5 TED Talks That Every Recruiter Should Watch

April 6, 2017

You might be thinking “TED talks are so 10 years ago.” Or, maybe you still consume them like popcorn. Regardless, if you are a recruiter (or anyone involved in hiring) there are some TED talks that you simply need to watch.

From reading between the resume lines to selling candidates on a job, these five 18-minute talks are packed with information that can help you become more effective at finding and hiring great talent. Without further ado, they are:  

1. Read between the lines of a resume by looking for resilience, not perfection

You’ve read a bajillion resumes, and you think you have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for. This TED Talk may challenge that. According to Regina Hartley, VP of Human Resources at UPS, a good recruiter knows how to read a resume, but a great one takes it with a grain of salt, reading between the lines.

Separating candidates into “silver spoons” given every advantage in life and “scrappers” who fought their way in, she encourages recruiters to not underestimate candidates with less than perfect resumes.

Hartley notes, “A series of odd jobs may indicate inconsistency, lack of focus, unpredictability. Or it may signal a committed struggle against obstacles.” And it’s that committed struggle, that ability to overcome, that may hint at a candidate’s future success in your company.

“Take this resume,” Hartley says. “This guy's parents give him up for adoption. He never finishes college. He job-hops quite a bit, goes on a sojourn to India for a year, and to top it off, he has dyslexia. Would you hire this guy? His name is Steve Jobs.”

Next time you’re comparing resumes, you might want to reward resilience, persistence, and scrappiness over paint-by-numbers perfection.

2. Impress candidates with your positive, powerful body language

You know your candidates are sweating about making a good first impression. But a great recruiter focuses on impressing, too. Nearly 80% of candidates said they’d take one job over another based on the connections formed during the interview process, according to a recent study.

It helps if you watch your body language. “We make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language, and those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote,” says Amy Cuddy, in the second-most watched TED Talk of all time.

This is one of the most popular videos for candidates, as Cuddy specifically calls out job interviews as a prime time to leverage power poses—but recruiters should take it to heart, too. After all, while candidates only have to go through a few interviews for a job, you’re placed in these high-tension conversations on a daily basis.

Next time you’re concerned about impressing a stellar candidate, give the power pose a shot.

3. Hire passionate candidates by selling them on the “why,” not the “what” or the “how”

Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers may not have been recruiters. But they were supremely effective at getting people to join their cause—”cause” being the operative word here. According to Simon Sinek, that’s because they focused on the “why.”

While almost all companies can say “what” they do and “how” they do it, “very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do,” says Sinek. “And by ‘why’ I don't mean ‘to make a profit.’ [...] I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

In recruiting, we call this a company’s sense of purpose. With a purpose-driven pitch, you can attract committed candidates who’ll go above and beyond because they believe. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they'll work for your money,” says Sinek, “but if they believe what you believe, they'll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

Instead of focusing on what your company does, what a role entails, or how a candidate will succeed with you, speak to the job’s higher purpose.

4. Use open-ended questions, plus 9 other tips to have great conversations with candidates

“Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversations?” asks Celeste Headlee, a radio host and professional interviewer. Obviously, the art of conversation is an especially important skill for recruiters, and Headlee’s 10 tips to be a better conversationalist are easily applied to candidate interviews.

“Use open-ended questions,” she advises. “Take a cue from journalists. Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why or how. If you put in a complicated question, you're going to get a simple answer.”

Instead of peppering candidates with technical queries, ask them things like, “‘What was that like?’ ‘How did that feel?’ Because then they might have to stop for a moment and think about it, and you're going to get a much more interesting response,” says Headlee. The simplest interview questions can be the most revealing.

5. Pitch candidates on a meaningful job, not just a well-paid one

Dan Ariely paid a few people to create something with Legos—and then had them watch as he destroyed their proud creations. He then asked if they wanted to be paid to build another. Spoiler alert: they did not.

As a recruiter, you want to make sure your organization is an attractive option for potential candidates. And—as demonstrated by Ariely’s experiment—that takes more than just a nice paycheck.

In his TED Talk, Ariely emphasizes the importance of attaching meaning to work. The de facto and tactical counterpart to Sinek’s Talk, Ariely believes it’s critical to “spend some time, energy, and effort in getting people to care more about what they're doing.” Instead of focusing on money, we need to pay more attention to meaning.

“So when we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing,” Ariely says, “but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it — meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, and pride.”

Recruiters can play a pivotal role in helping candidates and current employees find meaning in their work. Let candidates know how their role fits into the bigger picture of the company. Emphasize opportunities to work on interesting and challenging projects. Promote what makes you stand out from other companies—including your office culture, education opportunities, and other perks.

TED Talks might not be the newest or shiniest things you’ll find online these days, but these five speakers dispense solid advice to help you become a remarkable recruiter.

*Image by Blake Danger Bentley

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