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Are You Hiring a Reactive or Strategic Recruiter?

by Mar 7, 2002

One of my readers suggested I write an article about recruiter competencies. I hesitated to do this at first, but political sensitivity was never one of my strong points. So here goes. I’ll define “recruiter” in lose terms as someone whose primary responsibilities are:

  • Identifying job requirements
  • Finding candidates
  • Assessing candidate skills
  • “Selling” the organization

Unless the line managers do their own screening, virtually everyone in the organization must pass through a recruiter. This means line managers are almost completely at the mercy of a recruiter’s idea of the “ideal” candidate. The recruiter’s screening role makes it one of the most critical jobs in the organization ó but only if it is done well. If it is done badly, it quickly becomes one of the least respected and most destructive. Strategic or Reactive? I guess we could start with how a recruiter sees his or her role. Reactive recruiters take a passive role and wait for job orders. They are primarily concerned with sourcing, searching for best interview questions, filling open positions, or reducing time to fill. They have a list of favorite interview questions, work from job descriptions, and use interviews to “get to know the candidate.” They tend to shift hiring accountability to the line manager and seldom track applicant quality after placement (unless they provide a placement guarantee). As a consequence, line managers tend to treat reactive recruiters as “gophers” and give them little professional respect. The primary competencies of a reactive recruiter are oral communication, planning and organizing, extraversion, and teamwork. Management seldom perceives reactive recruiters as having critical skills that “add value.” Their low strategic value to the organization keeps them on the verge of being outsourced. Strategic recruiters, on the other hand, focus on the big picture. Instead of reviewing a job description or old work orders, they work from a “job family” perspective, developing competencies and lists of representative job activities based on job analyses. They are perceived as resident “people experts” and attend high-level meetings where they identify hiring competencies that facilitate business strategy. They know which hiring tools deliver the most accuracy. They know there are major differences between competencies for compensation, training, management, and hiring. They are able to use and interpret statistical measures to evaluate test effectiveness (i.e., mean, standard deviation, and correlation coefficients) and take responsibility for tracking both adverse impact and accuracy of their hiring tools. Finally, strategic recruiters recognize that line managers are too busy running the company to become people experts. In addition to the reactive recruiter competencies, strategic recruiter competencies include analysis, problem solving, technical knowledge, persuasion, and ability to learn. Technical Recruiting Knowledge Reactive recruiters know almost nothing about the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures and the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. They think these documents are a bunch of dusty rules and egghead standards no one cares about. They are totally wrong. Strategic recruiters know the Guidelines and Standards define best practices for the profession. These documents describe how to build competencies based on job requirements and business necessity. In the U.S. they define how the law measures adverse impact. The also define how to interpret test scores, and specify techniques that should be used to actually predict job performance. They discuss document requirements that ensure legal credibility and reduce the likelihood an organization will be sued for violating employment laws. And finally, they outline each party’s responsibilities in the hiring and placement process. Reactive recruiters are primarily concerned with finding applicants that interview well. That is why they make bad hiring decisions half the time. On the other hand, strategic recruiters know how to determine whether an applicant is job-skilled or not. That is why they are right 90% of the time and are recognized as some of the most valuable people in the organization. Is your candidate a reactive or strategic recruiter? Complete the following checklist to determine whether your candidate is a strategic or reactive recruiter.

Strategic Recruiter Reactive Recruiter
Organizes job titles into a workable number of job families Looks primarily at job titles
Works from competency lists for each family Works from job descriptions and old job requirements
Has lists of representative activities for each competency Works from job descriptions and old work orders
May not be an expert, but has read and knows the “Guidelines” and “Standards” Never heard of them
Converts changing business strategy into job competencies Waits for job requisitions
Knows which competencies can be measured and which cannot Makes up competencies that cannot be measured
Will not use any test that is not validated for a specific job or family Uses a few favorite tests
Uses only situational or behavioral interview technology Uses a few favorite interview questions
Can describe job evaluation versus job analysis Confuses what a job is worth with what it takes to perform it
Takes full responsibility for sending hiring managers fully qualified candidates Tries to get managers to do more in the hiring process
Continually solicits specific feedback to improve hiring skills Uses generic forms or does not act on feedback
Never ceases recruiting even when there are no positions open Recruits only when there are job openings
Knows the difference between a test used for training and a test used for hiring Believes style, trait or communication type tests are useful hiring tools
Knows and uses statistics to verify vendor data Trusts vendor claims
Tracks adverse impact at each hiring step and continually seeks new ways to reduce impact without compromising applicant quality Completes EEOC forms
Conducts formal studies to determine the predictive ability of each hiring tool Takes vendor claims at face value
Has professionally documented business need and job requirements for each position Has no formal documentation linking hiring tools with job requirements or business necessity
Uses multiple hiring tools depending on the competency and required accuracy Relies primarily on interviews
Knows that almost every hiring tool is a test Believes all tests are “bad”
Primarily focuses on maximizing job skills Primarily focuses on minimizing open positions and job orders

Some folks might think this list is pretty difficult to follow. If so, I would ask them, which of the above strategic recruiter skills can be compromised without:

  1. adversely impacting the accuracy of hire,
  2. adversely impacting the performance of the organization, or
  3. adversely impacting qualified applicants?

p.s. If you thought sourcing was hard, try becoming a strategic business partner! (I never said recruiting was easy.)

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.