4X4: A New Take on What It Takes to Become a Great Recruiter

[Note: Many of you have recently signed up for our free August 2003 online semi-sourcing course. Since that happened last August ó it was an old article ó you were a bit late. However, those who attended did learn how to find top semi-active and semi-passive candidates at less than $500 per hire. For ICRs this was done WITHOUT using TPRs, while increasing candidate quality to only “A” level candidates. For TPRs (third-party recruiters) this means you could find more top people more quickly than your competitors and most ICRs. To accommodate those who find this type of information valuable, we will be having another online course this August. However, there’s a hitch. You’ll need to send an email to info@adlerconcepts.com if you’d like to be added to the potential guest list. Due to limited space, you’ll need to earn your spot. How you do this is pretty wide open. You might want to describe something that makes you unique as a recruiter, or why you think this course would be valuable ó but that’s up to you. We’ll select from these responses those most likely to benefit from the course. Of course, as many of you have just realized, this pre-work and even how this note was written is one of the secrets of semi-sourcing. It’s one of the many ways you can find very talented people by being creative. Note to the note: By the way, this note isn’t really a note: it’s part of this article on what it takes to be a great recruiter.] As many of you know, my early career was in manufacturing in a variety of industries ó aerospace (to stay out of Vietnam), consumer electronics (the first handheld calculators), and automotive (truck axles and gas caps). I quickly learned that the common key to success in businesses like these is their ability to systematize every process to reduce costs, to monitor each step to ensure high quality, and to be flexible enough to adjust for changes in production without building inventory. My own success was attributed to two personal traits: the ability to hire great people and leading the implementation of these types of process improvements (that’s why I became a recruiter and now write articles like these). From my viewpoint, the challenges faced by manufacturing and distribution companies are very similar to those recruiting departments face every day. Yet despite all of the hard work and implementation of new tools, there is little evidence that candidate quality has improved much in the last ten years. The future, however, never looked brighter. The tools and resources are now coming together to allow recruiting departments to implement a system for making the hiring of top people a business process. Four high-level, company-wide initiatives are required to achieve this objective, in combination with four recruiter-level changes. From what I’ve seen, if these changes aren’t made, nothing else will matter. Talent pools will just be another false start, employer branding will just be more wasted advertising, new diversity initiatives will yield little improvement, and the new ATS will not work any better than the old one. In the end, recruiters will still be frustrated, and hiring managers will still violate the rules and call their favorite TPRs. The Four Basic Requirements for Making Hiring Top Talent a Business Process

  1. Initiate a formal workforce planning process. A rolling one-year hiring forecast updated quarterly is a basic planning tool. This enables the recruiting department to plan and organize resources to insure a consistent flow of top talent using multiple sourcing channels. (See my workforce planning article.)
  2. Design processes to hire top employees, not top candidates. Every aspect of the hiring process must be redesigned to cater to the needs of top employees. These are people who work hard, achieve results, do more than required, and work well with teams. These people do not apply for, or accept, jobs the way active candidates do. Too many companies design their hiring process around active candidates and wonder why few top employees apply. (See my How to Find Top Employees article.)
  3. Recruiting must become a strong line function, not a passive staff department. New tools and the centralization of the hiring process are now providing recruiting the opportunity to move from a reactive and largely administrative staff function to one capable of delivering consistent results. Recruiting needs to lead this effort by making the business case with hard numbers that hiring top talent has an ROI that dwarfs any other initiative.
  4. Recruiters must become partners and coaches. The plea for more candidates, the problem with moving job specs, and the inability of most hiring managers to accurately interview are symptoms of weak hiring processes. They are also an opportunity for recruiters to become more engaged and influential. When recruiters are seen as partners and coaches rather than vendors, the focus changes from quantity to quality. Fewer candidates need to be seen, fewer errors are made, and candidate quality can soar.

While these four company initiatives are essential for making hiring top talent a business process, the most important is the quality of each recruiter on the team. When recruiters are partners in the hiring process, improvement is instantaneous. Top recruiters solve problems caused by lack of planning. They personally find and convince the best people to sign on ó despite poor advertising, a poorly functioning ATS, or a weak comp plan. Individually, they deliver results, even if the rest of the department is passive. Converting recruiters to partners and coaches is where I’d suggest you start rebuilding the hiring process. Here’s how. The Four Skills of Top Recruiters Recruiters must be able to do the following four things to move into a partnership role with the hiring manager:

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  1. Know the job. Hiring managers respect recruiters who understand the job. On your next assignment, ask your hiring manager client what the person taking the job must do to be successful. Ignore the traditional job description and prepare a list of performance objectives instead. Those recruiters who lead the preparation of these performance profiles with the hiring team are immediately seen as partners. (see my Performance Profile article.)
  2. Find top talent. Delivering top people quickly is how recruiters earn their stripes. There are two primary ways to do this: using highly creative advertising and proactive networking. This is what the article on semi-sourcing mentioned above is all about. Compelling advertising can attract top people sitting on the fence, as long as the backend processing is efficient. ICRs (internal corporate recruiters) must also leverage their employee referral programs to find the names of top people not looking, and then call and recruit these people. These two steps should always be taken before calling a TPR.
  3. Recognize top talent. Good assessment skills are essential. It starts by knowing the job and using my one-question interview (see my One-Question Interview article). This is all you’ll need to be a better interviewer than 95% of your hiring manager clients. The key is to compare the candidate’s track record of accomplishments to the performance needs of the job. By assessing comparable accomplishments using objective criteria, you also open up the position to more diverse candidates while at the same time enhancing quality.
  4. Recruit and close top talent. Recruiting is essential. The best people need at least a 25% improvement in a new job before accepting an offer. This 25% can be a combination of job stretch and compensation. Good recruiters know how to achieve this balance. It requires a thorough knowledge of the job and great assessment skills. It has nothing to do with selling or browbeating. It has everything to do with asking questions and great listening skills. (See my Creating the Opportunity Gap article.)

Hiring top talent can become a systematic business process. To get there recruiting departments must first map out their hiring processes from a strategic business perspective. That’s why the workforce plan is so important. This provides enough time to organize the team and develop the required resources. To pull it off requires leadership and a results-oriented mentality. This is the definition of a line function. Recruiters play a dominant role in all of this. If you’re a recruiting department manager, you might want to assess each of your recruiters to determine where each one stands on the vendor-partner-coach scale. (The scale: Vendors react and send in too many candidates. Partners work as part of the hiring team determining requirements and assessing candidates. Coaches lead the effort and train managers.) If you’re a recruiter, figure out for yourself where you stand. Then determine what you need to do to become a partner in 60 days. Start with the preparation of performance profiles. These are the basic building blocks of a performance-based hiring process. It’s tough enough to hire one great person. Doing it over and over again is how you make hiring top talent a business process.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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