The Real Problem in Corporate Recruiting

Mar 23, 2010

In his recent ERE article, “Why Corporate Recruiting May be Doomed,” Kevin Wheeler outlines how a developing technology gap may be impacting the performance of corporate recruiting teams. He rightly points out that the impact of new technology lags far behind when the technology is introduced. So, corporate recruiting organizations who have been slow to adopt new technology are falling farther and farther behind. It seemed to me that Mr. Wheeler was arguing that this technology gap was the key issue derailing many corporate recruiting departments. But as I read it, I was left thinking to myself that the problem with corporate recruiting departments is no different today than it always has been. It’s not the technology, it’s the people.

The world is constantly changing and thus, recruitment is constantly changing. However, the basics of recruitment haven’t changed since its inception. Once a recruiting need is identified:

  • Get clear on what type of talent is needed.
  • Do research and sourcing to find potential matching talent.
  • Convince the talent that they are interested in your job.
  • Evaluate the talent’s match to your job.
  • Negotiate an offer.
  • Onboard the talent.

As people have changed and technology has changed, some of these steps look a very different. I am not arguing that technology is not extremely valuable and important. Technology has made many processes easier, but without the right people executing the process, that technology is of little use. If you take a state-of-the-art sniper rifle and give it to an individual with no marksmanship skills and no desire to kill, the sniper rifle is of little use as a tool. In the same way, if we provide the best technology in the world to recruiters who don’t have the basic skills and motivations to use it, it’s useless.

So, you desire to save your recruitment department from impending doom, instead of shopping for technology, start with the people. Based on my experience in both third party and corporate recruiting, there are five things you should look for and develop in your recruiting organization.

  1. Curiosity. The best recruiters are those who are constantly trying to figure out new and different ways to do things: recruiters who are curious ask a lot of questions. They are on a constant quest to learn more about why things happen the way they do, so they will ask that awkward question that others might not because they want to know the answer. Curious recruiters are always trying new things. The curious recruiters are those who have been on Twitter for three years and were talking about sourcing before anyone else had heard of it.
  2. Business Acumen. Respect as a recruiter comes when your hiring manager feels like you really understand her business and can help her make good people decisions. Let’s face it: most of our hiring managers aren’t good at hiring. They need a guide and facilitator to lead the way. But, they won’t follow a recruiter who can’t “talk shop” with them. Hire recruiters who study business. Teach your recruiting team to understand financials. Send your recruiters out to spend time within the business learning how things work and how the company makes money.
  3. Sales Savvy. Recruiting is a sales job; let’s stop pretending that it’s not. We sell our hiring managers on our expertise and ability to help them. We market to and sell applicants the opportunity at our organization. We sell applicants to the hiring manager. Finally, we close the deal by negotiating an offer between the hiring manager and the applicant. If that’s not a sales job, I’m not sure what is. So, a great recruiter needs the same tools and abilities as a sales person in any other field. If you have recruiters who would question being sent to a sales training course, you need new recruiters. Great recruiters watch Glengarry Glen Ross and Tommy Boy as instructional videos–they see themselves as sales pros.
  4. Creativity. Sourcing for talent is hard and getting harder by the day. While technology like social media has made it easier to find prospects, technology like caller ID has made it harder to actually reach them. What works in recruiting seems to change daily, so it has become a requirement to bring creativity and innovation to the table as a recruiter. One of the best cold-call recruiters I ever worked with was a master at leaving creative and interesting voicemails. She used a number of different techniques, and she experimented a lot. It was common that applicants would later tell me that of the dozens of voicemails from recruiters they received weekly, hers was the only one they returned because she sounded so interesting in her voicemail that they wanted to talk to her. The ability to generate new ideas and approaches is vital to surviving in recruitment today.
  5. Courage. Recruiting top talent isn’t for the faint of heart. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick up the phone and call people who you are intimidated by. Sometimes, you’ve got to try a recruiting approach that others within your company may think is crazy. Sometimes, you’ve got to ask the really tough, awkward question that might mean you’ve got to start the search over from scratch. Recruiters who lack courage spend their days hiding behind computers posting job ads and talking themselves into sub-par talent. The best recruiters are bold and fearless. They are committed to doing what it takes to find their customers the right talent to propel their business forward.

As a recruiting leader, rather than worrying about your technology and how that might be impacting your success, spend time putting the right team in place. If you populate your team with the best talent, they will lead you to the technology that you need. And, more importantly, when you put new technology in their hands, they will know what to do with it. Just as a sniper rifle in the right hands is an incredible weapon, once you have the right people in the right seats on your team, investments in recruitment technology can become a tool to make your team a world-class recruitment machine.

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