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Recruitment Influencer Interview Series – Glen Cathey.

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Recruitment Influencer Interview Series -  Glen Cathey

Glen Cathey oozes genuine recruitment industry passion. Which is infectious and I finished the call feeling excited about what’s to come in this awesome industry. 

A true staffing agency veteran. But with a pedigree in running large recruitment teams, as a prominent keynote speaker and thought leader.

Glen Cathey is at the forefront of new technology in our sector. Working for one of the largest recruitment companies in the world as an innovation leader and strategist.

Quick links: 

Q: What’s the most common question that you get asked?

Glen Cathey: So, I would have to say the most common I’ve gotten asked is how did I learn the stuff that I talk about or the stuff that I write about.

I feel like people get disappointed with my response, but I actually think the response is actually quite important and it’s also very encouraging.

It should be for most people.

I think it’s just human nature for people to say, “Oh, there must be some answer,” like it’s something that I read or somebody I follow.

Actually, I guess the unexciting answer to the question is I just figured it out.

Nobody likes that response. But it’s hugely powerful because I learned everything by doing things that didn’t really work and saying:

 “Okay, well, that didn’t work. What else can I do? How can I get the results that I’m looking for? How do I get people to respond to me? How do I find more people when I feel like I’ve run out of people?”

If anyone’s ever played a video game. It’s like if you have cheat codes and someone’s like, “How do I beat this game?”. You don’t actually learn how to beat the game easily.

Everybody wants the shortcut.

It’s like, “Just show me how to do it.” But the reality is there’s no replacement for jumping in and saying,

“Wow. I don’t really know what I’m doing. How do I get people to respond to me that normally don’t respond to anyone else? How do I find people in the same database that other people have access to that they’re not?”

Matt: There are always people that put their hand up and they want the magic dust.

They just want to know that special recipe to become instantaneously successful and not have to do all of the hard yards or the hard work.

Elon Musk and he was talking about how he interviews people.  He will always ask: “What have you achieved?”

Then he will ask that person to break down how they achieved that if you’re bringing people into a business, ask those questions.  

You’ll quickly find out if that was a problem solver or maybe someone going along for the ride.

Q: What do you think the future of recruitment looks like?

Glen Cathey: No one’s going to be surprised and be like, “Hey, Glen. Thanks for telling me something I already know.”

But I think we’re going to see more automation.  I think more augmented intelligence, and I use that on purpose intentionally. Obviously, you can apply some AI.

There’s a lot of opportunities to help facilitate sourcing, screening, and assessment, and to some extent, outreach.

Just because you can automate something doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

There’s certainly opportunities for automation and the application of machine learning and AI to help because the same thing’s being applied to almost every other industry as well.

Recruitment is not going to be any different. Obviously, our product, if you will, is people. But technically, it’s the same thing for banks and insurance companies. Again, I don’t think we’re any different there.

You could turn it into somewhat of a machine in terms of your candidate funnel, focusing mostly on inbound applicants.

Again, I’d still challenge you to say. “Well, just because you can do that, is that something you necessarily should do?”

I think there’s going to be more of a focus on the human element.

There certainly could be changes in companies that are saying, “Maybe I actually need fewer recruiters because we can use automation to do some things on the front end of the candidate funnel.”

I think one thing that probably won’t be going away any time soon. Is hopefully the other 20% of the positions that do not really get filled in a timely fashion from inbound applicants is the human elements. Which is actually recruiting.

Reaching out to people proactively. Getting somebody who wasn’t necessarily looking or maybe wasn’t even looking at your company and opportunity. And then converting them into a viable candidate.

I think there’s always going to be an advantage when it comes to a human to human interaction. Because you can start to read and understand a person’s motivations and then be able to sell to those motivations.

When I say sell, I mean sell in positive way.

Simply identify needs, meet those needs, not sell beyond, not sell something that’s not true. But getting into the person’s mindset and say, “Where are you at and where do you want to go?”

Then say, “My opportunity, my company today and in the future, here’s how that fits into where you want to go.”

Maybe at some point, that’ll be automated. I think it’s going to be quite a way down the road.

In certain corporate situations, use either fewer recruiters or keep the same recruiters. But spend more quality time with the people that we’re bringing into the funnel.

There have been some companies that have shown that you can actually fully automate for lower-level roles.

I think that’s where the value in recruitment is, in the recruiting of that human element.

That skill you acquire over years of interacting with humans.

Q: Who’s influenced you most in your career and who do you follow now?

Glen Cathey: Hopefully it doesn’t make me sound like a jerk. But there really hasn’t been anyone that’s influenced me.

Because early in my career and I tell people this all the time. I honestly think I learned about 90% of what I know today. All the core fundamentals of recruitment. Probably within my first year to 18 months.

I didn’t have any real training. It was sink or swim. A small privately held staffing company, the kind where you hire a bunch of people in. And maybe two out of eight people end up figuring it out.

10 years before there was even sourcing as a term. I saw something about a conference called SourceCon and I was like, “Wow. So, there’s a conference around sourcing?”

I think it’s great if you can find people that either inspires you. Or they share really helpful information that gets you thinking in different ways. And being more productive and effective in your role and also on your career. I think that’s fantastic.

It’s not a single person or even just a handful of people. It’s really the crowd because compared to 10 years ago. Now there’s so much that people are sharing online.

I see some fantastic articles or a YouTube video posted by somebody, I’m like, “I have no idea who this person is.” They may not be a, quote-unquote, “influencer”, but they’re sharing some really good content.

It’s not about individuals. I think in some cases, it’s really more about the community and the crowd in that regard.

Matt: I think we’re in a generational change. Where we Google first instead of trying to find that solution our self.

Let’s try and solve things ourselves and then maybe enhance their problem-solving skills that we’re developing with additional information. From groups and Twitter and crowdsourcing content and Google and so on.

Q: If LinkedIn turned off the lights and didn’t exist today, where would recruiters go to find candidates?

Glen Cathey: I feel like most people don’t get nearly the value out of LinkedIn that they can.

They have so much data that everyone says, ” Oh. Well, the challenge is not finding people anymore.” That’s not true.  

That’s like saying, “Hey. There’s so many fish in the ocean that fishing is really easy.”  And “Yeah. Well, you can go in and catch any fish.”

But when you’re saying, “I need a very specific fish,” it’s difficult because the bigger the ocean. The more fish. The difficult it is to select the right fish based on specifications.

If someone or some people were using LinkedIn as a major crutch. As the core of their sourcing and recruitment game. I would say your fall-back should be your internal database.

I’ve worked with databases as small as 80,000 records. And they have been incredibly productive. Because it’s not just the people you find in your database, it’s the people that those people can lead you to.

Some people feel like a job board CV or resume database is not as good as LinkedIn.

I don’t think there’s any job board resume database that’s as big as LinkedIn’s is in many countries. But it doesn’t always matter.

Whether you have 80,000 or 800,000 or eight million or 80 million profiles. It’s how well you can work that database.

Job boards are like a marketplace. If I’m looking for a job, why wouldn’t I post my resume on Indeed or on Monster or on CareerBuilder so that recruiters can find me?

That doesn’t mean anything about the quality of who I am.

I think there’s a little bit of a stigma that’s existed there for a long time. That you can’t find good players on job boards. That’s absolute rubbish.

You get a job, where do you go first and why?

I think everybody should have an order of operations of where they go first and there should be real data. With driven reasons why they go where they go first and where they go second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.

Matt: You’re 100% right. Five years ago, someone might have uploaded their resume as a one-year post-grad learning their craft. And five years later, they could be an absolute A player. But they haven’t updated their details or their resume.

But ultimately, do you think that comes down to skill?

Is it laziness of recruiters that don’t work the databases. That don’t create some sort of active candidate funnel and reactive candidate funnel?

Glen Cathey: “Oh, job boards are active and the databases are inactive.” LinkedIn’s value proposition was that it was a passive candidate database.

There’s this perception amongst some people that still exists today that a passive candidate is somehow better than an active candidate. Which again, is rubbish.

I still work with recruiters that are saying, “Well, why would I call somebody whose resume is two years old in my database? It’s out of date.”

But they don’t think the same way when they search LinkedIn. And they’re looking at a profile and they don’t know the person’s profile is out of date for two years. To me, that fascinates me. It’s mental.

I reach out to people whose resume hasn’t been updated for years. I have no idea what they’re currently doing. But I’m happy to reach out to them and find out what that is.

It’s always great when it’s a pleasant surprise a person’s like, “Actually, yeah. That sounds like a great opportunity and I have the right experience.”

How do I get the maximum value out of this database and not get tripped up mentally over, “Well, I don’t know if they’re looking or not?”

I think people must get over that and realize it really doesn’t matter. It’s like if I was in sales, say I only want to call people I know want to buy.

You don’t have the benefit of that. You can use some predictive tools for it. But your next big sale or your next best candidate might be someone who actually wasn’t looking.

You send them an intriguing message, they’re like, “Actually, you know what? I wasn’t looking, but you got me thinking. Let’s talk about what opportunity you have.”

That is recruiting. Its is a verb.

That’s taking someone who was not a candidate and turning them into a candidate. Somebody that comes and applies to your job. You could argue that you’re not really recruiting at that point because they’re already signing up.

Matt: But do you think modern-day recruiters shy away from? Is it shying away from that type of work and is LinkedIn InMail? Is it their path of least resistance.

And that’s why we default to that channel rather than going to an inactive database and making a hundred calls? 

Glen Cathey: I love that. I love the question. I think some of it comes down to training.

Let’s say you’re a new recruiter, who’s training you? Who’s shaping your view of recruitment and how do you go about finding people?

I think that’s a big part of it and there can be a perpetuation in people’s careers where they don’t know anything else. Because they’re just like, “Well, this is the way we do it.”

When I started, we didn’t even use job boards. Even though they did exist back in the day. It was all the internal database. Before we started years later to invest in online tools. So, that was really the only way.

When you ran out of the obvious matches. You were like, “Well, I can’t just give up. I can’t say, ‘Well, I’m done. I can’t find them”. That was not an acceptable response.

Necessity is the mother of invention. But also innovation and creativity. When you run into a problem, then you say, “Well, I still have to get my results. So, if that didn’t work, what can I do next?”

If you’re given really good tools, it’s not your fault.

I wouldn’t even say people are spoiled. I really don’t like it when I see articles online saying people that use LinkedIn are lazy. It’s not lazy. It’s a great tool. It’s got a lot of data. We would be foolish to not try to use it.

You learned that quickly. Then you start to think you’re forced to say, “What else can I do?”

If your company can afford it. Then I feel like you’re putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t give people access to the largest, in most countries, professional database that exists.

I think that’s foolish.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Glen Cathey: Is that the best candidate you can find? So, looking back, I know that person was not actually giving me advice.

“Well, no. It’s the person I did find. They’re a good candidate. They match.” But when you put it that way, no. I could probably go find some more people and I could probably find you a better person.

It’s advice because it actually helped me transform the way I look at what is my bar? I’ve worked with thousands of recruiters. And I hope that anyone that listens to or reads this also gets the wisdom out of that.

I think you should ask yourself that question. If you post a job and you get some good applicants and they’re good people and they fit. And you wouldn’t be embarrassed by having those candidates represent your company, you still have to ask the question, “Really, are they the best people you can find or were they just people that fell in your lap?”

If you’re doing outbound recruitment. You make 10 calls, 20 calls, you talk to the first three people. Again, they fit. They check all the boxes. But you have to say “is that the best you can do?”

Q: What do you think are the two skills that modern-day recruiters need to be successful?

Glen Cathey: The first one, I would say is empathy.  It’s always nice to see something come out of nowhere where people are starting to focus on the fact that.”Hey, empathy is actually, probably one of the most critical elements of sourcing and recruitment in general.”

Empathy meaning I can understand what it’s like to be you. I remember these aha moments in my career as they were yesterday.

I was sitting at my desk, probably 1997. I’m doing IT recruitment and I’m working in a database. I’m not getting inbound applicants and I’m trying to email and call people.

I basically hit myself with the question, “If I wasn’t looking, why would I bother to respond to a recruiter?” That was a huge aha moment

If you’re not looking, why talk to a recruiter?

If you really talk to the people on the other end, “Yeah. I have better stuff to do with my time. I’m busy, may or may not have a family, I’ve got personal life, I’ve got work, things are going okay.” You’re not excited to talk to a recruiter.

I’ve got stories where somebody would actually get 200 calls per week from recruiters. I wonder what it’s like to be on the receiving end of recruiter messaging.

If you don’t have empathy, you can’t really appreciate what it’s like to be on the other side.

The second one would be optimism. Optimism means that it’s not, “I can’t.” It’s, “I haven’t yet”.

I may have found an average candidate. But I can find a better candidate. That’s all based on optimism. Optimism, from a psychological standpoint. It’s also people that internalize things because when you’re optimistic, you believe that you can affect outcomes.

People that are not optimistic, and I don’t mean they have to be the opposite, they don’t have to be pessimistic. But if you’re not really an optimistic person or don’t have high levels of optimism. You tend to be an externalizer.

You’ll talk about how difficult it is to find somebody in a particular location at the salary and it’s not competitive.

Yes, those all might be facts. But an optimistic person says, “I know that’s hard. I’m going to find a way.” I think that’s absolutely critical for people to be successful.

Matt: f you’ve got an optimistic mindset. You’re probably going to last the peaks and troughs that recruitment and sales in general chucks at you.

It can be a tough gig sometimes, but if you’re optimistic about an outcome that you can affect yourself, as you’re saying. I think that’s super important for career recruiters. People that want to be in the industry for a long, long time.

Q: Why do you think the industry has such a bad perception and how do we all go about fixing it? 

Glen Cathey: It’s not difficult to find a lot of bad experiences online with recruitment. It’s not just staffing firms. It’s also corporate recruitment.

I think some of it’s a lack of empathy. I think people do the job, but they don’t take the time to think about what it’s like to be on the other side.

I try to flip that switch in them. It changes the way they approach people. The one thing that hasn’t change for decades, which is the lack of follow-up.

With online dating, ghosting is a thing where you just disappear.

I would argue that recruiters were the origination of ghosting before there was online dating. Because you talk to a candidate, you never follow up.

What does it feel like to talk to somebody and it’s like, “Why am I not hearing anything back from this organization?” It makes you feel bad about yourself.

“Why are people not getting back to me? Why when I talk to recruiters and I felt like I had a good conversation, why am I not getting good feedback or even a response at all?”

I think this is the root of a lot of the bad perception that can come about when it comes to recruiting. Which is what’s the experience like?

The lack of hearing back, the lack of information, treating people a little bit more mechanically.

Changing jobs for most people is a very big deal and we always have to respect that. If we don’t treat it that way, we’re doing ourselves and the people we serve and the companies we work for a huge disservice.

Matt: I also think as well that sometimes it’s just people or humans find it hard to deliver bad news.

Often I think recruiters shy away from just saying, “Hey, look. The employer just didn’t like your resume or you’re just not a good match or the interview didn’t go well.”  

Instead, they prefer to ghost, as you say, and just hope the candidate finds a job elsewhere or something, which isn’t the right thing to do.

But as we all know, candidates at some point turn into clients. Okay. So, to solve that, is it some EQ training?

Glen Cathey: A lot of it goes back to the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If I’m in the process, I would want some feedback.

Even if you can’t give me all the feedback, just follow up with me. That’s all I’m asking for.

You could probably have a one-pager that spells out, “These are the things that we’re going to do when we work with people because we treat them with respect, we treat them like real human beings. They’re not just little commodities that come and go and that we can discard and not follow up with.”

The reality is, and this is sad, because a lot of companies, maybe the best that they can do is an automated email response that they received your application.

Now, that’s better than nothing. But the reality is, that doesn’t necessarily make people feel good either.

There was a really interesting podcast that I heard from Career Crossroads and they were interviewing Nick Mailey from Intuit.

In a world where you never hear anything and then they say, “Hey. Thanks for applying. You actually don’t qualify for this role. You might qualify for something else,” but just being honest with people and giving them closure. Obviously, at least with Intuit, they have the data to suggest that people don’t mind being told that they’re not qualified.

In fact, being told you’re not qualified is better than being ghosted.

Matt: If we use automation or technology to free up a bit of time. That should allow recruiters to spend more time on actually building these relationships. And humanizing the interaction and giving feedback.

One of the reasons recruiters always say they don’t give it is they don’t have time. A recruiter’s job is very busy.

So, hopefully, an element of EQ training and an element of technology to free up time for those basic front end tasks.

Hopefully, that’ll improve the industry as a whole.

Q: What are your three favourite recruiting tools?

Glen Cathey: I’m going to go non-traditional. I would say critical thinking.  Because I think your brain is the number one tool.

After that, I would say internal databases, and because they’re always near and dear to my heart. Then I would say social engineering.

I stumbled across a book and it was actually about security and hacking. But when I read the book, I was like, “Wow.

At least 50% of this applies, persuading and influencing people to take action, and that is recruitment. It’s recruitment.

Influence is incredibly powerful because if you can influence someone. They do it and they’re fully bought into doing it.

I would say white hat social engineering in recruitment is just using many different interesting elements of human psychology. That will help trigger people to take action. Whether it’s responding when they wouldn’t normally respond or making a decision to say, “You know what? I wasn’t really thinking about making a change. But now that you put it that way, it might be the right time for me to look for the next step in my career.

Referral sourcing from people, the human to human referral sourcing part is something that you don’t see many people talking about.

There is a whole art, but also underlying science to that because it just goes back to why wouldn’t someone give you a referral?

Critical thinking, so that’s the problem solving, finding a way, being creative. Using your internal database effectively is something that most people don’t do. I’ve always loved doing it, and then social engineering.

Matt: Agree with all of those! And if I can add something to social engineering. It’s understanding the emotional bank account that Stephen Covey talks about a lot.

I think referrals really aren’t utilized anymore.

There’s actually quite a bit of technology trying to get referrals. But they don’t tend to work because you’re not giving anything of value first.

You’ve got to give a lot to be in a position to ever be comfortable when saying, “Hey. Can you give me something back?”

I like to use the emotional bank account a lot. Because I think it’s super important. And I think society as a whole would improve if we’re all focused on just giving to others. I think that’s the best part of that.

I think all of this stuff you’re talking about, anyone could probably take this and build quite a powerful staffing agency!

Q: Do you think there’s much ROI in job boards?

I think in certain circles, especially in corporate recruitment, there’s been a reduction in spending. If the ROI (Return on Investment) is there, then that makes sense from a financial perspective.

I won’t name names, but I know some heads of TA of very well respected Fortune 500 companies that definitely agree with me in saying job boards work.

They’re marketplaces. When you just think about it, it’s a place to go and say, “I’m looking for work. I’m going to look for job.”

Google for Jobs could end up being a game changer.

Just like when you look for flights or if you’re looking for food now. You’re no longer necessarily going to Yelp unless you go there directly and you may not be going to Orbitz.

You can do a lot of these things right within Google.

Google for Jobs is pretty cool.  But it’s no different than before when people go to Google. And then it would take them to Indeed or typically, in the US, at least, Monster and CareerBuilder often on the first page. So, Glassdoor. You just pick your link on the first and second page.

You went to Google and asked for jobs, but now they’re giving you some really good control over finding jobs within that Google interface.

The reality is. Monster has a brand, Indeed has a brand, CareerBuilder has a brand, again, in the US.

So, when people say, “Hey, I’m looking for work,” they typically go to one or more of them and say, “Well, I’m going to go to these marketplaces and show the world I’m available or I’m going to go search for jobs and apply for jobs there.”

Do job boards provide good ROI? From my personal experience, absolutely they do. “Are we hiring the best of who’s available in the market or are we just hiring the best of who’s available in one particular channel?”

Job search itself must change.  I think it’s fundamentally flawed.

I know Netflix is often very popular in many different types of analogies. But we need to move away from search to discovery.

If anybody listening or reading this uses Netflix. The tough part is when you have, I don’t know, tens of thousands of movies, where do you even begin?

You can start with a keyword search, but it’s incredibly helpful as soon as you log in for it to say, “Because you watched this or because you liked this.”

The because is the discovery.

It’s never going to be 100%. But you will, just like with Amazon, you go in, you type a search, you look for something. You see other people like you bought this after searching for that or recommended similar items. 

I can’t be the only person that is walking away sometimes buying something I didn’t look for and I wouldn’t have found from my own search.

That’s discovery.

I think job boards do need to continue to evolve. That’s going to be moving more towards intelligent recommendation engines where they’re going to need to catch up to.

Imagine that type of experience coming out with a job board where it’s actually fun and delightful to say, “Wow. I can provide feedback and explain why this job is not good for me,”

So that the engine could be smarter and start driving much better recommendations that are highly relevant.

So I don’t have to go to page five to find that job because maybe the keyword frequency is lower than the ones on page one. But the concept of the job is a better match for me.

Q: What book are you reading right now, if any?

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.

Some people are probably familiar with him with Start with Why, which is a fantastic book.

A Whole New Mind was actually written years ago.

It was basically saying the difference between the right-brain and the left-brain. And that may be the job market and the roles of the future are going to be geared more towards right-brain folks.

Which is the creative, the big picture, the empathy.

Whereas the left brain typically regarded as analytical, logical, numerical, etc. What he was saying is that a lot of the left brain work can and will be accomplished by computers.

Some people are more left brain vs. right brain dominant.

It’s still a little bit of a wake-up call for anybody to say, “Well, what makes you human?”

Of course, your brain makes you human. But he also makes the case that computers can do a pretty good job of replicating and actually beating you at a lot of the left brain things.

Maybe you should start thinking about the right brain elements. Being creative, that can be more empathetic and seeing more of the big picture. Which are things that, again, today, computers can’t do.

A great read for sourcers and recruiters and those who hire them just to think about that in general and say, “Okay, yeah. So, how do we embrace the right brain elements?”

There are some really interesting exercises in there as well for people that might be a little bit more left-brain dominant to say. “Well, here’s a way that you can start to awaken a little bit more of your right brain if you tend to be left-brain dominant.” 

Matt: With technology taking over the world. We need to double down on the right-hand side to protect ourselves and become valuable or remain valuable!

Q: What keeps you going or what kept you going when you were on the tools? 

Glen Cathey: It’s always been making a difference in people’s lives. So, some people might think that sounds cheesy, but that’s 100% accurate.

When I stumbled into recruiting like most people do, I remember thinking, “Can I make a career of this?  Do this for 10+ years because it’s always going to be in demand?”

I don’t like sales in the stereotypical sense of sales where somebody loses.

Usually, when you think of sales, like car sales or furniture sales, somebody is winning. Somebody is getting something. Somebody is separating them from money, getting them to pay more than necessary for features maybe that they don’t need.

That’s the negative aspect of sales.

But for me, when you look at Sales 101, you’re basically identifying or creating a need and then you’re filling that need.

I always felt good about myself, that when making a successful hire is that we all win.

The person is most likely not going to take an offer unless they feel like, “Yeah. This is the next step for me. This is good.”

Whether it’s corporate or let’s say a staffing recruiter where staffing recruiters get compensated typically for making hires. The reality is you can’t get compensated if you’re not making good matches because the person’s going to say, “This isn’t right for me,” or your client’s going to say, “This is the wrong candidate.” I think it forces you in a good way to focus on, “Well, I need to meet the needs of both people I’m serving here.”

Most people say you don’t forget your first hire. The guy called me back later and was like, “Thank you very much. This is a huge opportunity. My wife and my family are excited about it”.

You’re making a difference in the lives of not just the talent, but also the hiring managers and the company by getting them good people that help them do whatever business it is that they’re doing. So, to me, that always kept me going.

That, to me, was the high.  I’m going to solve this challenge and I’m going to walk away with very satisfied people. And I’m making a difference in the lives of both. It feels great.

Matt: Glen, I really enjoyed your time today. I do genuinely believe that if anyone takes this information and maybe applies it to their agency or a new one they start. They’re probably getting a head start on the industry. But I really appreciate your insights. It’s been very, very valuable.

Glen Cathey: I loved the questions, I loved the interaction. Loved your insights as well. So, thank you.

Matt: My pleasure. Again, hopefully we’ll catch up again soon

You can find Glen Cathey on LinkedIn or Twitter. 

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