The Times Are Changing for Recruiters

Feb 11, 2002

“Oh the times they are a-changing…”

– Bob Dylan The social changes Dylan heralded were directed squarely at the times. Our culture and our social fabric were changing back in the 1960s. Heavy stuff! Some of us (a few?) remember the raised fist and “Right on!” or the salutary, “Peace,” when we encountered anyone?? signs of the changing times. No hand gestures for recruiters yet. But in subtle yet meaningful ways, our jobs as recruiters are going through a major change. And the one change that I believe will dominate all others in the recruiting process is all about quality. What Have The Times Had Us Doing? As recruiters, we’ve been doing what we have been asked, and we do it well. But it’s interesting what management has asked us to do. Fill positions, match job specs, and stay within budget. These tasks resulted in a time and cost metric. We were driven to show results by hiring faster while lowering cost, and were measured on time to fill and cost per hire. As the talent market tightened, quality was squeezed out of the process. This drive for more labor faster at lower cost is antithetical to quality. As important as time and money are, quality will become the key metric. And securing quality talent will take more from recruiters. Let’s Dig Deeper As a recruiter, management asked me to fill requisitions and that’s what I did. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a few, some easy, and some hard. Your world has been the same. We are recruiters: we source, we use our contacts and wits, and we fill positions as quickly as we can and then go on to the next. And that’s how we’re measured and reported on to management, on our success to deliver labor. Fill positions faster and lower acquisition cost. These are very tactical measurements that help define and justify our value. Good, but not good enough for future business. Businesses will make it or not based on the quality of talent they attract, hire and retain. And when you take a hard look at accountability for talent, the responsibility falls directly on us?? the recruiters. Well, our times are changing and recruiters will change with it, I believe, because of two things that have dramatically affected our world:

  1. The talent revolution. Companies understand that the right talent in the right place will give them significant competitive advantages in the marketplace. It takes quality talent to produce quality results, and results matter. Any CEO will agree with this line of logic. They believe. But now they must ask the question, who will we do something about it and when?
  2. Technology. It is much easier today to utilize the Internet to lower your company’s talent acquisition costs. Today it’s possible to build huge private communities of quality talent at your website, search the web for specific talent, and automatically manage recruiting relationships. As a result, companies have managed to extend their reach, using technology to economically screen candidates and enabling recruiters to focus on fewer, yet higher quality, candidates. Companies around the world are proving this today and are dramatically lowering traditional recruitment costs while hiring quality talent much faster.

Mastering the Required Changes Whichever way we cut the demographics, it is clear that soon there will less talent available than we need. Quality talent will be harder to attract, even though it will remain a necessity in achieving corporate goals. As recruiters, you will be responsible for sourcing, attracting, and hiring the right talent. Congratulations! Tactically important before, recruiters become strategically important today. Recruiters of all stripes?? internal, contract and agency?? can become heroes by recruiting quality talent. Here are some steps you as a recruiter can take now to prepare for the coming changes and to start measuring quality:

  1. Work harder to understand the business goals and talent requirements. Dig in. If you can’t answer these questions immediately you’re behind. Get the answers to the following and you’re ahead.
    • What are the goals of the company?
    • The goals of the department you represent?
    • What problem does your company solve?
    • What is the size and value of the company’s target market?
    • What’s special about your products and/or services?
    • What are the specific competitive advantages?
    • Who buys your company’s products and services?
    • Who uses your products?
    • How does the company distribute, train, deploy and support your products?

    You as a recruiter will not attract quality unless you can have a high quality, sophisticated business discussion about your company. And it’s so simple to get the data! Just ask, the information is all around you. Go to your toughest hiring manager and ask. What you learn won’t hurt you, and you’ll quickly establish more credibility. These are good business questions to get started with. Write them down, understand them, and keep up with changes. In other words, don’t stop learning about your business!

  2. Develop a stretch plan. This one is easy. Don’t just plan to be good, don’t just hit your hiring plan?? plan to exceed all expectations. Expect to hire the best quality talent faster, and prove you’re prepared to do it. Then do it.
  3. Set metrics to measure quality. As you learn the business, you’ll find that time to productivity is important. How long does it take the new hire to get to productivity? This has to be measured and reported on. Yes, the department manager holds accountability for this as well. But at the end of the day, if the talent hired is not becoming productive in the planned time, something must change. Either you have the wrong talent, the wrong manager, the wrong training program, or a combination of all three. Bottom line: a change must be made. As the recruiter of talent, you’re part of the change scenario.

Start measuring time to productivity now. Understand and measure the time to productivity for the talent you bring in to the organization now. When you profile the position to be filled, ask the hiring manager what the time-to-productivity expectations are and make the criteria a part of your search and interview process. Tell the hiring manager you will follow up to see how well you’ve done in understanding, sourcing, and recruiting talent that meets the quality needs of the organization. Don’t be afraid to understand the performance of the candidates you recruit once they’re on board. The knowledge gained and creditability earned is priceless. Quality: Today’s Recruiting Frontier And that’s our golden opportunity. Someone must be held accountable for accomplishing the quality talent goals for your company. It’s no longer enough to report on labor-based metrics or cost per hire, even though some of us are just starting. Right now, time and cost results are all quality dependant, and as recruiters, it’s imperative we understand clearly how we will be measured and take steps now to lead the quality revolution. We are in an interesting position to take very important strategic roles in the future success of the companies we represent. Step it up, the times are changing. So enough conceptual theory. Quality matters?? now let’s get our acts together and lead! And remember, when in doubt, take action!