Stop Giving Orders and Let Recruiters Act as Consultants

The Andersen Alumni Association recently published partner, J. James O’Malley’s article, “How Consultants can Improve Talent Acquisition: Stop Giving Orders and Let Recruiters Act as Consultants.” Read the full article below.

Over the past 25 years, in both corporate HR/talent acquisition as well as in consulting roles, I have mentored and coached recruiters to avoid being order takers. Granted, the order taker mentality is frequently rooted in some recruiter’s own view of talent acquisition as a linear process where they receive a request to fill an open position, do a lot of activity to source people and eventually all the activity leads to a hire. But recruiting is so much more than that – it’s really a full circle of activities starting with strategic workforce planning and ending with on-boarding and assimilation.

To be as effective as possible, especially in today’s highly competitive market for talent, recruiters need to be 100% immersed in your business and act as true business partners. Whether you manage a recruitment function or use one to fill gaps on your bench, you need to change your behavior to make this possible. You need to stop asking recruiters to “fill seats” by fulfilling orders. You also need to start treating recruiters as consultants to your organization.

In fact, in my opinion, the single most important skill or behavior a recruiter can exhibit is that of a consultant. However, how often do we talk about, evaluate, measure and manage recruiters against this trait? Virtually never…

Too often, requirements for recruiters strictly focus on the following:

  • Proven recruiting experience
  • Solid ability to conduct different types of interviews (structured, competency based, stress, etc.)
  • Hands-on experience with various selection processes (phone interviews, reference checks, etc.)
  • Ability to organize assessment centers (in tray activities, work samples, psychometric and IQ/EQ tests, etc.)
  • Familiarity with HR databases, applicant tracking systems and CRM’s
  • BS/MS in Human Resources Management

In contrast, consider the difference if the skills typically required of consultants were also applied to recruiters. Here’s how those skills might be best articulated:

  • Customer Service: The ability to work with many different types of customers in a friendly, relaxed way. Customers are primarily hiring managers, but candidates and colleagues also fit into this category
  • Communication: The capacity to explain – verbally and in writing – complex or new information to clients and candidates about the role and company, and to clearly present a multitude of options that must be understood and digested before making a decision
  • Willingness To Learn: Eagerness to pursue ongoing education and training to stay up to date on the latest industry trends not just within the recruitment realm but also within your company’s industry
  • Listening Skills: The ability to listen to your customers (clients and candidates) and discern the best course of action for them
  • Problem Solving/Decision Making/Critical Thinking: An understanding that people are different and therefore a cookie cutter approach to recruiting doesn’t work. Problem solving skills and the good sense to make decisions based on weighted multiple options
  • Use of Tools and Technology: Knowledge of how to best leverage available tools and technology to be as efficient and effective as possible.

Let’s take this thinking a step further and consider what metrics we use to measure recruiters. Metrics common to recruiters include things such as time to fill, for example. But they are not job requirements, rather measurements. That is why I advocate Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Within the hiring manager/recruiter relationship, the SLA serves as a contract between the service provider (whether an internal or external recruitment professional) and the hiring manager and defines the level of service expected from the recruiter and the actions the hiring manager must take to ensure success. The best SLAs for this process are output-based, just as they are for your external clients, in that their purpose is specifically to define what the hiring manager will receive and he/she needs to do and/or provide.

Recruiting is not the job of a single individual recruiter. To work well, it must be a team effort, which is why firms claiming that a single department “owns” recruiting are missing the mark. Likewise, hiring managers who delegate and relinquish their role in recruiting also fail their organization. So the notion of a SLA between the recruiter and hiring manager is very important to ensure each is doing their role and no one is abdicating their responsibilities.

Changing the mindset of recruiters, from that of order takers to consultants while setting up performance expectations based on an agreed upon set of SLAs are two ways that organizations can redefine recruitment so that your firm is positioned to win the best talent possible.

J. James O’Malley

About the Author

Jim has spent 25 years on both ends of the table, developing HR and talent solutions to align leadership, talent, and business needs.

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