We’re On the Same Team, People!
As unemployment rates and other economic indicators continue to gain strength, this is a particularly exciting time for the employment industry. It’s also a time of increasing competition for top talent. Attracting and hiring strong candidates takes more than a solid salary and benefits package. It takes a strong employer brand. And more importantly, it takes a hiring team that can seamlessly – and convincingly – project that brand to every candidate, every step of the way.
As you prepare for what is likely to be a very busy 2018, how ready is your recruiting team? Are you working with an executive recruiter now? Or have you worked with one in the past – and promised yourself never again? As a retained executive recruiter, I’m acutely aware of some of the baggage that comes along with the phrase headhunter. Yes, there are a few bad apples out there. If you’ve been there, done that and walked away unimpressed, maybe you were just working with the wrong recruiter. But maybe it wasn’t your recruiter (and it wasn’t you, either). Maybe it was your process. Or maybe it was your lack of defined process. You need the position filled already! (I get it.) But without clarity on roles, goals and process, you’ll find yourself wasting a lot more time and growing increasingly frustrated with sub-par results. To get the most out of your executive recruiter, follow these 5 steps to a successful recruiting partnership.
1. Invest in a recruiting partnership, not a transaction.
A contract with an executive recruiter is a significant financial investment. When you’re working collaboratively with the right recruiter, the investment pays off handsomely. Yet, I’m frequently surprised by how many employers seem to approach executive recruiting like an assembly line. They’ll write the job description, send it off to the headhunter, then wait for the perfect resumes to come flooding in. It just doesn’t work that way.
What does work? I can tell you that the most positive, mutually successful recruiting relationships are the result of true, goal-driven collaborations. When I work with a client, I need to understand their mission. What are their values, vision statement, target markets? It’s also critically important for me to have a good feel for the environment where the new hire will work. Is this a formal atmosphere with strict expectations around decorum, wardrobe and communication styles? Or is it a highly creative, highly informal place? How is the department run? What’s this manager’s supervision process? Is this an unabashed micromanager or someone who gives general directions from the 20,000 foot level then sails away until the results get reported? My understanding of these intangibles are what guide me to the right talent pool and toward the candidates most likely to thrive in the position.
2. Define recruiting process, roles and expectations up front.
Who’s doing what? What are the deadlines? Successful recruiters already have a defined process that works well for them. Expect them to share that with you. But also expect them to listen to your preferences. What’s important is that the two of you jointly determine deadlines, key milestones and the nitty gritty of each critical step. Nail down a realistic start date. Get clear on who’s drafting the job posting and how many signatures are required before the recruiter can run with it. Who’s screening resumes, scheduling interviews and checking references? How many layers of management will be interviewing finalists? If your recruiter doesn’t have much to say on these matters, consider it a warning sign.
3. Be flexible.
Remember, you and your executive recruiter are coming at this process from different perspectives – but you share the same goal. Be open and specific as you develop the job description. Be just as open to hearing alternative ideas from your recruiter. There are certain non-negotiable skills, education levels and years of experience that the winning candidate must possess. But when you’re consulting with a top tier executive recruiter, keep in mind that recruiting is an art and a science. You might re-think some of your requirements, based on success profiles and trainability questions that your recruiter can help you address. Often, I’ve found that qualifications that started on the “required” list end up migrating to the “preferred” and vice versa.
4. Establish a communication process, stick with it, and track progress regularly.
How will you and the recruiter keep each other updated? Email? Texts? Calls? What’s a reasonable expectation of response times? If these matters seem too trivial to iron out in advance, they’re not. Trust me. Incompatible communication expectations can quickly lead to disappointment if they’re not addressed. And even if you hate the idea of putting extra meetings on your calendar, book weekly check-ins with your recruiter and always show up with your facts, thoughts and prepared questions ready to discuss.
5. Be honest, direct and fair.
I don’t claim to be perfect. Nobody is. But I can promise you that I strive to deliver flawless results to every single one of my clients. My reputation – and therefore, future business – depends on it. How can I achieve that? Through open, polite communication. If you feel like something’s not working, I need to know about it. And you need to know that when tell me, I’ll listen and work with you to get things back on track.