Recruiter Realness: “Recruiters Don’t Understand Our Day-to-Day Struggles”

As recruiters, we talk a lot about metrics. And that’s exactly what I was going to write about for this article…until I realized, maybe it’s not me you should be listening to right now. Sort of. 

What I really mean is that as recruiters, we also talk a lot about working with hiring managers, but how often do we actually listen to their concerns and needs? Not just listen, but understand.

With that in mind, I decided to get insights from my close friend, Shirani Fernando, a program manager responsible for hiring technical talent in the government contracting industry. I began by asking Shirani: “Which metrics are most important to hiring managers?

Her response caught me off guard. Given her line of work in a highly competitive industry, I expected her to run down any number of metrics widely used and accepted by TA professionals: time to hire, time to start, days open, response rate, demographics/adverse Impact, cost per hire, candidate experience, sourcing/pipeline efficiency, and so forth. But none of those meant as much to her as quality of hire, which may be the hardest of all to measure — and which rests upon truly understanding the positions for which we hire.

Deciphering the Disconnect 

This might be the simplest reason for why hiring managers don’t believe recruiters are capable of attracting the most qualified talent. We give a lot of time and energy to providing data that shows how many people apply, how many people we source, how many people we interview, how many people we convert to hires, etc. We use the ATS to track progress and provide analytics. If we’re more advanced, we dive deeply into finding pain points and where the process falls apart.

We give all of this quantitative data to hiring managers in an effort to show that we’re doing our jobs and that we’re doing them well. We also give this data to tell a story aimed at shifting potential blame and accountability away from us and onto hiring managers and their inability to make timely hiring decisions. 

According to Shirani, the disconnect between what hiring managers are looking for and what recruiters provide stems from recruiters failing to create effective job descriptions. 

I pushed back on this based on my experience. I rebutted that it’s the hiring managers who write the job descriptions; recruiters are just using the information they’ve been given. She countered with her own experience, that it’s recruiters who write the job descriptions. “Recruiters ask us for snippets and write-ups, and then they put together the job descriptions,” Shirani said.

Well, sh*t!! (That was my actual response.) Major disconnect. Here we are as recruiters thinking that hiring managers are giving us what they want posted, while hiring managers are actually thinking that we’re just using the information as a guide or a draft. 

Not Asking the Right Questions

Shirani further explained that recruiters aren’t asking the right questions. For technical jobs, they aren’t getting specific enough with hiring managers and, in turn, are unable to ask jobseekers the right questions. For example, when Shirani is looking to add a Tester to her team, recruiters don’t take into account that there are different testing techniques. Using the same general job description doesn’t cut it.  

Shirani also believes that recruiters see hiring managers as having standards that are too high. She points out how recruiters get frustrated when she tells them that the candidates they submit to her aren’t good fits based on the resume.

Again, I pushed back, explaining that hiring managers can determine fit during the interview stage. However, as Shirani explains, “By the time it gets to the interview stage, it is too late. We’re exhausted, and this is a collateral duty that we have. We don’t want to be interviewing the wrong people all of the time.”

She’s looking to recruiters to be proactive and elicit information from jobseekers that explains any anomalies or inconsistencies. She doesn’t want to have to ask those questions during the interview stage. She wants recruiters to present people in whom she can invest and see continuity.

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“Recruiters don’t understand our day-to-day struggles,” Shirani says, adding that they need to be in scrum and development meetings to understand what it takes to do a given job, instead of pushing metrics that don’t matter.

Shirani puts this in context by recounting when she enlisted a baker friend to make a cake for her son’s birthday. They had been in close contact and worked collaboratively to ensure it was designed to her son’s specifications. But at the last minute, as small children often do, her son changed his mind and wanted a different cake design.

Taking for granted the relationship she had with her friend, her first thought was that this wasn’t a big deal; her friend could just adjust the design, especially since she was paying her. Then she went back through all of the email messages they’d exchanged to see what it took for her to do this. “I had to think about all of the steps she took,” Shirani remembers. I realized that all of her hard work was going to double for the same price, which would diminish her return on the investment. “That kind of empathy is missing from both hiring managers and recruiters.”

Creating Empathy 

So with empathy in mind, Shirani’s team recently hired a liaison who can translate the perspectives of the technical (hiring) team and the recruiting team. That is, someone who is well-versed in recruiting and is also competent technically to understand the specifics of roles. 

While my conversations with Shirani are always real and transparent, this one had the biggest and most impactful takeaway for me — that it’s critical not just to be well-versed in recruiting but also to really understand a role, especially a technical one, so that you can best bridge disconnects between hiring managers, candidates, and yourself as a recruiter.

It made me reflect on and take responsibility for when I failed to maximize a similar opportunity: One of my previous roles was as a staffing liaison, but I wasn’t neutral. It was my first role after being a recruiting lead in an organization where that was going to be the ceiling unless I moved on. Feeling unsure and wanting to remain at the “expert level,” I clung too tightly to the recruiting part of my job. 

But doing so prohibited me from learning the business. I had a seat at the table, but instead of sampling and acquiring a taste for the new menu items, I tried to force others not only to feature my favorite dish but make it just the way I liked it.

Looking back, if I and the others had been less transactional and more strategically collaborative, our positions wouldn’t have been eliminated and we would have truly been integral in bridging the gap.

Keirsten Greggs is a talent acquisition consultant and career coach. In 2017 she founded TRAP Recruiter, LLC, to bring trust, relationship-building, accountability, and a proactive approach back into the recruiting lifecycle. She engages with a broader audience via her blog, as a guest speaker, as a guest on various podcasts, facilitating workshops and training, and as creator of the #RecruiterProblems meme series.

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