Working Smarter: 6 Ways to Be a More Productive Recruiter

Recruiting is always about too many people chasing too few positions (or too many positions) with not enough qualified people to go around. We bounce back and forth, hiring recruiters, laying them off, and trying to balance everything with contractors or outsourcing. Balance is rarely achieved, and recently the trend has been to ask for more from existing staff. Can recruiters work any smarter than they currently do? Is it possible for the average recruiter to make any real improvement in how much they can accomplish or in how many positions they can fill? As we have recently seen, organizations move work to wherever it can be done for the least cost at an acceptable level of quality. In fact, corporate charters and laws require management to do whatever they can to maximize shareholder return. The CEO of Peoplesoft, for example, was recently fired partly because he said that no matter how much he was offered per share by Oracle, he would not sell. The board said that by making this statement he was not exercising fiduciary responsibility to PeopleSoft. It’s all about money, in the end. The recruiting function that thrives will know how to add value to their organization by providing great people in a timely fashion with the fewest recruiters. So how can a recruiter become more productive? If you could shave an hour or two off your current work schedule every day, you would get five to ten hours a week to focus on other candidates or additional positions. The manufacturing world lived through the drive for greater productivity for two decades. They grappled with how to be more efficient and raise productivity while at the same time raising quality. Recruiting will have to do the same thing this decade, or organizations will find some other way to get the job done. There are a lot of ways to work more productively. I have outlined five of them below. Almost all of them require you to do things differently and to think outside the usual recruiting box. You should always ask yourself out-of-the-box questions. Ask yourself why you have to interview everyone, or what would happen if you simply got managers to agree to make offers to the first people who met the criteria for the position without further screening. By forcing some different thinking, you can come up with a dozen ways to save time and money without compromising anything. These are a good start. 1. Simplify everything you do. Don’t make your own work process complex. Cut out the steps that aren’t absolutely essential to your success. And I mean absolutely essential. Most of us either create or inherit steps that are, at best, only marginally needed. We often put ourselves into a process unnecessarily. For example, I know recruiters who spend time conducting a 10 to 15 minute telephone screens of candidates even when their resumes are excellent and they meet all the requirements. These recruiters feel they are adding quality, but I am almost certain they are wasting time for the most part. The candidate and the hiring manager would both prefer a face-to-face interview. When I work with recruiters, we almost always find two or three hours each day where time is being wasted on similar nonessential steps. I suggest you keep a log of everything you do for each day for a week. At the end of the week, take an hour or so and carefully review your log. Ask yourself what you could have not done and what you could have done differently or faster. If you do this for a few weeks, I guarantee you will find time you didn’t know you had. 2. Concentrate your efforts. Rather than spreading yourself over several candidates and positions, focus on one or two at a time and set a goal on when to have them filled. Focus is powerful and helps you to get spend the time you need to source, screen, interview, and hire people much faster. When you are dealing with five or six candidates and hiring managers at the same time, productivity goes down. While parallel processing is sometimes more effective (in computers for sure), most humans work better with serial processing ó doing one thing and then the next. Ideally, each recruiter would focus on not more than three types of positions and build the appropriate candidate talent communities to support those. This is what headhunting firms and staffing agencies have always done. 3. Leverage technology. I know that you have heard me say this over and over, but technology is your friend. Without it you can make some marginal improvements to productivity, but with it you can make big leaps. Rather than thinking about technology as automating the process, think about it as a set of tools to help you and candidates optimize your time. The recruiting website should be the hub for all your activities. You should use it to deliver pre-screened, and even pre-assessed, candidates. You should move administrative activities such as scheduling, dealing with applications, and processing background checks to fully automated processes. Many ATS tools offer this kind of automation and, sadly, it is often not used. Anything that is transactional in nature is, by definition, of no value and should be automated or outsourced. 4. Put the candidate in control. Use tools such as online profilers and online screening, web-based videos, and electronic information about jobs and what they consist of to give the candidate control over the process. Let candidates schedule their own interviews if they meet certain criteria and let them complete online applications. Provide them information, tools and tests and then get out of their way. Contrary to what many recruiters believe, candidates enjoy being in control and will provide information you need without much complaint. Several organizations have reported getting “fan” mail from candidates who thoroughly enjoyed the sense of control and the freedom from feeling like they are at a recruiter’s mercy. 5. Have a talent community you are always in contact with. Spend any of the time the above productivity suggestions give you to work on developing a community of people you have already screened to some degree and know something about. These people are most likely qualified to work at your company but will need to go through some final interviews. They should be “in the electronic loop” as to what your recruiting plans look like and why you are still (or no longer) interested in them. This act of informing them via email or other web-based means will build loyalty and make it easy to recruit them whenever you need to. Very few organizations will ever hire the number of recruiters that worked for them in the late 1990s. The focus for the next decade will be on productivity, automation, and a move toward letting candidates and hiring managers interact directly. Your job will be to facilitate that process, put in place the gates and screens, and keep everything at the highest quality.

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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, 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


3 Comments on “Working Smarter: 6 Ways to Be a More Productive Recruiter

  1. This is awesome !

    I felt slightly defective because I choose to focus on a job, build my pipeline, get the process to the point where the technology can sustain the momentum prior to repeating the process over with a different requisition.

    It made me question my technique wondering if these people who say they are handling 40 requisitions are sourcing them all at once and if so, why can’t I ?

    The topic of simplifying everything to avoid any wasted motion (mental or physical) is solidly rooted in motion studies conducted in manufacturing facilities. In a sense I am manufacturing a product based on a sequential series of steps I go through to develop that product (the candidate) through the phases of ‘production’ to completion (starting the job).

    I needed this reinforcement to feel that as I attempt to hyperdrive my technique on these certain issues I’m actually headed in the proper direction.

    Thank you to Kevin Wheeler for this insight. This article is spot on and added value for me.

    You can read the original article here

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  2. Hi Kevin,
    Good article. I’m sure the members of this board are sick of hearing me harp on about this topic, but in order to be more productive you must start using metrics which analyse your recruitment and selection function.

    While the ideas you put forward are useful, unless you can actually measure the effectiveness of any initiative you put in place it can only be viewed as mere ‘guruism’ (this is my own phrase)
    Guruism is a phrase that signifies a process or method which is expounded by the experts but has no scientific or measurable impact.

    The best way forward for recruiters is to establish a set of metrics which can (without too much question) establish the value of their initiatives. That wat they start talking the language of the CEO and CFO.

    My own research Masters looked at the use of metrics in the recruitment and selection function. I found that 56% of companies don’t even measure their R&S function. Those that do use metrics, rate quality of recruitment as the most important thing to measure yet only 12 % of campanies (which actually measure the R&S function) analyse this aspect of R&S

    If you cannot show other members of the org. how your R&S initiatives work (through metrics),then you give the impression that the work you do is not important enough to warrant measurement. What other business process could get away wit this?

    If anyone is interested I have a list of metrics available to recruiters which could help them with this process

    You can read the original article here

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