How Internal Recruitment became a key part of the HR function

Once upon a time I believed internal recruitment was a graveyard for ex-agency recruiters. Now many functions have evolved beyond recognition. I honestly think that internal recruitment departments are fast becoming a vital part of most of Australia’s corporates.

If you don’t see that too, it could be because you’re making the same bad assumptions about internal recruitment I once did…. assumptions just like these.

The assumption: Internal recruitment only exists to reduce cost

How it came about: The maths is simple. Hiring someone on $100K a year and getting them to recruit 15 people ends up being a lot cheaper than paying out 15 external recruiter’s fees.

The reality: While a simple-cost benefit analysis might lead you to believe internal recruiters are the cheap option, you’re not really comparing like for like here. An internal recruiter doesn’t - and shouldn’t ever - perform the same role as an external recruiter. While an external is only about finding and securing the right person, the internal recruiter needs to have a hand in everything from branding to selection to stakeholder management. That means they’re unlikely to be as productive on the sourcing front as an external recruiter, but they shouldn’t try to be: they’re playing a different game and should have a different skillset.   

The assumption: Internal recruitment only exists because HR generalists hate recruiting (or they’re no good at it)

How it came about: I haven’t met many HR generalists who love recruiting. Have you? Most I know rate it their least favourite part of their job.

The reality: The problem with recruiting is that it takes a lot of time. If you’re a busy generalist, recruitment probably only makes up about 20% of what you do. And yet, recruiting can become all consuming, meaning that it, if you’re going to do it justice, you need to drop the other work that needs to get done. Usually, the result in situations like this is that nothing ends up getting done well. The all important recruitment momentum gets lost and you lose your ideal candidate simply because you can’t devote enough time to them.

The assumption: Internal recruitment only exists because line managers can’t be trusted

How it came about: We’ve all experienced a manager ‘going rogue’ when it comes to hiring.

The reality: If you’re an internal recruiter and you also see yourself as some kind of internal police force, you’re not going to win any friends and your value will start to be questioned at every turn. There will always be maverick hiring managers who refuse to toe the company line and keep doing their own hiring. I think the key here is not to take their fun away from them but to educate them and let them know how you can add value. Great internal recruiters aren’t simply good at finding the right people themselves, they’re also good at providing guidance so that others come to the right decision too.

By the way, if you are an internal recruiter who does want to wrest control from someone who’s continuing to use an external recruiter, the only way you can do it is to prove yourself by bringing in better candidates than their current ‘go to’ person. After all, you can’t blame a manager for choosing a good candidate with a fee attached over a substandard ‘ free’ one.

The assumption: Internal recruiters hate to use agencies.

How it came about:  Isn’t using an external recruiter like saying: ‘I can’t do the job so I’ll pay you to do it for me’? 

The reality: Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of my best clients are internal recruiters. Often it simply makes sense for an internal recruiter to go external - usually because they don’t have the capacity to do it themselves or because they’re looking for a particular specialist role.

Good internal recruiters will often segment roles so they know when they can acquire talent easily, when it will take up a lot of their time, and when getting the right person is going to be like finding the needle in the haystack.  The final category invariably gets handed to the external specialist recruiter. Sometimes the middle category will be handed over too.

The assumption: Internal recruiters don’t pipeline talent

How it came about: Pipelining specialist talent when you‘re a generalist internal recruiter is notoriously difficult. 

The reality: Solo recruiters or those who are part of a small team will usually proactively network when it comes to a few key roles. But they simply won’t have the time or resources to do it for every position. Instead, unless they’re going to an external they simply may have to source some roles from scratch.

In very large organisations, it’s a different story. Now, internal recruitment teams in the biggest corporates often have specialist recruiters of their own: sometimes specific to one line of business, other times to a single profession. That means there are internal recruiters now covering my market, HR. And, trust me, these people - my new competitors - are proactively sourcing talent, not just filling vacancies.

The assumption: Internal recruiters don’t headhunt.  

How it came about: In many traditional industries there’s always been something of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that we don’t raid each other for people. It’s just not the done thing, Sir.

The reality: Those days are pretty much over. Welcome to the 21st Century.  Increasingly, many companies are going out there and approaching people directly. Still, I’m not sure about this one… I think there’s still very much a place for keeping relations cordial between competitors and looking to the long-term rather than pillaging talent in an ‘in your face’ kind of way. After all you never know whether you’ll be working with those rivals one day rather than against them.  

And that brings me to my final point...

The assumption: Internal recruiters are CV flickers or glorified PAs

How it came about: Internal recruiters need to be experts at ‘stakeholder management’. For many people that’s just code for the admin involved in taking job briefs, flicking CV’s and managing diaries. 

The reality: These days an internal recruiter really needs to be an end-to-end recruiter. That means supporting their internal stakeholder on workforce planning, keeping them informed about trends and having their finger well and truly on the pulse so they’re the first one to know about significant market moves. 

Internal recruiters are now actively involved in every step of the recruitment journey from the initial scoping to the final hiring decision. They’re also taking responsibility for the success or failure of a candidate.

That means, increasingly, internal recruiters aren’t just facilitating the recruitment process, they’re owning it.  And that’s what makes them an unignorable part of the future of HR.

Matthew Mayoh is a HR Recruitment specialist operating in the Sydney market.

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