ability to adapt.” Whether Friedman is properly connecting the dots, his points resonate loudly. Admittedly, anxiety is rising at the pace at which our world operates.  Technology is making heads spin and hearts ache.

Perhaps it’s a slow death of passion by a thousand clicks.

It is no wonder that Marie Kondo, best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, is so popular right now.  She says that to increase happiness, “Focus on the things that spark joy and throw away pretty much everything else in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life.” The principle works great while cleaning out your closet, but is it practical when it comes to cleaning up our work lives?  It’s pretty certain that organizations are not going to let recruiters ignore cluttered ATS and CRM systems because the redundant processes steal joy.  

Social Talent offered How to KonMari Your Recruiting Career by removing what doesn’t suit you, and tidying up email clutter. The Talent Cast, a podcast by James Ellis explores Marie Kondo for Your Employer Brand.  James challenges recruiters “to find the way to spark joy in their job postings.”

Going to the source, I conducted an informal survey on multiple recruiting Facebook groups. It became a popular topic with over 100 comments in four groups to this specific question: What’s the one thing in 2019 that if it changed you’d have more JOY in your day to day job?  

Powerful feedback.  Demonstrating so many distractions to our primary work with other humans.

Warren Buffett Says Your Greatest Measure of Success at the End of Your Life Comes Down to 1 Word, can you guess what it is? Love, Love, and Love. A culture of love in how you treat others, giving love freely in business, and loving what you spend 40+ hours a week doing. Author Marcel Schwantes writes, “Warren Buffett, the millionaire extraordinaire believes that no matter how rich you are if you don’t have love in your work, success will be elusive.” This is why we need to focus on minimizing the clutter and sparking joy in our daily work in the following ways:

Put technology in its place

  • Know your technology stack.
  • Provide input to streamline processes for hiring outcomes.  
  • Advise your leadership on what clicks are cluttering your work day.
  • Trust automation. Test it, experiment, test it again. Maximize what a machine can do.

Prioritize human interactions

  • Schedule voice-to-voice calls in the morning with candidates.
  • Get out from behind e-wall.  Ask: Can I make a call rather than send another email?  
  • Change your process so that you get to be a part of making offers to candidates.  These are very human moments filled with joy or empathy (in case of a decline). Either way, try not to miss out on them.
  • Study Social Engineering: The Human Element of Sourcing & Recruiting Candidates, this is an enduring concept adapted by Glen Cathy, Boolean Black Belt.  It will revolutionize how you build satisfying humanistic connections into your work.

Start measuring success based on the people you impact

  • Check in on a recent hire and learn of their career trajectory.
  • Spend time guiding an entry-level applicant on resume improvements.
  • Talk with employee referrals regardless if they will fill a job today. Offer guidance.
  • Dial the person who didn’t get the job and offer feedback.  Here is an article to spark some compliant suggestions: Giving Feedback to Unsuccessful Job Candidates.


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  —Maya Angelou


To sum up a reason “Why” to love this job, there is an an amazing scene in a 2016 movie called A Family Man. It stars Gerard Butler and Alfred Molina, where Butler is a ruthless agency recruiter who struggles with ethics. In this life-changing scene, Molina’s character, Lou Wheeler, a 59 year-old Engineering Manager, finally gets the job he deserved, only after the headhunter rights his wrong. We get to see Lou tell his wife he has finally got the job.  The pride wells in his wife’s face and excitement in her voice. Wheeler retreats to the bathroom to sob, posture like a champion, and celebrate like a rock star. He will again support his family and have pride in his work.

Recruiters are brokers of serendipity. Opportunity givers. Impact makers.

To never take that for granted, that is the #LoveofRecruiting.



From my recruiting heart to yours.

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