Recruiters’ Favorite Wastes of Time

We often read about a variety of supposedly recruiting-related topics which are designed to have in-house (either full-time or contract) recruiters “do better.” We typically work on 15-25 requisitions at a time, putting in 45-60 hours of work/week for immediate hires. Consequently, if it doesn’t directly lead to helping us “quickly and affordably put more/better quality butts in chairs,” these topics are wastes of our time.

A number of these suggested topics/tasks are useful (if not vital), and others aren’t. However, when we recruiters aren’t “drinking from a firehouse,” we’re wondering how soon they’ll lay us off, so in neither case can we work on these useful tasks. It would be valuable to have a company say to us:

We’re slowing down a bit now, so we’ll have you work on these other important tasks you haven’t had time to do up to now to keep you working for awhile.

Many companies are unable/unwilling to do this, and would rather lose our accumulated knowledge and practice and start all over again in the future with some largely/wholly new crew.

Anyway, back to those favorite wastes of time we’re supposed to do in the negative-5 to negative-20 hours of free time we have during the week:


This is not only a waste of time for recruiters. It’s actually harmful to us.

We recruiters are paid to fill hires for new or open positions. When people stay longer, the amount of work we have decreases (since there’s less turnover), and so does our job security. As I sometimes say, “there’s no job security in filling a full cup, but there is in trying to fill a sieve.” A company can’t reasonably expect us to work against our direct interests when it isn’t prepared to offer solid and meaningful guarantees of continued employment to recruiters when the need for new hires slows down (as discussed above).

(Social Network) Employment Branding

I don’t consider this recruiting. It’s to recruiting what marketing is to sales. (Actually, it is a kind of marketing.) Let the marketing people do it, and figure out how/if it works. It’s like the old joke about advertising:

“Fifty percent of advertising spending is effective, and nobody knows which 50% that is…”

Also, wouldn’t putting the money that would be used for branding be better spent on tried-and-true recruiting methods, like an improved employee referral program with meaningful payout amounts to participants?

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Candidate Care/Candidate Experience

While it’s another important area, it appears recruiting decision-makers don’t think so, even to the extent of hiring $3.00/hour virtual candidate care reps to make sure all candidates have a decent experience, while allowing recruiters to concentrate on dealing with candidates who are moving ahead (“for now” or at all). It nicely dovetails into (social network) employment branding, though staying on this side of the recruiting/marketing border. It’s ironic that companies seem very eager to spend so much money and other resources getting the interest of people who might apply to them, while spending so little to improve the experience of those who actually do apply.

Talent Communities

This is a very hot topic right now. Here are my two different definitions:

  1. “A group of individuals with company-relevant skills ‘attracted’ to gain their interest in the company’s skill-relevant activities for possible eventual employment.” This is perhaps the biggest waste of time — it’s passive and slow. How do you measure it? Who’s going to do it … are they existing people or new ones? Who’ll train them or will they learn “on the job”? As said before, wouldn’t the relevant resources be better used on proven methods instead of this trendy “boondoggle”?
  2. “The 2013 term for ‘talent pipeline.'” This is a very good idea, and one most companies should implement. However, recruiters can’t really develop pipelines when we’re spending 50 hours/week on immediate hires. Companies should specifically hire people to create and maintain these talent pipelines of people we’re pretty sure we want to hire, without the schizophrenia of having to simultaneously fill current openings. (I’d like a job like this; wouldn’t you?)

Paperwork/Data Entry/Metrics

This is a case where you can have too much of a good thing. (You’re thinking: Paperwork’s a good thing? Yes, we need all our stakeholders (staffing managers, hiring managers, colleagues, etc.) to know what is going on in clear detail).

However, I’ve learned about two large companies where the recruiters spend 60-70 percent entering and documenting what they do the remaining 30-40% of the time. It would be laughably ludicrous if it weren’t so dysfunctionally pathetic. I haven’t seen a clear case for taking more than about 5 percent of your time, and if real reasons (we’ve been audited”) or imaginary ones (“if we give them all sorts of metrics, then they’ll say we’re serious and important just like them and will give us a ‘seat at the table.'”) justify a greater amount of time than this, spend as much time as you think — just outsource it to some data entry people for $2.00/hour.

I’m looking to hear your thoughts about these, folks.

What would you add to the list of “Recruiters’ Favorite Wastes of Time”?

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.


17 Comments on “Recruiters’ Favorite Wastes of Time

  1. “Companies should specifically hire people to create and maintain these talent pipelines of people we’re pretty sure we want to hire, without the schizophrenia of having to simultaneously fill current openings. (I’d like a job like this; wouldn’t you?)”

    Keith, what would you call a job like that?

  2. Again a good one Keith!!Just wanted to understand why social networking in not considered as part of Recruitments. In today’s time we can not imagine hiring process without that.

  3. Hi Keith,


    While I often agree with you (except calling candidates “butts in seats” but I digress )

    I literally winced when reading your comments about retention. While I don’t see that as a recruiters job, I disagree that high retention rates = my job going away. Some of the best companies have high retention rates and grow because of this, engaged employees equal higher earnings, more investments. Failing companies shrink, successful ones grow. I might be boiling this down to a simplistic point, but I tend to see things that way. Every time my position has been eliminated it was due to economic decisions, not because we had hired the perfect staff and everyone was happy. That won’t ever happen, unless hiring suddenly becomes a science.

    I guess what it comes down to for me is that I have to believe that recruiters have the intention to hire great people, rather than hiring average people who will leave so I can keep my job.

    Would appreciate your comments.


  4. Brilliant. I can not agree more. The only way though, in my opinion, is to get recruiting out of HR. It needs to be in BD or its own department with a dotted line to HR for QA reasons. Recruiting brings money to the table NOT HR. Recruiting pays for itself or in a way turns a profit. I helped set up the model for this at my current company and cut the budget and increased not only new work but was able to staff it.

  5. I agree with Stephanie on her point, a growing company always needs employees. Increasing retention makes our jobs as recruiters better because people who stay, if they stay for the right reasons, tend to be more competent. Longer tenured, more competent people also means those immediate hires get spaced out and less urgent. It’s important to remember that employees add to a company’s revenue stream by doing something productive for them. A healthy growing company full of competent, longer tenured people is where we all want to work. Luckily my current company, though it has some severe issues, does recognize this and re tasks people as needed.

    Overall I agree with the article, though I wouldn’t call these things wastes of time. Instead I’d call them low priority, and I’d think you would agree, Keith. I write that because in a couple of your examples above even you note that it isn’t that it’s a waste of time, it’s that there’s no time to do it for the relative payoff, or that someone else should be doing it, as in the marketing example. All of these things are worthwhile to have if you can afford them. Companies have to make decisions as to where to invest their money, and it’s often not in these areas, worthy as some people think they may be.

    Who knows, those people may be right and the decision to forego these things horribly wrong. But until there’s a tide shift where companies realize and truly act on the idea that their employees are valuable as opposed to disposable, we’ll never know because no one will make any meaningful measurement of ROI on these programs. And so long as we’re living in a market which is essentially managed by those same businesses into what I’d argue is a terminal job shortage, the potential supply of employees will always be plentiful and the jobs less so, and the balance of supply and demand will shift companies toward viewing their employees as disposable, as most people and institutions are inclined to act when any resource seems absurdly abundant.

  6. Keith,

    Funny I just presented @ ERE San Diego that recruiting should report to @ least 2 depts. COO or CEO OR CFO, and HR.

    Regarding reporting, couldn’t agree more. I think the next ATS that can REALLY provide good, customized reporting that recruiting doesn’t have to re-work, and re-customize, they will make a ton of $$$$. Don’t get me started on the other ATS topics, it would take too long.

    RE; candidate experience. To be honest, I think candidate experience IS: The experience a candidate has while interacting with the recruiter. It’s not something you can force. But it is something you can “have happen” by having good recruiting that is professional, experienced and good.

  7. @ Mighty Mo: Good question. If we’re talking about Talent Pipelines (as my colleagues Sarah White [Moderator], Matt Hendrickson, Marvin Smith, and I will be discussing this Tuesday at the RIS), we can stay stick with the Oil Industry analogy-
    If sourcers are “Talent Wildcatters”, these folks would be “Talent Refiners”.



  8. @ Anmol: Social Network Recruiting (which should actually be called Social Network Sourcing) is a slow indirect, and inefficient way of getting people to fill your current openings (LI isn’t in this category- among other things, it’s a huge resume database with virtually no direct contact information). I’ll put it this way:
    If I were to say that you have a req. load of 15-25 positions, and starting in 1 month are expected to fill these at the rate of 1/week, exclusively using FB, Twitter, etc. would that be realistic? I don’t think so.



  9. Keith,

    You are so right on target. My recruiters are blamed for everything—If there is an On-boarding problem it’s the recruiters fault. If Social networking broke down it’s the recruiters fault. If the candidate gets tired of waiting its the recruiters fault. If I have to tell a hot candidate that I finally found—- one more time that “of course they want you it just takes time”—I am going to “throw-up”. And yet they still have a whole bunch of little things for us to do in our “spare” time so that they can engage in what I call HR Babble at the “table”

    How about this—- Recruiting reports directly to the CEO.Could we give him/her an earful. Lets see—- we will talk about the merits of their ATS system that HR can not even use. I had better shut up the “Men in Black” are already looking.

  10. @ Stephanie; Thank you. In principle you are correct- a company with a high *active retention rate is a good company to recruit for IF they are committed to retaining us as well. A failing, shrinking company would likely not be having much recruiting going on as they would likely be cutting costs. Fundamentally, I think a recruiter’s chief concern re:retention should be whether or not (and for how long) they and their colleagues will be retained and paid. As the saying goes: “Loyalty = cash flow”. (The last 30 years in the US economy have clearly shown this.) While sometimes layoffs are inevitable (though I see little effort being done to reduce peoples hours across the board to minimize layoffs as some countries such as Germany do), I think more companies could try to keep their recruiting staffs productively busy for awhile during temporary downturns with useful but neglected recruiting tasks as I mention above, but I also see few companies doing this. Inhouse or contract- we are seen as easily dispensable.

    As far as hiring: I take pride to provide the best candidates I can and work to bring them aboard. However we recruiters don’t hire anyone.



    * where companies stay because they want to, not because there’s no place else for them to go.

  11. @ Derek. Thank you very much. Though I sometimes think that we could stay under HR if we had a powerful, supportive staffing head (a BIG “if”), your suggestion is very sensible. I like the BD connection- more results, less process. Heaven help us all if/when we get stuck under Finance- they don’t seem to understand how Recruiting works…



  12. @ Richard:” A healthy growing company full of competent, longer tenured people is where we all want to work.” Totally agree.
    I would also enjoy recruiting for a company with a strong commitment to its recruiters, values me for my experience and knowledge,and offers a high degree of workplace autonomy. However,it’s been my experience (and perhaps that of some of you out there too, Folks) that I can’t always get all of these at once. In a nutshell: while I would rather recruit for a highly functional organization, I’d rather recruit for a not-too-severely dysfunctional one than not recruit at all.

    “All of these things are worthwhile to have if you can afford them.”
    IMHO, exactly right again. One of the main points of contention I have with some of my esteemed fellow ERE articles is that they seem to deal in unrealistic hypotheticals:
    “If you are a rich and famous EOC (Employer of Choice), you should do this.”
    “If your managers are totally committed to world-class hiring through ‘word and deed’, do that.”
    “If you aren’t getting the results you want try/buy this new thing during your plentiful slack time” and so on.

    Well, I typically don’t work in such an ideal world- I deal with the realities of recruiting, where things are often far from ideal, but potentially improvable. I try and discuss solutions for organizations and people not as we want them to be, but as they are.



  13. @ Alan: Makes sense. I still don’t understand why after a few decades of development, there aren’t a handful of really good SMB ATS that most recruiters, etc. agree are the best.

    As far asCandidate Care/Candidate Experience is concerned, best not to get me started- still no committed takers of my offer to hear about their “great system of CC/CE”.



  14. @ Gary- “Been there, done that”. We need more Recruiting Bosses like you- understand how things really are and work to improve the situation for your team.

    I like the idea of Recruiting directly reporting to the CEO, as long as they stay away and let us do our jobs. When you have micro-managing, control-freak CEOs (particularly at larger companies) who must review and sign off on every hire from top to bottom, you’re in a really dysfunctional recruiting environment. (Does that sound like anyplace YOU work, Folks?)



  15. “Makes sense. I still don’t understand why after a few decades of development, there aren’t a handful of really good SMB ATS that most recruiters, etc. agree are the best.”

    I’m enjoying iCIMS. The reporting is good, but only in as much as it will spit out whatever raw data I want in a spreadsheet and then I can develop my own reports very easily. I think one of the problems with ATS systems in this regard is they are HR oriented, not recruiting oriented which would be more along the lines of production software, ERP/MRP kind of thing. Tracking people like raw materials through to manufactured goods seems impersonal, but a lot of the metrics are transferable in my view, and those programs are designed to let you see into the weeds and find out where time/money are being wasted. The existing systems are hopped up databases. In a very real sense we have to produce these people.

  16. @ Richard: Yep, last time I used iCIMS it wasn’t bad- not too overly complex or counter-intuitive like many of the big systems I’ve used.
    Don’t know if small companies can afford it. I like applying through Jobvite and Jobscore, but haven’t used them from the inside. I think the MRP/ERP analogy is good- don’t know if there are robust, affordable, and easy-to-use systems that do that either.



  17. Interesting article. Rather than get into point vs counterpoint, let me start by partially agreeing with you on talent acquisition customer care. I believe that if I were Walmart, Starbucks, Best Buy or any large organization that have mammoth work forces, I believe that a customer care strategy would be impactful. I am not certain it should be off shored, but perhaps mapped to the language and culture of the country where the person resides.

    Now for your “trendy boondoggle.” My favorite Barack Obama quote is “you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are entitled to your own facts.” Talent communities do have measurable ROI and several organizations have shared their successes over the years. And over the next few years as we “cross the chasm” from early adoption to more widespread usage, these success will be reinforced. I do agree with you that talent pipelines work and see talent communities the next step in advancing the work to create and engaged and interested source of candidates.

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