Recruiters turned Community Managers? I doubt it somehow...

Back in 1999, I was working on the development of a piece of software that allowed the recruiter to reach candidates that were coming together in newsgroups, on-line, to converse about their specialist subjects. It was while delving into this world of on-line groups that I had a light bulb moment - I realised that tapping into these communities, or 'special interest groups' as we referred to them back then, could be the future for creating a more robust and credible recruitment supply chain.

Fast forward 5 years to 2004 and as the managing director of an HR search and selection business I remember standing in front of the rest of the company at an 'off site strategy day' and saying "the future for us is to change from being recruitment consultants to community managers." Cue tumble-weed and long, embarrassing silence. I may as well have said I had sold the company to aliens from outer space and I was moving to the new head office on Mars. Of course my team were polite about the whole thing, which is more than could be said for my industry peers who wasted no time in tossing away my business card and scoffing that I obviously didn't understand 'real' recruitment.

Unfortunately, despite being convinced that this was the right strategy for the industry and the company, I struggled with how we would bring this to life given the tools at our disposal at the time - the telephone and a relatively 'flat' and uninspiring set of web tools.

"The recruitment equivalent of telephone banking?" Hmm. I wasn't sure.

Now of course, everything has changed. Social media tools and frameworks suddenly make the idea of communities as a source of talent a reality. 'Communities' and 'social recruiting' are the buzzwords on every recruiters lips all of a sudden.

But whilst we might be on the verge of realising the vision I suspect that it will only become a reality for the smarter corporates and perhaps a small number of 'new breed' businesses who truly 'get it'. Try as I might I cannot see it happening for the vast majority of the existing recruitment industry players and I don't think, despite what I'm reading elsewhere, that we will see the traditional recruitment consultant re invented as a 'community manager'. Here is my rationale:

  • Community managers don't 'close deals'
  • Community managers don't work on commission
  • Community managers don't send unsolicited profiles of community members to unsuspecting corporate recruiters
  • Community managers don't have sales targets
  • Community managers are not managed against a rigorous set of KPI's
  • Community managers are not fired after missing their target for a month

Perhaps most importantly though, community managers are, and need to be seen as, embedded and trusted members of the community, not someone who's prime motivation is to take a slice of it's value.

Tomorrow, I will once again stand in front of a group my colleagues from across the business and lead what is the first step of an exciting journey of reinvention in the face of the worst threat to our business model we have ever seen. And fundamentally I believe, as strongly as I did 11 years ago, that communities will be at the heart of that new model.

The difference this time is that with social media frameworks, I can actually see how we can bring the vision to life.

Views: 153

Comment by Omowale Casselle on February 26, 2010 at 1:01am

Your piece highlights great potential for a reinvention of the recruiting model. As you said, with the tools that are readily available, it is possible for more folks to envision the possibilities. Talent communities managed by recruiting professionals have the potential to be far more efficient and effective than existing efforts given the increasingly social nature of the web. In the corporate world, the ability to have existing employees sell prospective candidates on organization benefits or candidates that have been placed by a staffing firm share their experiences will add a lot of value to the entire recruiting process. I'm interestd to learn more about the meeting with your colleagues tomorrow.


Omowale Casselle
Comment by Keith Robinson on February 26, 2010 at 7:32am
I agree completely regarding Community Manager as a "new title" for recruiters and I like your list which highlights the difference. The DNA is just wired differently, funny I could almost say that your list is also the difference between HR and Recruiters at least in the UK.

BUT I see the role of Community Manager within a Recruitment Consultancy or HR as a very new and different role and one that is new and needed - I see it in terms of the "publishing perspective" because for me ( a publishing background) running an effective Social Recruiting Strategy is about many of the skill that exist in the publishing world; It is

- Database Management ( a crude term but a Talent Pool/Puddle or a Facebook or Linkedin Group) is a database of names/information

- Editorial - what brings a group "alive" is content - user generated, "U" generated or aggregated without content you have a "filling cabinet of contacts".

- Engagement - we constantly hear this term but it is true - content alone is not engagement. This maybe is the new element that social brings and makes it so different and challenging. It is the hands on "light touch" element that makes the community feel respected, appreciated, informed etc. It is what recruitingblogs get and do so well.

- Re-Distribution - you want usual to both sustain and grow your community so the networking, sharing and redistribution of learning and content builds and keeps the community "refreshed".

- Management - any community needs to be managed - the community manager.

A long waffle but to me these attributes I have seen before in the publishing world BUT not in one person - we had editors, journalists, circulation managers, marketing etc and with the old world pricing model this was sustainable. But today in the e-economy of social publishing one person has to do all this.

So if you are a Recruitment Consultancy or an In-House embarking on a social recruiting strategy you will need a Community Manager - and they won't get sacked for missing one target!!.


Comment by Alan Whitford on February 26, 2010 at 1:36pm
Hi Gareth

Interesting post. Takes on from our earliest experiences hanging out in NewsGroups and the like, but as you said, we had to become trusted members of the groups before being able to promote our clients' needs.

As to the challenges, you are quite right. For years, we have stood on the stage and talked about recruitment as a sales process - Electronic Arts went that route by building their ATS on a platform. For the Corporate recruiter, this has often seemed a step to far.

Yet, for the recruitment consultant, always judged by number of calls, interviews and close rate, it has always been a sales performance based job.

Keith and I have debated the 'publisher/content' approach for a long time - no matter what we do eventually call it, the Talent Puddle is only as good as the data it contains and the tools you have to access/extract the data - and the structure in place for the recruiter and candidate/prospect to communicate, with the tools/methods that the candidate wants to us. Social media. email, post or the old 'dog and bone'.

Good luck with your transformation meetings.


Comment by Trish on February 28, 2010 at 12:29pm
It will certainly be interesting to see how the recruitment industry changes and adapts. I'm sure you're correct in saying that many companies may not ever get to the point of having someone in a Community Manager type role. But, those that do will certainly have a competitive advantage in terms of how they connect with candidates. I'll stay tuned as this develops and look forward to your findings.
Comment by Peter Gold on March 1, 2010 at 11:57am

Expecting recruitment agencies to become community managers is like expecting England to win the Grand Slam!

You may as well say Librarian's won't make Top Chefs; as pointless as your statement. Surely the question is "Will agencies ever build real candidate communities?" Now that's a debate worth having IMO!!

Comment by Gareth Jones on March 1, 2010 at 1:45pm
Hi folks, thanks for the comments, interesting as always!

Peter, re the question, Im not sure what the difference is or what your point is? In saying recruiters will never be community managers is the same as saying 'Will agencies ever build real candidate communities'. IMHO! And the answer is still no, for the reasons above. Agencies are wired wrongly for that. Only the truly enlightened, and there are so few i can count them on one finger probably, would make the shift. Not sure why the debate gets any more interesting when the outcome is the same? Or do you think agencies will actually move to building real communities? If so, would love to hear your rationale.
Comment by Peter Gold on March 1, 2010 at 4:15pm

The point is of course they won't so why write a blog post. Like writing will sales people ever become administrators. Unlikely. Why? You're a recruiter and know why. Hence my point. I can't believe anyone even thinks recruiters will ever become community managers. Although it does of course depend on the definition of "community manager" which I take to mean a social media community manager e.g. of this network. If of course you mean something else then we may not be on the same page!

I agree few agency businesses will build real candidate communities in the social media sense but don't they already have communities? People who they "pay" and/or place are already in their community? Maybe not a particularly harmonious community but one none the less.

Comment by Gareth Jones on March 1, 2010 at 5:51pm

Lol i have to laugh. If blog posting was dependent on the rules you set out no one would post! I agree with you, but the reason i post is clearly contained in the post itself. 'Community' has suddenly become the word on every recruiters lips, with half of them talking like they are already community experts. The other half talking like they will be running the communities.

One of the key reasons the industry has such a bad reputation is because of the crap these people talk. So thats why i post!
Comment by Peter Gold on March 1, 2010 at 5:57pm
I think we are in agreement :-) I'm sure there will be a new buzz word next week!
Comment by Recruitment Dad on March 5, 2010 at 6:36am
There are recruiters who are currently community managers today! Why does it matter if we distinguish between SM community leaders and offline community leaders? I currently work with recruiters "leading" communities and see no reason why it is not possible for any commercially minded individual in recruitment to do the same. I have also created and delivered a cultural change development programme to create exactly what you are describing, to develop recruiters into becoming the community leaders in their markets. This has allowed them to develop much stronger links with their candidates as a group and individually giving them significant competitive advantage over their competitors. Just because you cannot imagine it happening does not mean that it won't. It will continue to happen without your involvement - that's all. It will only be a matter of time before that becomes more widespread within social media as well IMO.


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