I Need More Bricks

Mar 31, 2008

If you ran a construction company and had a world-class bricklayer, would you make him carry bricks? More than likely, if you have a world-class bricklayer, you would probably have one person carrying bricks to him and another mixing mortar.

By doing so, the world-class bricklayer can ply his trade more efficiently and make a beautiful building, wall, etc. This would also save your construction company a great deal of money, as the bricklayer is paid three to five times more money than the laborers carrying bricks and mixing mortar.

In corporate recruiting departments, are we applying the same logic? I have asked many in corporate America what makes a “good” recruiter. The overwhelming response is that a “good” recruiter is someone who handles candidates well and develops strong relationships with the hiring managers. It is a rare response that even includes anything related to sourcing or screening.

From a behavioral perspective, working well with people (candidates or hiring managers) falls into the people-skills category. Putting a finer point on it, the best recruiters are generally speaking, good salespeople. In other words, their genius is closing deals: selling the right candidates on the company and the hiring managers on the right candidates. Persuading, influencing, and convincing people to do something are the basic attributes of a salesperson.

Finding the right candidates in today’s world is long on process/procedure and short on persuasion/influence. Sourcing is highly process-driven, mundane, and repetitive work. Even with the best tools in the world, this job is about 90% sitting in one place reviewing resumes to select the best few candidates who match the job description or profile. Up to this point, there is virtually no people-interaction involved at all.

The next step in the process is to reach out to the best few candidates and attempt to screen them over the phone. The screening process is also very repetitive and mundane, where you have to ask all the candidates the same questions and document the answers consistently so that the appropriate candidates are moved through the process. Of course, there is also the need for OFCCP compliance and other legal issues.

Once you find the appropriately skilled and screened candidate you must then get them into the ATS; either by having the candidate apply or by entering them into the ATS directly. This too, is a very administrative, process-oriented activity. So, sourcing is more of an administrative or process-driven job, where the ability to stay in one place and work for hours without interaction with people is required.

Separating and Defining the Roles

Over the years, I have found the separation of these two major functions in recruiting to yield far better results at both ends than asking one person to do both. Sourcing, to be effective, has to be closely watched, measured, and tuned to produce the most effective results.

It is far more difficult to apply clearly defined, accurate metrics in recruiting. We all try to measure the source of hire, time-to-hire, submittals-to-interview ratio, interview-to-offer ratio, cost-per-hire, and myriad other measures of recruiting metrics. Asking a salesperson to keep track of these is difficult at best, impossible at worst. Asking administrative people to track these items makes them feel comfortable.

Another major benefit of separation is the ability to scale the sourcing function. At times of highly active hiring, the sourcing team needs to be able to step up and produce large volumes of candidates. When hiring slows or stops, this group will have to reduce the team size, and maybe even eliminate the group altogether depending on the conditions your organization faces.

After that, determining what to track, how to track it, and who is responsible for monitoring and correcting problems is also important. Is sourcing centralized or decentralized? There are arguments for both. Where at all possible, centralizing is the most cost-effective because you can more easily track the metrics and performance of your team as well as shift work load around more easily. Company size and complexity may require more than one sourcing group.

Another benefit to this structure is to handle the specialized, highly difficult sourcing projects. Generally, these are passive in nature and require a very sharp, first call in order to have a chance at convincing the target to consider a job change. With this structure, you can either have the senior sourcing team manager do this work or even better; put your top-notch recruiters on these types of direct-sourcing projects to add spice to their life and put the best person on the phone with the passive candidates. These types of searches happen but are rare. Therefore, they are best handled as the exception rather than the rule.

What about the very important candidate referral program? Again, this is a very critical program long on administrative process that fits well in the sourcing team purview.

Getting the referred candidates into the system and added to appropriate requisitions or other referral-specific processes is vital if this program is to be successful. Many of these programs operate below acceptable levels because the referred candidates are never talked to or given the top priority they deserve. Further, there is little or no communication to them letting them know where they are in the process.

Administratively oriented people will follow the process and make sure this function works to maximum advantage when the process exists to do so.

In the world of corporate recruiting, are we asking our bricklayers to carry bricks? Recognizing that the two major activities in the full life-cycle of recruiting are two totally different job types is a first step in building a more effective recruiting organization. The next step is determining what ratio of the two types of skills your organization requires.

The volume of hiring, availability of talent, complexity of the jobs, among many other factors, will determine the ratios. Once you have established these, you can then scale much more easily with the administrative talent, plug new people in more quickly, and greatly enhance the efficiency of the entire recruiting group.

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