5 Things Recruiters Should Stop Doing

First the good news: many companies are hiring again. Now the bad news: if your company is among them, you’re probably looking at too many requisitions and too few hands on deck to fill them. And, even if you’re not in that boat, you’re probably feeling the pressure to do more with less.

In either case, your team can benefit from persuading recruiters to eliminate the five time-wasters below. By streamlining their work, recruiters will have more time to focus on the most valuable aspects of the hiring process. The results will be:

  • Better hiring decisions
  • An improved candidate experience
  • A more cost-effective approach to talent acquisition

Working Outside the ATS

Applicant tracking systems offer a robust way to manage applicant flow, communicate effectively with candidates, ensure compliance, and report analytics. But only if you use the system.

We all get accustomed to doing things a certain way, and for some recruiters, it’s just too cumbersome to use the ATS instead of their own spreadsheets, email templates, or reporting methods. If this is happening in your organization, make some changes right away. The time it takes to get recruiters ramped up in how to use an ATS pales in comparison to the hours wasted by working outside the system.

Recruiters bypassing the ATS also diminishes the value of the reports the tool can generate automatically. These reports provide real-time information about how efficient and effective the hiring process is at any given time. But without timely (or accurate) inputs from recruiters, the data is bad, the team’s credibility can be damaged, and the quality of the hiring process usually suffers.

Practice using your ATS on a real-time basis. This will help you do three things:

  1. Learn the system better
  2. Prevent the duplication of work, such as re-entering information into the system
  3. Keep details like candidate correspondence from falling through the cracks.

Beginning a Search Without the Right Information

“Pay now or pay later” has never been more true than when dealing with the hiring process. When recruiters don’t get the right information upfront, it costs them time, energy, and even money, later. But it’s not usually the recruiters’ fault when the hiring manager doesn’t have time to answer questions or discuss the job in detail.

But it is the recruiter’s job to make the hiring manager understand the consequences of kicking off a search with nothing more than an old job description or the previous posting. What are the consequences?

  • Days or weeks of back and forth questions, answers, and follow-up questions
  • Sourcing candidates who aren’t a good match
  • Frustrating candidates who are interviewed, but later considered “not right” for the job
  • Costing the company by extending the time that positions (sometimes critical, revenue-generating positions) remain open

What should a recruiter do? When a job opens, the recruiter and hiring manager should meet live — either by phone, Webex, or in person — to discuss the position in depth. Key questions might include:

  • What are the key responsibilities of this job?
  • What kinds of decisions will this person make?
  • What key accomplishments must be achieved in the first year?
  • What’s the best thing about this job?
  • What’s the most difficult part of this job?
  • What experience and education is a must-have for candidates?
  • What qualifications are nice-to-have?
  • What companies do you feel hire well for this role?
  • Who are direct reports to this role? Dotted-line reports? Supervisors? Key stakeholders?
  • Who will interview the candidates?

If your company doesn’t already have a template for guiding the discussion during intake meetings, create one — and adapt it over time — so recruiters can drive consistent conversations with hiring managers.

Not Using Questionnaire Functionality in the Applicant Tracking System

Recruiters often spend hours doing something the applicant tracking system is equipped to do in a matter of seconds.

Recruiters can be much more efficient — and improve their results — by taking the time up front to create job-specific questionnaires in the ATS prior to beginning a search. With good questionnaires in place, the ATS is able to automatically screen and sort candidates as they complete the online application process.

When job-specific questionnaires aren’t used, recruiters have no choice but to review each candidate’s background, one by one. And if there are more than a few candidates on a req, it simply might not be possible to review each one — so recruiters might review only those who most recently applied.

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Again, you can invoke the “pay now or pay later” mantra. Taking the time to create a job-specific questionnaire based on the outcome of the intake meeting will result in the most qualified candidates showing at the top of the list — in real time.

Taking a Passive Approach to Scheduling Interviews

Identifying who will be on the interviewing team — and when interviews will likely take place — should be agreed upon during the intake meeting between the recruiter and hiring manager.

When recruiters know the days and time slots the interviewing team has available, candidates can be scheduled on the spot. This type of proactive planning improves the candidate experience, speeds the hiring decision, and helps ensure that the best candidates stay in the process.

Producing Manual or Customized Reports

We all know people who are energized by running reports and reviewing data. And by its nature, talent acquisition is a target-rich environment for data-hungry people. But if we objectively assess the standard reports that most applicant tracking systems offer, we’ll find that — more often than not — 80% of what we need to assess the effectiveness of talent acquisition is there.

Would more reports — or different reports —  be interesting to see? Undoubtedly. Would they help us drive better results? Arguably no.

Talent acquisition leaders should strive to build a set of standardized reports that meet the most critical reporting needs of the function. This will also allow everyone, but particularly recruiters, to focus more time and energy on sourcing and selecting candidates, instead of tracking numbers.

When managing requests for additional data from senior leaders or other stakeholders, talent acquisition leaders should ask: “What will be done with the information once we get it?” and “How will this new data help us achieve our goals of faster, better, and more cost-effective talent acquisition?”

Taking steps to address these five areas can drive significant improvements, quickly, for your talent acquisition team.

Linda Brenner is co-founder and managing partner of Talent Growth Advisors (TGA), a national management consultancy based in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to founding TGA, she led talent acquisition and talent management teams for companies such as Gap, Pepsi/Pizza Hut, and The Home Depot.

She started TGA in 2004 with the vision of helping business leaders improve talent results leveraging experience across operations, finance and talent management.

She and the TGA team have run finance and talent functions at Fortune 500 companies and have partnered with clients such as Coca-Cola, Raytheon, L’Oréal, Ogilvy, and Expedia. She works directly with companies to align talent strategies that map to the bottom line.

TGA helps clients with talent planning, talent acquisition and talent management current state assessment, process design and implementation services. She is passionate about defining what great looks like in measurable terms and taking concrete, measurable, and staged steps to get there.

TGA recently released the results of a first-of-its-kind Intellectual Capital Index that revealed that talent is the number one driver of market value in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

This finding has talent strategy and management implications for companies of all sizes.

She co-wrote, along with TGA Co-Founder Tom McGuire, Talent Valuation: Accelerate Market Capitalization through Your Most Important Asset, which details the firm’s innovative approach to talent strategy. She’s also the author of How to Manage Self-Directed Employee Development.


12 Comments on “5 Things Recruiters Should Stop Doing

  1. Linda-
    I enjoyed your article and agree with most of the points you bring up. One of the biggest things that irks me, duplicated/inefficient work, is handled beautifully in your first paragraph.

    However, I must point out that your final point on reporting does not apply in all circumstances. You are 100% correct on manual reporting: the more manual reporting we rely upon, the more of a continual time investment we rely upon. In terms of individual recruiters or a small team, customization can be more work than it’s worth.

    However, when you have a certain degree of volume, customized reporting can become necessary. The number of ATS options out there is daunting at this point, and a significant number are big names with significant development teams, but assuming that the built-in reports in any one of these ATS options could fulfill the needs of all firms (internal or consultant) seems like a bit of a leap. It’s my deeply held belief that the best reporting that can come from ATS data is that which is tailored to suit the employees and management that are involved in the talent acquisition process.

  2. Hey Linda- Great job! Very good piece…

    “Beginning a Search Without the Right Information” This is something I had to learn the “hard way” about halfway into my career….

    It is what Lou Adler talks about.. you “MUST KNOW THE JOB”

    Thank you for writing a meaning post!

    Best to ALL, Brian-

  3. Great article! I agree with everything you are saying.

    I can’t stress enough how important it is to be proactive about scheduling interviews. Some hiring managers are under the impression that they still have the luxury of being picky with candidates and moving at their own pace. The market is picking up and the hot candidates are going fast.

    If companies are still having issues with keeping up with their hiring they could always consider going RPO!

  4. Thanks for the article, Linda. Here are some additional suggestions:

    1) Accept that most hiring activity is not recruiting. Professional athletes are recruited. Most candidates are not. If your hiring process does not primarily focus on establishing a relationship before serious hire talks, it’s just plain old ad hoc hiring. If a sports franchise needs a core position player, they don’t usually wait until that position’s actually vacated to do it – they do whatever it takes to link the need and the talent, including moving obstacles to bring about a more efficient deal close (hire).

    2) Automate activities that aren’t decision points. Many current ATS options are just the beginning. Let candidates indicate more about why they’re interested in a position and a company. Right now, most of what’s captured is just what the person has done, but people don’t make the fit grade because they don’t match unwritten environmental factors and foreseeable changes and needs. Let hiring manager interviewers and talent agents (I prefer that term over recruiters) spend time on evaluating decisions.

    3) Put a precise deadlines, success measures, and resources around hires for which each contributor can be held accountable. Some of the most effective hiring practices I’ve ever put in place had measures, rewards, and consequences for individuals who didn’t hold up to expectation. When it comes to filling a position, people have to understand it’s just as important as the other things the hiring manager might have to do. I once worked with a Financial Ops exec who claimed not to have enough time to do interviews because of his real business responsibilities. I told him I’d make sure he got candidates that wanted to be treated like an afterthought by their boss but could succeed despite that treatment. He became a champion of making sure talent was hired and managed differently from that point forward. You can also do this by creating a publicized hiring challenge that puts attention on people who regularly drag things down. No one likes to be the sticking point in a challenge.

    4) Insert eye-opening change to break through sticking points. If hiring managers aren’t making the time for interviews, then publicize that you have a certain amount of pre-qualified candidates who will be available for a limited amount of time. One thing I learned from a friend in retail – people react to sales as much because they have an end date as the retailer has products available at a discount. Making this change ensures talent agents (recruiters) spend time finding people they really believe are good matches for the organization.

    I’m amazed at how little mindsets have changed about hiring over the years. Shouldn’t everyone be excited to build and keep the best team possible? That is, after all, how the best companies stay on top.

  5. Thank you, Linda.
    I also recommend the following to minimize wasting recruiters’ time:
    No-source (eliminate), through-source (automate) or out-source (send away) those low-touch, low-value-add activities that wouldn’t be worth at least $50/hr to do. Some these activities (and the going rates for them)include:
    *Sourcing (phone and internet): $10.00-$11.00/hr
    Job posting/board board “scraping”: $8.00-$10.00/hr
    Candidate updating/response, “administrivia”: $2.00.hr or less. (If you’re spending more than about 5% of your time creating/sending reports as was mentioned above, this would be a good candidate to out-source.)

    If most of what you do consists of these tasks, you should learn to do the activities that are more higher-level like advising hiring managers, finding purple squirrels, or closing, then you should learn them ASAP, because your job is on the line.



    * For all but a few “purple squirrels”

  6. Great list of five points, however I hope that “working outside the ATS” doesn’t mean locking focus through that lens only. A good ATS will make things easier for sourcing, tracking candidate communication, managing the candidate pipeline and reporting if used properly. If it becomes the tail that wags the dog by forcing a post-and-pray mentality for sourcing then it becomes an albatross. Successful use requires human intervention to creatively and proactively drive sourced applicants into the system that is designed to efficiently track them.

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