Editor’s note: Miriam Ziemelis initially aimed this article at RPOs. But one look and you’ll see her advice is even more relevant for independent recruiters who want to work more closely with their clients and potentially develop an exclusive relationship.
I’m a recruiter. Specifically, I am an IT recruiter. Even more specifically, I have been an IT recruiter in the consumer goods, health care, cosmetics, spirits and wine, industrial mining, insurance, banking and publishing industries, to name a few. Years of experience have taught me that to be a successful recruiting consultant you have to immerse yourself in your client’s business and industry. Once you’ve done that, your client will pull up a chair for you at their table and welcome you as their business partner.
Know Your Client’s Business
“What do you know about us?” It’s such a basic and open-ended question. But how you answer it will define your relationship with the client. It will mean the difference between being a mere “recruiter” and a recruiting business consultant: your client’s business partner. What do clients expect from a consultant? In my case, clients rely on my staffing expertise in IT. But let’s be honest, they also expect that I effectively ramp up my knowledge of their company, their industry, other top employers and competitors. Becoming well-versed in these areas not only makes me a better recruiter, but also a knowledgeable, well-versed business partner. So, what’s my advice? Prepare for this conversation.
Know Your Area of Expertise
Start with what you know. While I absolutely agree that a good recruiter can recruit for any area, some learning curves are greater than others. In today’s competitive market, you are expected to be an expert in at least one area and in that one area you’d better be knocking it out of the park! This means research, research, research! Look at the openings your client currently has on line, take a quick refresher by reading up on industry trades, poke around on relevant websites, and know your acronyms. Have a good idea of your client’s basic needs before you walk into that conference room.
Go back to your college days and cram! Stack up on energy drinks, coffee and sugary snacks. Do whatever it takes to absorb as much information as possible. The next interaction with your client will be like an exam. How well you do in that meeting, will not only reflect on you, but on your company. There was never a more certain way to see your stock plummet than to ask your client, “Remind me again what MM stands for?” while drafting a SAP job description. You’ve got one job to do at this moment. Do it well.
Who Is Your Client?
You’ve reviewed their site. Now, take a moment to learn their history, review their language and gain a real feel for the impression it makes on you. Is their style formal? Engaging? Do they celebrate their successes, tout their long history? Get the basic idea and then take a step back. Review all the information you gather as if you were a potential new hire. Remember, every ad you place, every person you talk to is, at some point, going to reference the site. Take a closer look at how this information can be perceived by potential new hires. How your client presents the information and the language they use will be interpreted as a predictor of their corporate culture.
Here is where you need to be proactive in your research. Why has your client experienced so much success hiring or, conversely, has your client had challenges? There is only one way to find out and that is to become their biggest fan! I am talking not only about Google alerts, but about shadowing them in every way possible. Follow your client on Twitter and LinkedIn, “like” them on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube videos, read every entry on Glassdoor. You need to understand how they are projecting their image. Yes, we want to know all the hype, the good, the bad and even the ugly. The comments listed on those sites can be insightful as well. Sure, a couple of the anonymous users may be disgruntled employees and one or two of the glowing reviews may have been added by the PR department, but let’s concentrate on what really matters: the overall tone of these comments. The bottom line is that the more you know, the more value you add to your client.
Who Else Is In My Sandbox?
I like to tell people that I play well with others. As well, that is, as an only child can be expected. But honestly, my slightly competitive attitude serves me well in recruiting! When I am retained by a client, I am “all in.” I sell their strengths like I’ve been there for the last 20 years. I remind them of the hurdles that we have overcome together and tout all our successes. But, let’s be honest. There is another side to that coin. An invaluable way for me to position those discussions with prospective new hires is to know our competition. What have been their latest challenges and successes? How can I recruit people from the competition if I am unaware that they just had a record-breaking year, closed a facility or outsourced to another country? Time to step up with more Google alerts, more Facebook pages, more LinkedIn groups and discussion boards. Time to watch my client’s competition, take notes and prepare our next move.
You need to combine these key points with the ability to help with succession planning, compensation analysis or compliance, to name just a few. Being a recruitment consultant or an RPO isn’t just about putting recruiters in place to support a specific need. It’s a value-added business proposition that supplies clients with professionals who will partner with them at a level that exceeds a simple reactive recruiting need that the client may have. RPO – and being an agency of choice — is about business partnership.