How to Do Twice As Much With Half the Recruiting Team

Times are tough. Even those companies that are doing reasonably well are cutting their recruiting teams by a minimum of 30% to a maximum of 90%, and tightening up expenses to the absolute barest minimum.

Half of these cuts are probably necessary anyway, the balance most likely an overreaction to the dismal economic conditions most companies are now facing.

There is an expectation that along with the cuts these recruiting departments need to drastically improve their productivity by 30%-50%, almost overnight.

The good news is that while most corporate recruiters are working hard, the majority are not working smart.

As a result, getting 50% or 100% productivity gains isn’t that hard to do. With this in mind, here are some things recruiting leaders can do to increase overall productivity by at least 100%.

An Almost Endless Stream of Ideas on How to Increase Corporate Recruiting Department Productivity by Over 100%

  1. Only hire recruiters who are, or can become, partners with their hiring managers. Recruiters who are partners with their clients get more time to discuss real job needs, they send out fewer candidates, make more hires, and overcome natural hiring manager resistance to see top candidates who don’t fit the bill on paper. Partners make twice as many placements per month than recruiters who are perceived as vendors to their clients, so this is a huge productivity opportunity.
  2. Make sure your recruiters are competent to do the work assigned. One way to increase productivity is to ensure all of your recruiters are as good as those in the top 10% on your team. (Contact me if you’d like to check out our new online recruiter assessment tool we’ve created with Profiles International.)
  3. Make sure every recruiter understands the jobs they’re filling. Sadly, most recruiters don’t know much about the jobs they’re representing. Whether it’s a call center in Chicago, a sales rep in San Jose, or a J2EE architect in Ashtabula, recruiters need to know what drives on-the-job success, why the job is critical to the company, and why a top person should consider it.
  4. Make sure your recruiters totally understand their target market. Recruiters need to be subject-matter experts regarding the job, the industry, and especially the needs of their ideal “target” candidates. Creating candidate personas is the first step, including demographics, associations, first- and second-degree networks, conferences, recognition awards, academic connections, and motivating needs. This allows them to write compelling ads, post them in the best places, know exactly who to call, what to say, how to get great referrals, and how to convince the best people your job is the best of the bunch.
  5. Make sure your recruiters know how to recruit. Recruiting means getting more candidates interested at the beginning, ensuring that few drop out in the middle, and 95% of all offers are accepted on fair terms. Effective applicant control is at the core of this and most recruiters don’t even know what this even means. Do you know how many candidates you’ve lost because your recruiters dropped the ball somewhere in the process?
  6. Make sure your recruiters are respected by the candidates they represent. If recruiters aren’t seen as subject-matter experts and career advisors by their candidates, you’re losing some great people before the process even begins. You’ll get a good sense of this by calculating how many “A” level candidates your recruiters uncover and place on a typical search. If it’s not 70% or more, you’ve found a huge productivity improvement opportunity.
  7. Make sure your recruiters can accurately assess candidate competency. Recruiters should be able to get this right 80% of the time with a 30-minute performance-based phone screen, at least to the point of not embarrassing themselves by recommending a totally unqualified person. Think of the time wasted sending out a candidate who shouldn’t be seen in the first place.
  8. Make sure your recruiters are tough-minded, confident, and persistent. The best recruiters don’t take no for an answer, they defend their candidates from superficial assessments, and they close on career opportunities more than money. These recruiters are 2-3 times more productive than those who cave at every negative. Double your team’s productivity by making sure your recruiters are those who don’t give up without a fight.
  9. Manage time. Cold-calling people you don’t know is a big time-waster. Calling people who are good who will call you back is an ok thing to do if a great ad didn’t work. A sequenced sourcing strategy based on the “low-hanging fruit principle” of selling should be established for every search assignment. Then, measure your recruiters on qualified sendouts/hour to start finding out where your team is wasting its time.
  10. Don’t let your recruiters call people who won’t call them back. Start tracking voice-mail return rates. Those with the highest percentages (target a minimum of 75% to start) usually spend more time calling referrals, are seen as subject-matter experts or come across as extremely professional. To improve productivity 300%, either train your recruiters to increase their callback rate from 25% to 75%, or hire those who already do it without complaining how hard it is.
  11. Make sure your recruiters get 2-3 high-quality referrals on every call. The ability to get high-quality referrals is the secret behind passive candidate recruiting. A great referral will call you back if you mention the name of the great person who provided the referral. Recruiters then need to prequalify every referral and only call those who are worthy. If you track great referrals per call, you’ll quickly know which recruiters are able to play in the passive candidate recruiting talent game.
  12. Prepare a process-flow diagram of every step in your hiring process and calculate the yield at each of these steps. Look at each step in your hiring processes and see where you lose the most candidates. First, track ad response and apply rates. At the back end of the process, figure out how many good candidates were poorly assessed or excluded for dumb reasons. Then start working on those process steps that can double or triple your team productivity.
  13. Make sure you’re attracting early-birds, not leftovers. When you examine the problems associated with most active candidate sourcing programs, you quickly discover that they’re attracting leftovers, or candidates who have been in the market a few weeks or more. If you’re not attracting the best of the bunch as soon as they start looking, you’re wasting time and resources going through electronic stacks of resumes of unqualified people. Implementing an early-bird sourcing strategy can increase your active candidate sourcing productivity by 100-200%!
  14. Eliminate all barriers-to-entry. The best people, whether they’re active or passive, are more discriminating and don’t want to be pushed into filling in an application before they’re ready. To address this critical need, establish an open-door policy where you allow candidates to “just look around” before getting serious. This is what Web 2.0 is really about — establishing two-way relationships using a variety of entry points to attract someone’s attention.
  15. Manage your 500-pound gorillas. A huge productivity loss is managers who can’t recruit, don’t know real job needs, or can’t accurately interview. If you’ve ever lost a good candidate for one of these reasons, or if managers refuse to see a top-notch person with a slightly different skill set, you know how much time is wasted here. Getting hiring managers inducted into the real world of hiring top performers will double your productivity almost overnight. Not doing it will diminish the impact of everything else mentioned here. (Contact me if you’d like to find out about our new gorilla taming programs.)

Doing everything described will absolutely result in a 100%-200% productivity gain. If not, you didn’t do them right, so start over and try again. Even if you did achieve the productivity improvements, start over again anyway to get another 100%-200% productivity improvement.

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Things are changing so fast you need to keep at it by establishing a continuous improvement program. Bottom line, this is what this article is really about.

Lou Adler

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).