A Profile in Recruiting Leadership: Some Suggestions and a Lesson Learned

Mark is a typical recruiting director. He is middle-aged and has been in the recruiting business for more than 15 years now. Previously he was an HR generalist, and he has a fairly broad background in human resources. His academic life has been undistinguished, but adequate. He graduated from a state university with an arts degree ó history actually ó and leveraged that into his first personnel job in the mid 1980s. He likes working with people and feels that being a recruiter is a positive way to help people and the company he works for. His only formal training in recruiting has been a series of seminars and short courses in interviewing skills, a basic course in recruiting for HR, and a series of Internet search courses he took a few years ago. A few senior-level recruiters he has worked for at other companies mentored him and give him coaching and assistance in developing his current skills. He considers himself to be well above average in his knowledge of recruiting techniques and in his understanding of the talent marketplace. Mark has had to downsize his staff of 20 recruiters recently, and now only has five senior-level recruiters and two support people left. Yet the number of resumes they receive has actually gone up considerably from the pre-downsizing days. They have fewer requisitions, but more demanding searches from ever more demanding hiring managers. Two years ago his department put out an RFP and finally selected an ATS vendor to help them deal with the “resumes” they faced. Unfortunately, they experienced many implementation problems with the vendor, and the system took almost a year to get it fully in place. The interface is one that the recruiters find difficult to use. Its limited reporting capabilities have made it very time consuming for Mark to provide management with much hard data on how his department is doing. His team has been struggling to keep up with sourcing and screening for the number of requisitions that need to be filled. Mark has personally been doing interviews and sourcing to take some of the load off his recruiters. All the recruiters are frustrated with over-demanding hiring managers and inadequate resources. Yesterday, his boss, the VP of HR, let him know that she was not happy with his department’s performance and that she has received many complaints from hiring managers about the quality of the candidates they have been seeing and the long periods of time between submitting the requisition and getting candidates to review. She has given him one quarter to make improvements before she will have to take some other actions (which Mark knows means letting him go). Here are four thoughts on what Mark could do ó should do ó to make some progress and give himself time to make more substantial changes. Develop a Communication Strategy Mark has obviously not been in much contact with either his boss or the hiring managers. If he had been, he would have already had conversations with his boss about the lack of resources and growing frustration. The hiring managers would have talked directly to him and his recruiters, as well, rather than to the VP of HR. Being in constant communication with the hiring managers and putting recruiters in physical proximity to the most important of these managers is a good practice to follow. Centralized recruiting departments with recruiters clustered in one area away from their clients are only successful under special circumstances. Mark should distribute his staff and establish a regular time to personally meet with each hiring manager. Establish a Benchmark and a Standard Set of Metrics To Report Mark also needs to know how well or how badly he is doing. I would recommend that he adopt a standard set of metrics, such as those developed by Staffing.org, and assess his organization against these. The results can be part of his overall communications plan and can be a lever to get the resources he needs. They are also a way for him to focus his effort by helping prioritize fixing those areas where he is doing poorly. Practice Proactive, 21st Century Recruiting Mark needs to rethink his whole approach to recruiting. He is definitely a 20th century recruiter. By that I mean his approach is to think “resume” and “requisition,” and practice a matching mentality. In today’s complex world, this is much too simplistic an approach. Candidates, hiring managers, and jobs are multi-dimensional. It is the overall mix of skills and attitudes and capabilities that make for success. These cannot be determined by a resume search on keywords, nor in a 20-minute telephone screen. His technology is most likely inadequate, as is his overall recruiting philosophy and approach. If he were smart, he would evolve his group into being a sourcing arm that anticipates needs before they occurred and identifies and screens candidates proactively. Then, when a position became vacant, he would have a wide range of choices available. Reactive, retroactive recruiting is dying quickly. Mark needs to develop a talent strategy and take into account existing internal resources, as well as promotional and development possibilities. The Six Emerging Key Skills for Recruiters Mark needs to focus on developing and making sure his staff possess the six emerging key skills for recruiters. Nowadays, recruiters need to be able to:

  1. Create an image and a brand for their organization.
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  3. Market and sell the organization and the functions within it.
  4. Become masters of identifying and tapping diverse sources of talent.
  5. Understand the power of competitive intelligence.
  6. Focus on relationships and candidate experience to build talent pools or communities.
  7. Measure the impact of what they do.

Mark may not survive, and many other 20th century recruiting directors won’t either. Change is difficult and the path is never perfectly clear. Success, however, lies in embarking on the journey with the realization that the map is less than perfect. The only certainty in this story is that the hiring managers will figure out a way to get the people they need ó one way or the other. Why not join them in the search?

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


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