Happy All The Time? (I Think Not…)

Sep 17, 2008

“Happiness is an emotion associated with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy.”

Do you have problems keeping your internal clients happy? Do you arrive at work first thing in the morning dreading e-mails and phone messages from certain hiring managers? Do you ever have the urge to chase some of your internal clients around the office with a blunt instrument while screaming something like, “More candidates? I’ll give you more candidates you miserable &*%&*,” as they scatter in fear of their lives? Does any of this sound familiar?

If this charming reality is even a part of the story of your recruiting life, you can change that story by adopting a radically innovative mindset and you can do it today. I urge you to consider the following fact: it is not your job to make your internal clients happy. Never was and never will be. You might have thought it was because we were all trained to think that way, but that is not our goal from a business perspective. Our real objective is to present them with two or three qualified candidates who could be hired. End of story. If your internal clients are not happy after that, the problem is theirs, not yours, because you have done your job.

Let’s take a closer look at this concept of “happy.” Consider the following words: “profit, objective, performance, leadership.” The omission of the word “happy” in that group of words is not accidental. That is because those are business-oriented words, whereas “happy” is an emotional state of being. As recruiters, making people happy is not our job. Good, proactive, and effective recruiting is our job. Locating, attracting, and presenting candidates for the positions we are trying to fill is our business, and that is the only business with which we are involved.

Taking it one step further (Sorry I’m on a roll…) Keeping internal clients “happy” is a fool’s errand. Recruiting is difficult enough. Crazy expectations, poor response time, and un-communicated changes in requirements just scratch the surface of the recruiter’s typical day. We roam the halls with this creepy feeling that a good many of our internal clients are not happy. We struggle to do the best we can; we locate and present qualified candidates; yet, we still have this sinking feeling that they are not happy. Forget happy. Just do your job as a recruiter and that will have to be good enough.

With that in mind, let’s see how we can execute on this new way of doing business.

1) Present only candidates who could be hired. In terms of definitions, a hirable candidate is one who has a reasonable chance of accepting an offer if one is tended. For example, do not present candidates, however qualified, if there is no good reason for them to accept the position. Case in point: the comp range on your position is $80,000 and your candidate is earning $79,000 with a raise due in a month. Your commute is 45 minutes and theirs is five minutes; they get four weeks; vacation, you give two. Get the point? You have a candidate who might be qualified but generally speaking, not likely to be hired. All this candidate will do is get a hiring manager excited about someone they can’t have. Honestly, why should they change jobs?

2) Present only qualified candidates. This is a basic, but it bears repeating: never present a candidate who is not qualified. For the more senior recruiters, I know that you can get creative at times and try to present off-label candidates to create an innovative hiring solution, and that is OK. On the other hand, be advised that you really need to know what you are doing to get away with that. You need to have both a good relationship and track record with the hiring manager if you wish to swim in these waters.

3) Understand the position. Once again, a basic that’s worth repeating. Understand all that you need to know before you source your first candidate. You can’t sell what you don’t understand.

4) Understand the candidate. Do interviews that are deep enough to understand not just the candidate’s qualification but what they really want/need in their next position. Take the extra 15 minutes to really know your candidate and you will never be sorry. (See “10 Things Recruiters Should Know About Every Candidate They Interview” for some real depth on this topic.)

5) Never make them wait. Be sure that your internal client never has to wait for you. If you have an action item as it relates to a position, a reference check, a question on their comp, whatever, do it as soon as humanly possible and get back to them with the results. Never, ever, make them wait.

6) Drive the process. You are either a driver or you are a passenger. Be a driver! If the internal client has to contact you to find out what is happening with their position, that is bad. If you contact them to ask what is happening with the candidates you have sent, that is good.

7) Document everything. Phone calls and quick hallway meetings are OK, but getting it in writing is even better. Send a “cc” to yourself on all e-mails and in the event you get verbal instructions, put it in e-mail to the hiring manager to keep it all straight. It is called CYA and yes, it is a sad way to live, but it is one of life’s realities.

8) Worry less about being liked. All of us want to be liked, but recruiters seem to carry it to an extreme. I know because I want to be liked as well as the next person. Do not let your judgment or activities be affected by this malady. There are times you will have to drive hard and make noise to get things done. Better to fill the position and scuff a few egos then fail to fill it and be loved by all. They do not pay us to be loved by all. (Looking for unconditional love? Get a dog.)

I know what you are thinking. Clients need to be happy. No — clients need to have their needs successfully met based upon the parameters established in the beginning of the relationship. If you are a driver, your job is to get them to the airport safely and on time. If you are a recruiter, your job is to present good candidates. “Happy” is an entirely different world whose meaning conjures up images of group hugs and bumper stickers that say “Have You Hugged Your Recruiter Today.” (Creepy huh?)

Personally, I think that internal clients should very happy if you manage to locate two or three candidates who are qualified and could be hired, but that’s just my opinion. All the rest is unnecessary drama; we are not in the drama business either.

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