Article main image
Aug 27, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

It’s like getting hit on via an online dating site, professionally speaking, of course. A recruiter digs your LinkedIn profile, he sends you a LinkedIn InMail, which is followed by LinkedIn connection request:

Kevin, I have an exciting opportunity with a new technology provider. I think you’re possibly a good fit, so let me know a good time to talk.

And so I did. Why not? Doesn’t hurt to look, right? Have a quick get-to-know-you date?

Being gainfully and happily employed doesn’t stop you from wanting to be wanted. Any one of us can go from passive to active very quickly, pitting our hearts and minds against one another.

But, opportunity abounds and there’s nothing wrong with a little window-shopping, especially when they reach out to you. This is what recruiters do, what talent acquisition teams do, modern day matchmaking between job seekers with jobs and helping transforming millions of lives hopefully for the better.

What I did when I got a recruiter’s pitch

This recruiter settled in and pitched me. The conversation was short because of my location respective to the opportunities he had in mind, but his economized sales pitch impressed me.

Had there been a timely fit, the recruiter would’ve been involved throughout the screening process all the way through onboarding and then at that point HR would’ve taken over.

And if he was as good as he came across, he would’ve already searched my network shortly thereafter, or had one of his sourcing team do it. Maybe he found someone, maybe not, but marketing and sales are his winged steeds of antiquity; his background was extensive sales and M&A. It looked to me as if he’d fallen into recruiting, like many before him and many after, and his job is to put the proverbial butts in the seats.

But recruiting has always been the job that predated human resources by thousands of years and was actually the origin of HR.

Years ago my friend and recruiting colleague, Raghav Singh, wrote a two excellent articles for ERE (then known as Electronic Recruiting Exchange) about the History of Recruiting, Part I and Part II. He wrote about a decree signed by Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. promising a reward of 300 sestertii to any soldier who brought another to join the Roman army.

An ancient employee-referral program

This is the first known example of an employee-referral program. And, it’s a generous one at that: The amount represented a third of a soldier’s annual pay. It reflected how serious the Romans were about finding soldiers. They had the first known recruiters and faced many of the same challenges we have today.

Indeed we do. Raghav went on throughout history and discussed talent shortages in the Middle Ages and the problems with finding qualified workers gave rise to the first employment laws that set wages and restricted mobility, which was aimed to reduce competition for talent and keep the working class in its place.

Ah, so that’s where the gods of the talent wars bifurcated…

Again, recruiting has mostly been the accidental career choice. Professionals from varied backgrounds but with a unifying theme of marketing, sales and investigative technical savvy are the ones who’ve fallen into being recruiters and sourcers.

However, unlike HR, formal education is still lacking for recruiters and sourcers. It’s largely ignored and dismissed by academia, and yet there’s a growing need for comprehensive corporate recruitment training programs.

Is recruiting the point of HR?

Gerry Crispin, a life-long student of staffing and co-founder of CareerXroads and Talent Board’s Candidate Experience Awards, has been an advocate for decades that recruiting move from occupation to profession, calling for a national recruiting organization. In fact, Gerry goes as far as to postulate recruiting is really the point of HR and the true predictor of successful business outcomes directly related to company performance.

Shally Steckerl, another pioneer in talent sourcing and recruiting and founder of the Sourcing Institute Foundation, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that recruiting is and should be a legitimate career choice, but that it’s too fragmented and hasn’t coalesced into a unified and organized professional association.

He added that there’s not really a formal training program with certification for recruiting, and there’s no unified standards – think American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Today there are organizations like Shally’s Sourcing Institute Foundation that provide education programs and sourcing and recruiting certifications, but there are still too many smaller local professional organizations (like the highly successful recruitDC) and not a unified national or global organization.

In 1999, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) acquired the Employment Management Association (EMA), at the time the only broad-based national recruiting association. The organization was over 40 years old at the time, but had struggled with membership. A decade later the last vestiges of the EMA were absorbed into the SHRM talent management machine.

Redefining “recruiting”

HR didn’t kill recruiting, but it did relegate to front-end tactical work driven solely by economic indicators and cyclical hiring needs.

HR also organized more quickly as a collective entity and has survived ever since because it’s well defined and grew organically. It was needed it for very specific regulatory and compliance reasons (OFCCP and EEO), to protect us and our business from our very messy selves.

If Shally had his way, he’d define recruiting as finding, attracting, engaging, assessing and onboarding talent for available work within an organization. I agree – it’s a globally accepted definition these days both in the practitioner and the solutions provider communities.

I’d go even farther and postulate that we’re all perpetual candidates who are either being constantly re-recruited into their current organizations (engagement and opportunity) or recruited out of them (attrition and opportunity). The point beyond onboarding must include the continuous warming of current employees, marketing to them and reminding them all the time with growth opportunities why they’re here and the mutual benefits therein, and that means a recruiting mindset.

Talent acquisition then becomes talent development and they’re forever bound together programmatically. The core principles of recruiting become the valid and reliable underpinnings of all talent management.

That’s recruiting legitimacy with perpetual balance and ultimately the true predictor of successful business outcomes. I believe it’s time to reorganize the bottom line.

This was originally published on Kevin Grossman’s Reach West blog.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.