Leading Corporate Talent Acquisition? How to Set Up a Company #1 Model

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Jan 3, 2019

The company is your main customer. The company comes first. This is what I have been preaching to my team ever since I became a corporate talent-acquisition leader. So when John Vlastelica’s article came out, I thought, “I can’t agree more.”

For some recruiters, a company-centric approach can feel like a big weight lifted from their shoulders after many decades of, to use John’s words, “the hiring-manager-is-always-right, please-the-customer mental model.” But at the same time, what to do with all the freedom?

Since implementing a company- or customer-centric hiring strategy is easier said than done, here are some specific actions that could help you implement this model.

Objectives, Objectives, Objectives

Setting the right objectives if one of the key aspects that differentiates a leader. And objectives play a crucially important role in implementing a company-centric hiring strategy. So, go ahead, take a pencil (or a permanent marker) and write it down: what is the objective you’re setting for your TA specialists?

Once you’ve articulated your objective, share it with the team. But don’t just state it, that’d be too easy. Instead, try turning it into a work session or an exercise during a 1:1 meeting or performance review. If the employee can successfully work with you to define their own objective, it will definitely stick with them more and for longer than if you read it aloud at the beginning of a meeting.

Instead, sit with your subordinates and ask them, “What do you think your objective is in this role?” And when they answer, “to close a requisition” or “serve the hiring manager” you can begin challenging those responses and helping them to see the light.

In my team’s case, we have defined our objective to be:

“Hire the best talent for 
Avature, whilst maintaining our values 
and continuously improving quality of 
hire and the experience of the candidate and the hiring manager.”

Our first priority is “best talent” for Avature, followed by candidate experience, and with hiring managers strategically mentioned at the end of this sentence.

Strategic Talent Acquisition Partners

Oh, this topic feels old by now, doesn’t it? We want to move away from filling orders and become … consultants? Advisors? Well, I’d go even further and say partners. Since there’s a lot of literature on this, I’ll keep it short and sweet. For recruiters to become strategic partners, you need to empower them, to give them ownership over outcomes.

Remember the team objective we set? We told them, “Go out, find, and hire the best talent available.” Your very dedicated team goes out, finds this tremendous candidate, with tons of potential that fits right into your values and then the hiring manager rejects them because they don’t know [insert words here].

Sound familiar? Get in line. What I’m trying to say here, as rebellious as it may seem, is that if you don’t truly question your hiring managers on their hiring decisions, you’ll never be able to implement a company-centric hiring strategy.

You will need to design processes and ways in which your recruiters can question and even in some cases override the manager.

In our case, we are giving ownership to our talent-acquisition specialists to:

  • Define a sourcing strategy
  • Push candidates to interviews without hiring managers’ sign off
  • Challenge hiring managers’ opinions

Make It Visible

I like a well-defined objective because it acts like a canvas that sets up good decision-making. If you are lucky and you’ve hired great people, your recruiters will use the objective as north and accordingly and autonomously drive their actions toward great hiring.

But, occasionally, some of them might come to you with questions. What do you think I should do about this candidate?

On such occasions, always reinforce two things:

  • They should come to you with the problem and a solution (that’s just plain old good management).
  • When you both agree on a course of action, highlight how it aligns with the objective you defined together. Say things like, “We are doing this, because it’s the right type of talent for us,” or “This hiring manager is not aligned with how the company sees recruiting.” You’ll start shedding light into your own thinking process, the why and how of your decision-making, and the smart people in your team will follow.

Information-Sharing Is Caring

Having the company as your main customer can be challenging. It means having to challenge people in positions of power and have a team that is very strong in their skill set and with enough expertise to conduct difficult conversations.

A different challenge when implementing a company-centric hiring strategy is building an in-depth understanding of what the company needs. Since we all know you can’t really obtain this information at a job briefing, where does the information come from?

A large part of it comes from lived experience, from breathing inside your organization, but I don’t think that’s enough. Even if you hire the most perceptive recruiters in the world, they still need a lot of that most valued thing: information.

As a leader, think about different ways the right information can reach your team, and implement programs, processes, and activities that make this happen. Maybe it consists of an informal monthly lunch with a different executive, maybe it’s margaritas with the engineering team, maybe it’s bringing a guest to your weekly meetings.

Your company is a living organism and will change and evolve quickly. Hiring the best talent available for the company means constantly adapting yourself to that change.

So … which tactics will you be using to implement a company-centric hiring strategy?

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