More than ever, it seems, hiring managers are challenging recruiters on the quality of the candidates they are seeing. Perhaps it is the perception that there is a surfeit of good candidates because of the number of layoffs that have occurred over the past few years. Or maybe it is because recruiters are overwhelmed with the volume of candidates that they are screening and make poorer choices because of it. But maybe this has always been an issue ó just one that was somewhat out of focus during the crazy 1990s. Managers do have a right to expect that the candidates they are being asked to interview are the cream of the crop. Why would any manager ever want to settle for a candidate who was “less than the best”? “Best” is always, to a degree, a subjective phenomenon. For example, if you were to go looking for a new car today, you would have a set of criteria in your mind for that car. You would then seek out the brand and model that you felt best met your criteria with the highest quality in your price range. How you define quality will vary depending on who you are. I may define it in terms of safety, but you may define it by speed or engine size. We are both correct, but we are looking at very different things. The same applies to the rather complex relationship between a recruiter, a candidate and a hiring manager. Each of the three has a set of criteria by which they are unconsciously judging one another. These criteria change and evolve, but a recruiter needs to be aware of them in order to succeed. The best recruiters have the highest quality assessment (QA) capability. Here are some ways that you can build your QA capability. Get To Know the Hiring Manager The first step in building a powerful QA capability is knowing who your stakeholder is and what they are most focused on. The way a new recruiter can begin this process of getting to know the manager is by spending time with him or her. I always recommend that the new recruiter spend several days attending the manager’s staff meetings and any other events where there will be an opportunity to communicate or listen to the hiring manager. The recruiter should also talk to the manager’s staff and find out what aspects of their work she looks at and is most concerned about. Is this a manager who focuses on compliance? On meeting deadlines? On quality work? You should also try to clearly understand who the people are that currently occupy positions that are the same or similar to ones that are open. It would be very wise to ask an incumbent to look at a resume or two that you are considering submitting to the manager and get their reaction. Probe and question why they think the manager will like or not like a particular candidate. Listen for anything that may indicate a concern this manager has. Maybe she only wants people with experience in a certain industry, although she may not have told you that directly. She may want only people with advanced degrees, but indicated on the requisition that a lower degree would be fine. Finding and responding to these subtle, unspoken and often unconscious requirements separate the best recruiters from the average. Establish Clear Requirements I am often surprised that recruiters do not insist on precise and accurate position requirements. It is almost impossible to do a good job recruiting for a position that is poorly defined and has few specific requirements. Part of your job in accepting and opening a position is to gather an understanding of that position. If you have spent the time I recommended above with the manager, you should have a relationship that is good enough for you to stand firm on getting these requirement down in writing, preferably with the manager’s signature and agreement attached. This is why I am an advocate of service-level agreements that require positions to be clearly defined. Build Reliable Sources As a high quality recruiter, you must find the best sources of candidates for the positions and manager you are recruiting for. Knowing where managers usually get the high-quality candidates they consider hiring is important. You should know where everyone on the hiring manager’s staff came from and how they came to be working for that manager. This will help you hone in on the best possible places to get candidates and avoid the wasted time and money that occurs when you “go fishing” without any good sources already identified. While job boards may be good for some managers, others may only really want candidates from competitors, from particular schools, or with particular industry experience. You have to know these things to find the candidates that will generate interest and excitement in the hiring manager. Screening I really believe we also have to increase our use of web-based screening tools and use them to reduce our need to spend hours interviewing candidates. If you have a deep relationship with the hiring manager, understand the positions well, have identified the hidden requirements for each positions, and have built a clear list of criteria that experience and the manager have verified ó then you can easily set up screening tools to help identify these candidates as soon as they appear. With record volumes of resumes pouring into most organizations’ recruiting sites, it is almost a requirement that you have these tools in place. If you are dealing with a handful of candidates, maybe you can get by with old-fashioned interviewing and the trial-and-error approach that served recruiters well in the 20th century. But if you dealing with volume, you would be wise to start the conversion process as soon as you can. I have written a number of columns recommending specific approaches and tools. You can scan the ERE archives to find some of these. A team of us are also in the midst of creating a thorough study of the tools available and how to use them. This should be available in the summer, and if you would like information about it, please contact me. Successfully dealing with demanding managers requires smart strategies and a high quality assessment capability. Building your quality assessment capability may be the most useful thing you do this year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.