Dear Hiring Manager: You probably only hire a handful of people each year and your recruiter usually does a reasonable job of getting decent people. Sure, sometimes you have to ask for more resumes than you initially got from the recruiter in order to find the right person, and sometimes you get frustrated because he can’t seem to find you anybody decent at all. And, once in while, you go outside to a headhunter. You probably say to yourself, “They’re expensive, but they know what they’re doing!” Now let me ask you a few questions. If you go along with me, you may discover how to work with your recruiter to find really great candidates, with less effort and less cost than you do now.
First of all, how do you define “decent” people or “the best”? Do you have some specific criteria that you use? Do you have any benchmarks or standards to compare against? How much time do you spend in the upfront process of figuring out the job requirements and laying out the things the person you want to hire will have to do to make you happy? In my many years as a recruiter and as a consultant, I find that this is the area most frequently overlooked or skimped on in the hiring process. Most hiring managers I work with are willing to spend a great deal of time in interviewing, often demanding that candidates go through numerous interviews. But they are less willing to give up time to talk to the recruiter about the position before any recruiting happens at all.
This is often different when they decide to use a headhunter. For some reason, when hiring managers decide to go outside, they find time to really think about the kind of person they want to hire. They spend time with the headhunter talking about job requirements, competencies, and past experience. The result is that the headhunter does a better job than the internal recruiter who didn’t have that conversation with you — and the results are proof of how important it is that the recruiter knows exactly what you want. But, again, my guess is that you’re running on your gut when it comes to defining what you want. You say to yourself that you’ll know the “best” when you see it. After all, you’ve been in your field for a while and can generally spot a loser. If you are lucky, you’ve had a recruiter at some time in the past who could always seem to get you the perfect candidate, but you’ve never asked yourself why they could do that or how. We all unconsciously look for certain traits in people and we are usually very adept at determining whether or not a candidate has those traits. What is unfortunate is that we almost never can articulate them. And even though we may believe that we are choosing candidates solely on the basis of experience and demonstrated skills, there is always our unconscious influencing the decision.
That recruiter who always seemed to find the perfect candidate was able to figure out what those unconscious traits were and use her interviewing and screening skills to bring you those kinds of candidates who also had the necessary technical skills and experience. You can help yourself hire better people, and at the same time help your recruiting staff, by simply heeding the following few tips about hiring. I also want to warn you that when you start to apply these tips, you may learn that many times you will find yourself rethinking certain positions — and maybe even finding out that some of your employees are a lot better than (or not so capable as) you thought.
1. Learn about the recruiting marketplace. Do you really know what the demand and supply is for the kind of people you are looking for? Most of us don’t have that kind of information handy, yet demand and supply are what makes it easy or hard to find the right people. Your recruiter, assuming you have a good one, should be able to help you the data you need around this. For example, nurses are in very short supply and no one, anywhere in America, has a surplus of them. This means that it takes longer to find candidates, that it’s harder to get them to say yes to your offer, and that they will get a higher salary than they did a few years ago. Other skill sets may be easier to find, but until you know it is hard to put together a realistic timeframe for recruiting. The more you and your recruiter can learn about the talent marketplace, the better able you will be to know when you’ve found a good candidates and what they should get for an offer.
2. Get to know your recruiter. If your recruiter is new or has not worked with you before, it will be impossible for her to know what you are really looking for. Even an experienced recruiter who knows your specialty thoroughly will have to get to understand those subtle traits that you find compelling. Let the recruiter spend a day shadowing you, and discuss with them how you mange. Let them attend a staff meeting or a briefing. The better the recruiter and you know each other, the more likely you are to see great candidates.
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3. Get to know and nail down the skills and competencies of your best performers. Spend at least a day or two thinking about your best performers. Who are the people in your department you would like to clone, if you could? Try to put why you think they are so good into words. Here are a few questions that you can use: What does this person do on a regular basis that pleases you? What positive behaviors do you see regularly that you believe makes them successful? Are there stories you can tell about a time an employee did something you found exceptional or notable? Take some time to talk to the recruiters about past or current employees who you view as exceptional.
4. Working with your recruiters, develop an assessment process. One of the best ways to make sure that you and your recruiters are in sync on what kinds of people to look for is to put together a process for assessing candidates. You can work together with the recruiter to develop a series of questions or other assessment processes that will help you both decide on the traits, skills and qualities you need. These can become interviews questions and can also be used to measure how well the recruiting process is working.
5. Work with your recruiter to develop some metrics that will show how well you both are doing in getting good people. There are many possible metrics, but the ones that are the most important are those that relate to the quality of the candidates you see and ultimately hire, and the speed in which you got to see them. Establish some measures with your recruiter around quality — maybe measuring how quickly a new employee hit the productivity level you want, or how well they became a part of your team. By doing this you prove to yourself that you are getting the best people and you help guide your recruiter to those people. By taking just a few minutes from your busy day, and by working with your recruiter as a partner, you can improve the quality of candidates and the speed you fill your open positions.