Let Me Tell You What a Good Recruiting Boss Is

I’ve had many recruiting bosses, sometimes in large organizations, sometimes in small. I’ve been privileged to have had a few who have been exceptionally good. Here’s what the good ones had in common, and the sorts of things they would and wouldn’t do.

The Fundamentals

While they didn’t put what they did in these terms (since it hadn’t yet been created), they pretty much followed the Agile Recruiting Manifesto:

  • We are uncovering better ways of hiring people by doing it and helping others do it.
  • Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Quick, quality hires over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

Principles Behind the Agile Recruiting Manifesto

We follow these principles:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of quality hires.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver quality hires frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Internal customers and recruiters must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals.
  • Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a recruiting team is face-to-face conversation.
  • A quality hire which is on time and within budget is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable employee development.
  • The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to professional excellence and first-class service enhances agility.
  • Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
  • The best requirements, processes, and hires emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

I’ll boil it down into three major points (and discuss them), as one of my bosses did so well:

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We’ll give you (recruiters) the resources you need to do your jobs. While we were definitely not throwing money all over the place, our manager made sure we had what we needed, and worked to improve what we had; such as worked to clean up the ATS so it would actually help us give us accurate and useful information. Also, to keep us informed she had a number of us attend a recruiting convention so we could see with our own eyes what was out there (this was in the early days of the Internet, and there wasn’t all that much “stuff” out there), and not just have a VP attend on our behalves. Also, instead of bringing in a “recruiting thought leader” to impart “wisdom from on high,” she’d meet with us and solicit our opinions as to what we needed to improve our jobs.

We’ll work with your hiring managers to make sure you have the communication and cooperation necessary to do your jobs. (This is a big one.) She made sure that we recruiters were not weak and fearful errand boys and girls at the beck and call of the hiring managers’ whims. We were equal partners in an important task: hiring. She was not an intermediary partner between us and our hiring managers and higher-up superiors. She was our advocate and leader. She was loyal to us, and we to her. She “took care of her own,” We knew that if push came to shove, she wouldn’t throw us under the bus. She wasn’t a push-over. She made sure we did what we needed to do, and without excuses. She could be tough, but she was fair, and we could trust her.

Now go recruit and don’t sweat the small stuff. Small stuff was/is basically anything which tended to pull us away from our jobs, which was to “quickly and affordably put quality butts in chairs.” Examples of “small stuff” (with my additions to keep it current):

  • More-than-necessary paperwork/data-entry/metrics (Nobody should do it.)
  • Onboarding (HR should do it.)
  • Employee engagement (HR should do it.)
  • Employee retention (HR should do it.)
  • Employment branding (Marketing should do it.)
  • Talent communities/social network recruiting (Takes too long to get hires. Our managers need them now.)

I think my recruiting boss (actually, she was my recruiting over-boss, my recruiting boss was really good, too) was fortunate. She could actually do what was good for us (for awhile; it changed after they laid off the contract recruiters and the acquiring company “settled in”). I’ve had others as competent and well-meaning, but they weren’t powerful enough to continue, were set up to fail, etc. Overall, I’ve been fortunate too. I’ve had a few of these shining stars in my career.

I’d like to hear your stories of good recruiting bosses, or if you think you are a good recruiting boss, tell us what you’ve done to make and keep it good for us recruiters. (Extra points for an “against-all-odds triumph over a bunch of soul-sucking, mind-killing “corporateocrats.”)

Keith Halperin is currently working as a senior contract recruiter and performs additional sourcing work. He has worked in recruiting, placement, search, and research for highly diverse clients (from startups to Fortune 500 firms) throughout the San Francisco Bay Area since 1986. He conceived, designed, and implemented corporate recruiting strategies, and developed a white paper for a $70 million, five-year NASA CS recruiting project. He developed the Recruiting Process Methodology, a comprehensive open-source roadmap of recruiting. He co-founded MyIPOJob job fairs for pre-IPO companies, and founded Recruitersforum, an online job site for all types of recruiting positions.


10 Comments on “Let Me Tell You What a Good Recruiting Boss Is

  1. Anyone knowing you (like I do virtually) from your frequent appearances and comments on ere will recognise what you are saying here Keith, and as always it is good sound and easily understood.
    Fundamentally recruitment is a simple matter, yet through years of the recruitment industry building up, adding tools, solutions, so also more and more voices advocating this or that. What c represent Keith is the best from the ‘old world’ and with that I pay you a huge compliment. Fact is that the ‘old world’ and the basics as those around 10-15 years ago actually working pretty well, and results following. I wonder where it all started to go wrong, where we as an industry started to drift away from what we can all understand and see the reason in and into what is more stuff and nonsense than the industry have seen for many many years. Don’t get me wrong I think there is a lot of value in some of the new stuff such as social media and all that follows, and the opportunities it has enabled. However in our pursuit of that we have lost track of the basics, the basics that work, that we have known about and used for years.
    That is what I read your piece to be about, the structures that will yield best results as they have a meaning, they play a role and they have been tried tested and proven. I have in two companies being local entities of large global multinationals seen exactly what you advocate and seen it work flawlessly, in harmony and with seriously good results. For that reason I can only 100% agree with what you describe.
    Sadly I know that these two companies and instances were a rarity, driven by senior managers that had a thorough understanding and ability to make it all gel, yet I fear and sense that I may not again meet or work with/for such people.
    Something of great value has been lost, and we better find it, or I think our world will be a far poorer place (this in respect to working environments, in terms of talent driving and ensuring growth and sustainability and in terms of competitiveness)

  2. Thank you very much, Jacob. While there are likely some complicated additional factors of which I am unaware, I think the main differences between now and the earlier/better periods come down to money and power, or the power of money. Despite everything, we are still in a *Great Recession for un(der)employment that’s a lot worse and longer than we’ve known since the Great Depression (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Unemployment_1890-2009.gif)
    As a contributing factor, wages haven’t gone up as productivity and profits have (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/minimum-wage-productivity_n_2680639.html, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/14/this-graph-is-the-best-argument-for-raising-the-minimum-wage/).

    Let’s take it home, Folks: How do your wages/salaries/hourly rates compare with earlier times? Have they kept up or increased, particularly since we’re now more experienced? From my observation, they haven’t. As an example: what today would be a decent Bay Area Sr. Contract Recruiter Rate of $70/hr, corresponds to an inflation adjusted entry-level contract recruiting rate in the Pre-dotcom, Post-GWI Recession Mid’90s of $46/hr.(http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi)… IMHO, until we get a significant, across-the-board major jobs recovery and it’s more of a seller’s market in the hiring space, many employers will be able continue to treat and pay their recruiting bosses and staffs poorly. Furthermore, while individual recruiters may do well (As the example that sometimes seem to pop up here on ERE: “I’ve never had a better year than this last one, and clients are begging me to accept $35% fees to work on their reqs!”), I’m afraid most of us here in “the real world of recruiting” may continue to struggle to maintain and increase our earnings and value.

    By gosh, I hope I’m very wrong on this one…


    *I often say it’ll be over when we have three consecutive months of under 7.0% UE.

  3. Appear just you and me Keith (for now at least) on this discussion 🙂

    In relation to the e n t i r e subject of what it means to have a very good and very well functioning recruitment set up, I sat down and came up with this. http://bit.ly/155tG2J
    Nothing spectacularly new or unknown here, yet appear for reasons that I cannot fathom still not to be numero uno on the corporate agenda.
    It was meant to be prologue to piece titled: ‘Corporate Talent Acquisition; Survival of the (holistically) fittest’, which in effect is what I interpret your original piece to be about, yet it took on a life of its own.

    It is my own personal ‘raison d’etre’ why I do what I do and love (yet do not seem to be able to exercise, as still on 7th month job seeking!)

    Readers may think I am off my head, but please argue with me, show me that I am wrong.
    Apologies to those that find grammar not the best.

  4. Thanks, Jacob. Sometimes quality of response outweighs quantity. I’ll take a look at your piece which I appreciate you sending. If anyone complains about your English grammar, ask them to write a clear piece in Dansk!

    As to why it’s not not at the top of most corporate agendas, the maximization of money and power in as few hands as possible is at the top of the agenda for most corporations. While we might wish otherwise (and most corporate leaders and their PR drones may try to convince us otherwise- they may even BELIEVE otherwise), IMHO we need to treat our work situation as it really is and not how some would like to have us think/imagine it should be. “Should bes” won’t pay our bills…



    P.S. Let me know if I can help you with your job search

  5. Having grown up with belief in the Western values, free enterprise, and opportunity for all and those that understand what it takes and work hard for it I have always thought the Capitalist model being answer to most things. However the truth and what seen in last 4 years since the current crisis unveiled all the flaws and rotten parts of the system, I have come to have my doubts and fear that the results of pursuit of profit having caused erosion and damage more than actually positive developments, not to mention evolution.

  6. I think that a responsible, regulated capitalism such as in Germany and Scandinavia may be the answer to most economic questions, but I don’t think that *late 2000s American “vulture” capitalism is the answer to many questions at all except: “How will the increasingly few get increasingly more while the rest of us get increasingly less?”



  7. Indeed the German way of doing things shown it endurance and validity, and given the history and what they have managed to become truly remarkable and to be inspired by. As for the Scandi model; also good although not faultless as to some degree taking after the Anglo American structure. That said regulation and less opportunity to enrich oneself without paying.substantial taxes have enabled it not getting too out of hand.

  8. Just saying, kinda interesting how much/little interest and reactions this topic has generated and not sure if down to issues with author, with content or comments or just sign of the time we live in. A pity if you ask me.

  9. @ Jacob: Who knows? I appreciate YOUR feedback.
    @ Howard.: Thank you very much. Hopefully, the word will get out one way or the other, and hopefully sooner than later.


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