Recruiters are not marketers, or researchers, copywriters, sourcing experts, or data analysts, according to a recent article by Graeme Johnson right here on ERE. While that article was chock full of true statements and accurate analyses of recruiter strengths and focuses, it also grossly undervalues the skill and strategy involved in recruiting.
Johnson paraphrases a 2014 Deloitte study, High Impact Talent Acquisition, in his piece, praising the relationship between hiring authority and recruiter as the top predictor of a successful hiring outcome, regardless of marketing tactic. This was the basis of his piece: that the best recruiters are skilled in maintaining relationships, and, to him, that’s not marketing.
But what the study actually says is the ability to develop “strong relationships with hiring managers is the top driver of talent acquisition performance.” Now this is a subtle difference in wording, but the meaning shifts drastically. TA teams are more likely to perform well overall if they can develop strong relationships with their internal hiring authorities. Johnson implies that successful hires are a direct result of maintaining relationships, and that’s simply not what the study indicates.
It’s important to differentiate between internal and external recruiters as well in this capacity, but I don’t want to get into the whole “in-house recruiters are failed agency recruiters” debate, because in reality, most in-house recruiters are successful agency recruiters, so the skill sets are roughly the same.
High Impact Talent Acquisition is about internal recruiting, and therefore the findings are biased to internal TA teams, relationships, and processes. Regardless, internal talent acquisition still consists largely of marketing activities. That is supported by the same report, which says, “TA leaders need to embrace technology like never before, adopt modern approaches to sourcing, and achieve metrics that are often hard to measure — all while maintaining strong partnerships across the organization and staying aligned with business strategy.” And in case you weren’t aware, all of that is also considered marketing.
Outside recruiting requires a unique approach on the front-end to secure relationships. Clients and third-party recruiters don’t bump into each other on the subway and begin a wonderful dialogue about potential placements. That may be the ideal scenario, no effort needed on either side, but it’s not realistic.
What is more likely is that a recruiter researched the industry, job market, and company where a hiring authority works, by analyzing historical and qualitative data. He or she may have hopped into their ninja gear to source a perfect candidate for that hiring manager, then developed a plan to market that candidate. If they do all of that correctly and strategically, the hiring authority is receptive to the outreach and thus blossoms a relationship.
Let’s break that down a little further with a real-world example.
James Brost, one of our directors, has been a recruiter for 20 years. He identifies first and foremost as a recruiter, not a marketer, yet his strategy and tactics closely mirror marketing. When Brost first joined Avenues, he brought a few clients over from his previous work, but 90 percent of his relationships are newly developed.
He secures new relationships by finding highly skilled candidates in his niche (sourcing), then performs a market analysis (data analysis) of that candidate’s preferred geography to identify the best openings and firms to work with (research). Next, he consolidates that data to draft a pitch, both for email (copywriting) and by phone.
He brought in more than 25 new clients and close to $250k in billings in less than seven months.
Of course, a portion of Brost’s time is spent maintaining his existing relationships. But that time’s mainly spent on the “A” clients — those where he has a direct relationship with the hiring authority, is often the exclusive recruiter for them, and/or has a very clear understanding of their needs and wants. The “B” and “C” companies are those that may have a slow hiring process, routinely offer low salaries (comparatively), or ones where he is forced to communicate exclusively with HR.
By focusing on marketing, Brost cultivates a plethora of new relationships and can choose to maintain only the best ones in his book.
Getting and keeping clients require two very different skill sets, and both are essential to being a successful outside recruiter. Although the best recruiters may not think of themselves as marketers, they are marketers.
So yes, we need to be filling our team with the best quality recruiters, the ones who can maintain relationships and operate as an extension of the hiring authority as Johnson states, but the best recruiters are also skilled in marketing. Recruiters who consider marketing, and all the facets that comprise it, a necessary component to their day-to-day success are those who will have enough relationships to sustain a steady stream of placements even in dark economic conditions or organizational hiring lulls.
The best recruiters actually are marketers, and as director of marketing, I don’t throw that title around lightly.
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