Artisanal Recruiting — Try It On High-Value, Must-Hire Candidates

If you must have extremely high-quality cheese, bread, furniture, or a suit, you buy it from an artisan producer. Artisanal work is famous for producing high-quality and unique outputs because it is done methodically, using traditional methods and by a highly skilled craftsperson. Let’s face it — most corporate recruiting is the exact opposite because it operates in a way that can be compared to an assembly line.

The corporate recruiting assembly line is designed for high-volume, consistency, and reduced costs. Unfortunately, assembly-line-type recruiting that is designed for the average candidate will have almost no chance of landing must-have or must-hire candidates who will be fought over by multiple firms. Instead what is needed is an artisanal recruiting approach.

Artisanal recruiting is a small-batch high-touch recruiting approach that customizes the recruiting process in order to successfully land high-value must-hire mid-organizational level recruiting targets who expect personalized treatment.

The artisanal model is not new in recruiting because almost all boutique executive search firms use a high touch, personalized model to find and place desirable executives. In the corporate world, although artisanal recruiting will work for internal executive search recruiting, it is primarily designed for high-impact jobs that are often in the middle of the organization. These high-value non-executive targets are often innovators, product designers, or great project managers who currently have a job.

Because it requires a great deal of extra time and effort, it should only be used for a handful of corporate jobs each month. But when you do encounter a candidate who an executive must have, it is essential that you have already developed an artisanal process and that you have an already trained an artisan recruiter.

Reasons for Using an Artisanal Recruiting Approach

There is a variety of reasons why you should use this approach for filling these high-value non-executive positions. Those reasons include:

The standard corporate approach simply won’t work — unfortunately, the typical corporate one-size-fits-all recruiting approach that is designed for the average active candidate simply won’t be effective on these high-value targets. Why? Because these in demand candidates almost always know their value. And as a result, they expect and even demand a recruiting process that is tailored to their unique expectations and a recruiter that knows how to provide white-glove personalized treatment. If they at any point aren’t treated the way they want to be, they will simply drop out of your recruiting process.
They must be approached subtly by someone they trust — these target prospects are incredibly busy, and there is a constant demand for their time. As a result, most of these individuals develop numerous barriers that would prevent any stranger and certainly most average recruiters from even approaching them with opportunities. So, in order to make an initial recruiting contact, you will probably need direct assistance from someone that they already trust. That may require you to assign one of your top employees who already know them or who has a lot in common with them to turn them into a referral. After the initial contact by your employee, the artisan recruiter can slowly be added to the relationship.
Relationship building is essential — after the initial contact, it takes a great deal of relationship building to land these high-value targets. Fortunately the recruiter and the artisanal process both focus on building relationships and trust.
White-glove treatment is needed — because in-demand candidates expect it, an artisanal recruiter knows how to provide “high touch” service and a superior candidate experience. Artisanal recruiters have the experience and skills to get these high-value targets initially interested and to maintain that interest throughout the recruiting process.
Sales ability is essential — these individuals are usually a known quantity, so the focus of the artisanal approach is on selling the candidates on applying and accepting your offer.
A personalized process is expected — because often these target candidates have large egos and high expectations, they expect the recruiting process itself to be tailored to them.
Learning the candidate’s requirements — the AR process relies heavily on candidate research in order to identify the expectations and the job-acceptance criteria of each target candidate.
Both speed and slow may be required — generally artisanal recruiting is slow and methodical, in order to build a strong relationship. But occasionally the process and the recruiter must be able to move quickly, whenever the target candidate signals that they are ready to make a decision.
The cost of losing a top candidate is higher than the cost of artisanal recruiting — you may be thinking that you can’t afford an artisanal recruiting process because of its added costs. But for a “must-hire” candidate the added costs are small compared to the tremendous cost of losing them to a competitor, simply because you used the standardized corporate process with its low probability of success.

What Does an Artisanal Recruiting Process Look Like?

In addition to the characteristics outlined above, one of the two hallmarks of the artisanal recruiting process is personalization. Because these in-demand candidates realize their economic value and their importance, they already know that they hold the power in any potential recruiting relationship. As a result, they expect to not have to go through the often tortuous traditional recruiting process. Instead, they expect the recruiting approach to be personalized for them, and they certainly expect to be treated differently than the average applicant. In effect, they expect to be courted (I call it “personal courting”).

This courting and wooing, relationship-building process must also focus on learning, sharing, and professional growth, long before any conversation about a job can occur. The interview and assessment process should require little of their time and the process cannot include a single turnoff or dealbreaker element. Because they are only likely to move if they are offered their dream job, they will also likely expect that their new job will also be customized to their interests and strengths.

What Does It Take to Be a Successful Artisanal Recruiter?

The other critical component of artisanal recruiting is the assigned recruiter. Ideally the recruiter will have a successful corporate track record along with some executive search experience. The individual needs to excel at approaching and building relationships with busy and hard-to-approach candidates.

They also need to be highly responsive and to excel at providing high-touch, white glove treatment. The assigned recruiter also needs to be able to probe the target candidate in order to find out how they would like to be treated during the hiring process and their minimum requirements in order to accept a new job.

The final role of the recruiter is to further sculpt the artisan recruiting process in order to make sure that it meets their needs and expectations.

Final Thoughts

If you are a recruiting executive on the lookout for a bold new strategic recruiting approach, consider artisanal recruiting. You might think that the concept is brand new, but creating personalized small-batch processes is a common practice in sales, production, and as we’ve already seen, in external executive search.

Artisanal recruiting’s premise is really quite simple: when the standard processes won’t likely satisfy a critical customer, you adapt and develop a customized process. In this case, it’s a process that emphasizes relationship building, responsiveness, and white glove treatment, in order to land candidates who executives have deemed as a must-hire.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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