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Three Recruiting Strategies to go from Survival to Success

Three Recruiting Strategies to go from Survival to Success

By: Ed Muzio

You can’t verify this with your dictionary, but if you work as a recruiter, you probably often feel like your title is synonymous with “convenient scapegoat,” “underpaid mercenary” or “misunderstood go-between.” 

At first glance, your job sounds simple enough:  connect potential talent with the hiring managers who need to fulfill the recruiting process.  In reality, your job lands you directly between two different, equally unrealistic sets of hiring expectations: those of the managers and those of the candidates. 

And now, thanks to the recession, you face more candidates clamoring for jobs than ever before and a population of hiring managers who is so resource-constrained that every hire simply must be absolutely perfect — and done in an instant. [Also see time management for recruiters.] How can you keep from going crazy as a recession-time recruiter? Here are three recruiting strategies.

First, Be a Teacher
When a job candidate is expecting a salary 20 percent over the market rate, or a hiring manager seems to think it will take about 24 hours to find the perfect candidate, you know they’re in for a disappointment. 

In cases where employee compensation is in question, you may be tempted to simply walk away.  After all, you don’t want to be seen as a part of the failure you already know is looming on the horizon. 

Consider an alternate approach.  If you’re trapped between irrational demands around a job’s market value, that means you’re the one person uniquely equipped to understand them.  Take time to teach both job candidates and hiring managers what they should expect. 

Rather than walking away, educate your customers on both sides of the fence about what their salary expectations should be. Begin by asking permission to play the role of teacher — for example, you could reply, “If you’d like, I could share with you some of my experience in working with other candidates and hiring managers.” You’ll almost invariably get an affirmative answer. 

When you do, be as specific as you can be without betraying any confidences.  For example, to a candidate who is seeking an over-the-top salary, you might say, “I’ve recruited around ten people with similar qualifications to yours and last year I conducted benchmarking studies of starting salary offers in our industry.  I’m sorry to say that my experience suggests that your expectations are high by ten to twenty percent.  I don’t mean to discourage you, but I thought you might like to know what I know.” 

Or, to a hiring manager who is intent on reducing time to hire and tells you that “because of the recession I expect you to find the right candidate even more quickly,” you might draw parallel to another marketplace:  “I see myself as a sort of real estate agent, only I find candidates to hire instead of houses to buy.  But remember, you’re looking for ‘a house that works for you.’  More inventory means you may spend more time looking for the perfect fit, not less.  That’s true in housing, and it’s no different in recruiting.” 

Second, Be an Advisor
Teaching is the first step in your recruitment strategy, but it’s not enough.  In reality, you’re not just an educator, but also an advisor.

Remember, most candidates only land in the job market when they’re unemployed or unhappy.  They’re not studying the job market; they’re trying to survive!  And most hiring managers don’t understand the market either, for the same exact reason:  they only participate in employee sourcing and hiring when they’re overwhelmed and looking to hire the right candidate. 

Unlike your two sets of customers, however, you spend your career on both sides of the job market.  You know what’s different this month and this year, and you also know that some things never change.

Of course, candidates and managers don’t know that you know all this. They only know what they see, and too often they see you doing administrative things:  passing along resumes, extending phone calls and conducting interviews

To be seen as an advisor in the hiring process, you must behave like one.  In other words, make sure your candidates and your managers see you offering useful counsel at least as often as they see you performing clerical duties.  That means taking the time to come up with sound advice, and offering it as part of a recruiting strategy.  

When you deliver a resume to a manager, for example, add some commentary about recent experiences with other graduates of the same degree program, or other ex-employees of the same company.  (“That degree program is considered among the best in its class,” for example, or “we’ve hired three other people from that company … I can put you in touch with their managers if you like.”)  Be honest about what you do and don’t know, and ask for the manager’s impressions to help formulate your post-interview knowledge base for the future.   

You can also provide advice to candidates. Obviously, as a representative of your company you might have information about competitor’s hiring practices that you don’t want to share.  Still, that doesn’t prevent you from offering advice at a more general level.  For example, by giving candidates tips about what to expect in your company’s interview process, you can help them to relax and put their best foot forward.  That’s in everybody’s best interest:  you want your hiring manager to get a sense of the candidate’s real potential from the interview; that can be obscured if the candidate is unprepared or nervous.

Finally, Be an Account Manager
Whether internal or external, as a recruiter you don’t just work for hiring managers: you work for accounts.  Depending on your position, an “account” might be a company, a division or department, or even a single hiring manager who uses you for multiple needs over time.  Whatever the arrangement, to be truly successful as a recruiter, you need to manage your accounts.

“Managing your accounts” goes beyond teaching and advising individuals. That’s because the needs of accounts are complementary to, but different from, the needs of the individuals within them.

For example:

  • The hiring manager needs a person to fill the requisition so that work gets done, now.  The account needs a hire that is going to last over the long term, not one that will cost time and money for training today, only to leave for another job in six months.
  • A manager needs to put together a team.  An account needs to create a sustainable workforce.

Also, don’t forget that as the recruiter, you have complementary but separate goals for individuals and accounts too. 

Completing the hire is different from growing the account; ideally, you want to do both. A good recruiter adds value today and positions him or herself to do so again in the future.

When you interact with hiring managers, think and speak in terms of account-level needs, as well as individual needs.  Set the example by balancing short term and long term considerations, such as gently reminding managers about the high cost of common hiring mistakes. If you can position yourself as a resource that helps your account find the right hire at a reasonable cost, not just the first hire at the lowest cost, you will stop being viewed as clerical and instead become a valuable asset to the accounts that fund you.

Recruiting is what You Make It
Your role as recruiter, like everyone’s, goes way beyond its title.  We all have bad days at work, and some days you will certainly feel like “recruiter” is synonymous with “scapegoat” or “mercenary.”  But if you work to make your title synonymous with “educator,” “advisor,” and “trusted ally in the job market,” you may be pleased with the results.  Not only will you get more respect and more rational expectations from both sets of your customers, but you might even enjoy your job a little more too.

Author Bio
Edward G. Muzio,
CEO of Group Harmonics, is the author of the award-winning books Make Work Great: Supercharge Your Team, Reinvent the Culture, and Gain Influence One Person at a Time and Four Secrets to Liking Your Work: You May Not Need to Quit to Get the Job You Want. An expert in workplace improvement and its relationship to individual enjoyment, Muzio has been featured on Fox Business Network, CBS, and other national media. For more information visit Make Work Great and follow the author on Facebook.