If Recruiting is Like Sales, Let’s Act Like Sales People

Jun 9, 2008

I don’t run into many recruiters/staffing/HR professionals who don’t agree with the statement: Recruiting is just like sales.

While we can argue over the differences between the two professions (please don’t lose sight of the trees through the forest on this one), we all know the parallels are overwhelming.

Consider the following shared business philosophies:

  • Recruiters prospect/source for candidates, while sales people prospect/source for new business opportunities/contacts.
  • Recruiters develop relationships with prospects to turn them into candidates, while sales people develop relationships to turn prospects into viable business opportunities.
  • Recruiters assess the candidate’s skills to determine whether they are a fit for the organization, while sales people assess the business opportunity with a potential client.
  • Recruiters “negotiate” compensation and turn (close) candidates into employees, while sales people close deals and turn prospects into customers.

So if recruiting is just like sales, shouldn’t we be benchmarking the most successful salespeople/organizations and learn from them?

While there are many things we could learn and benchmark from top sales producers, you will find a lot of their energy and true passion is around the following topics:

  • Monthly/weekly/daily meetings about pipelines, activity, etc.
  • Incentive-based compensation models.
  • Ongoing motivational contests to reward top performers.
  • Emphasis on ongoing learning, execution, and time management.
  • Aggressive attitude about achieving goals and performance management.

Although many agency/staffing recruiters subscribe to some, most, or even all of these types of behaviors, I am always surprised to find that many corporate internal recruiters do not function like a sales organization!

Investigating the Trend

Why is this?

Is there really a big difference between internal and external recruiting? Again, we know some obvious differences, but really, recruiting is recruiting, isn’t it?

To this point, I am often amazed at the response I get from corporate/internal recruitment leaders. With one statement they will say “I need my recruiters to think of recruiting like it is sales. I need them to act more like consultants.”

But when I start discussing the topics and behaviors above, they get uneasy.

They say things like the following:

  • “That won’t work in our culture.”
  • “We are not a staffing/agency.”
  • “We have large req loads, so that won’t work.”
  • “We are all too busy to do these things.”

Desperately Seeking Sales-Minded Recruiters

There are many corporate recruitment organizations that function and think like a sales organization, and it’s time these people speak up.

I am not making these points to “bash” corporate/internal recruiters. That is not my intent. The main reason I bring this up is because whenever I start talking about these subjects, many (not all) people say, “Oh, that is for agency/staffing recruiters!”

But I just do not see it that way. If you can see the parallels between the two and believe that recruiting is just like sales, then you need to start benchmarking the most successful sales organizations, thought leaders, etc., and start learning from them.

Do this regardless of what type of recruiter you are!

With that said, I would love to share best practices around a variety of topics (i.e., internal, external, staffing, HR, corporate, agency recruiters, all are welcome):

  • Monthly/weekly/daily meetings about pipelines, activity, etc.
  • Incentive-based compensation models for corporate recruiters.
  • Motivational contests to reward top performers.
  • Emphasis on ongoing learning, execution, time management.
  • Recruiter goal setting and performance management.
  • Best sales organization, thought leaders, etc. to benchmark.

I will present these best practices in future articles on ERE!

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