Yesterday I attended RecruitDC, an unconference held in DC’s vibrant Gallery Place/Chinatown neighborhood.  (Large crowds milling about at 9:00 a.m. initially prompted me to wonder whether buildings had been evacuated for an emergency. But no.)  The organizers made a nice out-of-the-conference box statement with their venue choice: the small, innovative Woolly Mammoth Theatre with mission statement including, “to ignite an explosive engagement between theatre artists and the community.”

I had one complaint to get out of the way: the acoustics. The theatre works great for actors accustomed to projecting their voices at 85 decibels to a silent audience.  RecruitDC was a different animal. I had difficulty hearing many of the speakers, even when miked, especially when the audience (as perhaps they should, in an unconference setting) continued to excitedly network and chitchat and come and go, banging the door with each entrance and exit.

But really, that’s a small complaint. The rest of the experience exceeded my expectations. Ironically, my friend Shennee talked me into going, then was unable to attend herself. I probably wouldn’t have registered without her nudge, thinking it was too ‘recruitery’ for me. But I left convinced the day was the best possible use of my time and pledging to drag along more of my HR friends to similar future events.

Stuff I liked:

  • Jessica Lee’s shoes. (Anyone got a picture?)
  • Gerry Crispin talking about improving the candidate experience. Every year, he and his CareerXroads colleagues mystery shop the application process of the 100 best companies to work.  What do they learn? Their resumes are at least acknowledged about 80% of the time, usually with boilerplate ATS language. However, they were only informed of their rejection in a small percentage of cases (I think he said 17% in 2009). And these are the best places to work!  In his 55 minutes, he also touched on branding, mobile applications for recruiting, increasing transparency and respect and more.
  • Social Media Buzz Session. With large screens set up to demonstrate  LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter, there were interactive discussions of each tool as it relates to recruiting and marketing your organization.
  • Sourcing Panel: Finding Your Purple Squirrel. Loved the format. Panelists, including Brett Hollander, took challenges from the audience (“I need a short-term contract recruiter with USAID experience, and I need her by next week”), talked through strategies and jumped on Google to demonstrate search strings. And incidentally, one of Brett’s top tips for the USAID dilemma was to jump on the phone, a theme repeated several times throughout the day.
  • Sponsor Panel: 21st Century Recruiting Challenges moderated by Mary Ellen Slater of SmartBrief. Representatives from, InsideJob, jobs2web and had a chance to share their expertise on workforce trends, how candidates search, deciding what “qualified” means, finding the best talent, building your recruiting strategy and, of course, social media and other tools.

Another theme of the day, considering our DC location, concerned the difficulty of using social media and internet tools to recruit for clearance positions. Interesting.

RecruitDC was more structured, more content-oriented and a little less unconferencey than the two HRevolutions I’ve attended;  I personally thought it was a nice hybrid. Take an unconventional location, add some cutting edge experts, mix in some technology, add some less structured break-out sessions.  Congrats to all the organizers, speakers, session facilitators and vendors; you did an awesome job!

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