In-House Recruiting Survey Unveiled This Morning at ERE Conference

Grade B slideWith a self-assigned grade of B, and an even lower C+ from the hiring managers whose jobs they fill, recruiting leaders from companies large and small heard the news there’s much to do to improve those scores, and that the road is not going to get easier in the year ahead.

Speaking to the opening session of the ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo here in San Diego, ERE’s CEO Ron Mester told the hundreds of talent acquisition leaders in direct language that “You have a lot of work to do to improve … No one should be satisfied with a C+ or a B.” At another point in his hour-long presentation of a broad and extensive ERE survey of recruiters, their leaders, their bosses, CEOs and hiring managers, Mester said it will take a rethinking of the process to get to an A. “Rethink it,” he urged. “Challenge everything that you’re doing today.”

Unveiling some of the findings of the late March survey completed by more than 1,300 during his State of Recruiting presentation, Mester turned a spotlight on the disconnect between what the respondents agree should be the key measures of recruiting’s performance and what recruiting leaders and their teams believe is where the actual emphasis lies.

ron mester at ereFor instance, Mester noted that across the groups — recruiting leaders, recruiters, hiring managers, HR leaders, and C-level executives — quality of hire, they agree, should be the No. 1 hiring metric. Hiring manager satisfaction, candidate satisfaction, and applicant quality all follow closely. But when the question becomes what recruiters and their leaders think the metric actually is, that is, what their bosses and hiring managers actually value, candidate satisfaction and applicant quality fall off in their importance with time to fill rising to near the top.

Ask recruiters and their leaders to name the issues that keep them awake at night, and quality of hire falls nearly to the bottom of the list. At the top: candidate/skills availability, and recruiting tools/process.

“You’d think that quality of hire would be keeping you awake at night,” Mester observed, as he summed up his presentation. “But it’s not,” he said, as up popped a slide showing well under 10 percent of recruiting leaders worry about that issue.

Article Continues Below

Up at night slideThat seeming contradiction isn’t the only one the ERE survey found. Of the five top issues that most discourage recruiters, hiring managers factor in four of them. Yet, when asked what they are most encouraged by, their working relationship with hiring managers and their ability to act as a talent advisor to hiring managers took the top two spots. Considering how hiring managers graded recruiting, Mester observed, “Are they listening to you …? If they are not happy (with you) why are you happy?”

It was here that he most forcefully urged the audience of mostly directors and vice presidents of talent acquisition to “Rethink it. Rethink your relationship. Rethink what you are doing.”

Additional parts of the ERE survey will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months as the analysis of the extensive data continues. Mester didn’t say how much more information is yet to come, but during his keynote presentation, he offered several additional bits including:

  • recuriiting measures Most participants prefer the title talent acquisition to recruiting;
  • Three-quarters of recruiting leaders report to HR now and most (69 percent) would rather that continue;
  • Recruiting teams are forecast to grow between 3 and 5 percent by the end of the year, yet only those who now recruit would encourage others to recommend it as a career. Hiring managers are the least encouraging, and would actively discourage friends and colleagues from a recruiting job;
  • Job satisfaction among recruiters and leaders is not especially high. The ‘Job Satisfaction Score’ (similar to a net promoter score) recruiters came in at -4 percent; recruiting leaders were +24 percent.
  • Most respondents, including hiring managers and company executives, believe jobs are at least as hard to fill this year as in 2013, and, by large percentages, believe filling jobs will be even harder next year.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


13 Comments on “In-House Recruiting Survey Unveiled This Morning at ERE Conference

  1. Interesting information. Do you know how detailed the reasons for satisfaction/dissatisfaction will the information get? I was especially happy when working with hiring managers if there was a disconnect or I was screwing something up, when we could solve the issue that was great. Some issues were not solvable though.

    I remember one guy refusing to even look at resumes, he’d just reject everyone. He was only caught in this because he specifically cited one candidate as an example of our ‘failure’ who turned out to have ten years of experience doing exactly what he needed done. He just never looked at the resume beyond the most recent job title. And it further came to light that he just had an agency he wanted to work with over the internal team, and so just figured he’d be a pain in the rear end until he got what he wanted. Eventually he did, his hiring track record didn’t improve, everyone he billed as The Second Coming ended up washing out in short order more often than not. However, he was persistent and forceful in his expression of utter dissatisfaction with the internal recruiting team. Now, he may be an extreme example, but without some root cause analysis here to figure out if what people expect can even be delivered, not just as a matter of the recruiting teams’ abilities, but also as a matter of the HM’s expectations, it’s kind of anti climactic to simply say, “Rethink your process.”

    What if there’s nothing wrong with it? What if you delivered quality candidates, but the manager sat on them for three weeks? Having been on the corporate side, and for a time finally having gotten a champion in upper management who was willing to call people on their BS, a lot of the problems they were unsatisfied with became exposed as their own doing. For example: not giving feedback or scheduling interviews in a reasonable time period; showing up late or not at all for interviews; constantly changing job requirements; sitting on resumes and then claiming they’ve seen none; harassing employees and interviewees; screaming at interviewees and insulting them (yes, that happened); closing and opening and closing, and then reopening jobs, and then claiming the initiation date of the first time they spoke of the job as the start date, even if it had been on hold for six months.

    Unless there’s some effort to drill down in to the weeds and root out specifics, I’m skeptical of such surveys. It will be nice though when someone can present something to corporate recruiters and say: this is what you’re screwing up, come up with ideas to fix it. But also: this is the standard you need to hold your HMs to, and if they don’t meet them then you have every right to express dissatisfaction with them and demand they improve.

  2. Thanks, John. Another area of disconnect seems to be “cost of hire”- it’s only ranked #10 on the “Key Priorities”. If cost isn’t considered a problem- then why are so many of these employers so cheap in paying for our services and providing us with the tools we need to do our jobs? Also, ISTM that if these Staffing Heads were REALLY interested in finding things out- they’d spend less time listening to the reports about what recruiters and hiring managers think, and more time actually talking to us.


  3. From a TPR standpoint, I hear this all the time from hiring managers: they don’t have the confidence that their recruiting team will bring them the right people right now. One of the reasons they could be thinking/feeling this way maybe has nothing to do with actual performance of the recruiters.
    It could, and again, this is just from the outside looking in based on ad hoc data I’ve collected over the past 25 years…It may be, that hiring managers haven’t been “sold” by the recruiting team and how the process works. It’s possible during the intake with hiring manager, that internal recruiting didn’t ask the right questions that might have established credibility early on.
    One of my clients brought me in to recruit some hard to fill roles. We got on the call with the hiring manager and I asked MANY questions. The manager knew I had TPR experience and I told him that I’d already found out how big his market was for this. What that meant to him, was that we were not going to deliver lots of resumes. He would only have three, if he were lucky. We also discussed the need to look beyond the resume and look at our interview notes with the candidates.
    That wasn’t news he wanted to hear, but we were successful.

    It’s been my experience that hiring managers say, “I want this person to do this” and it can sometimes be like pulling teeth to get to what they really want. But it’s also been my experience that recruiters aren’t asking deep enough questions that will help them to get the right people.

    Expectations must be managed and sometimes internal recruiters aren’t trained on how to push back hard enough to get what they need to be successful with the hiring managers. And hiring managers need to open their eyes to see what the market really is, for the skillset they want and look beyond just the resume to land the talent they need.

  4. “But it’s also been my experience that recruiters aren’t asking deep enough questions that will help them to get the right people.”

    That’s very true, good comment, Claudia. When it comes to corporate it’s usually easier to get this done. On the agency side, unfortunately there’s usually a sales person involved who is more intent on Selling! than determining what needs to be delivered. The front end work has to be done though, because if expectations aren’t set and the potential problems aren’t mentioned up front, if and when they surface there’s dissatisfaction. It’s often to always the recruiter’s fault for not setting the expectation if the issue could have been foreseen. However, the problem itself is often not the recruiter’s fault. If a company/manager is only will to pay 40K for a position, and the median salary in the area is 65K, you’re likely to hit problems. If the company/manager has a bad online reputation, you’re likely to hit problems. But, especially with the latter issue, most managers aren’t open to changing or even discussing the issue. Most sales types, hell most people, don’t want to tell others, especially clients or potential clients, hard and unpleasant truths. Because it’s very easy for them to become not clients anymore, or ever.

    I remember another recent survey posted here that said more than half the jobs we work on go unfilled. There are reasons why those job go unfilled, we need to know them. Saying, “Rethink your process,” doesn’t solve the issue, especially if it’s aimed at people or processes that aren’t the problem, or at least not the full problem. I’d wager if someone were to do an analysis of those jobs not filled, a significant number of them would have salary ranges way out of whack from what the market in the area is at. It’s always been one of the primary obstacles in my experience. Which raises the question of, why rethink your process if no process can correct the issue? It’s like trying to lose weight without changing your eating habits, it just doesn’t work no matter what other parts of the process you rethink or ‘challenge,’ at some point you have to stop shoveling garbage down your top hatch or you’re not going to achieve your goals.

    And the problem recruiters need to own is we, unfortunately, need to be the bearers of bad news other people don’t want to deliver.

    “I can’t get you people because you spend the interviews texting.”

    “I can’t find you people because the salary you’re offering doesn’t even register as 10th percentile in any survey of the area, and you want ten years of experience.”

    “I’m having trouble explaining our rating, because too many managers here have been abusing the ever loving hell out of people for decades, and now people know that, and don’t want to work for us. We’re their last resort when unemployment runs out.”

    No one wants to hear those things, but they tend to be true way more often than not, and that’s an issue recruiters can’t really fix, we can only inform and hopefully inspire some change.

  5. “Quality of hire falls nearly to the bottom of the list. At the top: candidate/skills”

    I may be obtuse, but aren’t those virtually synonyms?

    Is a skill actually a skill if not used well?

  6. @Richard: yes – on the agency side I recently learned (duh, you’d think I’d know this after being a TPR for 18 years), that a sales person sells it and the recruiter fills it. In my case, I do both and deliberately didn’t build the business because I felt it would dilute the process I like to follow.
    @Martin – LOL. Managers sometimes want more candidates because they aren’t seeing the skills in the resumes. So instead of actually looking at someone as a candidate, they sometimes look for keywords and only skills. So to me, they are different, but many people consider them the same.

  7. @ Claudia,

    Kudos to you. I’d do it that way myself, if I ever branch out on my own. Doubt I ever will though.

    @ Martin,

    Quality of hire is more of a ‘soft’ measure to most, in my experience, whereas skills can be tested/judged much easier, and they’re either there or not. So, you may have someone who can do the job, has 90%+ of the necessary skills at the right levels, etc., but the manager doesn’t like them, so it’s not a ‘quality’ hire.

    Constantly running into soft stuff like this is what made me want to perpetually push things toward hard metrics: define the job, what’s the deliverable, what’s the time frame, what’s the quality standard, and does the person meet it? If yes, what’s the damn problem? Oh, you don’t ‘like’ them? My answer to that would be for them to try growing the hell up. I’ve not personally liked a lot of people I’ve worked with, but I worked with them none the less. It’s what adults do to get crap done so kids can be idiots for a time.

    I find personal dislike is usually the root cause of, “They’re just not the right ‘fit’…” type of objections.

  8. It may have always been this way, but it seems like there’s much more of a demand for the low-cost, perky, enthusiastic, “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full” type of “Senior” recruiter with 2-3 years of agency experience than there is for the well-paid, highly-experienced real Senior recruiter who’s hired to tell them what they need to do, not just tell them what they want to hear.


  9. @ Keith,

    I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I know of several companies who have tried hiring such people, and they have always washed out. In every case it seems the companies in question have some major issues – high turnover in key positions, bad reputations and well know, highly incompetent management – and it’s not surprising that such companies try this approach.

    Basically it’s a variation on the, “we want someone who can grow into the position,” approach. It’s such a common phrase in recruiting and it should be a red flag for anyone in the profession. If they’re not willing to accommodate growing pains, then they don’t want someone who will grow, they just don’t want to pay someone who can actually do the job the going rate. Companies assume recruiting is easy, and it’s not hard as a general rule. However, companies often assume recruiting for them in particular is easy. Since most are average or worse wrt pay, benefits, etc., that means it’s actually more likely to be harder to get good people for a particular company on a consistent basis.

  10. @ Keith,

    As an aside, I hit what I now call The Salary Barrier with someone again. It’s what I label that point in a conversation with someone where they seem to realize how ridiculous their thoughts on salary would be if applied to any other price, buying, or selling situation on the market, but still insist you should be able to “get people” for any position regardless of pay. Thankfully it wasn’t with a client or anyone I regularly interact with, just a random guy who I ended up speaking to in a restaurant. He was quite vocal about his inability to get an assistant though. And who couldn’t understand such frustration? After all, someone with “at least five years experience” and “polish” and all the skills he was looking for should be slobbering and chomping at the bit to get at the whopping 30K he was offering…

    I think that’s just slightly above what you get for unemployment here, and without having to deal with him on a daily basis. Makes you wonder why no one was jumping at his opportunity!

  11. @Richard and others I hear your pain. Yet, in my opinion, ERE’s CEO Ron Mester is correct when, with regard to our relationships with Hiring Managers, he appeals for us recruiters to “Rethink it. Rethink your relationship. Rethink what you are doing.”
    Am I the only one whose Hiring Managers don’t have time to answer my calls or meet with me so that we can develop our relationship? Am I the only one who has had to endure Final Decision Maker Ambush? And there are more but I’ll stop here.
    Allow me to suggest that our biggest blind spot is in the briefing process.
    Without going face to face it is possible to gain Hiring Manager as well as Final Decision Maker commitment and include the views of subject matter experts in locations remote from each other. It need only take less than 30 minutes of each client’s time. Client buy-in from the outset is crucial.
    Most of the problems outlined by Ron Mester become so much more manageable.

  12. Earlier this week at the ERE conference I did urge talent acquisition leaders to rethink how they were doing things and to find ways to improve recruiting department performance. There were many reasons why, but it really boils down to these two: (1) these recruiting leaders give THEIR OWN DEPARTMENTS a “B” grade, and (2) these same leaders say that recruiting is likely to get harder in the coming year. Unless talent acquisition leaders are OK with being “B” players, these 2 reasons alone suggest an imperative for improving recruiting department performance.

    On top of that, our survey results clearly indicate that there is lots of room for improving the working relationship between recruiters and hiring managers. I don’t think that’s a big surprise to anyone. I also don’t blame one party more than the other. But, despite not having all the required “authority,” recruiters “own” recruiting excellence, and it therefore seems like a good idea for recruiters to take the lead on improving these relationships.

    There are plenty of horror stories about particularly awful hiring managers. There are also horror stories about particularly awful recruiters. But I don’t think it’s productive to focus on these “horrifying” exceptions to divert attention from the day-to-day relationships between mostly NON-horrifying hiring managers and recruiters.

    Recruiting is a noble profession. While helping companies build competitive advantage through people, recruiters also help people land in new jobs. Quite amazing, really. I view our job at ERE as providing information that helps recruiters and recruiting be the best possible. The presentation I gave this week was delivered in that spirit. But it’s just one survey and one presentation. We’ll keep digging to find more information and more insights to help (and push!) recruiting to greater heights.

  13. While I appreciate your response, once more, specifics are lacking. There are plenty of horror stories because it’s the norm. “Owning” a process is rhetoric, if the ‘ownership’ doesn’t also come with authority to make changes and impose accountability, it amounts to little in terms of being able to do anything to improve a process. In my own experience, it was only when someone in upper management stood up and called BS on some practices, on both my part and the hiring managers, that they improved, and then so did the relationships. Accountability needs to be enforced on both ends or you’re just banging your head against a wall.

    There is a cost for excellence, most people won’t pay it. They want it, just like everyone wants a Ferrari, or a top of the line cell phone, or the best computer, etc. But you judge demand for things not by how many people want them, which all else equal is everyone, but by how many people are willing and able to pay for them. I have to wonder if the market for recruiting excellence is even there to any great extent.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *