Nicol Kalman, C.E.O & Founder, AIP ConnectNicol Kalman, C.E.O & Founder
Recruiting should be based on trust and credibility between an organization and a candidate. Openness and honesty go a long way in establishing the integrity of both parties and aligning the newly hired employee with the mission, values, and goals of the organization.

However, many recruiting agencies oversell candidates on what the organization has to offer. They’re focused on the ‘sell’’ versus openly sharing the key details about the organization and the opportunity allowing the candidate to make an informed decision, as they should, when it comes to their career. This lack of transparency during the hiring process results in a negative candidate experience leading to high attrition and turnover, impacting the organization’s brand perception.

Canadian based AIP Connect takes a human-centric approach to bring like-minded people together and authentically represent candidates and companies to drive the success of their clients and candidates. With recruitment specialists across Canada, including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax, AIP Connect and AIP Staffing serve clients across Canada the United States and the UK.

In an interview with Manage HR, Nicol Kalman, Founder and CEO of AIP Connect, talks about the importance of being direct and transparent with clients and candidates for a positive recruitment experience. Cultural Fit with the company and hiring manager is the secret sauce in placing people into situations where they can thrive, allowing the companies to realize maximum benefit near, mid and long-term.

Carving a niche in the Executive Search space

When I decided to transition from my marketing career, my boss asked me to replace myself. Our company’s past experiences with recruiters were less than optimal, with a sea of recruiters super-focused on fee-based transactions, with little consideration for the optimal fit. I believed that such a dollar-first approach went against the very essence of what was best for people, companies, and the HR industry. This was the spark behind AIP Connect. AIP stands for Anything is Possible, our true company motto, which reinforces our intentions to really explore all career possibilities for any candidate.

We take a Fit Based Approach integrating client’s needs with candidates’ potential. This is a true win-win-win where the i) client ii) candidate and iii) AIP benefits greatly from focusing on the Fit Based Approach driving client and candidate satisfaction, while minimizing any turnover.

We are not afraid to push back should there be a disconnect in role requirements or candidate expectations to help ensure success for both parties. AIP’s goal is to be the authentic voice of the company we are hired to represent; creating awareness of the opportunity, the culture, and the people within the organizations that we partner with. At the same time, we work to build deep relationships and understanding of candidates’ long-term goals with the ultimate intention of creating a long-term match. These deep relationships with clients and candidates account for a consistent inflow of people approaching us through referrals.

During the interview, Nicol identified three key success factors for recruiting, specifically:

1. Fit and Culture of the Hiring Manager – essential in every search is understanding the hiring manager’s need, operating style, and expectations. It is critical to talk with HR, but the people we place work within the company. So talking directly with the hiring manager is essential – not optional. Within the same company the expectation of the ‘hiring human’ can be very different, requiring a flexibility and nimbleness to be effective.

2. Quality over Quantity – our focus is on providing clients with candidates that fit their needs. The recruiting reality is that AIP evaluates and interviews between 30 and 45 candidates for every 1 candidate that fits the profile, skill set and personality to excel in the position.

a. The ratio over the past year is 40:1 – 40 candidates considered for every 1 candidate recommended to be interviewed by the client.

3. Reducing attrition – Recruiting, replacing, and training is a major cost and drain for clients – especially during this past 18 months. Nicol’s team takes great pride in the reality that less than 1 in 10 of their placements (9.3%) leaves their company or is relieved from their duties over a 24-month period.

Services that Foster a Customer-Centric Approach

When the Great Resignation hit, candidates were in high demand and had to be managed with care. At the same time, employers’ needs increased tremendously where demand far exceeded the supply of talent. This drove the need for employers to be exceptionally responsive and timely to secure individuals for job opportunities, or risk losing them to competitors. On the flip side, hiring directors were extra cautious in ensuring they picked the right talent; they wanted to avoid a poor decision made through speedy recruitment.

We evaluate and conduct a thorough assessment before recommending any candidate. We are very straightforward in presenting suitable candidates to our clients and we are fully invested in the recruitment process staying in touch with the newly hired employee from the time of placement through the first six months of the onboarding experience.

With the influx of remote and hybrid work environments, organizations have become open to talent across the globe. While this has broadened the talent pool, it has also created new problems regarding the organizational culture.

From the candidate’s perspective, the pandemic triggered a much-needed introspection that helped them assess a job opportunity beyond the salary. The demand for talent also saw a spike in salary structures. Everyone started comparing their salaries with that of their peer group, demanding an increase. We have deep conversations with the candidates on compensation and are extremely transparent and honest with them. We regularly challenge both candidates and clients regarding pay scales in a positive way to maximize success on both ends so that by the time a negotiation takes place, everyone is already on the same page.

While dealing with people, there are emotions involved that could affect the success of a recruitment project. To that end, we always have a team of three or four in a project throughout the talent search and hiring process. This helps us garner different perspectives and evaluate an individual through more than one lens.

My career in marketing has driven me to opt for analytics-driven decision-making as opposed to instinct-based choices. We leverage our predictive indexing (PI) tool to calibrate individuals and determine if they have the skills and qualities we require.
  • We treat recruitment with a ‘human’ approach. We believe the right ‘fit’ is out there and we will work tirelessly to make sure we get it right!

Scripting Success Stories across the Recruitment Landscape

A large organization was challenged with communication issues between their internal divisions during the pandemic. To analyze the problem, we carried out a needs assessment and survey across the organization. This helped us weigh in on the employees’ perceptions of where the communication was strong and where it needed improvement. We also took part in meetings with the entire executive team to map their opinions. Collectively, we concluded that a communication leader had to be hired to mitigate the issues. Since the organization already had a communications team, we also had to be careful this new addition would not be seen as an attempt to dilute their positions.

Our team researched, digested the collected information, and created an organizational chart on what the Communication Leaders job would entail. As the new position necessitated more than the traditional job profile, we carefully crafted a new job description to go to market. Our thorough analysis led us to successfully uncover and recommend the right professional for the position very efficiently.

Similarly, many of our clients are expanding their network or the breadth of their market holdings. For instance, some organizations in their expansion mode are confused regarding the right strategy to reach their growth objective. They approach us for advice on whether it is better to acquire a smaller boutique firm or hire the talent to fit their expansion strategy. In situations like these, we do a market assessment on viable acquisitions and hiring options to help our clients come up with the best business plan for their company.

Unique Value Proposition that Drives the Company Forward

I believe our team is our biggest differentiating factor. When I started, I was a one-woman team and offered what I could to specific people in my limited capacity. Even when I got busier, hiring a recruiter for my team from my competitors felt like the antithesis of the job I did.

Naturally, I gravitated toward people from different disciplines and backgrounds—technical, advertising, or creative—who understand and care about other people. It was very important for me to surround myself with a team with similar motives.

Our business model is different. Everyone on the team is compensated full salary, they are not commissioned sales agents; as such, they are truly invested in the candidate experience, taking the time to really help them navigate their careers. We believe it takes the financials out of the equation and allows our team to legitimately invest their time into candidates, work to understand who they are and where they are trying to get to in their career journey instead of throwing candidates to clients and hoping for a good outcome.

We are an eclectic boutique firm that internally fosters team spirit and collaboration. Our dynamics as a team also bleeds into our interactions with the clients. They know we care and trust us when we ask them to consider a particular candidate. My client engagement success mantra is, “I will never get it wrong because if I do, it’s on me. Not you”.