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The Talent Management of Recruiting Professionals: An ERE Expo 2012 Primer

by
Joe Shaheen
Dec 15, 2011, 5:47 am ET

Most methods of hiring, retaining, developing, and managing recruiting and talent acquisition professionals are ineffective, non-strategic, and mostly outdated.

In my upcoming workshop at the spring ERE Expo, we’ll be discussing many of the common issues that are faced by those who manage and hire recruiters, and will share some of the most groundbreaking research in this arena.

For now, let’s discuss one issue in the hiring of recruiters, and one issue in the performance of recruiters and talent acquisition professionals.

Hiring Recruiters

It is safe to assume that most professionals enter the recruiting industry into highly transactional positions where performance is mostly measured by how much they “do.”

For example, how many calls they make per day, how many e-mails they can send, how many interviews they can set-up, and how many people they can get hired are core methods of measurement. This is especially prevalent in entry-level agency recruiting environments where most recruiters are brought into the industry.

Of course, recruiting is not the only profession where this is the accepted method of hiring new talent, but it is the most essential, simply because recruiting is not, in its core, about transactional items. The argument that is used to justify giving new recruiter incentives to engage in more “doing” or transactional activity is that activity is correlated with results. But the truth is that activity does not guarantee good results.

This matters because to many recruiting professionals, recruiting is about the process of recruiting and not the larger picture of acquiring talent. In entry-level and junior-level positions, this is not an issue of contention. But when recruiters become managers and directors they are unable to provide the strategic value that top organizations need.

For example, high-volume recruiters sometimes fail to understand the relative quality of talent needed by internal corporate recruiting professionals, because they have not been developed and trained into thinking about the long-term goals of the business. They may see a job description as all the necessary requirements on which to hire someone for, but focus less on soft items that are increasingly important as that candidate moves up in the organization.

I believe that this is because of how they were trained and developed — to focus more on prioritizing fast hires over quality hires (within reason of course). This is not a criticism of agency or “fast” recruiters. This is a criticism of how their managers and leaders develop them.

In an organization that has a strategic plan to move overseas, for example, it will fall upon the strategic recruiter to ask the question (for each position): “Will this person possibly go overseas when we expand there? And if so, where?” to which she/he may receive a response: “That’s a great question John/Jane. Yes, they may have to go overseas to China in about two years when we move our operations there.” To which the strategic recruiter may respond: “Excellent. I’ll try to recruit someone, based on our conversation and the job description who may also have some experience handling Chinese businesses or something related.”

The transactional recruiter, because she/he has not been developed to think strategically over the years would likely not gear his/her questions in such a way. They’d would focus more on questions that would allow her to make the most efficient hire possible. Although both recruiters will get the job done, one will bring long-term value that cannot be measured, and which she is not being assessed on.

Hiring recruiters in the right way is an issue of early training and development. Recruiting leaders and managers are entirely responsible for this phase.

We will discuss how to develop your recruiting staff (in the early phase of employment as well) to suit your overall needs, as well as when process execution is more important than strategic thinking.

Performance Management

Typically, recruiters are measured, assessed, and evaluated based on hard data (which for some organizations is still a step forward) in some of the best organizations. This is an excellent start, and any performance management system should include process-oriented data as part of an overall performance appraisal.

However, where the industry falls short is in developing enough career development as well as leadership opportunities to augment that appraisal. In fact, only a minority of recruiting professionals actually receive an opportunity to expand their academic, professional, or social knowledge either on or off the job, which in turn, never allows recruiting leaders to develop career paths, professional specialties, succession management, or leadership development opportunities for their employees.

To add, the best most organizations will do is send a small number of their internal talent staff to external training programs, without any thought or planning on how that new knowledge could be disseminated and integrated into leadership development opportunities. In short, even this potentially expensive training is done in a very tactical way and is not sustainable.

The importance of getting this right is paramount: Performance management is one of the main reasons that CEOs of major organizations throughout the entire world rarely (if ever) come from a talent acquisition background.

In addition, there is new and groundbreaking research that top performers in recruiting environments are not necessarily the most independent individual contributors, but individuals who manage internal relationships and social connections with stakeholders.

In fact, social dynamics are better predictors (statistically) of recruiter’s performance than human capital metrics and measurements.

We’ll talk about all these challenges in detail in my workshop at the spring ERE Expo.

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.

  1. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Joe. As I said in my 11/10 blog:

    “I think that a way of resolving this question (“What kind of recruiter should you hire?”-kh) would be to concentrate on getting the work done rather than how it’s done or who does it: “Solution Recruiting”. Carefully consider what can be no-sourced (eliminated), through-sourced (automated), or out-sourced (sent away) for $6.25/hr or less. The work that remains should be high-touch and high-value add: closing, advising, mentoring, streamlining/improving recruiting processes, building long-term relationships, acting as an onsite project manager/liaison between the internal clients and remote resources. If the existing resources can’t source what you need, pay $40+/name for a list of potential candidates, and if the existing resources can’t recruit the people you need, you should engage external recruiters at 30-35%. (If your positions are realistic and not needed in a panic, you shouldn’t have to do either of these last two very often.)”

    Any questions?

    Keith keithsj@sbcglobal.net

  2. Karen Sovath

    Joe, I disagree with your perception of Recruiters from agencies. Particularly your comment pertaining to “high-volume recruiters sometimes fail to understand the relative quality of talent needed by internal corporate recruiting professionals, because they have not been developed and trained into thinking about the long-term goals of the business” this is not necessarily true because every agency works differently, just as every Recruiter have their own way of doing things, which is why it’s up to them to ask the right questions and think strategically. It’s not always about training, but through experience and common sense!! I’m not sure why, but most people who never worked for a staffing firm or have worked with maybe one assumes most are the same and Recruiters from agencies are not as knowledgeable or skilled enough to work in a corporate environment. I beg to differ and it’s actually the opposite if he/she is well versed in recruiting, knows the market, articulate and creative enough to understand the bigger picture and what the main objective is makes them much more valuable and these corporations would definitely benefit from their expertise. Additionally, they know how to negotiate better and able to utilize their agency experience when dealing with partners or third parties. A good recruiter not only look at what’s in front of them, but analyzes the requirements, project at hand, clarifies managers’ goals/objectives and understands the candidates’ perspective as well. It’s not all about filling a req and finding someone a job, there are emotions involved, you are helping someone and at the same time you are building relationships for the long run. Overall it boils down to work ethics, professionalism, and common sense. On another note, I do appreciate all your articles and enjoy reading them, so thank you!!

  3. Joseph Shaheen

    Hiya Karen,

    Thanks for your comment. I think my article didn’t communicate what I meant so let me explain in a little more detail. The “quality” of talent that I meant in the article and which you quoted in the first paragraph of your comment is related to the goals and strategy of the business, not the quality of skills that the candidate comes in with. Agency recruiters are probably the best kind to determine “fit” for a position or the overall quality of a candidate, but they do fail to ask long term strategic questions which could drive other intangible traits in the selection of a candidate because they’re not asked, developed or trained to ask those questions. This is a fact. There is no evidence that agency recruiters systematically evaluate where a whole client would like to be in 5 years in terms of market strategy. they may evaluate short and immediate hiring needs but they don’t evaluate long term business strategy for each client they serve. This is the part I mention in the article (a teeny tiny part of my overall workshop by the way).

    Yes corporations can still benefit from their expertise, but most corporations haven’t figured out how to “re-train” them to think differently so that they do bring in all the value that they could bring in. In fact, most agency recruiters are hired into corporate positions BECAUSE they bring the agency mindset to the organization, but the organization doesn’t invest in them more to help them to think strategically. So as far the corporate recruiting departments are concerned they don’t want them to change or think long term and strategically.

    Again, I’m only questioning our training and development methods in our industry, not performance. I’m questioning whether we train and develop our recruiters well enough to prepare them for leadership positions. I assume good performance, because I’m assuming that if someone is not performing, then you don’t need to develop them. Maybe give them training or manage them better or any of the other tools of management, but I don’t think that promoting them is an industry accepted solution, and my workshop gears it’s content towards those professionals.

    As a top performing agency recruiter (in my past life) and someone who helps and advises organizations that want to build up their recruiting prowess, I just have to share that in all honesty, agency recruiting, and corporate recruiting do not prepare recruiters into being the leaders of tomorrow (in recruiting) very well. And I believe it is because of talent management. That’s my position and I will do my best to support it using logic, data and examples. So I hope to see you there.

    Thanks Again for commenting.

    Joe Shaheen
    http://www.humanalliance.com
    Joseph.Shaheen@humanalliance.com

  4. Keith Halperin

    @ Joe: …recruiters systematically evaluate where a whole client would like to be in 5 years in terms of market strategy…
    5 years? Who’s going to be there in 5 years if they aren’t the owner? We live in a time “IBY,YBY,LDTD!” i.e., “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone, let’s do the deal!” You want want someone to think 5 years ahead- you give them a generous 5 year no-termination-without-cause employment contract.

    Cheers,

    Keith ” From Lake We’ll-Be-Gone: Where All Deals are Above Average” Halperin

  5. Ken Schmitt

    Joe, great article and I especially like – and agree with – your emphasis on committing to the long term. Your comment indicating that “Although both recruiters will get the job done, one will bring long-term value that cannot be measured, and which she is not being assessed on.” is spot on.

    The problem I saw when working in a “high volume agency” (and I’ve worked for a Top 3 Global Search firm in addition to the high volume agency prior to launching my own firm in 2007) is the metrics being used by management. Rather than offering bonuses or other incentives for “tenure of placement” the focus is strictly tied to volume of “filled job orders”.

    In my firm, not only do we track but we publish our PRR – Placement Retention Ratio. This number tracks the % of placements that are still with the same company 1, 2 and 3 years later, allowing us to focus on making long term matches rather than short term commissions (one of our 10 Core Values). We are pleased to say that our PRR is at 89% and we leverage this with our clients every day.

    As a recruiting leader overseeing a team, it is incumbent upon us to provide the right incentives to our team, de-emphasizing volume and “fill ratio” and highlighting long tenured placements.

    Thanks for the wonderful article.
    Ken Schmitt
    http://www.turningpointsearch.net

  6. Ken Peck

    This is a good article because it touches on the answer to a question that has eluded me ever since I was a good recruiter and then rose to level above my pay grade as a manager responsible for finding good recruiters.

    This is not what I was good at. The article at least makes an attempt to explain that there may be metrics and transactions that define a good recruiter the “The transactional recruiter”. However I think there is far too much thought in looking for the “holy grail” definition of a good recruiter.

    I have had recruiters that start work at 11am and stop at 2pm, have about 20 clients and 100 core candidates and make more placements year after year, after year than the metrics recruiter with 100 calls a day 10,000 connections on LinkedIn and a 10 send outs a day. Go figure! I think there is a human element here that cannot be quantified. But I do admire the attempts and we should never stop trying.

  7. Keith Halperin

    @ Ken: well said. Whatever abilities or potential abilities recruiters possess, they should be gauged at whether those abilities/potentials are/will be worth at least >$100k/yr, because that’s the level of income a good recruiter should possess based on their ability to deliver high-touch, high-value add services that can’t be effectively no-sourced, through-sourced, or outsourced. ISTM that the only skill contingency/contract agencies (where most of us start out) really look for (and it makes perfect sense for them to do so) is closing, and there are a lot of other high-touch, high-value add services that recruiters should do that nobody really looks or trains for….

    Cheers,

    Keith “Ask Me About Solution Recruiting” Halperin

  8. Artemis Elias

    I don’t agree with your comments entirely Joe. I hire recruiters from agency really because they get to learn more about business and strategy from clients than they ever will coming from a corporate background. The best agency recruiters are experts in their industry and can often teach corporates about what’s happening in terms of talent. They speak to candidates all day, every day, and they know their markets very well. So I don’t agree that “Yes corporations can still benefit from their expertise, but most corporations haven’t figured out how to “re-train” them to think differently so that they do bring in all the value that they could bring in. In fact, most agency recruiters are hired into corporate positions BECAUSE they bring the agency mindset to the organization, but the organization doesn’t invest in them more to help them to think strategically. So as far the corporate recruiting departments are concerned they don’t want them to change or think long term and strategically.”

    If you mean this from a building talent pools perspective, I would agree that junior recruiters don’t tend to put their focus here. More senior recruiters are constantly building pipelines, as they know that in general, in the industry, the skills are in demand.

    Also, we separate out workforce planning and recruiting in that our workforce planning team are constantly analysing the labour supply chain and identifying the talent needed now and in the future, while our recruiters go and find the identified talent.

    Also, I just want to comment on the way agencies measure recruiters, again I hire them especially because I think one thing agencies get right is teaching recruiters urgency, discipline, how to find a quality match etc. There is no better place than an agency to learn how your not so talented candidate will quickly be rejected by a client, and that sourcing top talent will always guarantee a placement.

    IBM in SA I heard are replacing their recruiting team saying they need more people with the “agency mindset” – they’ve got it totally right. The very worst recruiters in my opinion are the HR Officer types who know very little about strategic recruitment but are of the filling vacancy / bums in seat mindset.

    And lastly, because I should get back to work :-), we do have performance of the candidates we hire as a metric. In reality we’re seeing that no matter how brillian the talent is that we hire in, you can’t be great if you work for a bad manager. So it’s not that clear cut.

    I do however feel, that great performance begins with hiring in the right talent. That’s our responsibility.

    Of course, hiring in Africa has it’s challenges too. Try predict anything, let alone the strategic needs of an ever changing political, technological, and skills short continent.

  9. Artemis Elias

    And I agree with Keith, Gen Y’s aren’t hanging around for the next 5 years in corporates. I think Accenture estimated they will have at least 15 jobs in their lifetime. They’re in for the now and what they can get. Bring me recruiters who are the best headhunters and I’ll hire them over a recruiter who understands strategy but is lousy at selling our EVP and managing candidate relationships.

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