Emerging Roles in Recruiting

A common lament among recruiting professionals has been a lack of opportunities for growth and development. Yet with some of the new and exciting roles in recruiting, it will be tough to view our profession as merely a launch pad for a career in HR. Many of these roles are also indicative of a major shift in how organizations manage, think about, and grow their talent acquisition and management functions. On your worst days, you’ve probably had some of the following thoughts:

  • “Once a recruiter, always a recruiter.”
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  • “There’s nowhere to go but down.”
  • “Once hiring needs slow down, I’ll have to move into another part of the organization.”
  • “Find ’em, interview ’em, place ’em ó I feel like I’m stuck on spin cycle!”

As I advocated in this article from 2002, new recruiting models are emerging, leading to a need for some very new skill sets in our profession. As the face of recruiting changes, companies continue to define new and innovative roles like those I’ve outlined below, which will only continue to increase in importance as companies start to view recruiting as more of a technology-centric marketing discipline. Director of Recruiting Strategy In many large organizations, there’s just too much to do to expect the director or VP of staffing to be everywhere and do everything. As the public face of recruiting within (and possibly outside of) the company, their days are likely booked with meetings and fires to put out ó meaning that there is precious little time to devote to keeping recruiting moving at light speed without sacrificing any semblance of work-life balance. This is why directors of recruiting strategy act as dedicated, big picture thinkers for many staffing teams. These individuals stay on top of macro-industry trends, investigate realistic alternatives for their staffing organizations, and help realign the organization’s staffing teams to stay in front of, rather than behind, the curve. They’re also heavily involved in assessing new tools and identifying new ways to think about and analyze the massive amounts of data a staffing team might generate. In short, directors of recruiting strategy ensure that recruiting establishes and maintains a real competitive advantage for talent. Director of Recruiting Programs and Program Managers Program managers and directors provide strategic and tactical oversight for the various initiatives that recruiting spearheads within an organization, like employee referral programs, college recruiting efforts, and more strategic approaches to recruitment advertising. They strategize, coordinate, project manage, implement, and collect feedback. As they will tell you, no two days are EVER alike. As recruiting in many organizations moves from a reactionary, “if you post it they will come” model to one that centers around strategic initiatives, these individuals are becoming increasingly vital to ensuring that enterprise recruiting efforts are comprehensive, coordinated, and successful. Talent Marketing Manager and Employer Branding Lead Several brand-driven organizations have had the foresight to approach recruiting like a real marketing and branding discipline. A talent marketing manager acts as the point person for understanding and actively working to shape not only the “employment product” but also target audience perceptions of that product. A good part of his or her time is spent educating recruiters and hiring managers on the consistent positioning the company is trying to achieve. Given how much employment communication happens online or in email, some companies have taken logical steps to coordinate or even combine branding and technology into one discipline. The net impact of this role can affect how your employees, external candidates, and other communities think about you as an employer, how actively they pursue your openings, and how they see them in comparison to similar offers from competitors. Talent Deployment Manager It amazes me that more companies don’t have this role, which focuses on proactively ensuring that the most talented individuals within an organization are matched to the best, most critical roles in the company. The talent deployment manager role will only increase in importance in an age of off-shoring, globalization, and virtual work teams. So why is this not a more common role? Is it an inherent fear of recruiting internally (sometimes seen as robbing Peter to pay Paul)? Is it that talent acquisition and development are too often treated as two separate silos within a company? Whatever the answer is, smart companies are waking up to the fact that it’s better to get to their best employees before their competitors do, and they are systematically matching great talent with a company’s mission-critical projects. Operations Manager and Business/Metrics Analyst Making sense of the reams of data that a staffing team generates in an ATS can be a mind-numbing experience. If you’re in one of these roles, you likely have to love (or at least be very good with) the numbers that define your recruiting team’s success. You help determine what to measure, how to measure it, and monitor and report on the results. Your mantras are measurement and continuous improvement, and the staffing directors inside your organization will testify that they can’t live without you. Recruiting Technology Manager How does an organization get the most out of an increasingly complex web of recruiting technology resources ó from strategic sourcing tools and database marketing campaigns to applicant tracking and online assessment tools? And how do they make it feel seamless to the end users (recruiters and candidates)? It definitely doesn’t happen by accident. This is why recruiting technology managers have a very important role to play within their respective organizations. They take complex problems and develop, implement, and evaluate strategic technology solutions, ultimately making things feel much less complex than they actually are. As with any technology discipline, troubleshooting, education and change management takes up a large part of their days, particularly if they work within a global entity. Talent Scout Strategic Sourcer and Internal Executive Recruiter Separating out the sourcing/talent acquisition role from hiring process management is the rough equivalent of a hunter/farmer model in recruiting. While some recruiters tend to the crops and ensure that the process runs smoothly, others are freed up to take the headhunter’s approach to proactively networking their way to great talent. Sourcers aren’t necessarily a new role, but a new breed of strategic sourcers and talent scouts are emerging as equals to full lifecycle and hiring process management recruiters. These are not just Internet researchers ó they are the absolute best at uncovering and building relationships with hidden pools of talent. Internal executive recruiters have many of the skill sets of strategic sourcers ó like long-term relationship building and proactive pipeline development ó but they cater to the unique needs of the VP-level and above audience. The great ones save their companies hundreds of thousands in executive search fees and are paid accordingly. Since my article in 2002, many companies have moved towards the hunter/farmer approach. While not every one of them has been successful (including one of the subjects of my original piece), the companies that have done this very well have seen dramatic benefits in terms of quality, productivity, and reduced time to hire. If you look closely at the opportunities above, you can see the basis of a real recruiting career path taking shape that leverages the unique strengths and weaknesses of each individual type of recruiter. There’s no better time than the present to think about the structure of your recruiting team ó and your own future in recruiting!

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


3 Comments on “Emerging Roles in Recruiting

  1. Dave,

    In the game of battleship, your article would be referred to as a ‘Direct Hit’.

    ‘Sourcers aren’t necessarily a new role, but a new breed of strategic sourcers and talent scouts are emerging as equals to full lifecycle and hiring process management recruiters. These are not just Internet researchers ? they are the absolute best at uncovering and building relationships with hidden pools of talent.’

    Let me look into my own crystal ball here and share how far this trend is about to go very shortly.

    Demographic and economic trends are both serving to significantly tighten the labor pool. This will decrease the supply of available talent and incrase dramatically the demand for talent. The signs that this change is occurring are already all around us. This increase in demand is already manifesting on the major job boards. You can look at profiles of specific skill sets and see the frequency of times the profiles are being reviewed is increasing exponentially. More people are looking for a shrinking pool of talent. More candidates are starting to leave their phone numbers off their resumes to combat the barrage of phones calls they receive as an ever decreasing member of the talent pool.

    Whoever captures that talent moves their business forward and deprives their competitor of the same talent needed to create and sustain competitive advantage. She or He who can consistently and rapidly identify, market to and capture that talent has in essence captured the market share that individual person will generate through superior performance. Assuming they are an ‘A’ player.

    The sourcing role therefore will only become MORE, not less prominent as you mentioned in your article. It has to, as there are no people to recruit if we can’t identify the talent. We will see more ‘Samauri’ or ‘Master Recruiter’ hybrids emerge. Ask Gerry Crispin about the Master Recruiter if you seek a kindred spirit on this topic.

    Corporations with highly developed sourcing competencies coupled with the relationship, corporate branding and strategic vision will move to the forefront. Those ignoring the vision will progressively become less able to compete.
    There simply will be fewer people for those roles to speak with, because someone with the skill identified and captured them first.

    The tighter the labor market becomes the higher the premium the sourcing competency will carry.

    I strongly urge anyone reading this article to deeply heed the material contained.

  2. Great article. Yes your predictions are bang on. I fall into your category of Director of Strategy and Recruitment Technology Manager as I do both. Here’s another one not really mentioned: Vendor Management Strategies (another of my roles). Perhaps in some companies it’s embedded in the Program Manager role (which by the way, we do have — they do six sigma reengineering of recruiting processes and execute other initiatives). Vendor strategies role is one that looks at all the categories of Recruitment spending: perm staffing, executive recruiting, temp labour, job boards, due diligence vendors, assessment vendors, etc. — and they develop programs, metrics, business processes and risk management strategies to ensure optimum usage of vendors.

    Here are other thoughts:

    Some of the strategy roles mentioned in the article also ensure that Recruiting strategies are aligned to the overall HR strategy, as is my case. When HR strategies shift, the talent strategy needs to as well

  3. First, let me echo earlier reviews by saying that Dave Lefkow’s article accurately captures emergent reality. The roles he lists will come into being in smart companies, either within or lamentably outside of the recruting organization.

    I’d like to focus on just one of the roles that he mentions, the Talent Deployment Manager. First, it’s not a new role. It’s been around for some time in professional services organizations. For example, in consulting firms, where new teams are always being formed to tackle recently sold engagements, this role is either played by the HR person assigned to the market or specialty ‘vertical’ that will deliver the project or the partner in charge of the vertical.

    Tools for Talent Deployment

    In support of this effort, most of the large consulting firms have a solid database of individual performance on projects, including new skill pickup that occured as a result of the work. However, outside of consulting, it has been my experience that such detailed and current database information is the exception, not the rule (with the possible exceptions of ‘high potential’ pools or succession planning data).

    Recognizing the fact that most organizations do NOT have really current data on incumbent employees, one staffing firm that I worked with had developed an internal, individually updated employee profile system for sale to clients. It was successful, largely because employees, acting on self-interest, kept their profiles current. And the companies that bought the system were also well served, because for the first time their information on the incumbent population was as good as that available to external recruiters (to whom the incumbents were sending resumes).

    What about Redeployment?

    At no time is the Talent Deployment Manager’s role more critical than when an organization is going through major change, be it a merger, reengineering or other types of restructuring. If no one knows where the ‘critical’ talent is in an organization, or knows the skills and experience of incumbents that would enable them to be successfully ‘repurposed,’ the change management process can become a nightmare. Decisions to ‘build, buy or borrow’ talent (to quote Dave Ulrich) must be informed by real data, or they are likely to produce less than satisfactory results.

    Our Challenge

    For those of us who are responsible for influencing top management thinking about talent, wide distribution of Dave’s article, followed by some thoughtful discussions would not be a bad idea. What he’s describing is not some ‘future state.’ It’s probably happening today inside one of our more formidable competitors. It’s up to us to sound the alert, and have some good ideas about how to meet the challenge when asked.

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