Christian De Pape of Recruiting Social on Building a talent brand and not following the plan

Chrisitian De Pape is the Head of Brand Experience at Recruiting Social, a Los Angeles based recruiting firm that is on a mission is to make recruiting about people. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Christian as held over a dozen different positions throughout his career and has a background in marketing and copywriting.  As a member of Recruiting Social, Christian creates high-quality content and interactions that people enjoy, offer tremendous value, and furthers his organization’s brand goals.

Looking back five/ten years, where did you think you’d be by this point in your career? How did you get here?

Even five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be doing what I’m doing now. Getting into the marketing side of recruitment and things like employer branding isn’t usually something that you plan to get into. I, like most people who I know that are doing this kind of stuff, basically felt into it. My background is in marketing and copywriting but I’ve done a lot of other things over the course of my career. Looking back even further though, I actually dropped out of university because it wasn’t something that was appealing to me. I always did well in school, but I wasn’t interested in spending my time in a classroom. That was the point when I moved from Toronto to Vancouver, being initially from Winnipeg. What brought me to live in L.A was that my spouse (who is in recruiting) got selected to go on the reality T.V show, “Top Recruiter”. The funny thing is that when it comes to Recruiting Social, I was actually consulting for them when I first started out in L.A doing things like copywriting, but overtime, they became a bigger and bigger part of my consulting work so it made sense to join on full time.

Tell me a bit about what is going on in the recruiting industry. How are things changing and what should today’s Talent Acquisition (T.A) professional be most aware of in order to stay relevant? 

While I’m not a recruiter, I’ve been seeing a lot of important things happening. Traditionally, recruitment has been a very transactional process and now, businesses and their recruitment functions are having to get together and build stronger partnerships to find the right people to accomplish the organization’s goals. Recruitment is much more of a relationship driven exercise now because a candidate might start interacting with a company years before they ever consider joining. Building that talent brand is more important than ever now.

There is also lots of stuff happening around building great employee and post-employment experiences that people in T.A haven’t needed to think about before. Design thinking, candidate journey mapping and onboarding have all come into the spotlight has being critically important for those in the world of talent to be thinking about and bringing to their companies. We are seeing a big shift from the “filling your order” mentality to a higher level partnership.

What is the biggest misconception out there when it comes to building a great talent brand? What do companies often get wrong? 

I would say that it mostly comes from misunderstanding what a brand actually is. Building a great talent brand isn’t about nice looking LinkedIn banners and a cool careers page. A brand is actually about what your reputation is and how people perceive you. Taking the time to understand who you are as an employer and what traits you want to be known for are an important part to start defining your employer brand, but you also need to spend a lot of time talking to your people about how they feel about your company and engage with the talent that you want to attract. The goal is ultimately to accurately show what it is like to work at your company and communicate the values that you uphold. Everything else gets built on top of that.

Another thing is that T.A often doesn’t spend enough time talking to their sales and marketing teams about how they are positioning the company to customers when trying to build an employer brand. Sales and marketing people are often considered to be the outward voice of your company and they are an amazing resource to have on-board.

What have been some of the most important business lessons that you have had to learn the hard way? How have they made you more successful?

A number of years ago, I took a job as a project manager for a consulting company in Vancouver and ended up quitting shortly after I started after quickly realizing that the role was not right for me. There were certainly consequences from that decision but it made me realize that despite being a chronic planner, sometimes, it is okay to not follow the plan. I also learned that it is okay to take risks and have them not necessarily work out. I’ve had to take lots of risks throughout my career in order to get where I am now and if I had played things safe, I can be certain I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.

What does leadership look like to you? What makes a great leader?

I’d say that leadership is largely about being able to inspire others towards action. It’s also about gaining the trust, faith and attention of others. As a leader, you need to clear the path for your team to succeed and create the space which enables that success. It is not about dictation, control or management. Leadership and management are two very different things.

What would be your one piece of advice for those in the workforce today to get ahead and find work that is fulfilling?

Having done a lot of different jobs over the years, I’ve certainly been in the situation where I’ve felt that I wasn’t making any progress or getting to where I wanted to go. People are often inclined to feel like they are on some kind of trajectory but worrying about that kind of stuff too much doesn’t really help you. It is not always about having a “career plan”; If you learn how to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and be open to all kinds of things, you have a much stronger likelihood of settling into your path. If you are constantly anxious about finding the right career path, it might actually blind you to fantastic experiences that will inevitably arise along the way. As humans, we get so caught up in “the plan” because we are hard wired to do so, but in retrospect one should focus on listening, being curious and finding stuff that excites you as opposed to finding the right, “path”.

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