Better Recruiter Assessment

It’s time to rethink how recruiters are being assessed, throwing away many traditional metrics, Linda Brenner said today at her pre-conference ERE workshop in Hollywood, Florida.

Brenner advocated what’s called an “assessment center” approach. Originally developed in 1956 for AT&T for hiring/promotion screening, assessment centers are intensive, multi-part testing and evaluation processes.

To make them work, Brenner says you’ll need several things.

Linda Brenner

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the core competencies required for success in the job, whether it be for a recruiting coordinator or a director. You’ll have to have the ability to simulate those competencies, and to objectively evaluate the range of performance from fair to poor. Lastly, you’ll need to go in with the intention of taking action based on the results of the assessments.

One participant in today’s workshop said her recruiting department used an assessment-center approach, and realized that some results surprised her — and some did not. The people she thought were the “good sourcers” did indeed turn out to be good, and the “bad sourcers” did measure poorly. Across the board, however, among many of the company’s recruiters, interview skills fell surprisingly short.

How Time’s Spent

Brenner said that figuring out how recruiters spend their time (a topic she has written about before), and whether that’s creating the results you’re looking for, is a good thing to start thinking about when examining your metrics and moving to an assessment-center approach.

Indeed, one workshop participant said her recruiters spend about 50% of their time “babysitting clients.” Another said her recruiters spend 40-50% of their time on scheduling. One of Brenner’s clients will get some huge number of applicants, like 1,000, for relatively low-level jobs, a deluge that can suck up a lot time that could be spent otherwise.

Kim Rutledge

Similarly, Kim Rutledge, an ex-talent acquisition director at Dell who conducted the workshop with Brenner (and who now works at Brenner’s firm), said she has seen recruiters spend large amounts of time — some of which could be more automated — on background checks.

Anyhow, what should recruiters do with their time? Rutledge asked this of workshop participants, whose answers included:

  • Most time should be spent sourcing and pre-qualifying candidates
  • A sizable portion of time should involve acting as a consultant to clients
  • Recruiting teams should make sure the company’s technology is working efficiently and efficiently (said one participant, who’s company is moving to Kenexa).
  • Strategic issues, such as workforce planning, should dominate

Most Important Behaviors

In addition to the discussion of time management, Brenner and Rutledge said companies should ask themselves what the most critical recruiting behaviors and competencies were. Some answers from participants:

  • Ability to influence others
  • Ability to identify talent
  • Listening
  • Business acumen
  • Creative thinking
  • Relationship-building
  • Driving results
  • In some companies, the ability to change and be flexible
  • Interviewing
  • Negotiation
  • Change-management

Most Important Skills

Attendees then listed the skills they think are most critical in recruiters. Some common answers:

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  • Cold-calling
  • Sourcing
  • Conversion of candidates
  • Selection of candidates/assessing talent
  • Engaging candidates and clients
  • CRM management

Brenner and Rutledge suggested that — after you make these two lists for your company — you winnow it down to a list of the five or so most critical items.

What “Great” Looks Like

At this point, Brenner suggests companies build a simulation to measure these most critical items. If sourcing, for example, is designated as critical, you could build a simulation for a district manager job, asking recruiters to build a sourcing plan to find district managers who are passive job seekers, ultimately identifying three to six passive candidates with as much information as they can get on them.

You’ll need to be able to measure results, Brenner says: to know what “great” looks like. As an example, a five-point scale could be used to measure how well someone did on the sourcing simulation. If merely posting a job-board ad was their solution, they’ll end up closer to a one. If their approach to finding the passive candidates was varied and creative, involving networking, references, the Internet, professional organizations, and more, and they could explain how the information they got on the passive candidates made them relevant to the open job, they’re going to be closer to a five.

That’s an example of a simulation for sourcing. Assuming “selecting talent” was one of your most important recruiting traits, you might set up a simulation for, say, a marketing manager, involving talent selection. Assessment-center participants would read information about the company and the role, review resumes, choose the most qualified, prepare for an interview, sell the company to the candidate, and more.

You’d evaluate whether the person prepared well for the interview; followed a clear flow; probed appropriately and effectively; sold the company well and had a strong “close”; and explained and defended well the decision to move the candidate forward.

Brenner suggests giving assessment center feedback as soon as possible, and providing coaching to participants one on one. After that, recruiters can get a development plan with specific goals, timelines, success measures, partners available for coaching and feedback, and more. Leaders should hold recruiters accountable for building plans and showing progress.

Assessment center data can be sorted by best-to-worst score, or by tenure in role, or tenure in the company, by function, by geography, and other ways.


13 Comments on “Better Recruiter Assessment

  1. Great article… Less than 5% of the recruiter’s I have worked with internally/externally possess the “Most Important Skills” and “most” (not all) work as external Third Party Recruiters, and earn/bill 250k-1M+ Per Year. In my view, Corps will never be able to hire folks with the accomplished “most important skills”, because talent acquisition is typically not considered a “profit center”, which is a contradictory view point… The day CORPS start paying internal recruiter’s for “results” is the day I need to be concerned for my business…. Best to ALL, Brian-

  2. Interesting comments, but take them a step further by noting what metrics matter most and why. In baseball, some teams get carried away with the wrong metrics (ERA, Win-Loss, batting average, home runs, etc.). Instead they should be focused on how a player fits the organization structure.

    Why have a home run slugger in a lineup that doesn’t have players before and after that get on base and drive runs in perspectively. In HR and recruiting, it’s important to have the organizational recruiting structure in place before expecting great results from recruiters.

    I think assessment is very useful for recruiter measurement and improvement, but it’s futile without having the same quality and emphasis on measuring the organization’s recruiting structure.

    Great recruiters can easily falter in some of the losing situations companies place them in. Having an assessment center/program without linking it to a defined recruiting structure isn’t going to help a whole lot other than create awareness and frustration.

  3. Brian the smarter companies have been hiring agency recruiters for years. I have done both and there is no one way to go. If its a one off left handed blond plumber then it pays to go to a niche agency which has just searched for one.
    Ongoing pipeline work where relationships are built inhouse capable recruiters are qualified to handle the position. With yes even passive candidates.


  4. Agree with Darryl.

    Staffing Management within HR Organization is definitely a driving force for results provided that the Staffing Director or Manager is knowledgeable in making the Staffing Team highly productive based on merits and ROI. Oftentimes, the people sitting on the Director or Manager position don’t even know how to assess whether or not their Recruiters are conducting the right techniques in finding and hiring the appropriate talent for the organization. Just looking at the attrition versus retention… and then ask a question why is this happening within the organization, identifying the factors affecting these movements are important.

    One reason of ineffectiveness is the lack of knowledge and bandwidth of competencies. Somehow, there is notion that once you have been a Recruiter for many years – you can be a Staffing Manager or Director effectively without learning the strategic approaches and techniques in making a Staffing Team be the driving force of the organization. Implementing a real Assessment in a full circle and identify the competencies (include behavior, technical skills, knowledge and functional execution) in recruitment and hiring will demonstrate the effectiveness and strength of the recruiting function within HR.

    Every recruiter will work hard further from resume sourcing and pushing them to the Hiring Managers desk if there is a real metrics that checks their ROIs on effective hiring. The best recruiters I have seen are those that were trained and can demonstrate ROIs that is validated by their hiring retention of over a year or longer. Organizations can also gain the success of their investments when they are supported by Staffing Team with these results. Thanks.

  5. Well said Juntee. One issue with ROI and the elephant in the room is the hiring manager makes the final decision. So what if the hiring manger picks a buddy from a previous work experience and it doesn’t work out. The retention goes down as does the ROI. We as recruiters sell a product which has the capacity to open its mouth and ruin the sale. Then we are held responsible for the outcome of another’s decision.
    But I love it. My goal is to provide 3 finalists where the hiring manager says they’re all great, I can’t decide.
    That to me is success.

  6. Rich when you get that level where the Hiring Manager cannot decide on the people you sent for an interview, you are correct with your success. However, this is where you can invoke your consultative competencies to the Hiring Manager and let him understand the value of each individual. Three high contenders always have individual differences in their own. With that, being a partner and consultant to the Hiring Manager you can be a better add value to him. That is how you can leverage your value add competencies beyond successful submission of outstanding candidates. Hiring one of them is greater success.

    Hiring a friend and a buddy that affects the effectiveness of ROI and Retention is a poor management practice. This is the anarchism within the staffing management functions. Accountability is one factor that many organizations and professionals must learn its value. It will take long years to come before majority of our colleagues within the industry will accept that responsibility and accountability. When that happens, there is a plain field to work effectively where great individuals demonstrate what they are best to do.

  7. Darryl, you make a great point about identifying what a companies most values – as defined by their TA mission and core metrics (although sometimes it’s not all linked). If companies value diverse sourcing efforts, for instance, then two keys are tracking how effectively recruiters are identifying and leveraging such sources, how effective those sources are, and how well recruiters are trained to source/cold-call. If you’re going to build your own Recruiter Assessment Center, you make a great point about where to begin focusing your efforts.

  8. Very interesting article. I liked the point regarding what recruiters should do and and what we actually do. With two major exceptions, the “Most Important Skills” and “Most Important Behaviors” are high-touch, high-value add activities which IMHO should be compensated at least $50/hr. The two major exceptions are cold-calling and sourcing. The vast majority of this work can be outsourced for $11.00 or so, and those that can’t should probably be outsourced for $40+/name.

    It has also been my experience that if there is time enough for internal recruiters to be thoroughly assessed and trained, there isn’t enough work to keep them employed, and conversely if they’re busy enough to be employed, they’re too busy for the assessment and training, let alone the long-term strategic view described in the article.

    Finally IMHO, in many/most corporate settings, a “Great Recruiter” is one who makes his/her superiors look good in the eyes of THEIR superiors. If that happens to come through hiring some decent people, all’s the better….


  9. Great article Kim & Linda!!! I think an assessment is great when it’s conducted in an organization with a healthy TA structure in place. Recruiters are often spending entirely too much time on low value tasks that come from an ineffective structure (poor tools, bandwidth, high requisition count, etc) that it’s virtually impossible to consistently use those core skills that tend to deliver predictable results.

  10. I think that the reason that most corporate recruiters are not as good at sourcing candidates as are agency recruiters is due to the way that they are compensated. Agency recruiters usually only get paid if they produce candidates that are chosen for the position. Most inhouse recruiters get paid the same amount whether they produce one candidate or five for a position. As usual, people will do what they are incented for.

    If you desire your inhouse recruiters to be better sourcers and negotiators and to hire diverse candidates, than you need to incent them to do so. It is always amazing to me that so many corporate HR execs balk at the idea of variable compensation for inhouse recruiters. You wouldn’t have a sales team that got the same compensation, whether they sold one product or a hundred- would you?

    I have worked for firms with excellent inhouse recruitment incentive programs and the majority of the recruiters made the goals, which were very tough,demanding and comprehensive. They included Time to fill, number of hires, manager satisfaction, diversity and several other measures. Most of the firms I worked for however, just paid recruiters a flat salary.

    In my mind great recruiters spend 10% of time with mgrs defining the need before the recruiting starts, 25% of time sourcing, 50% of time qualifying, interviewing, assessing and following up with candidates (both active and passive- which includes selling them on the position and company)and 10% negotiating offers with candidates and managers. The last 5% should be on admin and reporting tasks. Too many firms do not provide sufficient clerical and scheduling help to allow recruiters to focus on recruiting.

  11. Meredith I don’t think your per centages reflect what the real world is. I have done both worlds. Lately inhouse contracting. Reporting tasks is much higher. With inhouse people being asked to do much more than find the best candidate.

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