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October 18, 2004) - At the heart of good recruiting, retention based on personal desire, great customer relationships, solid team work, clear delivery of results and, increasingly, any business success, is the mastery of relationship management. Relationships are hard to develop in volume and many people take statistical shortcuts in processes that develop relationships based on the luck of the draw. The reason that Direct Marketing techniques generally have a bad name is that they tend to treat people like objects as a precursor to a deeper form of relationship. The message in this approach is "if I can figure out what value you bring to me, I will invest in a deeper relationship."

No good relationship begins with the proposition that it will depend on my understanding of the value I'll get. They begin with the question "What value can I give?" They start with the notion that the "objects of our desire" are people first. When they are "objects" first, the very beginning of the relationship is sowed with the seeds of its ultimate failure.

In situations that require people to sift through volumes of potential relationships, the tendency to objectify feels like a quick shortcut to successful completion of the task. Reviewing hundreds of resumes to arrive at a "shortlist" of ten which will then be sifted to an interview pool of three or four is a task that demands sensitivity to data and the nuances of personal PR. Remembering that each resume represents the desires, hopes and aspirations (and sometimes desperation) of a person is a nearly superhuman task that requires the constant availability of forgiveness, a sense of humor and a willingness to see beyond the data. It is tremendously hard to keep this perspective fresh and foremost, particularly in a reactive environment.

Rather than focusing on being "x-kind of Relationship Manager" most ATS systems (or CRM systems for that matter) might be better called Potential Relationship Databases. Like the personals section of the local newspaper, they give a lonely recruiter or salesperson the opportunity to initiate a relationship. It is the process of evolving and maturing relationships, however, that characterizes real sales or recruiting effectiveness. It's a process that can be supported but never automated because it involves the feelings of the person doing the recruiting or selling.

While there are tons of sales training programs that do it, we've looked and looked for either a managerial training program or a recruiter's training program that focuses on a simple truth: Your effectiveness depends on how you feel about yourself and others. All of the sourcing and record keeping programs in the world won't begin to compensate for a recruiting process that treats potential candidates as objects. To the extent that current systems perpetuate the myth that data constitutes a relationship, they are major contributors to the problem.

 -John Sumser

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