Can We Talk?

Nov 2, 2009

One of the more frustrating aspects of the recruiting and staffing industry is the speed in which sourcing, interviewing, and hiring processes progress.

One of the most common speed bumps in this process is how we work and communicate with one another. Chances are you work with others in your daily routine in many different staffing roles (staffing firm, hiring manager, HR director, etc.) who don’t respond to your emails or phone calls as fast as you prefer.

The result is that we lose candidates in the hiring process, fail to meet hiring/revenue goals, and endure unnecessary frustration.

Build the Framework

Set expectations in advance! Never assume that all colleagues operate the same way. For example, some recruiters are sourcing resumes only, whereas some are interviewing, screening, and matching. Some people shun the phone and prefer to work solely by email. Leaping to any conclusions could be a mistake.

The first step? Meet with the other party (either in person or by phone) and discuss how you will communicate. A good tool here is to use past examples of experiences you’ve had that have worked or not worked, outline your expectations, and reach a verbal agreement.

Do you meet weekly by phone or in person for a status update? What are you each expecting of the other in terms of process and function? Perhaps you might even set a future date to discuss the working relationship and how well it is functioning.

Running into Problems

You have a few options if the other party with whom you’re speaking isn’t willing or interested in working and communicating on the same schedule, frequency, and method.

Ask open end-ended questions to learn about where they are coming from, and then try to help the other person to see your point of view. Using their words can often be a big help; you have to get into their dictionary. The better each party understands the goals, issues, and obstacles faced by the other person, the more easily resolution can be found (this is a life lesson that applies to any situation, of course).

If you are still unable to get the other person to work in the manner that is acceptable to you, change your expectations or no longer work with that person. It’s as simple as that.

Let’s assume that you continue working with this other party but you later find that the agreed-upon method of working together isn’t being fulfilled on the other end. It’s time to meet with them again by phone or in person and bring the issue up again. Just like the earlier conversation where you built your framework for working together, this cannot be done by email. Email is a great tool for sending a message, but is an inefficient method for open dialogue and conversation.

Building on the Framework: Candidate Communication

Above, we discussed how your communication with your peers in the staffing industry could be improved by openly setting (and following through with) expectations. What about your interaction with the candidates themselves? Some of the concepts above carry over to the candidate too, but other issues arise that you can prevent:

I sent the candidate email and I’m waiting for a response.

Sending an email is not recruiting; it’s sourcing. Sourcing is the precursor to recruiting and is great for softening up the landing in preparation for when you (or a recruiter) will be calling and talking to the candidate.

I recall the proud recruiter telling me that they had submitted 10 candidates today! Wow, you mean you sent 10 emails? If your role required work beyond sourcing resumes, it’s time to step out from behind the computer monitor, put a smile on your face, and pick up the phone. The art of the “call and present” may help you to break through.

I submitted the resume but haven’t heard any feedback
Any article that mentions communication and staffing in the same topic is going to repeatedly say the same thing: pick up the phone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a staffing firm submitting to a client or an internal recruiter submitting to a hiring manager; if you have a rock-star candidate you’ve submitted, pick up the phone.

Don’t let email become your main tool of dialogue. Again, email is great for sending a message or a file, but for true dialogue, you have to meet them in person or call them on the phone.

Of course, you want to avoid the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome, too. In other words, not every candidate you stumble across is a perfect fit. Take the feedback you’re given on previous submittals and apply it to those you do from now on. This is a major hallmark of a great staffing professional. But if you’ve got a “must see” candidate, let the recipient know! This is quite possibly one of the most frequent causes for delays in the hiring process: assuming that the other party has read your emails and has given it the attention deserved, when in fact this may not have happened at all.

I had the candidate complete the questionnaire, so now I’m done.
This is an easy one to address. Having a candidate fill out a survey or questionnaire is not a valid substitute for talking to the candidate. To correctly identify a candidate as a fit for an opportunity, you need to understand their personality, aspirations, pet peeves, and red flags. You’ll never get an accurate feel for any of this from a one-page form the candidate submits to you. The simple answer is: have a good candidate interview form with lots of open-ended questions. And here it comes again: pick up the phone.

A Review of the ‘Rules of Communication’

  • Make sure the person you’re trying to communicate with desires the same level of communication you do. Ensure that you have a good person to work with to help you meet your goals.
  • Set expectations in advance both in terms of how you’ll work together as well as how you’ll communicate (email, phone, meetings, time of day, etc.). Don’t assume that your process for running your staffing is a universal standard that others share.
  • Review the process by which you and the other person(s) are working. Are both parties meeting the expectations and agreed-upon goals of the other? Are you working as a team, strangers, or possibly even adversaries?
  • Understand the other person’s point of view, barriers, methods, and history. It is through appreciation of another person’s perspective that you’ll reach consensus on how to continue forward and minimize the number of candidates lost in the hiring process.
  • Pick up the phone when needed. Don’t be afraid to talk to people on the phone and convey information. This is especially important when dialogue is needed rather than simply conveying a message. If you get an email that probably should have been done by phone instead, don’t respond to the email; pick up the phone.

Accept Your Role

Delays in the hiring process, resume “black holes,” lost candidates, missed meetings, and all the other issues that plague a staffing business can be kept to a minimum by having a plan of action. Create and stick to your carefully agreed-upon communication methods instead of allowing events to unfold around you.

You have control, so use it. Accepting ownership for some of the communication issues you’ve experienced is the first step; now it’s up to you to craft a solution with thoughtfulness and planning. Execute, evaluate, and make adjustments as needed along the way.