Deadlines vs. Lifelines

Recruiters live in a world defined by deadlines.  Requisitions must be filled by a certain date, so sourcing, interviews, and reference checks have to be completed by earlier ones.  Meeting those deadlines, however, can cause us to overlook a different kind of line, one that is especially important to our candidates.  I call them lifelines.

A lifeline isn’t defined by time.  It is determined, instead, by quality.  It is a measure of the caliber of the interaction we have with our candidates.  If we miss a deadline, we have failed to accomplish a certain task within a certain time.  If we miss a lifeline, we have failed to establish a certain kind of relationship with a certain kind of candidate.

Why is that important?  Because the quality of our candidate relationships determines the quality of our new hires.

We hear people say “garbage in, garbage out” to describe the need for good data in our decision-making.  The same is true with our recruiting.  Only for us, it’s better expressed as “quality in, quality out.”

What is a quality relationship and with whom should we establish one?

The lifeline relationship is characterized by empathy.  It occurs when we acknowledge the bond that joins us all as people.  We are not indifferent machines or processes, but are, instead, men and women who just happen to be on different sides of the workplace.  Our lives may be different, but our life – our humanity – is identical.

I realize that may be a bit too metaphysical for some, so consider this.  One of the earliest lessons we are taught as kids is the Golden Rule.  It’s as simple as it is profound.  Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.  Or, to put it another way, always offer others a lifeline because, at some point, we may need one too.

To Whom Should We Offer a Lifeline?

Offering a lifeline takes time and effort, so to whom should we extend one?

In a world dominated by deadlines and tight resources, the best practice has become to do less with less.  As the oft heard refrain goes, “we get hundreds, sometimes thousands of applicants for each of our openings, and we simply don’t have the resources to give each of them individual attention.”  Or to put it more bluntly, our deadlines trump our lifelines.

What’s the alternative to such a strategy?  We should give lifelines equal priority with deadlines.  We should offer a lifeline to every single candidate.

For every dollar we spend on sourcing new prospects, we should spend a commensurate dollar empathizing with those who have already applied.  For every hour we invest in using social media to reach out to strangers, we should invest the same commitment in practicing the Golden Rule with those who’ve already expressed an interest in our openings.  For every career fair we attend to connect with unknown candidates, we should hold a “lifefair” with those we have already met in our ATS database.

How will that strategy impact on our performance, especially as it’s perceived by those hiring managers who think recruiting is as simple as shooting fish in a barrel?

Meeting deadlines gets our job done.  Forging lifelines gets our job done well.  Timing is important to our customers, to be sure, but in a highly competitive global marketplace, quality of hire is more important.  It enables them to optimize their performance.  And, if we give them that outcome, they’ll give us the credit we deserve.

Thanks for reading,
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Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including WEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet, The Career Activist Republic, Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System and Recognizing Richard Rabbit.  Get them at and today.

© Copyright 2012 WEDDLE’s LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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Submitted by otavio on March 18, 2012 - 07:26.

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