It Takes a Top Team to Find Top Talent

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Mar 27, 2019

How to lead and guide your talent-acquisition function for best results

When I think about the best talent-acquisition teams I’ve ever seen, their common characteristics aren’t what you think they might be. It’s not like leading a team of accountants. Talent-acquisition professionals are constantly juggling multiple balls in the air, have many bosses, and manage a lot of stakeholders daily.

It’s not that accountants aren’t busy or important to a company. It’s that their roles can be much more linear and predictable than someone’s whose entire role is relationship based.

It’s a challenge if you’re the leader of this function because it can be more difficult to influence, motivate, inspire, and collaborate across your group. For example, we all know the recruiters work for you, but they also work for the love of their hiring managers. While this relationship is building and the recruiter works to be a consultative and strategic partner, the volume and needs of the talent-acquisition function don’t slow down. This means that your challenge becomes how to achieve a consistent and consultative approach that brings the highest value to the business. It can be difficult to steer an already sailing ship; for example, turning off low-value white-glove tactics. As you transform, it can also be difficult to show your team appreciation and keep them motivated and inspired.

My suggestion has always been to use a consultative recruiting model. This will mean you can better prioritize, structure, staff, lead, and problem-solve in the complex world of corporate talent acquisition. It’s not out of your reach, though it can certainly be daunting at times. In my experience as both a corporate talent-acquisition leader, and as a consultant helping leaders build their talent-acquisition functions, there are five key areas that I’ve found to matter most in the success of the function:

How You Organize and Structure the Recruiting Function

This is important because your team might be centralized in-house, decentralized in-house, a hybrid of contingent and full-time employees, or fully outsourced. They may be one location, all work remotely, or be grouped in hubs, so you can use a “follow the sun” model of support in global operations. How you approach these individuals to create a great cultural fit that meets the business goals makes a big difference.

Be a Champion and Facilitator for Your Team

Relationships are critical for recruiters. They are motivated by building relationships that help them fulfill their goals — mainly finding the best talent to lead the organization into the future. Make sure you are investing positively in giving them visibility and introductions to leadership, and help leadership recognize their individual efforts as well. There is no better feeling that knowing you are valued in an organization and that your manager is amplifying the great work you’re doing.

Create a Consultative Talent-acquisition Culture

Nobody enjoys being an order taker. With the right approach, Talent Acquisition can help the business without becoming an order taker, and also “teach hiring managers to fish.”

Your team is not “customer service.” We are consultants. We must view ourselves and our peers as experts in our area of specialization. In consultation, recruiters have specific goals to work toward that can help drive accountability, execution, and prioritization. Imagine the clarity and sense of accomplishment one can have when they know exactly what is expected of them, and they are celebrated for meeting and exceeding those expectations.

Develop High-performing Talent-acquisition professionals

Even with a great structure and culture, you still have an important task of leading your team and positioning each of them to becoming high-performing talent-acquisition professionals.

A great place to start is to ensure that the job you’re offering is one in which a recruiter gets to recruit. Having your team lost in “administrivia,” while important, is not where you get your best leverage, growth, or frankly, joy from recruiters. Enable the talent-acquisition professional to deal directly with the end client and be a strategic partner. Whether it’s an in-house or third-party recruiter, invariably in the past they’ve had to go through at least one other party (such as an HR generalist) before getting to the client. Coach them to help their ongoing development and show them that you are enabling their growth by enabling them to work closely with the ultimate client. This will be catnip to a high-quality talent-acquisition professional.

Look to the Long Term

Empowering your recruiters to do what they love will only elevate your profile as the talent-acquisition leader. While the consultative approach and right structure frees up the recruiter to deliver high-value work, remember that recruiters are building organizations for the future. Their ability to lead workforce planning, and also be recognized for those top candidates they bring into the organization, is critical. Remember, everyone from the CEO to the interns are brought into the organization by talent acquisition.

There is an opportunity for recognition as you track the development of the superstars your team is bringing in. It can be formal, or informal, but high-performing recruiters are looking for utility players who can grow with the organization long term and minizime cost by recognizing future leaders. Show them the organization’s appreciation for finding these gems!

It’s difficult to imagine any team of mediocre performers who approach their jobs as something they move through to kill the day, being able to find and evaluate the best talent for a successful company. It’s difficult to imagine this type of talent-acquisition team wouldn’t be at risk of constantly turning over, of leaders not wanting to work with them, and of HR generalists overstepping their role. You as the amazing talent-acquisition leader could inspire, cultivate, and motivate one of the most important functions in the company, and to give these employees who have dedicated their careers to building relationships and selling someone on the potential of a career with your company a great home.

It can be challenging to transform into a team where every member of the team can own their role fully and be celebrated for it. You can set the stage for them to thrive; a high-performing talent-acquisition function is within your reach. Don’t hold back. The hard work is absolutely worth it!


Come join me and my team and I for a high-intensity and interactive, roll-up-your sleeves workshop available for participants at ERE’s April event in San Diego on “recruiting in a candidate-driven market.” In the session we’ll take an in-depth look at how the best corporate recruiting leaders structure their teams and focus their teams on the top priorities for both now and in the future for their organization. We’ll also discuss how to create a more consultative culture within your teams, and how to develop the superstar high-performing recruiting professionals. Talent-acquisition leaders interested in discussing how to prioritize, structure, staff, lead, and problem-solve in the complex world of corporate recruiting and staffing should join us April 23, 2019 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. There are no additional charges for registered ERE Recruiting Conference participants.


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