If They Aren't "Engaged" Then What Are They?

At ERE this year I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Steve Lavin, ESPN broadcaster and former UCLA head coach. The sports legend and current analyst spoke about a few different aspects of recruiting while tying them in nicely to personal stories and relationships.

If you didn't know, Steve and his coaching staff signed the number one rated recruiting classes in the US in both 1998 and 2001. He signed seven McDonald's High School All-Americans and can still boast that several of his former Bruin recruits are sitting on NBA team rosters even today. Because of his recruiting efforts, UCLA has the longest collegiate streak in the country in regards to consecutive years having a player drafted to the NBA. Yeah, I'd say Steve knows how to engage and follow through with a candidate or two. He had my attention.

In his hour presentation Steve talked about several key points - but the one that struck this RecruiterGuy was his request of his audience to not give up on pen and paper. Lavin challenged today's recruiters to test his theory of how powerful a handwritten and personal letter to a candidate can be. Truth be told - it's something some of us have been buzzing about for a while and that some CEO's are taking serious enough to take on themselves - but for some reason many recruiters are ignoring.

In a world that is trying to go paperless (and man am I happily guilty!) it would seem that the power of paper and pen - in the recruiting game - can carry considerable weight. Last May I was speaking in Boston and ran into Scott Pitasky, general manager of HR at Microsoft, where a similar topic came up - engaging candidates. Scott explained how Bill Gates isn't above sending a personal message or picking up the phone to call a top candidate or two when they feel it could make a difference. I think we can all appreciate how engaging a letter or phone call from someone like Mr. Gates might be - at that point it really doesn't matter if you're a PC or a Mac.

I think that as some of our recruiting and hiring processes become more streamlined and as we move toward hiring ‘systems' that are more automated it's important to take the time and connect with our candidates. It's important to create and maintain that dialogue and to keep them engaged. I'm of the belief that in this current war on talent our younger job seekers will not only expect it, they'll demand it.
Am I saying that everyone should head out and begin brushing up on their handwriting to start knocking out letters to all of their candidates? Of course not (unless your handwriting is just ridiculous.) We should realize that for some it might not even be a hand written letter that's required - a simple phone call might also make a world of difference for those candidates struggling with why to select Company A over Company B.

Even for those of us that are sometimes dealing with large volumes of hires or incredible work loads and/or even limited turnaround times, perhaps a hand written line or two on that standard form letter could achieve the difference we seek.

Let's not underestimate the power of such personal efforts in a time where communication becomes faster and more automated. The difference could make the difference. (think about that one for a bit.)
Hey, if Coach Lavin says he still has letters he received hanging on his walls to this day - they must have been a little more than just "engaging", right?

Check out this quick video of Steve Lavin's comments on the power of letters (and his love for the iPhone!)

also posted here...

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