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Editor’s Blog: #WTF, 7 Takeaways from Harper Reed



Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending Technori Pitch in Chicago where Harper Reed gave the keynote.  If you’re not familiar with Harper Reed, he took on the role of CTO for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and is a self-proclaimed AWESOME guy—of which I have no doubt of the validity of that statement.

While the focus of the event was on startups and technology, there were a number of great takeaways in his short talk and Q&A session that readily apply to everything we do in recruitment:

Takeaway #1: Stop breading homogeneity out of fear. 

The first takeaway came before Harper even began to speak.  If you are familiar with Harper Reed, he’s not the usual suspect you’d imagine working at a high level on a presidential campaign. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, hop over to his website and take a look.

For many established organizations, hiring a person with the look of Harper might feel like a risk, because many recruiters and hiring managers judge the package they see and can’t get past that.  But, being complacent with homogeneity can stifle innovation and breads fear.

In the search for great talent, we have to open up our views of what a diverse work-force looks like and allow people the freedom of self-expression.  In this way, we can allow people to produce at their best by being who they are as a whole.

Takeaway #2: We hired engineers to do engineering #WTF

I had to steal this line straight from Harper’s slides because it was so great and straight forward.  How often in hiring do we get side tracked by a laundry list of wants and forget to look at the actual business requirements that need to be accomplished.  And, how often are people hired into roles, only to be set up to fail when the role quickly diverges from what the job description laid out.

Let’s hire engineers to do engineering.  It’s that simple. If you need an engineer, hiring a consultant or project manager is not going to get the development you need done.  Let’s get to the core of the business needs and hire people to do the jobs that need to be done, and then allow them to do their jobs.

Takeaway #3: Technology is not your friend.  You can’t trust it.

There’s a lot of great HR Technology out there and continually being developed for the recruitment space.  However, it’s only as good and effective as the people behind it and using it.  And, technology will fail you on occasions, because it’s created by humans, and we inherently make mistakes.

Never fall into the trap of leaning on the technology to do your job.  If it fails, if something in the process breaks, not only do you need to be ready to fix it, but you need to step up and keep the process moving in the mean time.

Takeaway #4: You have to have a dedication to the user experience.

If you want to have a great recruitment process, you have to account for the candidate experience.  You may make a few great hires here and there, but if you don’t focus energy on this part, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great talent, and in turn, a lot of great business.

And, speaking of business, this goes for the HR technology vendors out there too.  You may have a great product, but you have to listen to your customers.  They’re the ones using it day in and day out.  If you want to continue ramping up business, you have to listen to and support your clients.

Takeaway #5: Practice Failure.

Harper’s slide actually read: We practiced failure for 1 month #HARD.  Mistakes for Harper’s team could cost the campaign.  Mistakes for you can cost you a great team.  Practice failure and know your weak points.  Train people involved in the process and don’t just wing it.  Candidates spend a great deal of time and research preparing for interviews and you should be exerting the same energy to recruit them.  And if you practice failure, you won’t be afraid to face it head on when it knocks and overcome it.

Takeaway #6: No Silos.

Stop pretending you can act alone without input from other business units.  Talent is the core of any organization, it’s what makes up the company, and it’s what will prove the company successful or not.  No business unit is superior to any other when it comes to recruitment and everyone must work in tandem and get involved to grow an organization.  Recruitment is not just an HR and marketing function; in a healthy company, it is a responsibility of everyone who walks in the door each day to work together to build a brand, a culture, and a team to attract others.

Takeaway #7: Do something to show up on people’s radars.

Every recruiter out there at one point or another complains about not being able to find the talent they need.  It’s much easier to complain than to take action.  And, sure we can all go to events and shake hands and try to chase down passive candidates.  But, if you really want to attract great talent, you have to do something worth remembering that makes talent pursue you.

You have to do something to show up on the radars of the people you want to work for you.  And, when you do hook them, you have to make sure your pitch so good, that you want them to interview you. (I’m paraphrasing Harper in that last statement. Have to give credit where it’s due.)

[As a side note, I can’t stress how important it is to occasionally get out of our shells, our comfort zones, and to not just read, but go out and listen to others speak.  Whether or not you agree with someone, like them, or have even heard of them, you can learn so much from listening to others and absorbing their words and intentions and get inspired by even the smallest things.  Make it a habit if you can.]

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Robin Rayburn

About Robin Rayburn

Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.

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