HR and internal recruiters, YOU need to lift your game too

There has been a great deal of criticism of Agency recruiters lately, quite a bit of it from me.

But a recent theme is emerging where Corporate HR managers and internal recruiters have launched some scathing attacks on the process followed by recruiters. A recent blog, Dear John, from Katie McNab being a case in point.

Truthfully, many of these criticisms are valid. As an industry recruiters are guilty of shortcuts, shoddy service and overselling. It’s not true of all recruiters, but it does happen… a lot.

But, as with most contentious issues in life, there are two sides to this debate. And in the case of the relationship between third-party recruiters and internal HR, it is time for a little clarity on how the HR side of this uneasy relationship can improve, for the greater good.

These observations are my own, based on decades of dealing with HR through countless economic cycles. But to make sure I was taking the pulse of the current Zeitgeist on this, I asked for input from 40 recruiters I know across the globe. And they were very keen to have their say, and much of what they said cannot be reproduced here! But I have summarised their perspective in the 8 points below.

HR and internal recruiters, bring it in tight, I have a secret to share. Recruiters want to make you happy. We really do. We know that some of our number are a pain in the butt for you. But please don’t tar us all with the same brush. In fact some of your number are as bad as the worst of ours. Seriously.

So we promise to lift our game. But we need you to make some changes too.

  1. Please don’t be so defensive when dealing with recruiters. We are not the enemy. We are not even bad people. We know you were once an Agency recruiter yourself, (and we will take your word for it that you were “really, really good” at it), or maybe you have an honours degree in HR, but please don’t lord your ‘power’ over recruiters, who should be your partners and not your ‘vendors’, as you so often call us. Arrogance is not an attractive trait, and it’s not a great foundation for a working relationship.
  2. Please understand that we are not competing with you. We are offering to support your talent acquisition endeavors. Yes, we get that your job includes cutting the cost of outside recruitment, but we are pretty sure your CEO did not mean doing that at the expense of missing out on the best talent. Help us to help you.
  3. Please appreciate the need for urgency in talent acquisition. Requesting candidates, and then not responding to a short-list for six weeks is not in the interests of your employer. And when you do finally ask to see those candidates, please don’t be shocked, even angry, with us, that they are not available any more. Good candidates have options, and they will exercise those options, to your detriment. Please work with us to secure the very best talent available. For you.
  4. Please don’t see yourself as the gatekeeper between the recruiter and your hiring managers. We understand you are managing the process. You are in charge. We respect that. But please, accept you will seldom have the depth of understanding of the role that your line managers will. So let us speak to that manager, to refine and calibrate the search criteria. You lose none of your control by doing this. But you increase the chance of your organisation making a great hire. Keeping us from talking to line mangers is counterproductive. Your company does not need you to be a gatekeeper. They need you to be a conduit.
  5. Please invest time in us. This might mean you need to work with far fewer recruiters than you currently do. And that’s a good thing. For everyone. Don’t make us compete on speed. Make us compete on quality and access to talent. We can only do quality work if you take the time to fully brief us on your hiring needs. In detail. And preferably face to face. In recruiting, as in life, you get what you give.
  6. Please don’t delegate your most junior internal recruiters to brief us on your senior roles. We are not snobby. We will deal with anyone you require us to. But please make sure the person we work with has enough knowledge to communicate all the job requirements, and enough clout to ensure line managers respond quickly.
  7. Please, oh please, communicate with us. Return our calls and emails, not just out of common courtesy, but also because we are representing your employer brand to the talent market. Keep us hanging, you keep the talent hanging. They don’t like it, and they wont like your brand as a result. Be upfront with us about the status of each role. If it’s likely to be filled internally, tell us. If it’s about to be put on hold for a month, tell us. When you interview our candidates, make the time to provide detailed feedback – so we can service out talent, but also so we can refine the search.
  8. Please, take our advice. We understand you have been burned by less scrupulous operators, but please don’t lump us all together. Actually, it’s your responsibility to find a good recruiter and build a strong relationship with them. Sure, set your expectations of us very high, but apply those same expectations to yourself. You want us to listen and understand. You need to do the same. Listen to what we have to say on salaries, on urgency, on market trends and on which candidate to interview. If we get it wrong, warn us, and if we get it wrong too often, fire us. But remember if you treat your recruiter like a transactional drone, chances are, that’s what you will end up with.

The truth is that many of the very best business relationships I have had in my recruiting career have been with smart, demanding, Corporate HR professionals. I love dealing with those people. But they are rare, like good recruiters, I suppose.

It works best when the communications is open and the expectations are clear. But always built on a platform of mutual respect and understanding.

So, recruiters reading this, lets go and fix our processes. Listen to the voice of HR clients, unhappy with what we do. Let’s get our house in order.

But please HR and internal recruiters heed my call. Invest in your relationship with a great recruiter, or a small set of quality, specialised recruiters.

The rewards will astound you.


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