Friday, November 13, 2009

Recruiting and Sports Analogies

Two sports analogies to recruiting caught my eye this week and I thought I'd mention them here.

As an avid baseball fan, the title of this article: I learned All That I Needed to Know About Recruiting From The New York Yankees naturally caught my eye. Upon reading it, it really seemed that the author was trying to relate the Yankees to things he already thought about recruiting, or at least basing his article upon the stereotype of the Yankees as a team that can go out and "buy the best players" or "buy championships."

For example, point #10 is "recruit rather than train," and cites Alex Rodriguez. What it doesn't mention is that some 44% of the Yankees roster were players that the Yankees developed themselves. Take away Matsui who they got from Japan, and it's still 40%, which is higher than their rival Phillies who only developed 36% of their talent and go the rest through free agency or trade. Other studies that I've seen say that the Yankees develop their talent at an above average clip compared to the rest of the league.

I think the most salient point to be learned about the Yankees related to recruiting is that an organization has to do a good job acquiring talent from all sources in order to be successful. Even the Yankees with their $200MM payroll still relies on drafted players developed through their system in order to propel them to championships, or as trade bait to acquire players that will help propel them to championships.

Talent acquisition departments cannot rely only on high level recruited candidates, that would be inefficient. They need to have some combination of "drafting" young talent through internship programs and college recruiting, as well as hiring talent away from competitors.

I love the premise of this article, Five Football Analogies That Will Resonate With 80% of Hiring Managers.
"I also have noticed that most men use football to talk to each other on holidays, campouts, and soccer games. I would imagine it accounts for about 70% of all guy small talk. So I started thinking about using football as a metaphor for getting managers to do what I want, which is help me sell the company, the candidate, and get me hires."

At first, I was convinced this was a sexist notion, that guys like to talk about sports, so you should use sports to connect with hiring managers seems to presume that most (80%?) of hiring managers are men. Obviously there are female football fans, and the author is trying to pursue a point, not present a statistical argument, but it stood out to me nonetheless.

The idea of using trying to connect with hiring managers is of course important. I would feel ridiculous bringing up football to try to convince a hiring manager to hire a candidate; it would certainly come across as disingenuous. Perhaps if I were a football fan and it seemed natural, it could come up, but the notion seems silly.

Most hiring managers are concerned about having a quality team and staying within a (hopefully expanding) budget. My experience is that most people can be reasoned with without using gimmicks and that a partnership-based recruiting model with hiring managers will lead to the best results for the organization.

I think that most metaphors have to be stretched to prove a point, I mostly just thought it was interesting to see two sports metaphors in the same week. I'm working on my own sports/recruiting metaphor post; we'll see how silly that ends up being.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cover Letters

I've been thinking about cover letters this week, and decided that it is an are of job searching about which I have very mixed feelings. There are numerous places to find tips on cover letters, but the question that I always come back to is: Are traditional cover letters necessary? I think that in many circumstances, they are not at all necessary. I'm going to address this in a Q&A format, just for a change of pace.

Do you read cover letters?
Personally, I only very rarely even read cover letters. This is a mistake in some cases, since there can be very interesting information in cover letters, but with common wisdom being that most resume reviewers only spend 15-45 seconds on a resume, how much time do they spend on a cover letter? In my case, it's none.

Now, as a contingency recruiter, I tend to review more resumes than a typical hiring manager (the target audience for your resume), and I tend to have specific things I'm looking for in a resume. My caveat, is that I generally read the introduction e-mails that people include with their resumes (as long as they are brief). However, if I receive a resume via mail, or if there is a Word document attachment of a cover letter, I will not read it.

What if the job posting asks for it?
Many job postings still ask for a cover letter, and I think that the general tips about a cover letter are appropriate when it is requested. However, as long as you are doing the due diligence and calling and speaking to the hiring manager before sending a resume, I think that a cover letter is still an unnecessary distraction. Whoever is looking at your resume should be expecting it, and the content that would normally be in a cover letter would have already been discussed over the phone.

What if I never reached anybody on the phone?
A brief introductory e-mail (2-3 sentences) is all that is necessary. Example:

I have attached my resume for your review for the Sr. Recruiter position. I have 10 years of contingency and corporate recruiting experience and have billed an average of $1,000,000 per year for the last 5 years. Please call me at 202-555-1212 and we can arrange a time to get together to discuss further.

Your resume should do all of the talking about your background, and you shouldn't be applying to positions for which you aren't qualified, so that should just about cover it.

In what circumstances would a cover letter be appropriate?
1. If you are applying to a position for which you are not qualified, you need a cover letter or introductory e-mail that explains that you understand you aren't qualified.

2. If you are sending a job inquiry without a resume (advocated in this book that is worth looking at), a well-crafted introduction letter will look similar to a cover letter.

3. If you are applying for a position that is not in the city in which you live, you must include a cover letter or e-mail that explains your relocation status immediately. Are you willing to relocate at your own expense? Do you have connections to the area? Are you already planning your move? Unless the company was explicitly considering out-of-town candidates, you should explain this.

Does it hurt to send one?
In most cases, no. But if it isn't helping you or the hiring manager, why bother?

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