Speed. Price. Quality. Are Your Recruiters Sacrificing One of the Above?

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There’s a well-known project management challenge: “fast, good, cheap: pick two.” It succinctly captures the dilemma that project managers face as they try to achieve their goals at the right speed, price, and quality. In this triangle of competing priorities, it seems impossible to optimize all three at the same time, leaving the project manager with hard choices to make. They know:

  • To get something quickly of high quality, it will not be cheap
  • To get something quickly and cheaply, it will not be high quality
  • To get something cheaply that is high quality, it will not be quick

The best project managers know that to make the right choices, they have to understand which priority is most important to the project, and ultimately, their decisions must be aligned with the priorities of the organization.

This doesn’t just apply to project management. With the increased demand and dwindling supply of high quality candidates, recruiters are finding themselves in the same dilemma trying to meet the needs of their hiring managers.

The situation usually begins with an urgent requisition for a highly skilled professional who will work at a less-than-competitive salary — a request where speed, price, and quality are all very important. What recruiters know is that:

  • I can quickly find a qualified candidate, but not at this salary
  • I can quickly find a candidate at the salary, but they won’t be qualified
  • I can find a qualified candidate to work at the salary, but it’s going to take some time

Not willing to back down from a challenge or set realistic expectations with the hiring managers, some recruiters may be inclined to over-promise and under-deliver, an understandable but avoidable mistake. Ultimately, the recruiter will pay the price for not being able to do the impossible — satisfy all expectations when the laws of supply and demand will always have the upper hand.

Instead of getting caught in a no-win situation, recruiters need to become advisors to their hiring managers, presenting real solutions instead of empty promises. To do this, the recruiter must take the time to really learn the business from-end to-end including: the pain points, the short- and long-term goals, the culture, the resources, and the decision makers. This means taking a step back from the day-to-day execution of the business and looking at it from a strategic perspective so that, like a good project manager, they are able to make recommendations that are aligned with the priorities of the organization. Furthermore, they have to become knowledgeable in all types of labor (i.e., full-time, temporary, interns, 1099s, consulting firm) and know how and when it makes sense to use each one.

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With these things in mind, the recruiter becomes a consultant to the business, and is able to present ideas that correctly prioritize speed, price, and quality for each requisition or hiring challenge. For example, if the hiring manager is looking for a highly skilled, full-time employee and the time to fill is going to be longer than the business can wait, the recruiter can recommend the use of an independent contractor instead of a direct hire. Likewise, if the hiring data for a specific job family indicates that there is a shorter time-to-fill by 30 days if the division hires someone on a contract-to-permanent basis versus full-time, a good recruiter should make the appropriate recommendation when time is a higher priority. Therefore, by shifting or mixing the hiring strategy the recruiter is better able to meet business needs in a timely manner.

You may say, “My recruiter should know this.” The reality is that many are not equipped with the knowledge and tools to advise the business. Furthermore, many recruiters are ill equipped to understand the business and the human resource insights on how to create a successful workforce. Today, with fierce competition for the same resources, managers want to understand all of their options for winning the battle and what they may have to sacrifice. They need recruiters to be advisors who can not only provide strategic guidance, but can also explain the implications of their recommendations as it relates to speed, quality and price.

Demonstrating financial and performance benefits/risks and providing metrics and realistic time frames will go a long way toward building credibility across the entire organization from human resources to procurement. And for the recruiter, being a trusted advisor is much better than having to “pick two.”

Tracey Friend joined Agile•1 in 2010 and brought with her a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that have enriched the growth of Agile•1. Her wide breadth of expertise includes consulting, workflow design, requirements gathering, management as well as program and technology design for both direct and contingent workforce solutions. She has a broad base of recruiting, sourcing and leadership experience that is critical in the execution of her current role as vice president of direct workforce solutions. She is responsible for all aspects of the company’s direct hire workforce solutions including AllSourceRPO and AccelerationATS.

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7 Comments on “Speed. Price. Quality. Are Your Recruiters Sacrificing One of the Above?

  1. Excellent article. Two points I’d add:

    One, often it’s not the recruiter doing the advising, it’s a sales rep or account manager. In those circumstances it’s that person who should take on the role of partnering and advising the hiring manager, and the recruiter should always be a part of that too. Such account management types are very sales oriented and need to be managed, they will over promise by default.

    Two, this approach is difficult and means you will have to sacrifice short term business gains. You will lose sales, because most companies/hiring managers don’t feel they have to compromise on anything, and there are plenty of fly by night agencies that will pump out resumes galore to hiring managers, who think that’s what producing results means: more resumes, more people, more interviews, despite the lack of hire or consequences to the business of a prolonged vacancy.

    Overall, with the split between recruiting and account management which is becoming more common, especially in RPO and HRO types of organizations, and the need to let potential short term gains slide to maintain this model, I think a lot of agencies will have trouble adhering to this model.

  2. I love this article Tracey. There’s one point I’d like to see discussed:

    Your comment, “…recruiters need to become advisors to their hiring managers, presenting real solutions instead of empty promises.” may not be realistic. Is your audience corporate recruiters (at what level and experience?), agency recruiters, etc? In my experience and from what I’ve been told, if the recruiter isn’t being paid (as in retained) they will NOT ever be seen a true advisor and partner to the hiring manager.

    1. Most likely, Carol, yes. At an agency you’re competing with people who promise the world, if you try and step back and be an advisor you basically lose the business to the people who get the resumes to the HM faster. What most agencies do is try to move as fast as possible and then adjust as they go.

  3. Carol, I am seeing this across the board with all types of recruiters. This comment is surely not to generalize, yet it is meant to say no one group is better or worse than the other.

  4. Thanks, Tracey. As the saying goes: “good work if you can get it”.
    It has been my experience that there seems to be relatively little demand for seasoned, experienced, advising-recruiters who will tell the client/employer what they need to do and not what they want to hear.
    There seems far more demand for the young, perky, enthusiastic, and CHEAP “Sr. Recruiter” with a couple of years agency experience and will to take orders and say “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full” like there were no tomorrow.
    @ Medieval Recruiter: 3 point shot again.

  5. Great, thought-provoking article Tracey.

    Apologies for coming in late to the discussion. I agree with all of the points raised, but would also add that one of the real challenges is getting “face-time” even by phone) with the Client enough to really get into how their business works, culture, short/med/long term recruitment requirements etc when you want to provide the ‘wow’-factor high quality recruitment service.

    Too often, Clients will simply give a Job Description – which I always consider 1-dimensional by itself – and ask you to hire against that as one of 2-3 agencies and not make time to discuss/answer any of your vital peripheral vacancy information…

    Trying to convince them that you can provide a much better service by discussing the role in depth beyond the JD is not always easy… It is an ongoing education process which is part of the Account Management challenge…

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