Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Recruiters

Being a corporate recruiter is a thankless job. It requires staying on top of tons of paperwork; keeping up to date with a myriad of federal, state, and local regulations; and worst of all, working with an endless line of unappreciative managers. With very few exceptions, managers treat recruiters like a necessary evil. More often than not, they view reading resumes and setting up interviews as something akin to getting a root canal. Managers make recruiters’ lives difficult because they are frequently unclear about what they want in a candidate, and invariably they select someone who doesn’t meet half of the requirements they originally set forth as essential. In short, being a corporate recruiter and working with “managers from hell” isn’t a lot of fun. Sure we’ll do it. But would you recommend the job to your son or daughter? If you’ve ever had an opportunity to work directly with line managers outside of the human resources function, then you know that some of the things they say about corporate recruiters are less than flattering. But from an external advisor’s point of view, this kind of manager is not only wrong in their assessment, but also often themselves the root cause of most recruiting problems. I find it interesting and troubling at the same time that many corporate recruiters take so much crap from managers. Perhaps they do so in hopes of one day establishing a trusted relationship with them, or perhaps they are just too passive in accepting the lack of responsiveness and rude treatment often dished up by managers. If you’re tired of this lack of accountability, you must adopt a more forceful approach, and when necessary, put the manager in their place. This article outlines several approaches that recruiting managers have successfully implemented to shift the burden of responsibility back where it belongs. Other Administrative Professionals Get Treated Better There are many back-office professionals that who much less grief from line managers than recruiters. For example, when a line manager tells someone in finance that they want to do something outside the boundaries of normal financial practices, finance managers tell them no. When a line manager tells someone in IT that they want to change their computer system beyond the acceptable limits, they are told no. The same behavior can often be found in purchasing, travel, and even corporate security. When these professionals tell line managers that they must operate within the standards of the department, there is little discussion. Managers adhere to these standards because they believe them to be necessary. They further believe the person enforcing the rules is an expert who knows the best way to get things done. Corporate recruiting could learn several valuable lessons from these other functions. If corporate recruiters want to increase their level of respect and be treated the same way, they must act differently than they do today. Corporate recruiters must:

  • Learn to quantify the contributions they make
  • Learn to come across as true experts in the field of recruiting
  • Set credible standards and expectations that cannot be violated

Outlined below are three action steps you and other recruiters in your department can take to equalize your relationship with hiring managers. 1. Recognize the value you bring to the table. The first step to take to end poor treatment by line managers is to understand upfront that although managers are certainly important, and even powerful, that doesn’t make them infallible or always right. You need to respect them and their power, but also understand that there are limits to that respect. Yes, managers do produce products and bring in revenue directly. But as a recruiter, you also must understand that they can’t bring in much revenue when they are understaffed or if they have the wrong people working for them. It’s time for recruiters to realize that when you build systems and processes that increase the likelihood of your company hiring top performers, you are adding tremendous economic value to the corporation. If this were sports, it would be obvious that any recruiter who brought in Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Shaquille O’Neal would be a hero, because everyone realizes that recruiting top-performing players makes all the difference in the world. Without your professional help and guidance, there is little chance managers will successfully recruit top performers. Hiring great people is the value recruiters add to the corporation. If you quantify the dollar impact of hiring, it often exceeds the ROI of any other investment in the CFO’s portfolio. 2. Act like an expert and demand respect. The second step to take is to realize that in order to gain respect from line managers who themselves have a great deal of technical expertise, you must clearly be an expert in your field. Unfortunately, some corporate recruiters fail in that area, and as a result, they miss an opportunity to gain respect. Corporate recruiters must learn to be knowledgeable in all areas of business, as well as in recruiting. Here are some of the steps that recruiters can take to demonstrate to line managers that they are experts include:

  • Benchmark to determine what competitors are doing in recruiting. Demonstrate that you know the best practices in recruiting and what major firms throughout the industry are doing, so that when a manager resists your advice or asks for something unreasonable, you can show that what you’re recommending is in line with the best practices in the industry.
  • Demonstrate that you know the “critical success factors” of great recruiting. Show managers that you are data driven and that you know precisely what works and what doesn’t.
  • Demonstrate that you know 1) the best sources that produce top performers, 2) the major reasons why candidates accept or reject offers, 3) the most accurate way of assessing a candidate’s skills, and 4) the jobs that have the most impact on the business when they are filled with great hires (mission-critical jobs)
  • Make managers aware of your successful track record by showing them the on-the-job performance of the candidates that you identified and successfully recommended for hire in the past. Also show that when you recommended against some hires and the manager went head anyway, the result was high turnover and poor new-hire performance.
  • Demonstrate that you are widely known in the recruiting field by writing articles in journals that managers read, giving talks at industry conferences that managers attend, and being quoted on recruiting practices in the business and trade publications that managers subscribe to.

3. Set credible standards and expectations that cannot be violated. The third but perhaps most important element of getting managers to respect and listen to recruiters is to develop a set of processes that restrict and constrain managers’ behavior. Unfortunately, many corporate recruiters treat managers as gods and end up doing whatever managers want, even though it makes no sense. Recruiters routinely cave in to the silliest manager requests simply because the manager asked. For example, many firms continue to run large newspaper ads at the request of line managers despite the track record that demonstrates such ads routinely fail to recruit a single hire. Managers should be allowed to make requests and even have opinions, but those opinions must be subject to your expertise. Instead of constantly acquiescing, recruiters need to define the role of a manager in the recruiting process so that they have input but are not allowed to go outside the boundaries of generally accepted recruiting practices. Professional recruiters know that managers harm the company’s ability to bring in great hires when they are slow to read resumes, can’t find the time to create job descriptions, are slow to interview, or are indecisive during the offer process. The damage incurred as a result of such inaction is not caused by the recruiter or the recruiting function, but instead by the managers. As a recruiting professional, it is your job to stand up to managers, set expectations, and respond accordingly when one of those expectations or limits is violated by a manager. Instead of letting managers decide on their own when they have enough time to get around to their recruiting responsibilities, you should instead set standards prior to beginning the recruiting process in these critical areas:

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  • Number of days a manager has to develop a job description
  • Number of days a manager has to read resumes and select interviewees
  • Number of days a manager has to schedule and conduct interviews
  • Number of days a manager has after the final interview to make a decision on a finalist ó you should require a decision within one day!

Yes, managers will initially resist these constraints. But they have learned to live with standards in finance and purchasing, and as long as you maintain your results and are uncompromising in demanding respect for your own standards, they will learn to live with yours too. Managers take their time with recruiting because while there are severe economic consequences for not meeting their business goals, there are no immediate consequences for failing to meet recruiting goals. It’s important not to be subtle here. Just as finance “chastises” or penalizes managers when they violate financial rules, recruiting must learn to penalize managers when they fail to adhere to recruitment standards. There are several ways to “encourage” managers to meet the recruiting department’s standards. They include:

  • Service level agreements. An SLA is a joint agreement between managers and recruiters that specifies in advance each party’s roles and responsibilities in recruiting. Responsiveness levels, effectiveness metrics, minimum standards, and expectations are set as well as minimum and maximum times for certain activities. An SLA may or may not include any penalties, but the mere fact that terms are mutually agreed to in advance helps to ensure adherence.
  • Develop a priority treatment process. Many service functions prioritize their customers, depending on their importance and their adherence to standards. If recruiting is to get managers to adhere to its rules, then it must make it clear that a manager’s adherence to expectations in recruiting directly impacts whether their future jobs openings receive a high, average, or low priority. Tell managers that in order to get priority treatment, they must meet or exceed pre-assigned goals and deadlines. Failure to adhere to set standards will decrease the priority assigned to their requisitions. Some recruiting departments go the next step and completely cut off services to managers who fail to meet minimum requirements. The obligation of the recruiting function to the corporation is to avoid spending time and resources where they will have no positive impact. Make it clear to line managers (and their managers as well) why you must cut off services and what they must do to be reinstated.
  • Institute a penalty. Another approach is to charge non-compliant managers an increased fee for internal recruiting services. If you don’t currently charge of a fee, institute a $2,000 recruiting penalty charge for each non-exempt position and $5,000 penalty for each exempt position when standards are violated. Non-compliant managers will learn quickly to recruit on their own or to follow the rules.
  • The “wall of shame” metrics report. Non-conforming managers need a wake up call. Consider instituting a “wall of shame.” The premise is that managers who cannot recruit or retain workers effectively will have their picture displayed on a wall of shame. Although the wall is only an idle threat, the thought of embarrassment certainly strikes fear. The actual way to embarrass managers into compliance is to prepare monthly reports that force rank every manager from best to worst on their performance in different areas of recruiting and retention. The report becomes even more powerful when it is distributed to every manager in the organization at the first of every month. It turns out that little spurs a manager to action faster then appearing on the bottom of any force-ranked performance list that everyone else sees!

Conclusion Recruiting is a thankless job in part because recruiters have allowed it to become that way. But it’s time for recruiting managers to realize that line managers are not gods; they are mere mortals who will treat you with respect if you demand it properly. I am not advocating that recruiters be rude or unprofessional with managers. But I am declaring that it’s time that recruiters equalize the power balance and respect between recruiters and line managers. To the skeptics who will invariably say that “it won’t work,” I’ll respond by noting that every approach in this article has already been tried and proven. In fact, there are a few select recruiting organizations that have already separated themselves from the pack in this important area of improving manager performance. Instead of waiting for managers to grudgingly provide respect and adhere to expectations, these departments took the initiative and made non-compliance no longer an option. It’s time to stop the excuses. Recruiting managers need to put a stick in the sand and say with a clear, firm voice (and with the negative consequences to back it up): “This is the way that recruiting is done in this corporation. Non-compliance is not an option.”

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

 

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3 Comments on “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Recruiters

  1. A terrific article that speaks directly to the issue facing the vast majority of our recruiters. As a result of this article, I am sharing it with our recruiters nation wide and will continue to work with our staffs to adhere to some of the suggestions listed. Thank you for an outstanding article.

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  2. Sullivan’s articles are always intelligent and often provocative. This article is laced with nuggets of brilliance and land mines that assuredly will blow-up lower body parts if attempts are made to implement in a conservative major corporation.

    There’s one section that could add significant value to our staffing organization if it the quantification could be accepted by our CFO.

    ‘Hiring great people is the value recruiters add to the corporation. If you quantify the dollar impact of hiring, it often exceeds the ROI of any other investment in the CFO’s portfolio.’

    We have tried ‘# of vacant position days x EPS per day per employee, extrapolated this to include operating income and revenue. This seemed viable to us; however, it was dismissed by the CPAs for solid reasons. In heavy manufacturing, there?s not a one-to-one correlation of employee to revenue. Second, in administrative functions such as IT, Accounting and HR, we have not been able to find a viable ratio to revenue that CPAs will accept as valid.

    When we try to use a quality index of replacement employee productivity gain/loss, again, these are viewed as somewhat subjective and ‘soft’ numbers. Even though we will do over $50 billion this year in revenue, we do not have a direct sales department per say.

    Having spent a major part of my career in revenue and operations management, it’s easy to quantify real value in such areas. When managing sales teams, revenue generated per employee minus complete employee costs including G&A expenses, would provide a fairly irrefutable profit/loss number per employee. From that perspective, I also would look down on the ROI numbers I’m now presenting in support of recruiting as ‘soft’ numbers.

    If anyone has any irrefutable ‘hard’ ROI number calculations that could validate Sullivan’s statement, ‘If you quantify the dollar impact of hiring, it often exceeds the ROI of any other investment in the CFO’s portfolio,’ and be accepted by our CPAs and our CFO – that would be Christmas come early for us. In recruiting, we all know the real impact of quality hiring, of lost productivity due to vacant position days and the competitive edge of a company that possesses a market leading employee talent base. Quantifying that value to conservative finance executives is eluding us at this time. All help is appreciated.

    Thanks very much,
    Dan

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  3. Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    Don’t let ’em pick people and report to HR
    Make ’em learn to program and then they?ll go far

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    They’ll never be valued they?ll never be right
    Yet they?ll forever be sourcing the Internet at night

    Recruiters ain’t easy to love and they?re easier to blame
    By hiring managers whose interviewing styles are so lame
    AIRS Certifications and SPHR titles are nice
    But try tellin? them managers their specs are all wrong
    And if you ain?t fired right there you?ll be so next ?morn

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    Don’t let ’em pick people and report to HR
    Make ’em learn to program and then they?ll go far

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    They’ll never be valued they?ll never be right
    Yet they?ll forever be sourcing the Internet at night

    Recruiters like metrics – efficiency and quality make sense
    They spend days and months re-engineering the hiring process
    Asking Shally for flowcharts and checking their thoughts
    against others who post on ERE
    Then Doc John writes an article that says ?cruiters are just bourgeoisie

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    Don’t let ’em pick people and report to HR
    Make ’em learn to program and then they?ll go far

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    They’ll never be valued they?ll never be right
    Yet they?ll forever be sourcing the Internet at night

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be ?cruiters
    Don’t let ’em pick people and report to HR
    Make ’em learn to program and then they?ll go far

    You can read the original article here

    Post your own Article Review
    http://www.erexchange.com/p/g.asp?d=M&cid={E42C46B9-11EE-4EB7-BB9A-E3609358F027}

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