What’s In a Recruiter’s Day?

It’s 7:30 a.m. and John rolls into the parking lot at CS4 Corporation, slurping a huge latte and wearily heading in to the office to start reviewing resumes. Most mornings he is greeted with at least 50 new submissions from the website or from a job board feed. John tries to get the review of these resumes done by 8:30 or 9:00 so that he can either get to a meeting with a hiring manager or start making calls to the promising applicants for a brief phone screen. In a good morning he can get in two or three phone screens and perhaps a short meeting with a manager to go over open reqs or get new ones. Between meetings and phone calls, John tries desperately to keep up with correspondence, answer emails, and check his voicemail. Most of the time he is juggling 25 to 30 open positions, with at least 12 of them in the “critical” category. His average time to fill a position is running at about 60 days, and his managers are all pretty satisfied with this pace. By lunchtime (a meal that he often skips or takes care of with a quick sandwich at this desk) John is already tired. But he tries to reserve afternoons for face-to-face interviews or more in-depth telephone screens. He often has to find time to squeeze in a project meeting on selecting a new applicant tracking system ó something his boss nominated him to be part of. Of course, he also has the usual weekly staff meetings and the occasional all-hands communication meeting his CEO loves. He may stay at work until 7:00 pm or later depending on where candidates are located, finishing up calls and getting his desk under control for the next day. By spending time with John over the course of a month, I was able to put together a picture of his typical day. The chart below shows how his time was spent broken down by his major activities:

Administrative (voice mail, email, resume review, data entry) 30%
Telephone screens, interviews with candidates 30%
Talking to hiring managers, reviewing reqs 15%
Meetings (HR, general communication, task forces) 10%
Sourcing new candidates/cold calling 10%
Personal business, professional development 5%
Strategic planning, workforce planning 0%
Candidate relationship management (CRM) 0%

While in any given day these percentages may vary, this gives you a good picture of how John spends his time. It’s a fairly typical profile of the busy corporate recruiter. Most of his day is spent in tactical activities such as voicemail, email, telephone screening, meetings, and data entry. The focus is on filling positions as they come open. There is little advance planning, very little focus on developing a pool of potential candidates to draw from, and no time at all for building relationships with good people who might become candidates or applicants. Internally, only about 15% of John’s day is spent building relationships with hiring managers and current candidates. When he does spend time with the hiring manager, it is often very administrative in nature. The time is spent discussing what the salary range or title should be for a new position, rather than on what the competencies should be or whether an internal candidate might fit the need for a given position. How to Change This The question every recruiter rightly asks is simple: How do I change this state of affairs? They tell me that they have no idea how to escape the need to be reactive, how to find time to build relations, or how to learn to use technology better. I would estimate that 80% of recruiters really want to do things differently, they just don’t know how. I can’t wave a magic wand and make time available, nor is it possible in most organizations to eliminate completely the reactive nature of the recruiting process. But there are things you can do. Here are a few of my ideas taken from my own experience and also from talking to and working with hundreds of recruiters every year. These are not revolutionary concepts; in fact, they are all incremental to what you are already doing. Any recruiter should be able to make these ideas work. But I would also like to open this question up to all of you. What productivity ideas do you recommend? How have a select few of you broken the cycle and found time to do things differently? Please send me your thoughts, ideas, or tactics and I will share them with all the ERE readers in a later column. You can send your thoughts to me directly at kwheeler@glresources.com.

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  1. Force yourself to make time. Simple as it seems, most of us find it very hard to break our old patterns and do things differently. One way to start is to set aside a chunk of time every week for yourself. Take every Friday afternoon or Wednesday morning or whenever it will work for you and force yourself to either do some strategic brainstorming (maybe with a colleague), learn a new technology, read an ERE column or two, or whatever else it takes. Just be sure to devote this time to your own personal development and growth. You’ll find that even very busy famous people practice this discipline. Winston Churchill took a nap every afternoon and then read for awhile, even though he may have stayed up working into the wee hours. Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped work every day at 5:00 p.m. and enjoyed cocktails and conversation with a handpicked group of colleagues, guests, and cabinet officers. He said it was the most creative and productive time he spent.
  2. Move toward planning. Planning is by definition moving away from doing. If you set aside even one hour each day to talk to managers about upcoming needs or to sit with the HR generalists and ask about future plans for adding people, you will be on a path to become less reactionary. Every time you possess information ahead of a need, you can start to look at candidates a bit differently and set some aside for these potential opportunities.
  3. Start building your own talent pools. Even if your organization does not support the development of talent pools, you can set aside 30 minutes a week to finding and communicating with people for whom you have no current position but could have one in the future. You can also keep these potential needs in the back of your mind when you are interviewing someone. If the candidate in front of you doesn’t meet current needs, could she fit a possible future need? If so, put her resume in a “possible” folder or create a spreadsheet where you can record basic facts about her. Then, maybe once a month, send all of these candidates an email, or develop a little newsletter to distribute, letting them know that you’re still interested in them. This simple act ó taking maybe an hour a week ó could reduce the need to be tactical and reactionary and free up even more time for the strategic.

Success and rewards will go to the recruiters who figure this out and move to be both responsive and strategic. You cannot do only one or the other; you have to do both. As Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, used to say, “It’s not either/or, it’s and/too.” Let me hear about your approaches and successes.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.