Using Writing and Speaking to Recruit Candidates, Part 1

I have a colleague—a development manager—who blogs about once every week or two, speaks at one or two conferences each year, and gives local talks to professional groups in his area. He says candidates send him email asking for a job.

Not all those candidates are reasonable candidates for his open positions, but many are. And he’s pretty sure those people will fit into his culture with the rest of the team. He’s convinced the speaking and writing helps him source candidates.

Here’s why. When you write an article, a blog, or a book, you attract people who like your message and appreciate your expertise. (Yes, some people are not attracted—they want to fight with you, but there are fewer of those people.) So, before you even have an initial conversation with your audience members, they already know you and like you—and your work.

When you speak to groups of people, you’re showcasing your expertise, not just about what you do, but also about what kinds of products or services your organization delivers. You can also showcase your process—how your group performs the work.

It’s easier to have a larger audience for your writing than your speaking. But they both play off each other and play off your ability to find candidates.

When to choose speaking or writing

Speaking and writing attract candidates differently. When you write, you can use details of a previous project (changing the names) to show how your team worked or solved a problem. You can teach something, or provide tips or traps, or pose a provocative discussion about the topic. The more you tell a story, the more senior the candidates will be, because they can appreciate your story. The more you teach, the more junior the candidates will be, because they’re attracted to the lessons you explicitly teach.

Speaking is different. When you speak, you generally only have thirty minutes to an hour for your talk. You can still tell the story of an project, or discuss tips or traps, but your speaking will be less detailed than your writing. You need to be humorous and personable when you speak that may be different than in your writing. Presentations are your chance to charm the audience. Writing is your way to impart substantive expertise. Depending on the types of candidates you want to attract will help you decide about speaking or writing, and how you want to tell your stories.

And for those of you who think, “I work with hard-boiled eggs; they don’t care about charm or humor or my personality.” Oh yes, they do. You don’t need to be cute or try to be a standup comic. You—as a person—need to appeal to your audience in some way. Your charm might be humor. In my field, it’s more likely to discuss the vagaries of a software project, or a strange defect that escaped the project team for a while. You can be charming about technical issues. Help your audience connect with you as a human being—which helps them consider you as a potential boss or your company as a potential employer.

Choose your topic based on your needs

Choose a topic based on the kinds of candidates you need. If you want to candidates who can facilitate your strategic planning, write about how to create a strategic plan, how to facilitate a strategic planning meeting, a case study of how a strategic plan helped your company, and so on. If you want candidates who work on agile software teams, tell the story, including pitfalls and how you overcame them, of your first agile project.

Write a bunch of articles and papers about that any topic that’s related to your expertise. Present multiple presentations about that topic (different slants on the topic, not the same speech every time). Different people respond to different messages, so create numerous messages for your expertise. Your public body of work (speaking and writing) will establish your expertise and entice candidates to you..

What each venue brings

You connect with people differently as a writer than you do as a speaker. For people who prefer to speak, writing is more difficult to connect with the audience. For people who prefer to speak, writing is more difficult to connect with the audience.

When you speak, people self-select to attend your presentation. When you write, they make the choice to read what you wrote in the middle of their busy day or evening.

Speaking and writing bring you different potential clients and different prospects for business:

Speaking

When you speak, you can meet numerous people. Your charm and approachability will help you connect with your audience. The more you build rapport as a speaker, the more likely you are to find candidates.

Speaking gives you the opportunity to sell yourself to a self-selected group of potential candidates. They may not need the job you’re talking about today, but if they like you, they will remember you.

Writing

When you write, you have the potential to meet even more people than when you speak. Magazines have a subscriber base and a pass-through rate. Newspapers reach huge numbers of people and they republish other newspapers’ articles. Even academic journals reach more people than a general public speech.

Writing gives you the opportunity to sell yourself to a much larger group of potential candidates, but they have to choose to read what you write. What you write about may not be what they need today, so they may not think of you when they do need a new position.

In part two, I’ll discuss the variety of venues for speaking and writing.

© 2007 Johanna Rothman. This column was originally published on RecruitingTrends.com. Like this article? See the other articles. Or, look at my workshops, so you can see how to use advice like this where you work.

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