As I wrote last week, time — time to source, time to close, time to interview — is one of the most critical factors in how you are perceived as a recruiter. Imagine that a manger asks you, the recruiter, to fill a requisition for a certain type of programmer. You have a short conversation with the manager and define the requirements for the job. This is a job that you know well, having spent time with the current programmers who have similar jobs. You have also been involved with the manager and how he thinks about performance. In short, you know what kind of person will be a winner in this position. An hour after you get the requisition, you present the manager with 2 possible candidates. These have come from a small and carefully constructed database of people whom you have been building relationships with over some time. All of these candidates are excellent possibilities. You have also built the trust and respect of the hiring manager and he will listen to you and give your candidate recommendations serious consideration. Does this describe you and your relationship with the hiring managers? If not, let’s talk about ways to reduce the time it takes to find great candidates. The first step, if you are an in-house recruiter, is to make sure you know what your managers are looking for. This means that the recruiting function has to have recruiters assigned in such a way that they get to know the managers and the work they need to have done. Recruiters should probably be physically located right next to their clients, and should be considered part of the team — not some external HR person. They need to have an in-depth understanding of the day-to-day challenges and stresses of the various jobs, and should be able to add value by giving sound advice on the skills and abilities a person needs to do the job well. And, the recruiter should have established a relationship with the manager that builds trust and friendship. When people work well together and share feelings and experiences, the quality of their working relationship will improve. Paradoxically, by spending time up-front, you will shave time off the back end of the process — the end that is visible to both candidate and manager and the end that is most crucial to your success. Then this recruiter needs to build a small database of people who could do these jobs. Doing competitive intelligence, developing the ability to ferret out those with skills and the right “fit” from those who only have the skills, is a major portion of the recruiter’s job. Remember, most people being considered for a position probably have the general skill set required. What really sets one candidate apart from another is almost always personality, cultural fit, and team skills. As a great recruiter, these become the discriminating factors in adding someone to your small database. If the time is taken to define the up-front needs and build this database, the time to source can be reduced to hours — even minutes. And, because there is a good relationship with the hiring manager, there is less likelihood that a candidate will be rejected for superficial or political reasons. While we want to believe that decisions are made on merits, we all know that many other factors play a part in decisions and in success. Good marketing and relationship building are as important between the recruiter and the manager as between the recruiter and the candidates. The complaints I hear about managers’ lack of interest in interviewing or about their poor skills at candidate “management” are mostly due to their lack of trust in and respect for the recruiter. If they don’t know you, or don’t have respect for your opinion, why should they spend time interviewing what they may consider to be marginal candidates? Trust and relationship is the key to any success. These small databases the recruiter builds are not proprietary. These are not guarded and protected lists of names, but names actively shared with other recruiters or managers. The real value comes in developing the relationships with the candidates. While a few recruiters may be able to place a few people without any important relationship building, this is rare. The best placements will occur when the recruiter’s knowledge of the position, the manager, and the candidate is used to make a good match. The database is built by spending time away from the office. It is built one person at a time from attending conferences, public events, seminars and trade shows. It is built on the weekends at social events and it is built on referrals and contacts. After some initial introduction, the recruiter should set up some regular form of communication with each of the members of the database. This could be a newsletter, a personal letter, or a phone call periodically. Each member of this database should be taken to lunch and you should spend as much time as you can getting to know the person. If appropriate, have them conduct a short project or comment on some issue that is of importance to you and your firm. The goal is twofold: to build information about the candidate and to establish evidence that this person is a good fit for the position you have. Doing this kind of relationship building is very time consuming, but it is the most efficient way in the long run to get the great candidates. By reducing this time to find a candidate, you automatically reduce the time to interview and to close. Like magic, your stats improve across the board. Yet, all the work in the world at cajoling managers, at forcing interviews, and at bringing in many candidates for a job simply to show activity will not yield any improvement in overall statistics or results. All of this will not make you a better recruiter — just a better nag!
Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at email@example.com.