Recruiting is an art and a science.
Updated: Apr 30, 2019
Traditional recruiting involves gathering as many applications as possible and hoping the right one finds its way to the top. At any given point in time, the candidate pool will change, so essentially this means you're left trying to find the best of what's available and not necessarily the best candidate for the role. Most recruiting teams focus on gathering rather than hunting; being reactive rather than strategic. The focus has primarily been on high volume and a short time-to-fill (the period of time it takes between posting a job to hiring someone into the role) rather than searching for highly qualified candidates in a proactive manner. Outdated recruiting practices are inefficient and costly for many reasons, but many companies continue to use them today.
Compare candidates to the requirements of the role, not to each other.
Hiring is expensive and extremely time consuming. Unfortunately, we've become accustomed to believing that talking to more candidates means we are closer to finding the right person for the job. In reality, this wastes a lot of time and promotes the comparison of candidates to each other rather than comparing each candidate to the needs of the business. This can cause the wrong hires to be made for the long term, and a greater focus placed on the short term gain of offloading tasks. Less candidates of the right talent profile means hiring the right person faster and more efficiently. Understanding the needs, wants, talents, skills, and ecosystem of the current teams is important to hiring and retaining the right people. This approach requires looking at the needs of the team, business, and selecting a candidate based on their fit to the role. Too often, recruiting is done reactively rather than proactively. By the time we begin searching for candidates, it tends to be too late. We wait until the team is floundering under too much work to begin the hiring process. This creates immediate urgency, which can result in panic-hiring and poor on-boarding experiences for new employees - and a poor on-boarding experience creates its own set of problems and can lead to a new hire leaving within a short period of time.
Another indirect pain point of recruiting is interview fatigue, which can cause managers to become tired and just pick the best candidate out of the ones they've already talked to. This is one of the worst ways to hire. The focus should always be on picking the right candidate period. Many hiring managers have become accustomed to thinking that "good recruiting" means a large pipeline of candidates. If a hiring manager's recruiting partner is doing their job effectively, then much more time is spent upfront to understand the role, the needs to the team, the gaps and strengths currently within the company, assessing current talent for promotional opportunities, and conducting a very tailored search to avoid wasting everyone's time, including their own. By networking and hunting for the right candidates, the focus is placed on finding and engaging the right talent. This approach, however, requires asking the right questions in the beginning, assessing the short and long term needs of the business, finding the right types of candidates, creating a great candidate experience for those coming through the process, and ensuring a strong on-boarding plan is in place once they're hired.
The work doesn't stop with hiring a candidate; that's just the beginning.
On-boarding and training new employees is just as important as hiring them, if not more-so. While it takes a lot of educating, value propositioning, and inclusiveness to bring the right candidate onto a team, it takes just as much effort to get them up-to-speed and productive. I've seen it happen too many times where incredibly talented people are brought into an organization and quit within a few months because there was not enough effort put into setting them up for success. This means creating a 30, 60, and 90 day on-boarding plan and guiding them through it, as well as providing them with the right mentors, tools, and information to learn the ins and outs of the business. Starting a new job is scary, but providing guidance and support along the way helps tremendously in building an agile and productive workforce.
Teach, don't do.
Before going on the prowl for new talent, make sure your hiring teams are actively assessing current employees to see where the gaps are, where the needs are, and where the growth opportunities lie (e.g. promotional opportunities or available ways to stretch and challenge current team members). This approach can help managers get the most efficiency out of current employees, help them grow in their careers, while also determining the long term hiring needs of the business. Promoting an environment where employees are constantly learning and developing new skills provides bridges for employees to grow, while also providing the company with the means in which to gain or maintain a competitive advantage. Learning is a vital part of scaling an organization. Development opportunities and new challenges keep top performers engaged while allowing them the space to share their knowledge with other members of the team. Finding the right platform to encourage employees to share their knowledge and experience promotes a more collaborative environment where employees continue to grow with the company, not be phased out.
Don't underestimate the value of a high functioning talent acquisition team.
My first blog post was about how to be a great recruiter. There are great recruiting teams out there that have adapted to the landscape and understand the importance of being trusted partners to their business and their candidates. After noticing that many companies put a lower price tag on their recruiting teams than they should, I started to think about why that might be.
Hiring the right people to represent your company, brand, and influence the best talent to join your company is one of the most important roles in any organization - it's sales from a different angle. Your talent partner should be the gatekeeper and biggest promoter you have on your team. It's easy to look at recruiters as necessary evils, and in all fairness, they often end up being just that. But when you find someone that really understands the dynamic and functions of the product and teams, can communicate the vision and mission effectively to strangers, while helping guide business leaders and candidates to the end goal of hiring the right talent, you no longer have a recruiter - you've got a talent partner. And in that case, the indirect value that person brings to your organization is priceless. Start now, not later.
For startups, every single hire matters more than in larger companies. Don't get me wrong, every hire has the potential to make a huge positive or negative impact on a team, but in a startup environment of less than 50 people, one misplaced hire can destroy the entire company. I've seen this nearly happen and it's not pretty. To bring in the best talent and avoid hiring the wrong candidates, a trusted talent partner is vital and should be valued as highly as any other leader directly impacting the bottomline. I mean this in terms of the value and trust everyone in the organization places on recruiting, as well as looking to them for valuable input rather than simply to coordinate interviews. By emphasizing the importance of a strong recruiting practices every time a candidate is interviewed, regardless of their role, the foundation is established that recruiting and networking is everyone's job - after all, it takes a village. Understanding the impact of recruiting is pertinent to the success of any business and it takes the buy-in from everyone involved to ensure it's done correctly. The value on recruiting needs to be established and built into the culture at an early stage and demonstrated through a thoughtful and strategic approach to hiring.
Recognize real value and hire it.
I can understand the reason recruiters are typically not valued as highly as other roles in an organization, but that perception needs to change. It takes us as talent partners to recognize what makes us great so we can truly add value outside of simply pushing candidates through a process. Unfortunately, many of us working in recruiting roles don't demonstrate our value by adapting to a changing landscape and tend to revert to the same tired practices used time and time again. We're no more than a customer service function at many companies - and for good reason. On the other hand, those of us who are breaking the cycle and coming up with more efficient processes, understanding and practicing the best ways to attract, interview, and hire the right talent and not just a lot of talent, should be valued much more than those who don't approach recruiting this way. An unfortunate conundrum for any company trying to establish its recruiting arm is that in order to hire the right talent, you trust a talent partner to find them for you. So, if you're not an expert in hiring, how do you know you're hiring the right talent partner to set your business up for successful hiring long term? This makes it very tricky, especially for startups looking for their first talent hire. Talk about a catch 22, huh? But there is hope - it takes more research and understanding of the landscape to identify the key factors in recruiting the best talent for your organization. Start by focusing on quality over quantity of the candidates in your pipeline, create a best-in-class experience for candidates, and begin promoting the importance of recruiting throughout your organization. This will set you in the right direction.
Redefining recruiting practices.
As talent partners, it's our responsibility to educate hiring managers, both on the job and while we're interviewing for the job. We need to really showcase our abilities and offer up more strategic solutions and educate them on why it's important to look at an old problem in a new way.
Company leaders also need to recognize the difference between a recruiter and a talent partner when hiring the person to help build their organizations. Great recruiting is an art and a science and involves so much more than building a pipeline and moving candidates through a process. Although it starts with the right talent partner, it ultimately takes the entire organization to implement and scale the idea into reality. Unlearning old practices and making room for best practices can feel daunting, but it's absolutely vital to building a successful organization.