"With the digital age that we have today, nobody knows each other," Cook said. He recalled how, when he was in the sales department at Cisco Systems, he'd periodically get calls from recruiters asking, how's your job going? Are you looking for a change?
Now Cook is in charge of finding talent for Informatica, a 3,500-person company with employees in 28 countries. Making his job harder is the fact that Informatica is in the software development business--arguably one of the most difficult areas to recruit in right now due to heavy demand for a particular skill set and strong competition from tech giants like Google and Facebook.
Cook said the best recruiter he's ever worked with is a woman who doesn't incorporate social media into any part of her job. She makes a point of maintaining all of her candidate relationships via phone. "She knows who their grandkids are, what their dogs' names are. She has all of that stuff," Cook said.
The point of this strategy isn't just to make your candidates feel warm and fuzzy. Maintaining these relationships cuts down on the work you have to do in the long run, Cook said.
"You're going to continue to be busy because you've got to go through 10 people to find one. Wouldn't you rather go through five people to find one?" Cook posed. "When you start building those relationships longer-term you can actually get to that point."
Of course, there is a very important role for modern technology in the recruiting process, especially once you have a candidate who is interested, Cook said. Applicants should be able to go to a well-designed and informative career page on your site. And whatever application process you've designed for them, make sure you've tested it out yourself.
"If you do nothing at the end of this, go back and apply to your career site. Then you'll probably go back to your boss and tell them how bad it is. But you need to know what pain you're putting your candidates through," Cook said. That's the best way to learn how to fix it.
LAURA MONTINI is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco. @lmmontini