The Real Problem in Corporate Recruiting

In his recent ERE article, “Why Corporate Recruiting May be Doomed,” Kevin Wheeler outlines how a developing technology gap may be impacting the performance of corporate recruiting teams. He rightly points out that the impact of new technology lags far behind when the technology is introduced. So, corporate recruiting organizations who have been slow to adopt new technology are falling farther and farther behind. It seemed to me that Mr. Wheeler was arguing that this technology gap was the key issue derailing many corporate recruiting departments. But as I read it, I was left thinking to myself that the problem with corporate recruiting departments is no different today than it always has been. It’s not the technology, it’s the people.

The world is constantly changing and thus, recruitment is constantly changing. However, the basics of recruitment haven’t changed since its inception. Once a recruiting need is identified:

  • Get clear on what type of talent is needed.
  • Do research and sourcing to find potential matching talent.
  • Convince the talent that they are interested in your job.
  • Evaluate the talent’s match to your job.
  • Negotiate an offer.
  • Onboard the talent.

As people have changed and technology has changed, some of these steps look a very different. I am not arguing that technology is not extremely valuable and important. Technology has made many processes easier, but without the right people executing the process, that technology is of little use. If you take a state-of-the-art sniper rifle and give it to an individual with no marksmanship skills and no desire to kill, the sniper rifle is of little use as a tool. In the same way, if we provide the best technology in the world to recruiters who don’t have the basic skills and motivations to use it, it’s useless.

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So, you desire to save your recruitment department from impending doom, instead of shopping for technology, start with the people. Based on my experience in both third party and corporate recruiting, there are five things you should look for and develop in your recruiting organization.

  1. Curiosity. The best recruiters are those who are constantly trying to figure out new and different ways to do things: recruiters who are curious ask a lot of questions. They are on a constant quest to learn more about why things happen the way they do, so they will ask that awkward question that others might not because they want to know the answer. Curious recruiters are always trying new things. The curious recruiters are those who have been on Twitter for three years and were talking about sourcing before anyone else had heard of it.
  2. Business Acumen. Respect as a recruiter comes when your hiring manager feels like you really understand her business and can help her make good people decisions. Let’s face it: most of our hiring managers aren’t good at hiring. They need a guide and facilitator to lead the way. But, they won’t follow a recruiter who can’t “talk shop” with them. Hire recruiters who study business. Teach your recruiting team to understand financials. Send your recruiters out to spend time within the business learning how things work and how the company makes money.
  3. Sales Savvy. Recruiting is a sales job; let’s stop pretending that it’s not. We sell our hiring managers on our expertise and ability to help them. We market to and sell applicants the opportunity at our organization. We sell applicants to the hiring manager. Finally, we close the deal by negotiating an offer between the hiring manager and the applicant. If that’s not a sales job, I’m not sure what is. So, a great recruiter needs the same tools and abilities as a sales person in any other field. If you have recruiters who would question being sent to a sales training course, you need new recruiters. Great recruiters watch Glengarry Glen Ross and Tommy Boy as instructional videos–they see themselves as sales pros.
  4. Creativity. Sourcing for talent is hard and getting harder by the day. While technology like social media has made it easier to find prospects, technology like caller ID has made it harder to actually reach them. What works in recruiting seems to change daily, so it has become a requirement to bring creativity and innovation to the table as a recruiter. One of the best cold-call recruiters I ever worked with was a master at leaving creative and interesting voicemails. She used a number of different techniques, and she experimented a lot. It was common that applicants would later tell me that of the dozens of voicemails from recruiters they received weekly, hers was the only one they returned because she sounded so interesting in her voicemail that they wanted to talk to her. The ability to generate new ideas and approaches is vital to surviving in recruitment today.
  5. Courage. Recruiting top talent isn’t for the faint of heart. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick up the phone and call people who you are intimidated by. Sometimes, you’ve got to try a recruiting approach that others within your company may think is crazy. Sometimes, you’ve got to ask the really tough, awkward question that might mean you’ve got to start the search over from scratch. Recruiters who lack courage spend their days hiding behind computers posting job ads and talking themselves into sub-par talent. The best recruiters are bold and fearless. They are committed to doing what it takes to find their customers the right talent to propel their business forward.

As a recruiting leader, rather than worrying about your technology and how that might be impacting your success, spend time putting the right team in place. If you populate your team with the best talent, they will lead you to the technology that you need. And, more importantly, when you put new technology in their hands, they will know what to do with it. Just as a sniper rifle in the right hands is an incredible weapon, once you have the right people in the right seats on your team, investments in recruitment technology can become a tool to make your team a world-class recruitment machine.

Jason Lauritsen a keynote speaker, author and advisor.  He is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently. 

A former corporate human resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. 

Most recently, he led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program where he has studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest. 

Jason is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships. Connect with Jason at


19 Comments on “The Real Problem in Corporate Recruiting

  1. +1. With regards to the Sales element of corporate recruiting, you’re spot-on. There are very few organisations who pay their recruiters a meaningful performance bonus/commission though, which is what may be required if companies really want to have the brightest recruitment stars working for them.

  2. I really enjoyed the analogy in this article Jason. In the hands of a novice, the tool can only perform as well as the operator. This can be said of many professions, but for some reason in Recruitment, people think technology will solve all of their problems. Well done on drawing attention to this ongoing misconception.

  3. You are quite accurate in describing the characteristics required for the job. You are clear on the type of talent needed for the job.If you do the sourcing and research, you’ll find those folks working as successful third party recruiters. Next, you’ll have to convince them to take your job and there’s the rub. Not many folks of the type you need are going to be attracted to reduced pay, diminished autonomy, limited mobility, layers of hierarchy, dress codes and tiny grey cubicles.

  4. Outstanding comments, Jason, and I totally agree.I have been practicing in this profession for 30+ years. “Nothing” (as in “no thing”) can spot talent and a good fit better than an intellectually curious and probing human practitioner. The incentive needs to be there for sure. But by nature, great and even good recruiters are fairly rare specimens who are combinations of district attorneys, FBI agents, crossword lovers, and investigative reporters who have the urge to inquire,delve, ask 3 more questions, and discover common denominators.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with the article and the characteristics essential to success. I find that the very best recruiters combine an inherent curiosity and an intense interest in business. I would describe the role as a hybrid between marketing and sales. Marketing in the strategic sense of defining targets and sales in the tactical sense of going after the targets. A great recruiter has both of those traits. A really great recruiter can mentor others to develop those traits.

  6. Jason, you are 100% correct. The problem is that most people with the skill set outlined won’t work in corporate recruiting. The money isn’t there and neither is the level of respect for the position within most organizations. A strong corporate recruiter can save his company 10 times his salary in fees not paid to agencies, but for some reason most corporate leaders refuse to see that.

  7. Good points Jason! It doesn’t really make good biz sense to implement great technology if the operators aren’t up to speed. As someone who was once a corporate technical trainer, I can tell you first-hand that I was always disappointed in the lack of CORE training people had. There seemed to be more emphasis on making sure the recruiters knew which buttons to push on the newly implemented technology, rather than teaching them the skills needed to source people, develop a network of candidate followers, market jobs, and sell candidates on the position.

  8. Thank you, Jason.
    IMHO, three of the five you mentioned
    (1.Curiosity. 4.Creativity. 5.Courage):
    if they don’t keep you from getting hired, they may get you fired.

    The problem with corporate recruiting is with the corporation, or any bureaucratic, hierarchic organization which emphasizes process more than results, form more than function, or appearances more than reality.

    Here’s an alternative:

    Manifesto for Agile Recruiting
    (This was “sampled” from the Agile SW Development Manaifesto. -kh)

    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
    That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

    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.

    Your thoughts….


  9. Jason – very well articulated! Although the technology gap does continue to grow, I believe there is still questions on how effective great technology is without great people using it. Automating a bad process only makes the recruiting results worse. Starting with great recruiters and then adding technology to automate an effective process managed by effective people is the main way to insure success!

  10. Jason, thank you for outlining the truth concering the characteristics of an excellent recruiter. I also appreciate the accurate comments made by David George.

  11. Thanks Jason, My biggest takeaway is recruiting is a sales job… If CORPS pay there recruiter’s for “effort” with a salary nothing with change…. ALL recruiters should be paid on “Results”…

    Just imagine, if we paid professional athletes on “effort” vs. “results”… Are you following me???

    Recruiting is a contact sport.. get on the phone!

    The Trophies in this world should awarded to CHAMPIONS!

    Best, Brian-

  12. Actually, athletes sign a contract to pay them a certain amount per year no matter how well (or badly) they perform. There may be incentives (bonuses) for certain performance based metrics being achieved, but for the most part they are salaried employees. If they fail to perform they won’t be re-signed to a new contract when the current one expires, effectively being “fired”, just like a salaried recruiter who isn’t filling any positions. I agree with the sentiment that recruiters should be paid, at least partially, on performance, but to say that athletes are paid strictly based on performance is not accurate.

  13. @Jason
    I completely agree with your viewpoints. As the world of recruiting is experiencing a transformation, recruiter must be much more technically savvy. It’s not only social media recruitment, but also keeping any eye on new softwares and talent assessment procedures to acquire a right talent. This will reduce the gap in the usage of new technology and early adopters always stay ahead in the competition.

  14. IMHM, recruiters should make $100k+/yr in any environment (corporate, CR, TPR). If they’re making less, they’re either probably doing things which aren’t worth $100k+ yr to do and should be eliminated, automated, or outsourced, or they’re not very good at what they do….


  15. KH- Great reply… Were talking about “Human Capital”…
    I say at least 250k (even in a recession!), since a “TOP performer” is worth 5X there salary statistically speaking… Thanks for sharing Keith….. Best, Brian-

  16. Jason, great thoughts, thank you for sharing. I completely agree. My question is this: Since there is much consensus that these factors/skills are what make a truly effective corporate recruiter, why do so many companies not employ this type of individual? Some of the larger & more forward thinking companies have multiple approaches(this one included) but the vast majority miss the boat completely. Thanks again.

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