Archive for November, 2012

What Kind of Recruiter Are You Working With?

November 26, 2012

As with real estate agents, there is a wide variety of recruiters out there.  Some have very little experience.  Others have been in the game for years.  Many are client-focused with strong listening skills while others are out to close quick, easy deals.  Some hold ethics next to godliness while many others don’t let that get in their way.

If you’ve ever had the distinct pleasure of dealing with an unscrupulous and/or uncaring real estate agent, then you’re ahead of the game when it comes to sorting out the recruiting wheat from the chaff.  I’ve handled my fair share of unprofessional and incompetent real estate agents, hence the need to draw the analogy.  It’s more perilous in the recruitment world as there is, if you can imagine, an even lower barrier to entry than in real estate.

Anyone can call themselves a recruiter.  They don’t have to be a former hiring executive.  They don’t have to have prior business experience.  And they certainly don’t have to have knowledge of the industries they serve.  The recruitment world is littered with career-long recruiters who have never walked a mile in their client’s shoes.  In addition, any seemingly reputable recruitment firm can hire recent college grads and instantly deem them recruiters.  So what kind of recruiter are you working with and what is their modus operandi?

It seems that the vast majority of recruiters are transactionally fixated.  They find out about a slot that a company needs to fill and, along with several other competing recruiters, make a mad dash to win a chaotic race by throwing as much spaghetti against that hiring wall as quickly as possible.  How do they turn around and present candidates so quickly?  Many simply recycle the same candidates out of their database over and over until they stick.  In addition, they do what companies can do themselves – post jobs online.  Others paint an unrealistic picture of the opportunity or even worse, don’t gain authorization from candidates before presenting them to hiring companies.

Clearly, none of those methods prioritizes quality over quantity, let alone ethics and confidentiality over a quick hit.  In fact, many of these recruiters don’t even take the time to learn about the hiring company, the hiring manager or additional details and nuances of the position not included in the job description.  Multiply that by 3 or 4 crazed recruitment firms frantically trying to fill the same slot (because many hiring companies are under the misguided belief that the more recruiters involved, the better), and you have a cacophony of headhunting noise representing your business with inaccurate information, unprofessional messaging, dodgy actions, and off-putting first impressions.

Granted, there are no guarantees in the business world.  Yet, you can stack the deck in your favor if you engage with a different kind of search professional.  Here is a good working list of characteristics typically found in higher quality recruiters:

  • Prior experience as both a hiring manager and candidate
  • Prior direct experience in or tangential knowledge of your industry
  • Along with conducting research, takes the extra time to learn as much about your company as possible so that they get the messaging and positioning both accurate and compelling (e.g., asks questions about your solution, target market, differentiators, value prop, competitive landscape, financials, recent news, people, culture, history, short and long term business objectives, tangibles and intangibles associated with the hiring manager’s perspective on the role, prior employees’ performance in the role or the impetus if a newly created role, etc.)
  • Exhibits strong listening, written and interpersonal communications skills
  • Treats each search as a new endeavor (i.e., starts each search afresh – no candidate recycling as the default mechanism)
  • Conducts specialized proactive outbound sharpshooting to identify and seek out both passive and active candidates (as opposed to passive, job-posting centric inbound recruiting that only attracts active job seekers)

These points are equally relevant for candidates looking to engage with recruiters.  As a candidate, have you ever experienced a phone call with a recruiter who couldn’t wait to get you off the phone?  That’s because you didn’t fit the specific profiles for the current searches on their desk at that moment.  Many recruiters function in a myopic vacuum, such that anyone who doesn’t fit the job spec isn’t worth their time.

The more professional recruiters understand that networking with intelligent, talented individuals is tantamount to their long term effectiveness in the search business.  Exciting new positions crop up all the time and just because there many not be a fit at any given moment doesn’t mean there won’t be one in the future.  Besides, a candidate one day may soon land as a hiring manager another day.  Ideally, a recruiter who is helpful and makes a favorable impression now may be remembered and rewarded for it down the line.  Yes, the laws of karma are alive and well in the world of recruitment.

Recruiters come in many permutations.  Don’t assume we all have the same background and operate the same way.  Think about what you want in a recruiter and ask questions so that you can truly determine what kind you’re working with.


Action Items:

1.  Know the difference between your typical transactional, passive recruiter and one who can bring to the table considerably greater value and quality.

2.  Remember that experience you had with a poor quality real estate agent and the sour taste it left in your mouth?  It’s all too easy to be subjected to the same issues with recruiters.  Ask around for others’ experiences with recruiters.  You may hear about ones to seek out as well as ones to avoid.

3.  Whether you’re a hiring company or candidate, the recruiter is representing you.  How comfortable are you entrusting your brand to this person and counting on them to help you with one of the most important matters:  building your team with top talent / helping you further your career?