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Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy Eskenazi is managing principal of Riviera Advisors, based in Long Beach, California -- a leading human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies improve their internal recruiting processes. In addition to his more than 11 years of consulting with corporate staffing teams all over the globe, he has more than 20 years experience leading the global staffing function for companies such as Universal Studios, Idealab, and He is a leading speaker to organizations on the value of the staffing function, including chairing the ERE Expos in 2006-2007. He is vice president, national membership for the International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruitment; is a professional member of the prestigious National Speakers Association and the Institute of Management Consultants; and has served on the national staffing management special expertise panel of the Society for Human Resource Management. He is the author of the book “RecruitCONSULT! Leadership: The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader’s Field Book” (STARoundtable Press, 2011).

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ERE Expo Spring 2012 Expo — Your Chair Welcomes You!

by Mar 21, 2012, 5:53 am ET

The countdown is on — and it’s an exciting one! For me, I’m counting down to my third time wearing the chairperson’s hat at the ERE Expo. That role gives me extra liberties to meet and greet, and I take my duty to ensure you’re getting all you can out of the ERE Expo seriously. By that I mean living the ERE Expo cornerstones of “Learn. Network. Recruit!” – things we all do daily, but sometimes forget about when it comes to our own experiences.

In my many of professional experiences, I’ve attended every ERE conference on the west coast and have participated in many others across the U.S. It’s an honor for me not only to represent ERE, but to help create an event experience that is just for the corporate recruiting profession. At the ERE Expo, I’ve made connections with so many interesting people, ones who I’ve stayed in touch with and look forward to seeing each year. This event brings our global profession local, which is a subject I’ve taken about at length lately. For a few days we’re all that much more visible and it’s a key engagement opportunity — so, if you are coming to San Diego, March 28-30, 2012 for ERE Expo Spring 2012,  don’t be shy, sit beside someone new, or clink a glass with a stranger.

What can you expect at this year’s event? keep reading…

Of Course I’m Global — I’ve Been to France

by Dec 13, 2011, 5:17 am ET

I’ve often chatted with talent acquisition professionals about the global aspects of their business — an increasingly important focus. What I hear a lot of is that people have travelled to another country a few times, or have a friend or colleague there, and assume that they’re prepared to successfully recruit from their North American office or integrate into local culture if relocated. While unintentionally, many of us in North America make these assumptions about what recruiting and staffing are like based on our own experience.

Over 20 years I’ve learned that these assumptions in a global context rarely pay off. I often hear people say things like “Singapore is similar to Hong Kong because they are both in Asia”; or “Italy is similar to France because they are close to each other and in Europe.” Well, that is sort of like thinking the United States of America is similar to Mexico because they’re both part of the Americas. I think many of us in North America would shake our heads at this comparison, but it is not uncommon to develop plans based on what we know, and then take a few assumptions about the target location expecting to excel. Wrong! What works in our own space doesn’t necessarily translate when you cross a border, ocean, or even a region. At times, it can feel like you’ve brought your baseball bat to a cricket game — yes, the function seems the same, but without understanding the game, the home run is much more difficult to achieve.

This is why I’ve called on two of my esteemed peers, Danielle Monaghan and Roel Lambrichts, to join me at the upcoming ERE Expo Spring 2012 in San Diego for an open dialogue about creating and sustaining talent acquisition success on a global scale. Essentially, we’re inviting everyone to have coffee with us and join the discussion. I chose this type of session and dynamic presenter group because of the diverse backgrounds and global companies that have benefited from our expertise. Danielle is the HR director North Asia – Greater China, Japan, & Korea at Cisco Systems, based out of Beijing. Roel is the head of talent acquisition Europe for Coca-Cola Enterprises based out of Brussels.

You may have experienced the kinds of things we’re talking about here. If not, it’s likely you will in the future as companies continue to globalize. While “global recruiting” is a currently a buzzword in our profession, there is more to it than making some overseas calls and sifting through resumes. I know I made a lot of assumptions when I first started to recruit outside my own home region (more than 20 years ago); we all do.

I’ll never forget the “aha” moment when I realized the one-size-fits-all-model was not going to work. keep reading…

The True Grit Between HR Generalists and Recruiters

by Mar 1, 2011, 5:07 am ET

I’ve spoken often in the past of the challenging relationship between human resources generalists and in-house recruiters. During the last few years, that relationship has become even more complex: Because of the recession, many generalists were asked to do more recruiting because resources were limited. Now that the economy is rebounding, it’s tempting to think the roles will revert back to normal. But will they? And if so, how have things changed or stayed the same? Have we learned anything at all in the last few years about how we can work more effectively together, or have we moved further apart?

The answers to these and other questions, as well as the opportunity to revisit this unique (sometimes good and sometimes not-so-good) relationship, prompted me to lead a comprehensive session on this topic at the upcoming ERE Spring Expo, March 23-25 in San Diego entitled In Treatment: The Complex Relationship Between Recruiters and HR Generalists. During the session, Mike Adamo, director, global talent acquisition at Edwards Lifesciences, and Susan Warner, director of corporate human resources for FMC Corporation, will join me representing a senior recruiting specialist leader and an HR generalist leader respectively. Together we will address the practical issues that arise between the two functions from all sides and look at ways to improve the relationship and increase everyone’s value within their organizations.

But to begin, we thought it would be helpful to provide some information on the historical challenges, or ‘True Grit,’ in the relationship between recruiters and generalists, from each of their perspectives, and what has worked in the past. So let’s hear from both sides: keep reading…

Tips on Leading Recruiting in Europe

by May 7, 2010, 11:19 am ET

Successful recruiting and talent acquisition in Europe has never been more vital to a global company. I’ve got a big article on the topic coming up in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership. For now, let’s just talk about tips, tools, and techniques that will enable talent acquisition leaders to manage recruiting across Europe most effectively. keep reading…

Real Upside From an Inglorious Downturn: 2009, 2010, and Beyond

by Feb 2, 2010, 5:45 am ET

Spring 2010 conference-logoOne of the things I hear often, in many places I go, is that people tend to describe the downturn and the potential of the upturn in extreme terms. The downturn has been “all bad” and there’s “nothing good that’s come of it.” Similarly, when others talk about the upturn and 2010 (and beyond), I hear a lot unbridled enthusiasm and optimism.

To me, the truth lies somewhere in between. keep reading…

Where The Truth Lies: The Need For Balance Between Active and Passive Recruiting

by Aug 20, 2009, 5:53 am ET

I once heard a story that the CEO of a major executive search firm told a group of newly minted partners to never present candidates who are unemployed. When one of the new partners raised his hand and challenged the CEO as to how the firm could adequately serve its clients without evaluating all potential candidates, the CEO implied that, by definition, anyone who is unemployed is inferior.

I understand this line of thinking. It’s simple, concise, easy to categorize. A “sexy” pitch. In fact, it’s the same line of thinking that leads to the idea that anyone who hangs out with a communist must be a communist sympathizer, or that someone who fires a woman must be a misogynist, or who is accused must be guilty in some way. In short, it’s dead wrong. keep reading…

Are You Ready For Your Close Up? How Difficult Times Provide Both Challenges — And Opportunities

by Mar 4, 2009, 5:27 am ET

Back in 1992-1993, during the last serious recession, I got laid off. I was out of work for approximately 13 weeks before being hired as a recruiter. My job was focused on hiring sales representatives and I had more than enough candidates for the role. Perhaps because of that, I was arrogant. I let many candidates whom I had contacted or interviewed for the role simply slip away, without calling them or following up. Not long after that, I was at a job fair and some of the candidates I had interviewed for the sales rep role came up to me. In front of my relatively new colleagues, they pulled no punches in criticizing me for not following up and getting back to them.

As embarrassed as I was to hear that then, my accusers were right! I had dropped the ball and not gotten back to them. What I had not realized (even though I had experienced the same thing during my own period of being laid off), was that during recessionary times, everything we do as recruiters gets magnified.

As a result, to me, times of difficulty do put us under a microscope in which perceptions are skewed. However, so too do they present great opportunities to build even better relationships with candidates and third party search providers, to sharpen our skills and give ourselves greater tools as recruiters, and to further enable us to be unique professionals who stand out from the pack.

But to begin, let’s be clear: It’s an ugly world out there. Your company may have gone through layoffs and decimated its recruiting department. And now you’re the one that’s left — and you still have to fill requisitions and hire people.

keep reading…

Managing Change: When S.A.R.A.H. Met S.A.L.Y.

by Jan 14, 2009, 5:44 am ET

Of all of the issues that are discussed in the ERE communities, at ERE Expos, and at other HR and Recruiting conferences, the one that I find most important is rarely discussed: leading and managing change. This skill is probably one of the most important a Recruiting and Staffing or HR Manager should have in their toolkit.

In our communities, we’re constantly coming up with and discussing great ideas about initiating change, but all of that is worthless unless we can execute and implement those ideas. In this new year, change is a real buzzword — but rightly so! Because we have to change and flex every minute of the day, planning for difficult times and good times alike require excellent change management skills. And as someone who has learned some hard lessons over the course of my 25-year career in not knowing how to manage change, I speak from experience.

For instance, several years back, when I was head of staffing for a large, multibillion dollar company, the whole company participated in a global reengineering initiative. In HR, we decided to take advantage of this effort to implement some changes of our own. We decided to combine all of the staffing functions in the separate business units into a centralized, shared-services model. As the leader of the staffing area, I figured that since the whole company was going through change, there was no need to have any additional communication with our clients about our staffing reorganization — after all, it could be considered as simply another element of what we were all going through. Thus it wasn’t until the head of HR of a business unit and my boss were sitting in my office, complaining about my team’s dwindling performance in the wake of this change, that I realized just how important it is to communicate extensively about, and have a comprehensive plan for, implementing change.

It’s not that I didn’t communicate at all about what was happening; it’s that I didn’t “get it” in terms of what was necessary with respect to engaging others and making them “partners” with me in this change. I was subjecting my plan to what we like to call “Death By PowerPoint” — I was going around with my little PowerPoint presentation tucked under my arm, informing everyone as to what was going to happen versus truly engaging and communicating with them.

keep reading…

ERE Expo 2007: A Few Conference Tips

by Mar 14, 2007

It’s coming?the biggest ERE Expo of them all. The 2007 Spring event is officially the largest ERE Expo ever. This, the 12th ERE Expo in the U.S. (14th overall), will have a record number of attendees, exhibitors, and speakers!

I’m excited about that many attendees all gathered in one place, all focused on one thing: improving and enhancing recruiting and talent management.

keep reading…

Let’s Put an End to Our Inferiority Complex

by Jun 28, 2006

HR conference season is nearly complete, and 2006 was a banner year for attendance at all of the conferences. Lots of people were out in force seeking to improve, enhance, and optimize their recruiting and staffing processes, and their skills, as well as to network with their fellow professionals.

As I spent time at these conferences participating in the various sessions, I felt like there was a constant trend in the messages being delivered: The recruiting and staffing function is not working effectively, and we better fix it or else! (We could be outsourced, laid off, someone else could do it better, etc.) If you read all of the articles written about recruiting and staffing on and other media, you could also hear that message.

This profession – and it is a profession – sometimes carries a collective burden. But, we as a profession need to be proud of the great things we have achieved. We don’t hear much of that in conferences and in the recruiting media, but I’ve seen it, and there’s a lot to be proud of. I wrote an article for another publication about metrics in HR and recruiting in which I noted that evaluating and analyzing your HR and staffing activities with even the most rudimentary metric-oriented approach can be very useful and have an immediate impact.

I began the article by mentioning that we all know about the value of even basic metrics, but that more often than not, we don’t even do these basics, even though we know they can help. That got me thinking: Why is it that even when we know it’s good for us, we don’t do the basics? Now, I realize that this is a bigger topic than recruiting and HR. For months I put off upgrading my virus protection on my computer, even though it was only a few mouse clicks away and it was only by sheer luck I avoided about four different worms. This is only one of many examples for all of us, and the true answer for my procrastination lies between me, my therapist, and my inner irresponsible child. But when applied to the world of HR/staffing, the question becomes “Why is it we still have people in top HR/staffing roles not doing the most fundamental of things?”

And, with those who are doing them and succeeding and doing even more sophisticated things, why do they keep so quiet about it? Why is it left to others, like consultants like myself, to write these articles? And, why is it that when the top HR/staffing professionals do speak, they often claim the profession is broken? The answers to these questions have their roots in a bigger issue – the issue of taking our profession seriously.

There are many who have been in the profession for a long time who still don’t take themselves and what they do seriously, who don’t believe in their bones that we’re legitimate. Because they don’t take themselves seriously, they don’t put much time into the basics, and it’s certainly easier for them to look at what we do negatively and wax on about how the glass is half-empty. People inside and outside of this line of work have to continually be reminded (and remind themselves) that this is a profession. It’s an end unto itself. And, it deserves to be treated as such. I’m speaking to those both in the profession and outside of it. People within these roles are more often than not some of the biggest offenders. I’ll get to the reasons why later. Outside of the profession, they don’t have to be convinced. In my sphere of knowledge, I know of about 75 heads of staffing and recruiting roles open today in the U.S. alone.

During the downturn when there were cutbacks, people left the role and the profession; now, during this new expansion, the role is so important that companies won’t hire just anyone. Employers want solid, business-oriented professionals in these roles and often times require that they have in-house experience as well (in the past, they used to hire a lot from outside, third-party recruiters, but the bar is higher now). In short, they want good people, but there aren’t a lot out there. I’ll tell you why people who are in these roles don’t take them seriously.

For many who have been in talent acquisition and talent management for years, there are scars and baggage from the era during which they were treated like second-class citizens – stepchildren of the corporate administrative world. It’s hard to let that go. And for people who are new to staffing, this is often a stepping-stone on their way to somewhere else. But as in all endeavors, the beginnings of taking ourselves and this profession seriously lie in executing the basics well. It builds confidence. These basics include how to find, source, and assess the best candidates. And, they include communicating with your clients and measuring their needs and your effectiveness in a basic way, i.e., metrics. You need these to do your job well. Once that’s taken care of, then it’s on to looking down the path and thinking about how to help your organization strategically. Anticipating and being proactive. To look into the future and have a vision always requires risk, and that you go out on a limb. But you limit your exposure by doing your homework and being thoughtful. In order to do this, the end-goal has to be a big one, such as a shift in your organization’s thinking to one that has a really strong brand, a strong employee value proposition, or a real reason for working that’s actually backed up by the experience an employee has on the job.

In my case, when I was the head of staffing at a large, global media company, I took a big risk and went out on a limb to completely change the way we used third-party search firms. I had noticed our use of third-party search firms was completely inconsistent throughout the company. It was driven by cronyism and individual relationships between the hiring managers and recruiters.

One day, I saw a presentation on a preferred-provider relationship in which the staffing group used a consultant to help structure the arrangements. I was reluctant to use a consultant because, after all, wasn’t that my job? But I talked to this guy and realized he knew more than I did. I also realized that the culture shift that I was shooting for was big enough (and so was the cost savings) that I needed help. And if it worked, regardless of whether I used a consultant, we would all look good. I lobbied my boss to spend a substantial amount of money to hire the consultant. I met with some conflict internally, but I was willing to explore it.

The conflict became constructive, but my credibility was at stake. I believed in the idea, and this was the battle I was willing to fight. I had pushed in my entire stack of chips to the dealer. It worked. The consultant was worth every penny because the results were so large. And, the experience was a highlight of my career. I can actually say that for a time, I changed the culture of a company. I stepped up and made my impact along the lines of other senior leaders in the organization. I was tempted to go out and preach my success to the world. But I didn’t because I was too busy, or I secretly harbored fears that, God forbid, the competition would discover, steal, implement, and ultimately take credit for my work. And these are the answers to the second question I often ask myself, which is, “When good things happen in staffing/HR within organizations, why is it left to others, like consultants (i.e., me) to write these articles?” Because we don’t think we’re legitimate, and because we don’t have the confidence to let things go. But I think it’s important to communicate your successes: what you’re doing that’s working. There’s some reticence for this because of the war for talent.

But, articles can’t just be left up to the consultants. Time is a rare commodity, but you, the HR/staffing professionals, are on the front lines, watching and urging innovation at every turn. Communicating what you’re doing can help others. Those in more established administrative roles, such as marketing, share information because there’s a confidence and ease of camaraderie to let things go. But for us, we need to have confidence in our roles and our profession. We need to stop the negativity and the self-flagellation. We aren’t broken, and we are legitimate. Companies and businesses at the end of the day are, and always have been, about people. Any decent leader will tell you that. Thus, we are the keys to the future. We need to believe that, let things go (and know it will help, not hurt us), and have pride in the name of the HR/staffing profession!

Recruiting the Recruiter

by May 10, 2006

Remember the glory days of the late 1990s? Friends became dot-com paper millionaires (and Friends, the TV show, was a hit). Enron and the stock market were really hot, and banner ads were all the rage. It was also a time when everyone and their mother became a recruiter. We even developed fancy names for the role at that time: talent scout, talent leader, resourcer, and so on. Some people might refer to this as the first “Golden Age” of recruiters. Unfortunately, those days disappeared quickly in the dot-com and technology correction in 2000, and in the subsequent economic downturn. Many people newly entering or being recruited into our newly sexy profession were laid off by companies and search firms. Having found jobs elsewhere, many may never enter the profession again. In the interim, organizations made do. They used HR generalists and others for recruiting issues and were very hesitant to restore the recruiting teams and infrastructure of the glory days. Or, they just left hiring managers to do whatever they needed to do to be successful. However, over the last year or so, I’ve seen a real shift.

Companies now face roles that are difficult to fill, low unemployment, a very competitive recruiting environment, and a growing U.S. economy. They are revisiting the whole idea of hiring recruiters inside the organization. Search firms and recruitment outsourcing firms are also attempting to ramp-up. As a result, I have seen the demand for great recruiting professionals increase significantly. Not only are there numerous postings, ads, and searches underway for recruiting professionals, but during this past conference season at ERE, EMA, HCI, and other functions, recruiters were in solid demand. Companies were actually buying sponsorships, booths, ads, and so on to attract recruiters. I get at least three or four calls a week from search firms asking for referrals.

The problem is that there are just so many good recruiting pros to go around; I cannot keep referring the same people. Some say we’re entering a second “Golden Age” of recruiters. The difference is that organizations are focused on doing it right this time, rather than slapping it together and hiring anyone. They’ll tap into the usual, known sources: other corporate recruiting departments, third-party recruiting vendors, recruiting outsourcers, etc. But we’ll need alternative areas from which we can get great people with the skills necessary to become great recruiters. For starters, we need to know what those skills are. I’m a big believer that if you focus on a core set of skills necessary to do a job, any number of people with varying backgrounds can fill the role (of course, you’ll have to determine if they can fit into your culture). In this instance, whereas the recruiters in the 90s (and even still today) needed great relationship, communication, sourcing, searching, and technology skills, recruiters today need to add skills in project management, enhanced teamwork, and political savviness, among others. Below is my quick-and-dirty list of the some of the core skills necessary in hiring recruiters:

Four Strange But True Interviewing Stories

by Feb 7, 2006

The candidate interview is a unique experience ó that strange dance between two strangers sitting across from another, one asking the other about their life and accomplishments, with an eye towards assessing if they are a fit for a particular role. I guess one of the great things about human nature is our unpredictability. You don’t know what’s going to come out of the other person’s mouth or how the experience will end up. How many of us have gone in with high expectations of an individual based on their experience on paper, only to be let down?

Conversely, who of us hasn’t had that rush of excitement when a candidate unexpectedly turns out to be a winner, surprising us at every turn with their responses, and reaffirming our belief in what we do as recruiters and staffing professionals? Regardless, it’s a setup that’s bound to produce interesting outcomes. I’m not an interviewing guru. I don’t sell my interviewing process in training sessions, books, or other products. The purpose of this is not to produce a best practices approach to interviewing. Rather, as someone who has done a lot of interviews (as a former corporate head of staffing and recruiting, and currently as a staffing and recruitment process optimization consultant), I’m in a position to share the following stories. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe you’ll cry, maybe you’ll snicker, but maybe, like me, you’ll learn something as well. So consider this our inaugural “Strange but True Interviewing Stories” article. After you’ve read these, send me ( your stories, as well as what you learned from them, so we can begin our collection for future articles.

“The Restaurant”

During my time in staffing for a consumer company, we had a search for a head of marketing. There was a woman who ran marketing for an entire restaurant chain whom my bosses (clients), the operational heads of the company, were particularly keen to recruit. This executive had attracted a lot of buzz because of her recent accomplishments and bold marketing initiatives. After several attempts to contact her, the woman finally agreed to meet with me but would not travel to our city to interview. Knowing how important this was to my internal clients, I flew to her city and interviewed her in one of her local restaurants. The interview seemed to go well and I remember thinking, “My bosses were right. She is solid.” We talked about next steps and I mentioned we would want her fly to our company to meet with my bosses/clients. That’s when the conversation took an interesting turn: “So we’d like to fly you out to meet with some additional executives in our company,” I said. “We’re very interested in proceeding.” “I’d be interested in that,” she replied. “Great!” “I’d be happy to meet with you and your company further,” she continued, “but it would have to only be in one of the local outlets of this restaurant chain.” “Excuse me?” “I said I can only meet you in one of our restaurants in your city.” “Why?” “Because the world is a dirty place,” she said. “There are germs everywhere and I don’t trust cleanliness, food, or service anywhere but in one of our restaurants.” “You can’t be serious,” I said. “I’m completely serious,” she replied. The problem was my bosses had already pre-judged her favorably and were sold on her!


When I returned from my trip, I had to take a pretty hard stand with my business leaders. They had convinced themselves that they needed to hire this person before we even called her. Now I had to convince them (even though it was my job to snag her), that she was not going to be a culture fit. It was a tense situation but I stood my ground. Ultimately, they agreed. What I learned was that as a staffing professional and recruiter, taking a stand to protect our company’s business by not hiring someone is as important as trying to snag an elite person.

“The Hotel”

I once worked for a hotel company where we offered candidates the ability to fill out applications that had a short essay about why they wanted to work for the hotel. We had created an open, walk-in interview schedule whereby anyone could submit an application and we would interview anyone who had applied. A guy came in and filled out the application and was very earnest in his desire to work for the company. My colleague interviewed him and he seemed like a congenial, straightforward individual. It was a busy day for us all and we didn’t have time to thoroughly review every application before beginning the interview. During the interview, my colleague turned over the application to the back section, which included the short essay about why they were interested in working for the company. He read the following:

I have spent the last several years as a male escort/prostitute. I have recently turned my life around and “found God.” I am looking for a “real” job, something more stable and with a healthy future. When I was considering all the companies I might want to work for, I immediately thought of this hotel. I have done a substantial amount of business here — for which I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies — and always found it to be an incredibly nice place. It would be an honor to work here.

keep reading…

Four Steps to Successful Contract Relationships

by Dec 20, 2005

I was recently involved in a special expertise panel exercise for the Society of Human Resource Management in which over 100 thought leaders were asked the skills that would be most valued in the HR profession in the future. Guess the most important skill: Consultative skills? Yes, they’re important, but no, not the most important. Negotiation skills? Key, but not at the top. Executive skills? Sorry. This single most important skill identified by that group was project management skills. You see, in the future — and now, actually — the great HR leaders will not just be “doing” things. The great HR leaders will be focused on strategic and other key issues of the organization, and on building great relationships. They will still be held responsible for everything they’re responsible for now; they just won’t be doing it all. Others will be doing it. That’s right, they’ll be outsourcing much of it.

The great HR executive will come to love outsourcing, if they don’t already, the way Johnny Cash loved June Carter. Like June’s affect on Johnny, it will free you up to be the great leaders you always knew you could be. Whether it’s using third-party recruiters, contract recruiters, recruitment research, outsourced resume mining, background investigations, travel and logistical providers, relocation companies, or recruitment advertising agencies — let’s face it, we’re moving toward an outsourced world. That’s not a bad thing. It enables you to focus on the core of HR and recruiting: relationships. I can hear you yelling at the computer screen, “What! That’s my value to the company. That’s what I do. If you get rid of that, I’m afraid of how vulnerable that leaves me.”

First of all, you’re wrong. Your value to the company is what you make sure gets done, not what you actually do.

Second, get over it. Outsourcing effectively still requires that you have excellent negotiation, candidate development, and other skills. The core of recruiting ó your ability to build, develop, and maintain great relationships — cannot be outsourced (domestic candidates will never respond to people calling them from overseas). That notwithstanding, you shouldn’t be spending your time doing high volume, lower value work. Others can and should do the resume trolling. And let’s be honest — as HR executives and staffing professionals, we’ve been outsourcing for years. We may not have called it that, but every time you’ve ever used a search firm, you’ve outsourced. Let’s not be afraid of it. Let’s just do it better. And in order to do it better, we need to be great project managers. Project management is what June Carter did to Johnny Cash’s life when it was going to hell. She stepped in, took charge, communicated effectively, set boundaries and expectations, and above all, didn’t feed his self-destructive behavior (how many clients do we know who are candidate addicts?). I define project management as overseeing, leveraging resources toward, and facilitating the completion of a temporary endeavor undertaken to achieve a particular aim.

Now that you’ve awakened from that boring definition, let me tell you what I think project management really is in the world of professional staffing: It’s facilitating and communicating effectively to ensure a project gets done. Thus, I break project management skills/techniques down in terms of internal versus external projects. In both cases, we need to talk about the value of utilizing a contract and “contracting” effectively. Here are some steps to ensure success:

  1. Contracting. In recruiting, we’re not in control of the results of our work, so we must contract well. Contracting well is the key to successful project management. Internally, this manifests itself in clarifying with a hiring manager who’s responsible for what in the hiring process. The recruiter plays a key role in this because he/she needs to ask the right questions, understand the answers, and insure that the information gathered is correct.
  2. keep reading…

The Power Of Relationships

by Jul 26, 2005

“Have your people call my people. We’ll do sushi.” No, I don’t mean relationships like the Hollywood kissy-kissy sushi gathering above. I mean real relationships. It’s a cliche, of course, to say that recruiting is all about relationships. But it’s a cliche because it’s true. Why? I’ve talked so often about your value as a staffing professional recruiter to the company you work for. This time I want to talk about your value to yourself, to the world at large. Because when it comes to that, for recruiters, it’s all about relationships. “Okay, but what does that mean, Jeremy?” What that means is that your success is dependent upon your ability to go out and connect with people to get information you need, to give information to others so you preserve your pipeline, and to deal with difficult situations when conflict arises. Right now, in the world of staffing and recruiting, there’s lot of talk about technology, tools, the power of the Internet, blah, blah, blah. That’s all well and good ó I’ll touch upon those tools later ó but the point is they’re tools, tools to get you to the most important thing: Talking and connecting with other people. So it’s time to get back to basics in the world of recruiting, because in this world, there is one fact that is unalienable: Great recruiters, the ones who stand out and succeed, are great relationship-builders. Here’s the thing about building relationships: You can’t wait for them to come to you. Just because you’re a service provider either inside or outside an organization, that doesn’t mean you should wait for the service to come to you. The best internal recruiters I have ever seen are the inquisitive, proactive ones, the ones who don’t wait for the hiring managers to call but pick up the phone and talk to people running the various businesses to understand the issues, goals, and objectives of their divisions. “How can we do that? We’re too busy,” you respond? Well it turns out that if you make time to do this, you actually save yourself time later on, because when the requisition does come in, you already understand many elements of the need. As an example, I hired someone once whom I knew was a great recruiter but who had no experience in the business area she joined. She came in and made it her job to know that business on her own. She didn’t wait for the requisition order; she sought out key people in operations to help her understand the business. She did a lot of this in her off hours. When she first started, she would do this two or three times a week. Soon, not only was she well prepared to be a business partner to the managers, she became respected. She went on “their turf” and made the division managers comfortable ahead of time. These are just the kinds of activities recruiters think they don’t have time for. But if they don’t make time, eventually they’ll lose. Whenever I talk about real relationships, not the kissy-kissy Hollywood ones, recruiters always fidget uncomfortably, because to deal with and develop relationships with any substance means to deal with conflict and difficult situations. Staffing professionals and recruiters hate this because, as we all know, recruiters like to be liked! By nature, recruiters are not set up for conflict and confrontation. But we must get over this and disarm the big green scary monster over the hill. You know what I’m talking about: bad relationships. There are a couple of different types of bad relationships I’d like to address. The first are ones that we often times generate, in the form of candidates whom we need to sign off; the second are the ones that we must deal with: those who have a negative bias towards recruiting inside of an organization. Maintaining Relationships With Candidates You Turn Down Regarding the former, there was some myth created by someone in the ’70s (it had to be, because they were old school) that says never give bad news to a candidate and tell them they won’t be going any further in a search. This had to have been created by a recruiter, because only a recruiter, in their desire to be liked, would avoid the off chance of conflict in this way (conflict, by the way, that only comes up perhaps 5% of the time ó but just the chance of that is enough). The truth is, while many recruiters indeed don’t follow up and close the loop with unsuccessful candidates, this has the opposite effect of relationship building. It alienates former prospects. What recruiters have to remember is that every time we talk to candidates, it holds the potential for a possible relationship in the future. Candidates don’t go away, so it’s vital that if they won’t be going any further in a search, the recruiter must call them (not email or letter) to turn them down. All that needs to be said is that the hiring manager decided to pursue candidates he or she felt were more appropriate. If there is a specific skill set that’s missing, that can be mentioned to. Here’s one of my favorite experiences: Once, I was hiring a vice president of human resources for a division of a large company I was with, and I had built a relationship with a candidate who interviewed and ultimately didn’t get the job. Six months later, there was another opening, so I called him again. He came in, went through a fifteen interview process, and again, still didn’t get the role. But each time, he appreciated my honest and direct feedback in following up as to why he didn’t get the role. Still, he appreciated my candor. Eventually, he moved on and got another job, and I moved on and did a variety of my own things as well. But we always kept in touch. So when I started my consulting business many years ago, I called him and he engaged me for a two-and-a-half year project, all because our relationship is based on how things were handled during his two unsuccessful attempts at joining my prior company. Dealing With Bias Against Recruiting The other type of bad relationship is a little trickier: Dealing with those in your company who have a negative bias towards recruiting. This isn’t a bad relationship really, because chances are you don’t know them and they don’t know you. This is simply a bad impression. But there is a way to turn this bad impression into a relationship tool and have it work to your benefit. When I was at a technology company, there were some who hated recruiting and others who loved it. But there was one person in particular who was very talented as a technologist but a nasty screamer when it came to internal staffing. Since this was an important person in the company, my job was to disarm him. How did I do that? I involved him. I put together an internal “advisory board,” where I brought together those who hated us the most with those who loved us the most, and engaged them in a dialogue. I posed various questions to them, including: “What should we be doing to improve our standing? What would you need to see that would enhance our credibility?” Eventually, the screamer stopped screaming long enough to give us his thoughts. We were already doing much of what was suggested, but that’s not the point. Just by engaging him in dialogue, we now had him vested in the process. Eventually, he ended up helping us solve the problem. After that, he had some ownership in our staffing efforts and eventually became an evangelist. Undoubtedly, the best relationships are the ones you foster that benefit you both and that can help you achieve your end goal of becoming a business partner in the business and increasing your own personal value substantially. Here are some other tips and tools for fostering good relationships:

  1. It goes both ways! Remember, always remember, that the networking game goes both ways. If you’re looking for someone to help you build your network, you have to be able to give something up to do that. It could be proactively helping them, but more likely it could be as simple as following up with them on the people to whom they referred you or looking back with them to update them on the people they know. Follow up is the magical seed that sprouts in unexpected ways.
  2. keep reading…

Don’t Show Me The Money! (At Least Not in Large Companies)

by Jun 14, 2005

You know, I always wanted to be a super hero. I grew up, of course, with Superman, Spider Man, and Wonder Woman, but my favorite was always Ultra Man. He had that classic super hero mythology, a normal person who was virtually killed and the only way he could come back to life was if he were given these extraordinary powers to turn into a giant. But like all super heroes, he had an Achilles heel. For him, it was that, once he pulled the trigger and became a giant to battle some horrible genetic-mutant monster that came from nearby polluted waters, he could only stand earth’s sun for like 15 minutes. Well, it turns out I’m not a super hero. I’m just the mad scientist who has the formula for someone else to become a super hero. I’m looking to create a staffing super hero. We shall call you “The Human Resourcer.” My secret lies in not only helping you create a high-quality, effective recruiting function, but doing it on a zero-cost basis. Would I be wrong in saying this is the key to mythic status in your company? Though there’s no doubt the most important thing is to create a high quality, effective staffing function, one can’t ignore the cost of such and endeavor and how it’s funded. Actually, there’s even more to it than that. As it turns out, the way a staffing organization is funded can create a certain dynamic between staffing professionals and their clients, which can make for a healthier recruiting environment and help you do your job better. So yes, the intro to my formula is that you can actually get your staffing organization funded by someone else and, in doing so, be more effective. As I’ve referred to in the past, it’s all about your value to the company. Except this time we’re going talk about it in cold, hard, glorious cash as well as effectiveness. I know, I know, you’re saying to yourself, “Dude, this is great! Crack open the kimono and let us par-take…” Okay, but a few caveats (as Dr. Franken-shteen said to the monster). First among these is that most of what I have to say applies to internal staffing organizations of large companies. The reason for this is that, in large companies, even though there’s more money available to fund staffing, the trick is not to expose it. This is where my secrets lie. What about small companies, you ask? Good question. Let’s start with how small companies fund internal and external recruiting as a way to ease into what I hope won’t lull you (and me) to sleep. (This is my other caveat: I’ll try not to get too technical and boring. Problem is, when you’re talking about money and that line down at the bottom, it’s hard to make it sexy). Small companies usually fund recruiting in a very straightforward way. There isn’t much money, so everybody’s neck is on the line. Thus they usually go the simple and traditional route: All recruiting costs, including outside, third party search, fall under HR. This includes the permanent, fixed costs of recruiter salaries, job postings, advertising, recruitment advertising, and job fairs and costs associated with technology, such as applicant tracking systems. Typically, this also includes the cost of third-party outside recruiters (or this cost falls in an outside line item called “unbudgeted cost” that gets absorbed by HR). Occasionally, small companies will have third-party recruiters paid by the business areas who hired them. But in general, with small companies, all costs are owned by human resources. In big companies, by contrast, not only is it not always the case that all staffing activities are funded by HR, it’s not even smart for HR to own all the recruiting costs. In this instance, money does not translate into power. However, as in every instance, value does. Here’s the problem. In large companies, even though there is in theory more money and resources available to fund staffing, the idea of large costs showing up on the “general and administrative” (G&A) budget line is not attractive. In these environments, if you have a big pot of money sitting on a line item like that, where do you think the company’s going to turn the minute they need to cut costs? This is just on one level ó the crass, pure dollar amount level. But there’s another downside to subsidizing your company’s recruiting that’s more fundamental and linked to your effectiveness as a valued partner. Assuming your goal is to be a respected and valued strategic consultant (and that should be everybody’s goal), if you fund all the recruiting through your HR department, the service you provide your clients will, to them, essentially be free. And we all know how we value something that’s free versus something we have to pay for. So to create a healthy recruiter-client dynamic, it’s important that each side be vested in the process, that each has “skin in the game.” Thus there are several reasons why it’s important to know how to fund a corporate staffing organization outside the traditional structure in a way that reflects a true cost-value relationship, without having to expose external costs on the G&A line. “Okay, so how?” you ask. Well as it turns out, there are several models to choose from that can be carved to fit your needs, more than I can fit in here. I’ll try to give you a feel for some basic frameworks. Let’s start with the ones I feel are less appealing. The first is a simple model that seems pretty straightforward and logical given the issues I’ve raised. If you’re a head of staffing and you’re trying to create a staffing function where you need to add recruiters, technology, job postings, branding, and an employee referral mechanism, you set it up so that the overhead costs of recruiters’ salaries stays in HR, but all other variable costs attributable to a search ó e.g., advertisements, etc. ó get charged back to the business unit that’s hiring. Sounds logical, right? Problem is, sometimes it’s difficult to assign certain costs to a department. For instance, when you have multiple searches for similar departments and you have to place a lot of ads, you don’t want to “sack” one department with too much of the bill. Is this easily figured out? Of course, but it requires some judgment on what to do internally versus externally. And you still have that sizable chunk of overhead (recruiters’ salaries) on the dreaded G&A line. Another model is the full charge-back model. In this scenario, all recruiting and staffing costs are considered variable and are charged back to businesses. The costs are allocated to different business units based on the employee population or that unit’s percentage of the company’s revenue. This also makes sense, because a lot of other HR costs are allocated this way. It’s simple, it’s straightforward ó but it’s not very engaging. It doesn’t really get either side vested in the process and outcome of staffing and recruiting. There’s no skin. And we need skin (I said I would try to make it sexy). What I recommend, and have seen work successfully, are two allocation models that have different takes on them. If they were drinks I’d have to call them allocations-with-a-twist. The first is a model where all recruiting costs are allocated on a per-hire basis. Not only does this properly align recruiting with the businesses, it forces a planning conversation between recruiters and the head of business units. Here’s what you do: In developing your budget for the quarter or year, you sit down with your department heads to look at past and current turnover and to determine future needs. Then you aggregate the numbers, come up with a demand forecast for the next quarter, and break it down by function and level. You now have the information to build out a recruiting strategy based on needs ó you’ll know your external, as well as internal, needs and how much funding you’ll need per hire. Armed with an amount, you can then go back to the hiring manager and present him or her with a figure. A key approach here is to present the amount you need to allocate to their department per hire, but then mention that whatever isn’t used will be “refunded” or rebated. The great thing about this model overall is that you could do it in advance or on the “back end,” after everything has occurred. I know this sounds complicated, but there are many benefits to this model, including:

  • It forces dialogue between staffing professional and hiring manager before recruiting needs happen.
  • keep reading…

Love Actually: Third Party Recruiters and HR/Staffing

by May 5, 2005

When I first joined a former employer — a large, consumer-oriented company — as head of staffing, I thought my goal was to build an empire and rule over all of the staffing land. That was my job, wasn’t it? To do everything? Wasn’t I hired to save the company money by handling all of recruiting? To go outside would’ve been a sign of weakness in my kingdom, a crack in my carefully constructed staffing castle of power (sound familiar?).

So that’s what I did. I created a self-sufficient, functionally aligned internal executive recruiting group, set up to handle everything. By handling everything internally, my thinking went, my value in the company would truly be realized! Here’s the reality of what happened. No matter how efficient or comprehensive we were as an internal recruiting function, we couldn’t handle everything. When you factor in the company’s geographical, level, and functional talent needs with the peaks and valleys of the business, the only way we could’ve possibly filled every need was to create a recruiting organization so cumbersome that no company in their right mind would have funded it. So of course we had to turn to outside help and use third party recruiters (TPRs).

But here’s the real kicker with my lemon strategy: Because we were located in our corporate offices, most of the recruiting we did was for IT, finance, and administrative “back office” stuff, not the stuff that was core to our business (like marketing, distribution and general management). Why did we focus on these “back office” positions? Because the people who ran IT, finance, and administration were in the offices right next door. They could pop in whenever they wanted, and frequently “darkened our doors” with their inquiring presence as to the status of their searches. Since the squeaky wheel gets the grease, we found ourselves responding to their inquiries and dedicating our resources to their work. But those weren’t the jobs that were most important to the company, the jobs we should’ve been focused on. Since our resources were diverted elsewhere, we ended up assigning those key jobs to TPRs. My value was not being realized! In fact, I had to fight to not go down.

Part of the problem was that even though my group couldn’t handle everything, I had already declared to anyone who would listen that my belief was that we could and should personally handle it all. I had staked my claim and was determined to live up to it. But this only resulted in a negative “push pull” feeling internally. When my team couldn’t provide support, my “you have to use us” approach ended up alienating some of our internal clients. Instead of providing reassurance, it gave them incentive to go around us and use TPRs on their own. As I mentioned, because of capacity issues, I wasn’t even handling the jobs most important to the company. So what happened? In building my empire, where did I go awry? To start, I forgot what my job was. Worse, I forgot what represented true value to the company in someone like me. No wonder my personal value was suffering! I thought my job (and thus the way for me to be most valuable) was to do everything. It wasn’t. It was to make sure everything got done. In a word, it was to be a partner to my clients internally — not to be the whipping boy. Why did I think I had to do everything? Because of cost, that’s why.

But the reality is when you can’t realistically do everything (and in the 20 years that I’ve been in this profession, I’ve never seen a staffing organization that could do it all, so let’s just get past that one and move on!), using outside help actually is cost effective when you factor in the time savings (because you’re bogged down with other stuff) and the quality of the results. All of this is a long way of saying something simple: When your job is to be a strategic partner as a staffing/HR professional, to ensure everything gets done, and to be as valuable as possible, cultivating successful relationships with TPRs is one of the most important things you can ever do.

A True Partnership Between HR and Third Party Recruiters

So how do you begin? Well, not coincidentally, the key to success here as well is partnership, and this is the responsibility of both the HR/staffing professional and the TPR. Partnerships, as has been implied above, are based on trust and mutual respect. To get there, to the land of respect and trust, we have to address a little history. Historically, there hasn’t been a lot of trust and respect between HR/staffing professionals and TPRs. Third party recruiters have tried to work with HR/staffing, but got shot down. They had to work their way around the HR/staffing exec if they were ever going to get any search work. Conversely, during the times when HR/staffing has been involved in a search, TPRs have looked upon them as getting in the way, a roadblock. But, folks, in order for there to be a partnership, everybody’s got to get past the past! Everybody’s got to recognize that we’re all in this for the support of our businesses.

Why a partnership versus a transactional relationship, you ask? Because it’s in everybody’s best interests, that’s why. From a TPR’s perspective, a partnership means more of a consultative relationship and a steadier stream of work (for some reason, one of the “secrets” that TPRs don’t get is that there is a lot of work to be found through HR/staffing). From the HR/staffing perspective, partnerships with third party recruiters can directly affect cost, quality, reliability, and speed.

Having a partnership in place when you need to assign a search externally enables things to go so much quicker and much more smoothly Okay, help me Jeremy, I really want my value to increase, how do I start? The first step is for the HR/Staffing professional to recognize what the demand is internally for recruiting overall, and as part of that, what the demand is for third party search work. This analysis is important for two reasons:

  • It requires close contact with hiring managers to not only assess where the business is going and near and long term (18 months) needs but to identify the roles themselves and their importance.

keep reading…

HR Generalists and Recruiters: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

by Mar 8, 2005

So I was sitting at my desk as the head of staffing for one of the large companies I used to work for, and I got a frantic phone call from the head of HR of one of our divisions, who started complaining about some recruiting we’re doing for one of her managers. “The manager’s not happy with you,” she growled. “You know the turnover rate for financial planners and analysts is high. The only way we can keep those jobs filled is to keep the pipeline packed with candidates ó and the manager’s hardly seen any candidates!” “Why’s that?” I replied. “We’re doing the work, sending you candidates.” “Yeah, but the quality’s low,” she said. “Says who?” I asked. “Says us, HR. Our job is to make sure the hiring manager’s taken care of.” “Okay, so we’re sending you candidates,” I said, “but they’re not getting past HR?” “Exactly. And now the hiring manager is all over my back for results.” “So why don’t we send the candidates to the hiring manager first?” I asked. “Because, Jeremy, we have to screen them first. That’s our job.” “No, your job is to make sure the hiring manager is s taken care of, you said so yourself. In this case, taking care of the hiring manager means they need to see a higher volume of candidates to be reassured that the pipeline is filled. Why don’t we try an experiment? Let’s send the candidates to the hiring manager to assess technical fit, then to you to assess the cultural fit, and then see where we stand?” I can’t tell if the relationship between HR generalist and recruiter is like siblings or spouses. I do know it’s just another version of something you see so often in nature: two organisms in conflict and yet dependent upon one another to survive. I do know the conflict is common; I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a version of the above story played out in companies. Part of the problem is endemic to these two jobs, rooted in the fabric and fundamental DNA of these roles as they have evolved over time. But fortunately, as human beings (and not simply as organisms in nature), by identifying these built-in barriers to success (or as they say in therapy on The Sopranos, “knowing the blind spots”), we can adapt, formulate a way around the barriers, and beat evolution ó or at least understand how to succeed and survive. Here’s the problem as I see it: The role of the HR generalist touches on many important areas of a company ó organizational development and change, employee relations, comp and benefits, conflict resolution, etc. ó but as a partner to general managers running a business, a lot of what an HR generalist deals with tends to be “negative” in nature. (For instance, when there’s an employee conflict or problem, who does the manager call? The HR professional). Success for the HR executive can often be helping a company avoid problems or disaster. By contrast, a recruiter’s success is usually “positive” in nature. Success for them is not preventing failure but adding to a company, in the form of identifying, sourcing, and assessing a new hire. Since more often than not staffing is one of the many responsibilities that fall under the purview of HR, when a recruiting opportunity arises, it’s only natural that the HR professional will want to get involved and participate in a process where a successful result is “positive” for the company. Here are some other built-in problems between the two functions:

  • A recruiter’s main focus is all about getting the job done. Anything that impedes that, including an intrusive HR generalist, must be overcome. (In fact, third-party recruiting firms often train their professionals in strategies for circumventing HR professionals.)
  • keep reading…