Archive for October, 2009

Perceived Value of Recruiters

October 22, 2009

Let’s face it.  We all have strong opinions about the usefulness of recruiters and our trust in them.  What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “recruiter?”  Incompetent?  Unprofessional?  Manipulative?  Self-serving?  Car dealer?  All the above?

There are two distinct camps on the value associated with recruitment firms.  One camp consists of many hiring managers and executives who have experienced poor service and even poorer results from using a recruiter.  Thrown into this group are those who have never used a recruiter, but heard more than their share of horror stories from those who have.  To every stereotype, there’s the potential for an ounce of truth.  With regards to recruiters, there are several truths worth examining.

Many executives believe they can do a better job of recruiting by tapping into their own network and using their own internal resources.  Though not an unreasonable line of thinking, this is not a scalable approach.  Perhaps they’re tainted by having used recruiters that didn’t provide sufficient value-add to the process.  For example, many recruiters simply resort to a passive recruitment process – posting a job and waiting for the influx of resumes to fly in.  Many companies have already tried this on their own and found out the hard way that this amounts to a major time suck with no laudable results to show for it.  Generally speaking, passive recruitment techniques are ineffective as they usually do not reach and attract top talent.

Another typical ploy used by many recruiters is to regurgitate candidates from their database, trying over and over to place the same people.  Once again, this is not the way to source top talent.  Moreover, this technique screams of not putting their client (the hiring company) first as it’s more representative of a self-serving shortcut.

Funny enough, many recruiters, who have worked on a similar position in the past, come to their client with an air of expertise on filling that role, bordering on arrogance.  Yet, they haven’t taken the time and effort to learn as much about their client as possible – from the nuances not specified in a preliminary job spec to every facet of the company’s being – its history, financials, GTM strategy, growth objectives, challenges, value prop, competitive landscape, customers, and people (culture and DNA).

These recruiters are not about listening, learning, caring, and helping.  Call it a lack of interest, lack of passion, lack of business savvy, or lack of common sense.  Unfortunately, every now and then, these recruiters do make a placement, reinforcing their subpar methods and attitude. And to compound matters, these same recruiters sell themselves purely on price, further fueling the misconception that recruitment is a commoditized low-level service.  No wonder hiring executives want to make a go of it themselves.

The other camp of executives views recruiters as a drop dead must have business partner.  This group has experienced firsthand what’s it’s like to work with client-centric, consultative, proactive, talent management thought leaders, who consider themselves an employee of their client.  This type of boutique search professional brings much more to the table.  After all, they’ve likely been a hiring manager themselves and thus have walked a mile in their client’s shoes.

High quality high value recruitment firms provide guidance on the current talent market.  They help craft and refine the positions, including roles, responsibilities, and compensation.  They help set long term hiring strategies and budgeting.  They opportunistically ferret out potential business partners and other people of interest for their client to meet.  They make interviewing, hiring, and onboarding an effective process.  They understand that their own success hinges on their client’s ability to meet its business objectives, which in turn is dependent on meeting its hiring objectives.  They know that quality is everything and they’d rather present you with a select few highly scrutinized candidates than throw spaghetti against the wall, hoping that some of it sticks.

There are many recruiters out there, which denotes two salient points:  1) There is a low barrier to entry into recruitment; and 2) There is a great need for recruitment.  In selecting a recruitment firm, consider what value-add that recruiter will bring.  Talented people are a successful business’ crown jewel.  As a hiring executive, what investment will you make in order to ensure that your most valuable asset is reinforced?  You hire a top notch CPA to oversee and protect your financials.  You choose top tier vendors for SEO/SEM, web design, ad work, collateral, and PR.  Be equally selective in your recruitment firm.  Going with the right resource to help you attract and hire top talent is the investment that pays dividends many times over and for many years to come.

Action items:

*  All recruiters are not created equal.  Understand that there are distinctly different echelons of recruiters and seek to learn the differences.

*  Recruiters can and should bring much more to the table than just “filling slots.”  Seek out firms that take a genuine interest in learning about your business and provide counseling and support to help you meet your business objectives.

*  Gravitate towards recruiters that do more listening than you’re accustomed to.