5 Lessons To Help You Understand HR, Build Business, and Save Time

Dec 21, 2012

Prior to starting my search firm in April 2010 I worked as an onsite recruiting consultant for Navistar for nearly three years. The experience taught me many invaluable recruiting lessons such as understanding complex compensation plans, organizational power structures and politics, and key product technology. However, I believe the most invaluable lesson I learned was how corporate HR and recruiting professionals think and more importantly how they view search firms.

I want to share five lessons I learned and how you can utilize these lessons to better partner with your HR / recruiting clients.

1. Quality time needs to be scheduled

I learned quickly as a corporate recruiter that I spent most of my time recruiting with my hair on fire and being subject to the whims of my hiring managers and HR business partners. This meant that I had precious little time to focus on my real job – recruiting. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so many hours in my life while feeling like I didn’t get as much accomplished, as I wanted.

Lesson Learned: Don’t expect to catch corporate recruiters on the fly if you call them. I rarely picked up the phone unless it was a hiring manager trying to reach me for something that was mission critical. Schedule time with your corporate recruiting partner. It’ll go a long way in respecting their time, which is often quite limited.

2. Partner with HR managers

I learned human resources professionals are very influential in the hiring process. They often control the internal equity data that ultimately affects the offers the candidates we represent are given; moreover, they’re often deeply embedded in the business units they support. HR managers often have the ear of the executive-level decision-makers in their business units.

Lesson Learned: Become partners with your HR contacts immediately because they’re often the key to BIG billings; conversely, if you make them mad at you they can permanently poison the well for you.

3. The bigger they are, the less you’re needed.

When I was consulting for Navistar I saw our recruiting team built up from less than five people to over 40 coordinators, recruiters, and managers with a large budget, and a plethora of recruiting tools. During my first year with Navistar I saw the spend for search firms reduced by over 80%! I hired 233 people for Navistar, and I never had the need to use a search firm once because I had an ATS with over 250,000 candidates, automatic job posting to over 100 sites, and a “steroid laden” LinkedIn Recruiter account. I used to say to my peers if I can’t fill all my jobs with the tools I have here by myself then they should fire my ass. Needless to say, I never got fired because I left voluntarily to start my search firm.

Lesson Learned: When you’re trying to develop business with a new company and you’re speaking to their corporate recruiter ask him or her the following questions:

  1. How many recruiters are on your team who actually fill job requisitions? If the answer is 30+ like it was when I was at Navistar then they probably won’t need your help too often.
  2. How much time do you spend recruiting versus completing administrative tasks? I was typically burdened by 75% admin work versus 25% recruiting work.
  3. How many requisitions do you typically handle at one time? If they’re handling over 25 at a time they don’t have time to breathe, so they might need your assistance to help ease their workload.
  4. What type of ATS do you use and what are some of the other recruiting tools you have access to? If they have access to everything I had at Navistar and they have to use search firms often then they should be fired because they stink. If they’re still using MS Excel as an ATS and are using their own personal LinkedIn account to source then they probably need your help.

4. Be candid about your specialty

One of the biggest pet peeves most corporate recruiters have is when search firms call them and tell them they can fill every job. Most corporate recruiting departments are set up like search firms where their recruiters are assigned to specific functions (i.e. supply chain, finance & accounting, etc.). Corporate recruiters want to work with search firms who can honestly say they specialize in a specific function and/or industry.

Lesson Learned: One positive differentiator I use with corporate recruiters is to explain my practice in terms of FILL. (Thanks Jeff Kaye.) Here’s an example:

 “Jim, I specialize in placing sales and supply chain professionals (FUNCTION) within the commercial vehicle and CPG industries (INDUSTRY) throughout North America (LOCATION). The professionals I place typically earn in the $100-300K range (LEVEL).”

This example allows the corporate recruiter to know who they should call if they have a particularly tough search they need to fill. Candor goes a long way in engendering trust with your corporate recruiting partners.

5. Track your recruiting contacts.

We spend a lot of time – or our sourcers do – tracking people via LinkedIn, etc. that we want to recruit or call to develop business with. I recommend doing this with corporate recruiters and HR professionals you do business with.

Lesson Learned: Corporate recruiters (especially contract recruiters) and HR people tend to change jobs regularly. Moreover, they usually are the first ones laid off during periods of corporate downsizing. I recommend keeping in touch at least once a quarter with your preferred corporate recruiting and HR contacts. Get to know them as people. Find out their hobbies, favorite sports teams, etc., and find a reason to make contact with them. If they voluntarily or involuntarily change jobs, and are in position to utilize a search firm at their new company to fill jobs, then guess who just got a new client?

I truly feel these lessons I learned and have successfully put into practice have had a measurable and quantifiable benefit for my firm. Contrary to the old school belief that corporate recruiters and HR are the enemy, I encourage you to embrace them as partners because they can be the gateway to rather significant increases in your annual production numbers.