28 June 2011

The Expert: Making visible what's invisible

In broadcasting any sporting event via radio or television, most media networks will have two commentators on air at one time. One commentator (the ball-by-ball or action commentator) describes the play as it is occurring and the other commentator (the expert commentator) will provide an analysis and opinion of the tactics or overall trends of the match including speculating as to the motives of the players and coaches. 

The role of the expert commentator is to make visible to the non-expert public, what is, mostly, invisible. Or to put it another way, make what is not obvious, obvious. 

For example, a ball-by-ball commentator in AFL describes a passage of play as follows; ‘Seaby taps the ball to Bolton, who quickly handballs to Jack. Jack spears a low left foot pass to Goodes on the lead'. 

The expert commentator then says; ‘Excellent ruck work from Seaby. Notice how he has been consistently been delaying his jump then using his body in the ruck contests to unbalance his opponent Brown. In this instance it allowed him to get his full palm on the ball and direct it straight into the path of his teammate Bolton'. 

When a replay of that passage of play is shown the expert commentator's analysis looks obvious, but before he said it, it wasn't obvious. 

The expert commentator has the role of educating the audience to enhance their viewing or listening experience of the match. The greater the appreciation that the audience has then the more likely they are to keep watching or listening to the match.  

Given that expert commentators can be paid astonishingly large sums of money (Channel 7 is rumoured to pay AFL legend Leigh Matthews around $700,000 per annum to provide his expertise for around 9 hours every week of the football season), clearly broadcasters believe that expert commentary is a critical factor in delivering strong ratings. 

Reality television shows such as Australia's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, MasterChef and The Block are all examples of where the experts (judges in reality TV-speak) are all given as much, or greater, air time as the contestants. In each case their role is the same as for sporting broadcasts, to provide analysis and opinion of what they observe (or taste). 

The expert's humour, enthusiasm and brutal honesty are all part of their communication ‘toolkit' but count for little if that expert's overall contribution does not increase the audience's understanding and appreciation of the event they are watching or listening to. 

And guess what? 

It's exactly the same for recruiters. 

We are the experts on our topic (recruiting top performers) and we are educating our, largely, uninformed audience (our clients). 

We also need to make visible what is, mostly, invisible to our clients. 

So what are those ‘mostly invisible things' that, as an expert commentator, we should be making visible to our clients? 

  1. The market for the type of candidate(s) the client wants to hire.
  2. The work we do and the processes we undertake to produce a shortlist of candidates (no matter how many or how few candidates the short list contains).
  3. The behavioural competencies and the motivation of the candidate(s) we recommend.
So how do we do this? 

In 1. above, we do this by producing formal salary surveys or by publishing a regular blog, newsletter or market bulletin about job market demand and supply. Also, if the opportunity presents itself, we provide specific examples of effective job filling and candidate retention tactics by other organisations (see my article Do You Sound Credible?). 

In 2. above, we do this by using the funnel technique (see my article How to get more candidates interviewed by clients - the funnel technique) to have the client clearly understand and appreciate the time we have invested, the steps we have undertaken and the skills we have used to scour the market, assess candidates and to, finally, make a candidate recommendation. 

In 3. above, we have the most important job as an expert in recruitment. The primary decision-making about interviewing a candidate is based on the review and assessment of a resume. The resume is, generally, very effective at making obvious the technical skills of a candidate. This is because the clearest indicators of a candidate's level of technical competence are such things as education, qualifications, job title, reporting line and job responsibilities. 

However, as almost all clients will tell you, cultural fit is what really matters. Cultural fit is judged on the combination of a candidate's behavioural competencies (or transferable skills) and their motivation. A resume is very ineffective at making obvious the behavioural competencies and motivations of a candidate (see my article Hiring mistakes Part 1: The fallacy of previous experience). 

This is where the skill of an expert comes in. The expert recruiter, through the process of presenting evidence (see my article The Marketing Power of Evidence) has the client understand, appreciate and value the largely invisible aspects of a candidate's resume. 

Here's another way to think about this issue. 

Imagine a candidate's total capability as an iceberg. What the resume makes visible is the small amount of capability represented by the candidate's technical skills (the tip of the iceberg). 

However the largest amount of capability (represented by the candidate's behavioural competencies and motivation) is invisible, below the waterline (the majority of the iceberg). 

If you fail to make visible what is invisible, in a language that the client understands then you will struggle be regarded as an expert. The consequences are that you will be consigned to the pack of you-are-all-just-the-same resume referring recruiters competing on price and speed rather than quality and expertise.  

Do you know where your opportunities are to make the invisible, visible to your client and thereby to instantly enhance your ‘expert recruiter' status? 

Related articles:
The Marketing Power of Evidence

1 comment:

  1. Nice article Ross. As experts making the invisible visible, to me this is why recruiters have to be partners with hiring managers; its no longer enough to be regarded as brand agents, sales, administrators or 'go-fers'.

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