ABC, Inc.’s three recruiters are overwhelmed with requisitions. At the end of last week, they had more than 150 open positions to fill, many of them requiring hard-to-find candidates. Most of these requisitions had been open for more than two weeks, and hiring managers are upset. Most of the managers have not seen any candidates, and the few who have want to see more. At this week’s staff meeting, Peter, the director of staffing, announced that the VP of HR, his boss, was considering outsourcing a large portion of the recruiting function.
The reasons are obvious: a perception by hiring managers of poor quality candidates and long delays in presenting candidates. His two recruiters and most of the HR team were not pleased with this decision and felt that they understood the company and its needs better than any agency. They also felt that hiring managers were unrealistic in their expectations and that they were a bargain compared to the costs of outsourcing. This situation is increasingly common. I find that many organizations are turning to outsourcing as a solution to either the problem of too many requisitions and too few recruiters, or to that of too many hard-to-fill positions and no talent pool or legitimate candidate sources.
There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing the recruiting function (I’m on the board of the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association), and many organizations have done so with great success. Kellogg’s has outsourced recruiting for a number of years and has been pleased with the results. Some organizations have outsourced recruiting for one or two functions only, and leave the internal recruiters to do the rest. Given the scarcity of many types of talent, more organizations are turning to outsourcing as a last resort. Historically, there have been few options available to organizations, outside of keeping an internal recruiting function. Most agencies cannot (and don’t want to) recruit for all positions. They tend to focus on a market segment or a particular function and do less well at recruiting outside that. They are also expensive. But with the rise of recruitment process outsourcing organizations and the creation of broadly-skilled and capable agencies, there are a variety of choices. However, if your goal is to not be outsourced, here are a few things that you will have to do to remain successful.
Know What You Offer That Is Unique
What makes you better than a recruiter at an agency? What do you know and do that is unique or different enough to be difficult for an outside recruiter to reproduce or learn? Perhaps your recruiters have in-depth knowledge of the services or products you sell and can use that knowledge to better evaluate potential candidates and to sell the organization to these candidates. Or, maybe your team has the capability to evaluate both internal and external candidates together and make more useful recommendations. Whatever it is, you need to be very aware of it and communicate that uniqueness to everyone. If managers feel that you are a commodity, then anyone can do your job as well as you can. It is your responsibility to communicate your unique contributions in any way that you can. This includes face-to-face conversations, discussions, email, or whatever else can help hiring managers understand you better.
Learn to Build Internal Relationships
Most of the time internal functions are outsourced because hiring managers or senior managers are unhappy with the speed with which candidates are presented, or with candidate quality. They also believe that an external group can provide faster and better service. The only solution to these issues is to have built good relationships with the management team. Managers have to believe that you are not only well-qualified and capable, but also that you are trustworthy and deeply understand their needs. You can only attain that trust by, over time, getting to know these managers and letting them know you. You will need to spend time educating them about the talent pipeline and your sourcing activities, and you will need to present them with believable and quantified data when their expectations are unrealistic. I have found that in recruiting functions where the recruiters are physically close to the hiring managers and who spend time with those managers on an almost daily basis, there is no talk of outsourcing.
Suggest Outsourcing When it Is Appropriate
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Sometimes, it makes a lot of sense to outsource some part of the recruiting function. This happens when there are large numbers to recruit and you have a limited staff, or when there are just a few very open positions that require hard-to-find skills. When these are the case, it is better if the proactive suggestion to outsource comes from the recruiting team and is supported with data, numbers, and facts to show the savings and to show why quality will not decrease.
Improve Your Recruiting Processes
Do you know that recruiting remains one of the least efficient processes in an organization? Transaction costs (cost per hire) are large, and there is almost no effort being made to connect that cost with delivering value (quality of hire). At conference after conference, I hear the same old measures being touted proudly: cost per hire, time to fill, number of interviews to offer, and so forth. It seems like no one is measuring the effects of our recruiting activities. Senior executives are starting to ask what value we are delivering to them, and sadly, few of us have any answers. You need to establish some time and cost reduction goals (once you have clearly determined what your current numbers are), and then set out to achieve them as quickly as possible. At the same time, you should be open about what you are doing and why, and be accountable for the results. Let hiring managers know that you are working hard to bring in better candidates and enlist their help to do so. They can be great allies once they are part of the team and understand how what they do affects what you do.
As mentioned above, the relationship between the recruiter and the hiring authority is the most important factor in the success equation. Your goal should be to be seen as contributing to the success of the organization. By acting openly, getting data and facts to support your arguments, improving your recruiting process in a systematic way, and accepting accountability for your results, you should be able to remain productively employed for a long time to come.