Chris South on the trends in recruitment across the globe!

ATC Hub recognises that Lucy Fisher is no longer with us, this interview was conducted prior to her departure.

My name is Chris South, and I run a business called prominence. We’re a social marketing and training consultancy based out of Auckland. We help both in-house recruiters and agency recruiters with marketing concepts also marketing implementation. We also do training around how to source and engage across the whole range of social and digital networks that exist out there.
My background is recruitment. For the last eight years I was recruiting across a range of sectors, the last two of which were in the United States. When I was in the United States, that’s really where I got exposure to the changes that were occurring in our industry, in terms of the uptake of digital marketing and all varieties of sourcing channels that were available. So I brought that information back with me to New Zealand, and rather than get back into recruitment, decided that it would be valuable to start communicating this information and all the different tools and marketing ideas that are available to recruiters and share it with the local industry. Now I’m back, we’re already seeing significant trends of companies becoming more clever in terms of the way they’re using online marketing. Also looking at big data, looking at how they engage with larger audiences rather than one-on-one communication, focusing on one-to-many communication. We’re seeing those trends and we’re also helping companies to either lead the way, or get on board and capitalise on these trends.

ATCHubFrom working in the US what have you seen as a difference between the way recruiters recruit over there versus in New Zealand and Australia?

When I was in the US, I got the general impression that recruiter they were little bit Chris Southahead of here. For example LinkedIn has been around since 2002/2003 but in New Zealand it only really started gaining traction late 2007/2008, where as in the US it had had good momentum from 2006 onwards. They were significantly ahead, to such a point that LinkedIn was no longer considered a new tool, or a particularly exciting tool, it was standard practice and to a certain extent wasn’t being used as much as it was being used here. There were lots of other networks starting to be used. In the oil and gas industry, which was the industry I was in, there were specific social networks. Oil Pro was the network from memory, dedicated to that particular niche area. So lots of different things, but also far more focused on branding. There was a realisation there that in order to make either your agency or your employment brand stand out you really had to have a strong online brand. You had to put a lot of time, strategy and effort into building that.

ATCHub So even just between our two markets of Australia and New Zealand, we found that New Zealand recruiters and sourcers are a lot more innovative. Why do you think New Zealand recruiters are perhaps ahead of their friends over in Australia?

Chris SouthI think a lot of it is down to the size of our market. We have a very small market to play in which we have to play. In Australia you can move people from Perth, to Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane. In New Zealand you’ve really got three main centres, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland (Christchurch is very small). So there’s a lot of external movement, with people moving into the country from overseas. Recruiters have to adapt in order to attract those individuals.

I also think it’s the Kiwi way of mind. We’re very, very good at sort of coming up with solutions that are fairy cheap. Cost effective methods that deliver things fairly quickly, rather than spending months, and months, and months trying to build some fancy new technology, we just get on and do it. I do think that it’s something over emphasised, the Australian market is doing pretty well as well but probably isn’t as showcased quite as much as it is here.

ATCHub So what are you seeing in the market at the moment?
Chris SouthFrom a marketing perspective, there’s quite a lot of companies that are beginning to take risks. Measured risks, but risks none the less. Companies which had previously been fairly boring or non-descriptive in terms of the material they were putting out. They’re changing and realising that if they take a few risks they can attract better talent. They don’t have to reshape the wheel; they’ve just got to do things slightly different to what they’ve done previously. Seeing an industry wide acceptance that consultant recruiters need to up skill. People are becoming acutely aware that if they’re not learning how to best search on LinkedIn, or to use these other tools then they’re definitely falling behind. We’re also seeing a bit of some influence where people going back to some of those older methodologies – phone sourcing, attending conferences, all the stuff that used to work -still does work, and we’re seeing more and more recruiters realising this.

ATCHub Chris you wrote a blog on the ingredients of good recruitment training. So what have you seen in the industry? Does it frustrate you when you see these gurus with their buzzwords, yet you know that people aren’t going to get what they need?
Chris SouthYeah I think so. I think I was probably guilty of it when I first set up Prominence. You come in and think that having Twitter is the way to succeed as a recruiter; it’s not. Each industry recruiter will have different tools that will work for them, and ones that won’t. I think we’ve got to be very, very careful of almost negatively affecting our industry as a whole by saying there’s a lot of short-cut tools and things that can do a recruiter’s job. Recruiters are always going to be in demand, whether that’s in-house or agency, we’ve got to ensure that our skills are continued to be valued. These short cut tools and hacks could potentially damage that reputation if companies think there are easier ways to attract talent.
ATCHub Is there something new that you’re loving at the moment?
Chris SouthNot something new, but things like Crystal knows – that’s a way to interpret what someone’s personality is like before you send them an email. I see value in that, although hopefully if you know someone well you’d be able to do that anyway. For me the biggest change is one of the older networks, and that’s Facebook. It really is beginning to gain traction. You can now promote your adverts, job adverts by job title, industry or even the employer they’re working for. There’s more and more people putting their professional details on Facebook and people are far more active than on LinkedIn. That’s where I’m excited and that’s where I’m seeing a lot of change at the moment.
ATCHub What are you seeing for the future of sourcing, where is the market going?
Chris SouthI think that companies are going to become more marketing focused. That’s where we’re going to see more of the art coming into this. Where companies decide right, we need to create a campaign, whether it’s an agency or in house, that is visually appealing. Maybe it’s a video campaign that is promoted through consumer channels, and that’s definitely a change I think I’m seeing happen with companies that are at the forefront, and other companies that are following behind. We’re already seeing lots of companies realising the value of creating imagery to share on LinkedIn, rather than just sharing text. That’s a real change.
From a sourcing perspective I do think we’re becoming more clever in terms of data. In terms of identifying trends and identifying groups of people who would be potentially suitable for us to hire or target, but also going back to the art piece. I think there’s an increased focus on engagement and how recruiters build networks of engaged people through their own personal brand, rather than always having to be cold contacting people.
ATCHub So who is doing this well at the moment? Who are the stand outs who have embraced this futuristic recruitment marketing?
Chris South A lot of it is happening overseas. Every time we look for a case study it’s being done in the UK or the US. Here locally, there’s a number of companies taking a lead. Vend doing a lot of new stuff, Warehouse has always been right on the front edge in terms of employment branding, taking a few risks in regards to their campaign strategy. It’s also mainly about the start-up environments. So, smaller companies who are agile and prepared to make a few more risks, who don’t have as many policies and not as many stakeholders to deal with. Potentially you could add in Fletchers into that mix. They’ve recently done a very, very interesting graduate recruitment campaign where they recruited everyone without actually seeing what the person looked like, or seeing their CV, it was all about cultural fit. That was a very, very interesting campaign and we’re waiting to see the results of that.
ATCHub How do you keep up to skill and connected? How do you improve what you do?
Chris South A lot of it is reading. The more you digest, the more you learn. There are some great communities out there of people who do similar work to myself. On Facebook and LinkedIn there are groups, some of them are public and some of them are private, but there is a lot of conversation that goes on there almost on a daily basis round new ideas and new tools. Personally I try and get to as many conferences as I can, next month I am travelling over to Dallas to SourceCon which is the biggest sourcing conference in the world. Hopefully I’ll take on board what a lot of other recruiters are doing and bring that information back to the local market.

ATCHub The theme of our conference, Sourcing Social Talent, is Art meets Science. Do you think sourcing and social recruitment today is more art, more science or equal parts?
Chris South Modern sourcing and social recruitment is right down the middle, equal art and science. The type of art and type of science that we’re using is changing. Traditionally the art was how you spoke to candidates, how you convinced them to be interested in an opportunity. It was being able to sense if a candidate was good or not, how a job fitted into the market – and to a large extent that still exists. I think the science part is investigating! Saying ‘right I’m after a developer, so what does the whole development market look like in New Zealand? What are these people interested in? What are they engaging in? What type of networks are they interested in? There’s a lot of big data out there that is accessible these days, so reviewing all of that before you put together a campaign or you go to market. The art side of things is more and more about marketing, so the type of visual content, the type of video content that you put out to market, making sure that it meets the data that you identified from the science side of things. It’s having that creative element, becoming more like a marketer that’s equally important but different skills to what we had, three or four years ago.
ATCHub Which industries do you think need to start up-skilling in this area now? Where they’re perhaps not prepared in the ways in which recruitment is quickly changing?
Chris South The obvious answer is that it’s the industrial, blue collar sectors, because they were slower to uptake the likes of LinkedIn in terms of their usage, and we’re actually seeing lots of those people really fly onto LinkedIn, still. Whereas in sectors like Technology, people are leaving LinkedIn. Very, very different audiences. I did some training in Christchurch recently where we ran a search for carpenters in Christchurch on LinkedIn, and there were over 400. I would have expected there to be hardly any carpenters on LinkedIn, so you can definitely see those types of audiences joining those networks. What that means for either In-house recruiters or agency recruiters, is that in those sectors you have got to start thinking about what sort of tools are already being used in technology. But, right across the board, even if we’re talking technology, there’s definitely still some companies that are still working as they were doing, five or ten years ago. I don’t think any of us can be happy being complacent.
ATCHub In terms of data, a lot of organisations collect data but they don’t know how to analyse it. Is there one key data trend that you would recommend having a look at or perhaps putting more emphasis on?
Chris South This really does depend whether you’re an agency or in-house, but the biggest one for me is really understanding your audience. Whether you’re agency or in-house it’s the same thing, you need to understand the specific group of people you’re trying to target, either if you’re source them, or targeting marketing to them. If you don’t get that right then you can create the best marketing campaign there is, but if it’s not shown to the right people or doesn’t appeal to the right audience, then it’s going to fail. And on the same message, if you’ve got a really, really good job but you don’t know how to communicate it and sell it to your audience, because you don’t understand your audience, then you’re going to really struggle to fill that role.
It’s utilising the wide variety of information that’s available out there to understand the generalisations of your audience, but also if you’re contacting one person with a specific thing than it should be relevant to them. What are their hobbies? What are their interests? Are they married? Are they single? Do they like travel? All of those things can help influence them, and give you a better chance of actually getting them into a job.
ATCHub So for people who are coming to the #SST15 conference to see you what will they take away?
Chris South What you can expect from me at the conference, well what we’ll be talking about is recruitment marketing. We’re not talking about marketing your brand, whether it’s employment or agency, but talking marketing specific jobs. We’re going to be going through a real life case study that we did in conjunction with one of our partners where we looked to recruit over 40 bankers across New Zealand into new roles. We created an online campaign that was designed to target people on networks where they were socially active, and then appeal to their inquisitive nature, also aligned with the client’s employment brand. This has been running for four weeks and we’ve got the first set of data through, and it looks to have been a very, very successful campaign. We’re going to give an overview on how we came up with the concept, how we implemented it, and how we measured the results. Hopefully by the time the conference is here, we’ll be able to go through specific results as well.
ATCHub Who inspires you in the HR industry?
Chris South I think there’s an awful lot of “thought leaders” out there in the industry, and I have a lot of respect for all of them. What I really admire are people who are doing their day to day roles. They’re recruitment managers or they’re recruiters at agencies who are prepared to do things slightly differently. There are an awful lot of them in New Zealand that I’ve bumped into, who’ve just done something slightly different, or just tired a new idea and maybe it’s failed or maybe it’s been successful, but they’ve at least given it a go.
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