Joe Burridge is one of those rare recruiters who has really understood how to build a personal brand. He knows the power of online and with an impressive following across Twitter and Instagram, he’s created an engaged audience that is ready to chat, laugh, and help out in the hiring process. We sat down for a chat and as always, it was an opportunity I relished because talking to the recruiters who are shaking things up, leveraging the internet and really passionate about the recruiting experience is always like taking a breath of fresh air. Check out Joe’s blog here.
Matt: How’s things going?
Joe: Yeah all good. Been a whirlwind time recently as I bought a house, outside of London obviously because you have to be pretty rich to afford even a shoebox property, and then started at EA in Guilford, all within three or four weeks of each other, so it’s been hectic.
Matt: So you’re in Guilford and out of the city hustle?
Joe: Pretty much. London has the most video game talent, but they’re mostly smaller game studios. Plus, it’s cheaper to have a 300 person office here….
Matt: Of course. We’ll be based out in San Francisco which is the hub of tech talent, but it’s so expensive everyone seems to be moving away from the center and looking for regional spots, similar to Guilford.
Matt: So in other news, you’ve amassed quite a following online, what’s your strategy there and how did it all come about?
Joe: Whenever I get asked this I usually say it’s down to making sure that everything I do online feeds into at least one other source minimum. What I mean by that is, if I drive more views to my website, then because I’ve got all my other links there it drives views to those platforms such as Twitter. If people go to my LinkedIn profile they can perhaps get to my Instagram. So just making sure these are all super connected so wherever you’re pushing views at that given time, whether it’s through a written article or a video or speaking at a conference, they’re always linking back to one another. So that’s one thing.
Joe: But really, it started about four and a half years ago when I just really wanted to write. For example, I was going to do a Masters in journalism but I was sick of studying when I finished my undergrad so I didn’t, but that urge to write and tell a story never left me so I just started my blog. I also had a mate who was a social media manager which is always handy and he gave me tips about promoting my Twitter, which is really what boosted everything. Something as simple as having an automated message on Twitter like, ‘Hey, appreciate the follow, perhaps we could connect professionally on LinkedIn too.’ So just before Christmas I maxed out my LinkedIn connections which is pretty annoying but also kind of cool.
Matt: I didn’t know there was even a maximum. I’m clearly not at that stage yet.
Joe: Ha, yeah 30,000 is the maximum connections you can have. So Twitter really helped that and I used to focus on growing Twitter, but Twitter is dying so I’m focusing on Instagram.
Matt: That’s a big statement.
Joe: I know but Instagram is actually really cool. Now it’s really common to connect with people professionally on Instagram and in terms of social networks, I think leveraging that one has to be key.
Matt: It’s interesting applying the role of recruitment to Instagram. It’s not the most obvious fit, but that probably provides the greatest opportunity. It’s a little bit of white space.
Joe: Definitely. I’ve always said to recruiters, try and promote their social channels. The whole point of it is that the more people who know who I am and what I do and who I recruit for, then that’s only a good thing because the bi-product of that is that I’m going to connect with people I can make warm introductions with or people are going to get in touch with me.
Matt: And what do you post on Instagram, because naturally it’s built for photos. I can’t imagine pictures of the office are too interesting.
Joe: Of course not, but I always say just post interesting things, whether it’s about your personal life or about the company you work for. It doesn’t have to be posting jobs. I don’t do that unless it’s on LinkedIn where it’s appropriate.
Matt: What’s the most common question you get asked?
Joe: From candidates it’s always, ‘what’s the culture like at EA?’ It’s the most common, but also the hardest to answer because I think culture is very subjective. Plus, you have to really work here for quite some time to fully understand the culture.
Matt: So what do you tell them?
Joe: I just try to give a really honest account of what it’s like working here, all the great stuff we do, but also some of the not so great stuff to make sure you’re giving candidates the truthful answers. They don’t want just constant positivity because they can get that online, they’re looking for nuggets of insight.
Matt: What do you think candidates should be asking?
Joe: Probably something like, ‘what’s great about working here, and what’s not so great?’ Or maybe even ‘where could the company improve on a day-to-day basis, or where could the role improve.’
Joe: That question is asking for an honest answer and to hear the other side of the story because no job or company is perfect. It’s just good to try and understand everything you can before going into a position. Candidate experience is super important, but I’m not here to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. That can lead to demotivation and bad retention.
Matt: Where do you see recruitment going in the next three to five years?
Joe: Well naturally everyone mentions AI and robotics here, which is definitely at the forefront of people’s minds, but what that actually means for recruitment is that we’ll see tools come in that will help recruiters review applications and assess talent. Taking that manual labour out of recruitment. We also need something all-encompassing. So you might have a great ATS but it’s doesn’t schedule interviews or send out candidate surveys. You can’t interact with hiring managers and you need so many separate tools and logins. The dream would be for someone to make a massive tool that combines everything. Maybe that’s naive, but if a business could do that well then that would be incredibly successful. But essentially, the future is about taking the manual steps out of recruiting and making everything accessible in one place.
Matt: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in recruitment in the past, and what are you facing now?
My gut reaction is not being able to find good people. But it’s not to do with a lack of talent, but rather the talent hiding themselves. The really exceptional candidates get hounded so they don’t want to be socially present, but they do also want to promote the work they’re doing. So really, the challenge is about adapting to try and figure out where the talent is going and where they’re spending their time. So that’s a huge challenge and will continue to be so. You’ve got to think much more creatively now.
Matt: Any others?
Joe: God yeah! A big one is making sure you’re researching new areas and understanding how people can transition into them. When I talk to people and ask them what the future of work looks like, so many of them say that most of their jobs haven’t been created yet. But they will, and it’s important to keep an eye out for them when they come along. That’s where recrutiers can really add value to a business.
Matt: Do you think there’s a change from traditional ‘what has this person done’ to looking at skills and competency?
Joe: Yes and no. The desire to have great skills you need is still there. For example, I was recruiting for engineer roles in Galway, and we needed skills that have been around for a long time, like C# software engineers. That’s pretty typical. But talking about game studios and the R&D teams, you need to not kid yourself and look for the Holy Grail and instead understand where you can be flexible with skills.
Joe: Hiring managers will always say what they need is set in stone, but if you present them with someone who is bright, passionate and has proven they can learn quickly and love self-learning, then they’ll hire them more times than not because you can bank on them in the future.
Matt: So we need to educate hiring managers to find people who can do the job rather than someone who’s done the job?
Joe: Exactly. A good recruiter should always be having a consultative approach with hiring managers, training them how to interview etc.
Matt: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Joe: I think a reverse bit of advice is true for me. When I was working agency you’d hear the phrase, ‘if in doubt, send it out’ loads. But actually I think a weak and unsure yes should always be a no. It sounds like rejecting more candidates, but actually what it does is improve the quality of your assessment and you save time by not pushing through people who aren’t going to get the position anyway.
Matt: What two skills do you think recruiters today need to be successful?
Joe: I think a good marketer, and that’s specifically social media. The people know who you are and who you recruit for, the easier your job becomes. Secondly, I think it’s knowing how to utilize your audience/connections/network. There’s no point in bragging about how many followers you have if you don’t use them to make hires.
Matt: Why do you think recruitment has such a bad perception and how do we fix it?
Joe: I think it all stems from the agency side. It sounds harsh, and I really loved working in agency, but when you start dehumanizing things and thinking about humans in terms of KPIs and placements, you start making poor decisions.
Matt: So how do we fix that?
Joe: I think it goes back to using more automated tools. People get frustrated when they don’t hear back and feedback is slow, so if you can provide recruiters with the tools to make sure they’re constantly keeping in touch with candidates that’s going to make everyone happier and in turn change the perception and promote the industry.
Matt: Everyone has rough days in recruitment, what keeps you going through them?
Joe: I think it’s when you make great hires and see the result of those hires. For example, seeing someone you’ve hired rise quickly to director level, or win a bunch of awards for that business, that’s incredibly satisfying. Also now I’m working at EA I’m recruiting people who will make the games I play and love, and seeing their names roll up on the credits will be awesome.
What do you think of job boards? Do they still have a place and do they provide a good return on investment?
Joe: I haven’t had a good return on job boards in many years if I’m honest. I don’t see the value in them. Maybe there are in certain industries, but I don’t find the best talent on them. If I hiring manager told me they had some money for hiring, the last place I’d put it is on a job board. In Galway our recruiters used Facebook marketing which was half the price of job boards and made four hires.
Matt: If you could call bullshit on one myth related to recruitment, what would it be?
Joe: I was explaining to my uncle the other day what I did for a living, and he said, ‘oh that sounds pretty easy’ so I think it would be that one. The idea that recruitment is easy.
Matt: A random one, but what book are you reading right now?
Joe: I used to read loads on the tube, but now I’m driving to work I’ve switched to podcasts. I love the Recruiting Futures podcast. I’ve also just picked up a book by Lou Adler called ‘Hire with Your Head’ so looking forward to that.
Director / Co-Founder • San Francisco