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Behind the title- What exactly is a Chief Talent Advocate?

Most people in the recruitment industry will tell you the same story when asked “Why did you chose to become a recruiter?” The answer usually being “It chose me” or “I just sort of fell into it.” I don’t know of a single peer in all of my 23 years that really thought about recruitment as a dream job when they were little. As a child I wanted to become a veterinarian (my neighbor and I even opened a “worm hospital” where we rescued worms dying on the sidewalk), my adolescent and teenage years I wanted to be a lawyer, so naturally I ended up majoring in Psychology. While I was looking for my first internship, I experienced first-hand how difficult it was to navigate my search, I ended up interning for a staffing agency, my mentor told me “you will either love it or hate it but you will know right away” and a recruiter was born! I quickly realized that I wanted to be part of the solution in fixing the recruiting process that is so often said to be “broken” so I switched my major and haven’t looked back! After a short gig in the agency world, I worked for several amazing global companies as a Corporate Recruiter (or In-House Recruiter, Talent Acquisition Specialist, *insert fancy title here*). As much as I loved filling roles and working with the managers I supported, my dream was to purely focus on candidate experience. I wanted to empower job seekers with a seamless job search experience while making sure they understood what their skills are worth and earned the salary they deserve.

I talk about what I do A LOT, I can completely nerd-out on everything from ATS’s (Applicant Tracking Systems), AI, employer branding, company culture, Diversity and Inclusion, etc. until someone tells me to shut-up. It was not until launching that I was able to be in a true Talent Advocate role, so I thought I’d share what’s behind the intriguing job title and do a mini interview of myself based on the questions I regularly get asked by candidates.

Question- “Talent Advocate, is that the same as an agency recruiter or headhunter?”

Answer- No, not even close. No offense to agency recruiters, there are a lot of great ones out there and many I also call friends. Agency recruiters are different in the way that they act as a middle person between the client and the candidate. They would typically manage the whole process, from arranging your interviews to collecting feedback, typically with a fee to the employer of 20% of annual salary. Talent Advocates, on the other hand, are not in the middle, we are backstage. The relationship between the candidate and the company is direct, meaning that the process is similar to when you apply to a company directly and arrange next steps directly with the company. My role is to support candidates, to set them up for success, help navigate the hiring process and coach them through making sure they achieve the best outcome possible in their job search. My only client as a Talent Advocate is the candidate. The other difference is that I’m not paid on commission per placement which means I’m totally impartial: I will never push a candidate towards a company — my role is to ensure the candidate ends up with the opportunity best matching what they’re looking for.

Question- What’s the incentive for helping candidates if you aren’t getting paid?

Answer- Helping someone find a job they love is my incentive! I immensely believe deep down to my core that every single person who desires a job, should have a job, and not just a job but a job they love and can be proud of. They should receive feedback and constructive criticism. I spent many years having to walk the (very) fine line of candidate experience and company loyalty (risk mitigation) which translated to not being able to be 100% transparent with the candidates I was working with. So, I believe impartiality is essential in my role, my advice is genuine and truly motivated by my candidate’s best interest versus my paycheck. I/we are good because we care.

Question- How many candidates do you support at one time and how do you keep track of everything?

Answer- It varies, at any given time I would say 45+. We use tools like Trello that gives us the visibility to track where in the process candidates are. When it comes down to it, it’s about prioritization. Not all candidates need me/us at the same time, — it’s more about assessing where and when I can add value to a candidate’s job search. Some candidates will need a lot of help because it’s been decades since they’ve had to look for a job let alone write a resume; others will have more of a “self-service” approach because they know how to optimize LinkedIn, social media, their resumes, etc. and therefore the process is very smooth, and we typically only speak at the beginning and the end when they’re accepting an offer. Otherwise I focus on what needs troubleshooting i.e. their profile not getting the right opportunities, processes that aren’t moving, supporting a candidate through their negotiations. We do not give “homework”, if a candidate chooses to take our advice, great, if they don’t that is okay too!

To summarize, my role as a Talent Advocate is to support candidates on how to best leverage their unique skills. I act as a personal knowledge resource as candidates go through navigating their job search. Ultimately, my aim is to deliver an amazing candidate experience and set candidates up for success so that they can find a job they love. That support typically includes:

  • How to best position their profiles to attract the right opportunities

  • Identifying key factors to their job search

  • Providing guidance around the interview process (what to anticipate and look for ahead of interviews) typically through mock interviews and coaching

  • Communication with companies and follow-through

  • Feedback and coaching on assessing their options

  • Negotiating salary offers

I always have my candidates’ back and make sure they go through the hiring process as smoothly as possible. And I’m also here for moral support because, let’s face it, looking for a new job is an emotional roller coaster, so I make sure candidates stay confident and motivated when roadblocks occur.

I’m also involved with the communities where we work and try to get out there as much as possible, so I have some face time (facemask-to-facemask) with candidates. I speak publicly with various local government offices in the cities we work on how we can end joblessness and supplement their efforts during a time when so many government agencies are overwhelmed and do not have the resources and/or knowledge to help each unique individual.

This is not a job for me, it’s a calling. I/we have supported over 200 candidates since our inception 11 weeks ago, some have already found a job they love, and dozens more get advice they can use for their job search. No matter how many times I’ve celebrated someone finding a job they love (typically by dancing around my kitchen), the feeling never changes. Every candidate is different, every interaction, every job search is unique and even when they get discouraged and want to give up, I am there to lift their spirits.

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