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.”