Let Me Tell You What a Good Recruiting Boss Is

Apr 24, 2013

I’ve had many recruiting bosses, sometimes in large organizations, sometimes in small. I’ve been privileged to have had a few who have been exceptionally good. Here’s what the good ones had in common, and the sorts of things they would and wouldn’t do.

The Fundamentals

While they didn’t put what they did in these terms (since it hadn’t yet been created), they pretty much followed the Agile Recruiting Manifesto:

  • We are uncovering better ways of hiring people by doing it and helping others do it.
  • Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Quick, quality hires over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

Principles Behind the Agile Recruiting Manifesto

We follow these principles:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of quality hires.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver quality hires frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Internal customers and recruiters must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals.
  • Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a recruiting team is face-to-face conversation.
  • A quality hire which is on time and within budget is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable employee development.
  • The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to professional excellence and first-class service enhances agility.
  • Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
  • The best requirements, processes, and hires emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

I’ll boil it down into three major points (and discuss them), as one of my bosses did so well:

We’ll give you (recruiters) the resources you need to do your jobs. While we were definitely not throwing money all over the place, our manager made sure we had what we needed, and worked to improve what we had; such as worked to clean up the ATS so it would actually help us give us accurate and useful information. Also, to keep us informed she had a number of us attend a recruiting convention so we could see with our own eyes what was out there (this was in the early days of the Internet, and there wasn’t all that much “stuff” out there), and not just have a VP attend on our behalves. Also, instead of bringing in a “recruiting thought leader” to impart “wisdom from on high,” she’d meet with us and solicit our opinions as to what we needed to improve our jobs.

We’ll work with your hiring managers to make sure you have the communication and cooperation necessary to do your jobs. (This is a big one.) She made sure that we recruiters were not weak and fearful errand boys and girls at the beck and call of the hiring managers’ whims. We were equal partners in an important task: hiring. She was not an intermediary partner between us and our hiring managers and higher-up superiors. She was our advocate and leader. She was loyal to us, and we to her. She “took care of her own,” We knew that if push came to shove, she wouldn’t throw us under the bus. She wasn’t a push-over. She made sure we did what we needed to do, and without excuses. She could be tough, but she was fair, and we could trust her.

Now go recruit and don’t sweat the small stuff. Small stuff was/is basically anything which tended to pull us away from our jobs, which was to “quickly and affordably put quality butts in chairs.” Examples of “small stuff” (with my additions to keep it current):

  • More-than-necessary paperwork/data-entry/metrics (Nobody should do it.)
  • Onboarding (HR should do it.)
  • Employee engagement (HR should do it.)
  • Employee retention (HR should do it.)
  • Employment branding (Marketing should do it.)
  • Talent communities/social network recruiting (Takes too long to get hires. Our managers need them now.)

I think my recruiting boss (actually, she was my recruiting over-boss, my recruiting boss was really good, too) was fortunate. She could actually do what was good for us (for awhile; it changed after they laid off the contract recruiters and the acquiring company “settled in”). I’ve had others as competent and well-meaning, but they weren’t powerful enough to continue, were set up to fail, etc. Overall, I’ve been fortunate too. I’ve had a few of these shining stars in my career.

I’d like to hear your stories of good recruiting bosses, or if you think you are a good recruiting boss, tell us what you’ve done to make and keep it good for us recruiters. (Extra points for an “against-all-odds triumph over a bunch of soul-sucking, mind-killing “corporateocrats.”)

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