Hire the Best Available Talent Now

During a break in the action in one of my weekly racquetball games, a fellow racquetball player mentioned that the new guy on the court was the highest-producing stockbroker in the entire state of Florida, but no one would ever know because he never talked about it.

Suspiciously, I congratulated the new guy on his success and commented that I didn’t think stockbrokers existed today, as the Internet has replaced most stockbrokers with the online trading concept.

“Sure, there are more online tools available today, but I am by far better than any individual investor who has to use those tools,” he replied.

Before I had an opportunity to support my statement with the concept of online recruitment tools replacing headhunters, as I have read over the past few years, he postulated, “Take a look at those basketball players on the basketball court. Do you think that the best player on the court can step onto this racquetball court and beat you in a game of racquetball?” I knew the answer because I competed with many good racquetball players.

Before I responded, he asked, “Do you think that you can walk onto the basketball court and compete with those guys?” I knew the answer to that question as well, because I coach my nine-year-old son’s basketball team and know first-hand the difficulty in mastering the mechanics and fundamentals of basketball.

Before I responded to that question, he said, “The reason that you would answer ‘no’ to those questions is the same reason why online tools will never replace the good stockbrokers: most investors do not know what they are doing.”

Based on the veracity of his comment, two things became clear at that moment: I was convinced that this guy may be the top-producing stockbroker in the state, and with the latest recruitment tools in corporate career sites, job boards, applicant tracking systems, and referral programs, corporate recruiters may not know what they are doing in successfully recruiting top talent.

From a headhunter’s perspective, I am not stating that all corporate recruiters do not know what they are doing; I am suggesting that the new talent-acquisition model is flawed in the quality of corporate recruiting talent and the cost-per-hire strategic objective.

Quality of Talent

To win the war for talent and maximize the ROI in recruitment tools, organizations must upgrade their recruiting staff by recruiting only top recruitment talent. These professionals bring successful headhunting skills in developing relationships and gaining a level of trust with candidates in accessing their skills, understanding their career motivations, selling the organization, and motivating that candidate to take action.

The usual suspects on the typical corporate recruiting staff consist of the ex-headhunters who have crashed and burned in the third-party-agency model because they were unsuccessful in making enough placements to earn/sustain a living. Since they can earn a steady income in the corporate setting, they may not be as passionate about the thrill of the hunt, which is the common denominator for success in finding the right candidate for the right job.

On the other end of the spectrum, some corporate recruiters are more HR-focused. They are subject-matter experts on HR metrics, branding, onboarding, retention, and engagement; however, they tend to be reactive, process-oriented, resume-content driven, and often lack the hands-on sales skills necessary in strategically leading procrastinating hiring managers throughout the interview process while anticipating and resolving issues.

Organizations must recruit top recruiting talent, not through online job postings, but the proven way by headhunting for the successful recruiting professionals who are not actively seeking employment. Initially this will be a more expensive proposition from a compensation perspective, but in the end you get what you pay for because finding good talent won’t be cheap, and cheap talent will not produce good results.

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Cost Per Hire

I once interviewed a candidate who stated on his resume that he reduced cost of hire by $500,000 in his first year as a corporate recruiter. After inquiring how he achieved that amount, he indicated that his team made a number of hires without using third-party recruiters and as a result, saved $500,000 in placement fees. Placement fees paid to third-party recruiters have being targeted of late, and rightfully so, since more recruitment tools are available. But it is also ironic that the number of hires made via third-party recruiters has historically been an amount less than 15% of the total hires; the vast majority of hires have always been through the result of employee referrals and job advertisements.

Electronic recruitment tools are very effective in achieving favorable cost-per-hire results in finding the majority of active job seekers. However, there are challenges in capturing the high-impact candidates typically handled by third-party recruiters. High-impact candidates are the hard-to-find candidates who the hiring manager needs yesterday; he is compromising service and losing customers by not having that person onboard.

High-Impact Candidates

High-impact candidates are the “rain makers” who excel in their craft; they can pay for themselves in terms of efficiency, developing revenue, leading teams, and attracting/developing new talents to their organization. They are happy and busy in their present jobs and will only take calls from recruiters who understand the types of unique roles that may be of interest to them.

They interview well but are concerned about confidentially, and as such are reluctant to submit their resumes to job boards, apply online in corporate career sites, or divulge compensation information. Their preference is to bypass HR and interview initially with hiring managers to determine their level of interest in a particular job opportunity.

To successfully recruit these individuals, recruiters need to establish an ongoing relationship with candidates and have strong industry knowledge with regard to competition, recent market activities, and career progression within your industry. These individuals are very susceptible to counteroffers.

If you’re too focused on cost per hire and on following a set procedure, you’ll run the risk of getting bogged down: there are too many steps involved in obtaining the lowest cost-per-hire: post the jobs internally, search internal database, obtain and contact internal referrals, post the job externally, search external database, contact agencies (involves additional steps).

This process increases the time to hire and allows the best available candidate to slip to the competition. It is restricting to third-party recruiters for the following reasons:

  • It processes passive candidates in the same manner as the active job applicants. Many job offers will be lost because this process does not energize high-impact candidates and as a result, they will not develop that “warm and fuzzy feeling” toward the job opportunity, which is essential for motivating an individual to take a leap of faith and leave his present employer.
  • Does not allow interaction between the hiring managers and third-party recruiters during the interview process. Corporate recruiters concurrently work on multiple job requisitions and do not have enough time to devote to any one particular search assignment. Successful third-party recruiters know that the compelling candidate presentation, interview feedback, and ongoing dialogue between the candidate, hiring manager, and recruiter are the critical elements in determining the proper job fit and resolving issues that may derail a successful hire.
  • Ignores opportunities to hire candidates because its focus is limited to only approved job requisitions in the system. Successful third-party recruiters know that hiring managers need to be immediately notified when a high-impact candidate may be available, which will allow that manager to determine whether an opportunity to hire possibility exists. More specifically, the Miami Heat would have not acquired Shaquille O’Neal and won the NBA championship because they had no open requisition to add a perennial all-star center at the beginning of the 2006 season.
  • Considers resumes in the database a property of the HR department and off-limits to third-party recruiters for a candidate submission. Recruiters approach high-demand candidates on an ongoing basis; however, it is the right approach at the right time by the right recruiter that will ignite and motivate the right candidate to take action. Corporate recruiters should not overlook top talent in their internal databases.

To successfully recruit the best talent and maximize the ROI of online recruitment tools, HR departments must restructure their talent-acquisition strategies with objectives of hiring the best available talent now, top-grading their internal recruiting staff with sales-oriented performers, and using third-party recruiters as specialized search partners that can add value in successfully recruiting high-impact candidates.

Ken Forrester is managing director of A.W. Forrester Co., a national search firm (954-722-7554) that specializes in employee benefits consulting, health insurance brokerage, and sales. He started his recruitment career in 1990 and is responsible for completing search assignments for senior management positions while developing and mentoring junior associates.


10 Comments on “Hire the Best Available Talent Now

  1. Mr. Forrester, I enjoyed the first third of your article and the analogies you were drawing. However, when you began to stereotype corporate recruiters as third party burn-outs and administratively focused HR professionals who can’t recognize good candidates, I was quite disappointed with the rest of the article. As a former executive recruiter (who left, by the way, not because I was burned out or unsuccessful, but because I was recruited to a corporate position), I have been on both sides of the table. Both corporate recruiters and third-party recruiters play vital roles in staffing our organization. One is not better than the other — they just have different roles and responsibilities in helping the company achieve success in recruiting efforts.

    We have many fine recruiters at my company that are just as good as (and sometimes better) than many of the third party recruiters with whom I have worked. I could stereotype third party recruiters as being sales driven and then disappearing and not performing once they’ve presented a few recycled candidates or as double-dealing individuals who while helping you fill one position, are taking employees from your company and placing them with another. This is also not true and an unfair characterization.

    A third-party recruiter friend of mine once told me the most enlightening experience he had in recruiting was taking a temporary assignment as a corporate recruiter. He will share with you how he has a much greater appreciation of the issues with which corporate recruiters deal and that he now recognizes the importance of partnering with the corporate recruiter rather than trying to do an end run around the recruiter. He couldn’t be more correct!

    Believe it or not — we get it! We want to be proactive and build relationships with passive candidates so that we can produce the superior candidate at a moment’s notice. We don’t want to be focused on cost/hire or days-to-close (especially days-to-close!). But the reality is, we have budgets that our CEO’s and CFO’s expect us to honor and we can’t use third party recruiters whenever we want or whenever you produce a brilliant candidate that we just have to see. We are privy to information about pending lay-offs that have yet to be announced to the rest of the organization and are planning ways to find displaced employees new homes within our organization. We know what projects are in trouble and need the most immediate recruiting attention. We are audited by federal organizations that can cost an organization millions of dollars if we don’t follow strict established procedures. If you think I’m exaggerating, go ask Boeing about not following the rules.

    Are we perfect? Absolutely not — we have much to improve. Are you perfect? Same story.

  2. Ken, Congratulations, this may be the best article I have read on ERE, (from a TPR’s perspective)

    If companies do really want to hire impact players/employees(and why wouldn’t they)they have to be proactive and unrelenting in their pursuit of talent.

    The best way to get there, hire an experienced TPR.

    Corporate recruiters are unwilling to do this and their organizations, immeasurably pay for it.

    Well done,

    Mark Lally
    Grapevine Staffing Group

  3. Ken,

    I wholeheartedly enjoyed reading your article. It was great food for thought. I appreciate that when you assessed corporate recruiters that you implied ‘some’ in your assessment. I happen to be a corporate recruiter with a passion and drive for finding quality talent for the positions I must fill. I also believe that it is important to recognize the importance of experience and value a recruiter may bring to the table whether corp. or third party. We each play a significant role in the process and it is important to continuously evolve and learn from one another with the ultimate goal of building strong workforces.

    Based upon my experience it is also the responsibility of the corporation to drive the process by enabling the recruiter to excel in their role. If the corporation does not value the importance of the ‘chase’ then this certainly limits the recruiter from being as effective as they can. In other words, I’ve seen situations in which the corporations have overburden the recruiter with massive requisitions, limited training and means of attracting quality players along with other arduous responsibilities. This has hindered them from being the star ‘head hunter’. For the corporation, the underlying importance is ‘filling positions’ fast and quality second (evidence: the revolving door). In my opinion, quality driven organizations seek to find better ways to find the right people on a continous bases.

    The growth of this profession in my opinion means continuous evolvement, open mindedness, support from corporations, education and listening and learning from thought leaders on both sides of the fence who have sucessfully developed bench marks, best practices and continue to pave the way for.

    Thank you..

  4. Certainly, this is a pertient article! Corporate recruiters should not take offense to this, because it is those to whom they report who need a better understanding.

    The BOTTOM LINE IS: CLEARLY, Large corporations’ recruiting systems are BROKEN for today’s world, and they need fixing. In my mind, CEO’s AND CFO’s need to wake up and smell the coffee. With the talent shortage we have corporate recruiters and HR people are OVERLOADED and expected to do FAR TOO MUCH. In addition to this, many companies put HR/COmpliance people in charge of sales/recruiting functions. Putting compliance people in sales focused positions illustrates a lack of understanding and lack of respect for recruiting in general. That’s like putting your tax accountant or controller in charge of the sales department. You cannot apply the same strategies of the old days and get different results.

    Whatever the reasons, reality is that third party recruiters everywhere see good candidates lost every day to a broken system. By this I mean a situation where there IS an opening, the HR/Corporate recruiter has accepted the resume, scheduled the interview, etc.

    CORPORATE AMERICAN, Wake up! Respect your HR people and corporate recruiters for what they CAN provide, and reengineer your system. You’re asking too much of your HR/Recruiting staff. Times Have Changed.

  5. Good Morning everyone,

    In every post, there are ALWAYS great points brought out on all sides of this, and am now writing my input.

    First, I might be one of those rare birds (came out of the programming side- then started the Atlanta division of Source Consulting) running a full desk, then became a functional consultant and Project Manager, before coming back into the staffing side.
    Throughout the years I have been fortunate to have been a keynote speaker on sales and recruiting, and even wrote a book about it back in 1996 (no- this is not a plug).

    I too- have been not just on the both sides of the table- but more importantly in what I coined ‘the square side of recruiting’- where some of you may not have been.

    The square side comes from not just the recruiting sides- but from the BILLABLE side on both the candidate and Project Manager.

    As a billable consultant who may have been ‘courted to join another firm’ what I cared most about was the marquee clients I would have the opportunity to work, the NEW implementations (not doing support work) and the type of people I would be working with (to include any mentoring).

    So my first question is, Do you have a ‘sell sheet’ (as a TPR or CR)that you provide? This can be a very powerful tool.

    There are other criteria/questions- but that can probably be used for another whole discussion, and would love to see some additional input.

    The second part of the ‘billable’ piece comes from just understanding what the hiring managers are trying to achieve. Are these ‘hot slots’ for projects/implementations already been awarded?

    If so, the clock has started (whether it was a fixed fee bid or straight long term T&M project)and there is a project plan that has been committed to- where many times bonuses are assigned to these dates so the project lead/manager SHOULD be looking to fill these slots as quickly as possible.

    From a PM standpoint- and a candidate’s view, the toughest part is to get all the players lined up during their normal 14-16 hour work day.

    Both are ususally handling current client issues, and just can’t take a call during the day (unless it the initial one minute call- to gain some interest for a call later on in the evening).

    I know that many of us on the staffing side (both TPR’s and Corporate staff) work well into the evenings and weekends to search and locate the talent needed- then to find out we can’t arrange a phone screen DURING THE DAY THAT WILL WORK!

    My suggestion would be to set-up the after hour calls with a conference call setting to get the parties together, make the introductions then either stay on the call- or leave it.

    Lastly, understanding the ‘career game’ being played out in the current hiring craze on all four channels of the radio station (WIIFM) What’s IN IT For Me will help us all in the quest to working a deal to conclusion.

    Sorry for the long e-mail and hope everyone has a great New Year!


    Mark Nolan

  6. i strongly object to your assertation that resumes submitted by candidates are properties of HR departments despite the fact that these departments to not respond to resumes within a years time ……..and frankly do not have a clue as to the quality of resumes that are in the database.

    I have had a headed discussion with a corporate client and a candidate who resents the fact that no one in a company calls the candidate yet they are considered corporate property.

    This is an issue of not recognizing quality of candidates over quality……………

    I do not buy your argument……….it is irrevelant……..to this discuss

  7. I agree with Ms. Erent. I have placed candidates whose resumes were already on the desk (for months) of the client when I called. It is always important to establish that the client has not contacted the talent, and that the talent is willing to be represented by the recruiter to the particular client. After that, any client who doesn’t honor the representation is simply dishonest and unfortunately not the kind of person or client you would want to deal with.

    While the client might feel a bit foolish, it points directly to the reason good recruiters continue to survive. They know good talent and how to sell it. Anyone can find bodies. Knowing the difference between a warm body and good fit is often why we get paid the big bucks.

    Employment has become a numbers game… and numbers make lousy employees.

  8. What I’m reading is a feeling of frustration from a
    lack of control over a candidates prior submittals… submittals either by himself, a relative, an agency (with or without permission), or any other possible source.
    In fact, if the issue ever comes down to a judge, the answer is ‘Who created the interest?’!
    If your candidate is handled properly, he/she’ll have already given ‘you’ the right of representation on any situation you’ve gone to the trouble of informing them about.
    No legitimate company wants to get into a pissing match. The Corp.hiring authority knows what’s going on. They know some ‘agencies’ will blanket the countryside without informing a candidate. This again puts the onus on the professional placement consultant who ‘truly’ knows what he/she is doing.
    It should never be a problem. If it is, then that supposedly propfessional placement counselor really doesn’t know what he/she is doing.
    Best Regards to all in the new year.

  9. I love your writing style and content. The interplay between professionals and sports makes the content interesting.. Enjoyed the cost per hire aspect.. in simplest terms, often the desire to show value for investment might cause you to vault over pennies, and miss the real precious gems!

    Having lived on both the Hiring Manager and Recruiter sides of the spectrum, I have come to appreciate the benefits and value to networking and team work as a discipline. Take care to care, for your most valued assets– your clients, your candidates, your partnerships.. and think win win, while on the court, you can not help but build a relationship that will produce positive outcomes.

  10. I agree with Jose totally, in the UK HR departments purley hold on to CV’s without screening interviewing or contacting the candidate, only when we have pre screened interviewed and presented them as an excellent candidate they feel they have the right to say no and doirectly approach the candidates!!! HR does not and never will be able to replace specialist recruiters.

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