In fact I usually find myself reading business-related books and trying to mentally wrap their content around our oddly-shaped industry to see how it fits. Such was the case with the fabulous Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, a book that explores the phenomenon of gut-feeling, rapid cognition and intuition, which I applied to the interview and selection process.
A year ago I reviewed UK recruitment trainer Dean Gollings' e-book How To Be a Great Recruitment Manager, which was strangely entertaining, but nothing to really set the recruiting juices flowing.
So when the freshly pressed copy of Different Thinking by Nicholas Beames landed on my desk a couple of weeks ago, I wholeheartedly reserved judgment. The launch of the book -- a collection of lessons, stories and inspiration from 20 of the most successful recruiters in Australia -- had been well-trumpeted, so I have to admit to a slight whetting of literary taste buds.
Straight away it became clear this was a highly polished and professionally produced publication. The embossed front cover turned over to release that peculiar new book smell, revealing 200 pages of glossy photos, creative layout editing, interesting industry-related facts and advertisements.
Oh yeah, that was the sound of a needle scratching that sonorous vinyl record. Adverts? In a business book? Looking closer, it was apparent they were all well-targeted to their likely primary readership (us recruiters) much like the clever Facebook algorithms throw up ads for local wedding planners once your status changes to engaged. Ads for recruitment software, migration agents and VoIP phone systems jostled for space in between the expert contributions.
Take those into account along with the funky layouts, high-quality photos and glossy feel, and you begin to realize this isn't actually a business book like you might find adorning the shelves of airport book outlets. But looking beyond, towards the racks of magazines, you will find the space in the middle this book should occupy. Neither formal business text nor magazine, it is actually a joyous combination of both. A bookzine. Maga-book? That's better. And the thing is it works. Once you get over the surprise of the layout, the style and the adverts and actually just get stuck in it, those oddities become kind of irrelevant. In fact they make it pretty cool.
The content is pure voyeuristic pleasure for all recruitment leaders out there wanting a look into what made some of their peers so successful. The range of contributors is interesting too. From relative newcomers to upper management in large firms to genuine industry legends, there are some real pearls of wisdom here.
Some things that really caught my eye:
? Andrew Banks (of Morgan & Banks and now Talent 2 fame) on the family motto that drives him: Don't tiptoe through life towards death...
? Greg Savage of Firebrand describing the necessity of ego: Successful recruiters need both ego drive and ego strength -- they are competitive, resilient and tenacious.
? And possibly my favorite thought of all from Graham Jenkins of the Executive Connection, who spots a peculiar personality trait of big billers: The Recruiter's Insecurity Drive is interesting. The best recruiters I've met care deeply about what clients and candidates think of them. They have a desire to be well-regarded and I believe this makes them perform better.
Designed for the way we consume information these days, this is a book purposefully presented to either skim read, read in greater depth, or dip into from time to time. In fact this could just as easily have been a collection of blog posts from individual recruitment leaders, homogenized and sterilized by the editors and presented as a whole. Actually, the main area of contention here is that the homogeny of offerings is at odds with the title of the book. The lessons may well be different thinking than how many other recruitment leaders have tried and failed in the past -- but amongst this group there are not a whole lot of conflicting, or even differing, opinions.
All are asked the same five questions -- the five most important attributes of a successful recruiter, advice on growing a business -- and many give very similar responses. Persistence/drive/passion/tenacity features almost unanimously among the successful recruiter's attributes. Nearly all are very pro-technology and harnessing the power of social media as a sourcing channel, although Scott Recruitment manages the output from Facebook and Twitter per office, and Tony Cooke of Paxus regards social media as a last recourse and (possibly correctly?) believes it still has a long way to go to truly improve productivity.
Different Thinking is a hearty pat on the back for the leaders of the highly successful and profitable Australian recruitment industry. After a near-crippling recession, these are the survivors who have come out stronger, and I for one don't begrudge this recruitment love-in. It isn't a high-brow business or leadership text, but many of you out there will actually get a lot more out of it because of that, I suspect. The book is accessible, it speaks your language, it contains genuinely useful pieces of advice, and for the money (20 Australian dollars for the e-book, and 30 bucks in paperback) it is an excellently produced publication that we should be proud of as an industry.
There isn't really anyone in recruitment I would not recommend this to. Whether you are new to the industry and seeking inspiration, an experienced recruiter wondering how to raise your game, or an industry veteran looking for fresh ideas, you will find all of that in here. I do, however, look forward to the sequel, and will be hoping that next time around it might delve deeper beneath the surface of what makes our best performers tick and really throw up some genuinely thought-provoking comments that might make us all think...well...differently.
Jonathan Rice is managing consultant at Rice Consulting in Auckland, New Zealand, where he recruits for the recruitment industry. This book review was originally posted on his blog, The Whiteboard. Check it out at riceconsulting.co.nz/thewhiteboard.