Recruiters: Do we know what we are looking for?

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August 24, 2012
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As I travel the globe talking to recruiters, I am amazed at the huge disconnect between them and their hiring managers. It doesn't really matter how experienced or junior the recruiter is - many complain about their hiring managers and the hiring managers complain about them! Its interesting to compare our self evaluation as recruiters with the evaluation that comes from our hiring managers. More than 60% of the recruiters I have spoken with that rank themselves as "great" recruiters were ranked as "poor" by the managers they support!


Recruiter Replies:

  • My manager does not understand what I do.
  • My manager never knows what he/she wants.
  • My manager does not communicate with me - I need to track him/her down.
  • My manager only wants me to email them resumes.

Hiring Manager Replies:

  • My recruiter does not understand my business.
  • My recruiter does not understand what I need/want.
  • My recruiter does not communicate with me - I need to track him/her down.
  • My recruiter just emails me the resumes to review - I make the decision on who to bring in.

Do you see the trend here? Whether real or just perception, perception is reality to our hiring managers. So the questions is: why do we have this disconnect? Obviously there are multiple answers to this question - and much of the responsibility is on the head of the recruiter. Our manager's are not innocent in this disconnect, however the recruiter should be the one driving the process to change this misconception or perception.

As I write this I can feel the daggers being thrown at me, the evil stares that are directed at me, and the nasty tweets that will come as a result of my view on this. After almost two decades as a recruiter, I believe it is our responsibility to set and manage our client's expectations.

 

So what can we do to avoid or fix this disconnect? Here are few points to consider that I will address in future blogs.

  • Become subject matter savvy
  • Communicate often (Good or Bad)
  • Develop the reputation as a problem solver
  • Lead your manager when developing the search strategy
  • Lead you manager when taking the job order

The whole notion of leading your hiring manager is key to developing an effective relationship with them. So many recruiters take for granted what the manager is looking for and do not ask the right questions, in the right way, to solicit the needed response.

In almost every training session I lead, one exercise is to have each recruiter develop a list of questions they would ask their hiring manager when taking a new job order. It shocks me every time to hear experienced and junior recruiters alike forget to ask basic questions or deep follow up questions to really understand the position and more importantly, what's in the head of the manager. For example, most recruiters ask the basic questions that include: What are the minimum position requirements? What does the ideal candidate look like? Is this a replacement or new position? What is the position compensation? When do you need it filled?

In and of themselves, none of these questions are inappropriate or incorrect. Often its how we ask the question that makes the real difference. Lets take one simple example.

Instead of asking: What are the minimum requirements of the role?

Ask: What specific experience does the candidate need to have? AND Rank those in order of need.

Will these solicit different responses - YES. Try the second question and you will be amazed at the reply you receive from your manager. When asked to define the specific experience and skills needed and to rank them, you will hear your hiring manager rationalize each 'requirement'. You will hear things like: " I really need them to able to do XXXXX, however I could possible train them to do YYYYY. Although they may have started with 8-10 must haves, usually they will express what is really critical and paint a more clear picture of their real needs - often only 4-5 items.

 

Instead of asking: Why is the position open?

Ask: Where did the last three people in the role go?

Understanding the success or failure of the previous candidate is critical to understanding the profile the manager is looking for. If one or two of the previous employees were promoted, ask follow up questions and have the manager describe what made each person successful and what their previous experience was. This will paint a picture of what the hiring manager has in mind as to the correct profile even though it can differ from the actual job description.

In short, taking the job order the right way by asking the right questions is step one to better understanding the needs of our managers. It is our responsibility as trained recruiters to ask the leading questions that get a manager to properly describe the necessary skills and experience of the candidate. Saying "My manager doesn't know what they need" is a copout that can be avoided by a more structured approach to job order intake.

Having a roadmap of what information to ask a hiring manager is often very helpful and I have provided a link to a sample project strategy and intake document here. Please feel free to modify to your specific needs and share your success with the community at large by posting your follow up comments. Happy hunting and stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series!

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