I’ve Been Recruiting for 25 Years but Still Haven’t Hired Anyone!

When reading the thoughts of my peers in the recruiting profession, I have to admit I become a little surprised at how many have really had a chance to hire people. While aside from a couple of assistants in recruiting groups I have managed, I actually have never hired anyone. Usually that has been the hiring manager’s job.

Recruiters play a vital role in the process that includes:

  • Attracting applicants: advertising, networking, job fairs.
  • Creating candidates: processing and screening applicants.
  • Monitoring or managing the interview process: directly or by way of HR.
  • Processing offers: directly or by way of HR.
  • Performing background and reference checks: directly or through third-party.
  • Third-party vendor management: agencies, job boards, software.
  • Help planning the holiday party: just kidding.

But none of the above starts until a hiring manager says, “I need to hire somebody.” Then sometime in the future and a couple of interviews later, the hiring manager comes back to the office and says, “This is the one I want to hire.”

Now, this may seem just a little nitpicking, but whenever the discussion turns to measuring performance or process metrics, the phrase always pops up, “Determine performance by time of hire and quality of hire.”

Neither is in direct control of the recruiter. Creating a methodology of performance measurement in this environment that includes time to hire and quality of hire is the equivalent of taking your driver’s test from the back seat of the car.

As my old pappy used to say, “If you ain’t holding the wheel, you ain’t driving the car.”

(Actually, Dad was from South Boston and would have burned holes in me with his stare if I ever called him “pappy”, but when spinning cornbread, pappy seems more appropriate than dad.)

Now, a good recruiter can enhance a process and make it more efficient through their overall industry knowledge and relationship-building with their hiring managers.

However, consider the following:

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  • Can a recruiter overcome an inefficient hiring manager? (Hmmmm?maybe this one?no, no?maybe this one?hmmm?no, no?)
  • Can a recruiter overcome a bad company reputation? (FOX News Headline, “XYZ Corp. shipped another 2,000 jobs overseas?film at eleven.”)
  • Can a recruiter overcome a bad process neither designed nor controlled by them? (?only after the fourth interview, but before the seventh, unless of course this is an accelerated process requiring a signoff from both the resident and department monitor?)
  • Can a recruiter require quality and process adherence upward? (“Look here, boss, the policy manual you just threw in the wastebasket clearly states?”)
  • Can a recruiter force hiring managers to have a fair and balanced candidate evaluation process? (“I know this one looks good on paper?but my gut tells me?” Good Lord! It’s his gut again!)
  • Can a recruiter control third-party vendor relationships with hiring managers? (David, sending you a resume, look it over and call me. By the way, we haven’t played a round of golf in ages?call me.)

(That steering wheel just keeps moving further and further away, doesn’t it?)

Before a company can judge the performance of the recruiting staff, it must first judge their own performance in supporting the recruiting staff. In other words, it is not only a question of the recruiter being worthy of the company, but rather, is the company worthy of the recruiter?

Here are a few examples to consider:

  • A job requisition closed 45 days after it opens, with the hiring manager authorizing an offer to the candidate he first interviewed after 15 days. How long did it really take to fill this requisition?
  • A candidate is hired with no BA or the prerequisite number of years’ experience outlined in the original job requisition as “preferred” but not required. In theory, it’s not the highest level of quality job matching. But there were four candidates also under consideration with all job requisitions point met and covered. But the candidate hired came from the same hometown as the hiring manager. The final factor considered in the hiring decision was that they were former “Fighting Titans.” Was the quality of the job requisition not achieved due to recruiting?
  • The workload of the recruiter required assigning priorities based on the importance of the positions to the company’s stated goals. However, a politically connected manager was able to get their mid-level priority jobs assigned full-priority status. Not all critical staffing was met and the company goals were not 100% achieved. Was this due to the inability of the recruiter to manage tasks?

I obviously loaded the above examples to the extreme to prove a point. Yet in each instance, the recruiter did not achieve his or her full potential due to circumstances they did not control but clearly effected the perception of their performance.

So, if you want to measure a recruiter’s performance, make sure you measure the performance of the process, including the performance of the non-recruiting management staff in following and enforcing stated company policy.

Other Metrics to Consider

  • Time to recognize hire. The number of days the resume of the candidate hired was in the hands of the hiring manager.
  • Quality of not hired. A comparison of the top five applicants for a particular position plotted on a graph based on skill-matching. The hiring manager is required to stipulate the “no” decision on the four not hired.
  • Process override. Anytime a decision is made outside of common practice, policy, or standard process is signed off on by the manager making that decision. For example, not selecting the top ranked candidate in the example above.
  • Vendor relationship disclosure. When a vendor-client relationship extends outside the office the hiring manager must disclose all contacts, social engagement, meals, and gifts exchanged to ensure undo influence is not a factor in hiring decisions. (Especially when questions arise from “Quality of Not Hired” which involved a third-party candidate.)
  • Recruiter’s review. A recruiter’s review of the performance of a hiring manager based on objective measurements such as response time, availability for meetings and interviews, resume/job requisition matching, follow-up.

If a company doesn’t enforce their own staffing policies and practices and doesn’t require compliance from the non-recruiting staff involved in the process, then the only fault I can find with the recruiting staff is the obviously bad choice they made in employers.

If a company is willing to police their hiring managers to ensure they meet and comply with published staffing practices and policies and implement a disciplinary process for those who fail to comply, then it’s possible to also develop effective metrics and measurements for recruiters.

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.


5 Comments on “I’ve Been Recruiting for 25 Years but Still Haven’t Hired Anyone!

  1. I hope no one is drinking the pity punch that is served up in this article. The responsibilities of the recruiter list here are the bare minimum activities the most inexperience recruiter should be doing. Good recruiters influence. The hurdles listed here by Ken can be overcome and it is the recruiters? role to overcome them.

    The metrics listed are also bad.

    ? Time to recognize hire: I don?t get it. What?s wrong with time to fill? Find the candidate and influence the manager to move on them.

    ? Quality of not hired: Resume?s are the worst indicator of future performance I?ve ever seen. This isn?t a metric but simply looking into a crystal ball and seeing what you want to see. It?s not a metric. You will have no proof that a candidate you did not hire would have performed better then a candidate you did hire.

    ? Process override: once again, influence?

    ? Vendor Relationship disclosure: If you can not provide a good service to your customers they will seek other resources. If you believe a manager is violating code of ethics policies with the vendor then by all accounts immediate let HR take care of the issue. Otherwise, competition is a reality of life.

    Don?t drink this punch. It would certainly be bad for your career.

    Bill Opal
    Head of Recruitment
    Sony Ericsson

  2. While I do NOT agree that this was a ‘pity party’, those of us who have been on the full-cycle end and now have entered into the sourcing arena, have to recognize the limitations to what we can and cannot achieve—and then try to achieve anyway.

    If any of you have read Maureen Sharib’s– HR buy-in posts, you know what I mean. Forging ahead sometimes means just that and doing so without the pat on the back–the highest number of hires, or recognition of hires at all.

    I do think hiring managers’ inability to make a decision and pressure of inaccurate metrics or the lack of usable metrics play a role, but what I have found in my current position is that after a recruiter has been slapped down long enough by– red-tape, active then in-active requisitions, indecisiveness on many levels, and knock-out tests that defeat the purpose of finding top quality candidates– some individuals feel defeated.

    But, this defeatest attitude takes on several faces. Individuals can start making excuses, or they can get on the ball and a)look for a better culture in which to produce b)stay front and center with the newest technology that at the right moment can be presented to those with the authority to approve it and c)simply stay intellectually challenged by the hunt itself.

    Look for new ways to dig up those passive candidates, stay excited about them, even if they do not move forward in your particular recruitment process, keep them warm for the right moment, stay abreast of industry knowledge, and network, network, network.

    I agree with Deborah’s comments in that we have to always be providing perspective to the hiring manager, and if you get one or two to understand your vision and passion, the others will follow—or not, but you have to maintain your true sense of what the goal of recruiting is—to make your company or your firm the most outstanding it can be. Is this too idealistic?

    Maybe, but good recruiters live and thrive by even the ‘promise’ of the next good hire.

    If we lose site of the promise, we lose site of the goal. If you can get past the obstacles on a more personal level, this will be reflected in your professional life as well.

  3. While this article does address some real issues, it fails to recognize that they are insoluble from the perspective of an internal recruiter.

    You can?t make stupid smart, slow fast, lazy ambitious.

    You also can’t judge the hiring managers decision to hire an ex-Titan–it well may be (and often is) correct.

    Hiring is a highly complex human interaction and the irony contained here is that someone who hasn’t hired in 25 years proposes to instruct those who hire regularly—and works with the hired on a daily basis.

    Rather like having your children choose your clothes.

    The innumerable posts and articles that appear here on metrics (or, how do I keep my job!) all advocate acquiring some form of authority without corresponding responsibility.

    If we just had enough rules, there would be no divorce, they cry again and again.

    Recruiters, corporate or TPR, would be wise to understand the limitations of their roles and the inevitable frictions that will result from working in the relationship business. Avoiding and managing those frictions, without resorting to the policy handbook, will yield far greater results than trying to police everyone around you. Look to the plank in your own eye.

  4. I love the way this article makes the point that it takes a village to successfully (and fully) recruit! Of course seasoned recruiters do learn some tricks for influencing a bad process or a slow hiring manager, but for the most part, it is not within their full control. All we can usually do is sell, sell, sell and constantly paint the picture for them regarding the slate of ready, willing, and able candidates that are available to take the job within the determined set of terms and conditions and window of time that is reasonable. We must constantly provide perspective to the hiring authority.

  5. I have to agree that recruiters do not hire people. We facilitate a process. We can attempt to influence a hiring manager, improve a poor process, suggest upgrading internal technology to make the process of hiring more streamlined and efficient, but that is all we can do. If a hiring manager takes 2 weeks to decide if he wants to interview a candidate, we can try to prod him to speed up, but the fact of the matter is that, I as the recruiter, can not MAKE him interview and hire on mine or the candidates schedule. He is going to do it when he is ready, if the candidate is no longer available, then I will have to go out and find more candidates. I can pass this information on to the hiring manager?s boss, but that is no guarantee that things will get better. Usually, at the end of the year if hiring expectations have not been meet, the first ones that get looked at are the recruiters, not the hiring mangers. If you start pointing fingers at the hiring managers, you had better have every bit of your information to cover your butt first.

    This is one reason that I no longer work on the agency side of the business. I was tired of having my income tied to things that were outside of my control. Even if the recruiter handles everything well, there is no guarantee that things will work out and the person will be hired. The company might not offer the candidate a salary that they will accept, the candidate might take a counter offer from there current employer, they might be interviewing with other companies at the same time and take one of the other offers. There are a host of reasons why a qualified candidate might not get hired. We can only know what the candidate tells us, and not all candidates are willing to tell you much (when I have interviewed for new positions, I do not always tell the recruiter everything else that I am working on).

    David Hafernik

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