My Top 10 Tips...for Recruiters!
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Recruiters can often take a beating, and as one who's recruited as an HR Manager, Senior Corporate Recruiter, Senior Tech Recruiter, Talent Acquisition Manager, Agency Engineering Recruiter and Recruiting Consultant over the past 20 years? I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on both sides of the table.
I’ve seen recruiters who are the dream collaborator with applicants and job seekers.
I’ve seen the sleazy car salesman types at staffing agencies that make you want to take a shower after talking to them.
I’ve seen the masses of recruiters who are all to often put in the role because they’re “good with people” or “have a strong sales background” and the assumption made that they can figure the rest out on their own…all the while being given 30 or 40 or 50 (or even up to 100 if you’re dealing with a certain e-commerce company owned by the richest man in the world) recruitments to manage simultaneously.
I'm a consultant who's helped 30+ companies not only fill key positions but design strong recruiting processes they can use company-wide, and for some, coached internal recruiters on how to be more effective (and therefore exhale once in a while) – not to mention help the company decrease the number of times they need to pay outside agencies for help!
Originally starting as part of an HR team, I also have the background of first supporting, then leading in a generalist role, where recruiting was just one of the six hundred things I had to oversee along with benefits, payroll, employee relations/performance, safety, training, budgets, compensation, event planning, employer branding, and the list goes on. I've been at an agency hiring temps, contract-to-hire, and direct placement, in many corporate recruiting roles within a variety of industries, from retail to manufacturing to publishing to energy and more, as well as provided recruiting expertise to city and federal government agencies. I've seen a LOT.
During this time, I’ve also watched and experienced first-hand how recruiters are treated – how/if they are valued, what kind of support (if any) they get, how much (or little) they are paid, and what types of opportunity they have for training/growth in the organization.
I’ve seen recruiting viewed as an entry level HR role with pay equal to an administrative assistant (and in some, LESS than the admin).
I’ve seen recruiting bunched in with the office manager’s job duties and pooh-pooh’d as secretarial work by managers.
I’ve seen recruiters grouped together in a completely different building from the hiring teams they support.
I’ve seen teams of recruiters who are a solid, close-knit team helping each other get better and find ways to meet their goals...and I’ve seen teams whose members are pitted against each other.
I’ve seen recruiting managers who are wholly dedicated to coaching their recruiters and I’ve seen others who are AWOL most of the time.
I’ve reported to recruiting managers, human resources managers, finance directors, and C-level executives. With that, I’ve seen the disaster waiting to happen – and then see those disasters occur – when HR reports to Finance because the top executives don’t realize that this reporting structure is like making Engineering manage Sales.
I’ve seen recruiting teams at agencies dedicated to collaborating with HR & Recruiting at their clients, and I’ve seen others who do everything in their power to bypass and disrespect the recruiting teams who helped bring them in the door in the first place.
I’ve seen bad behavior at its finest, including managers who have: ---- thrown me and others under the bus in meetings after asking us to present ---- condescended to me about my professional knowledge even though they’ve never recruited ---- allowed recurrent harassment from hiring managers while finding ways to blame me for why they did it (or better yet, laugh when one music company founder reached over and rubbed my belly in front of other executives while I recoiled in horror) ---- stare at my chest during a business meeting ---- try to tell me how to run my business even though they’ve never recruited in their lives ---- made fun of candidates’ weight/looks/height/etc. ---- outright discriminate against female candidates for a role that they thought a man should be doing (this example was not in tech, believe it or not) ---- lie to my face when confronted with the fact that they deliberately paid me not only under market, but below the pay range established for my role when I took on comp work, and ---- (my personal favorite) the hiring manager who not only tried to avoid paying me for contracted work after he got in trouble from his bosses, but then had his HR rep threaten me for having the nerve to stick to my guns and invoice for payment since I had filled the position. (PS – I got paid, don’t worry.)
Thankfully, I’ve also seen seriously kick-ass leaders, from the HR Director who to this day I still keep in touch with 20 years later (she’s that good and is the reason I had the confidence to pursue this focus area), to the senior recruiter who’s supported my transition from HR Generalist to dedicated Senior Recruiter and remained a phenomenal cheerleader to this day, to the HR Managers I’ve partnered with at various companies over the year who view me as they want to be viewed in their roles – a trusted partner, to the repeat clients (CEOs, CFOs, and heads of engineering, sales, marketing, and more) I’ve worked with who understand that if you want it done right, you work with me, because Aimee doesn’t pull any punches, designs processes that they can use for hiring even when not contracting with her, will tell it like it is throughout the process, is obsessed with a positive, efficient experience for both hiring teams AND candidates, and, well, and gets sh*t done.
It is these experiences that brought me into my role as a Recruiting Consultant & Coach, so that hiring managers can see what good recruiting looks like, and, when their companies grow to a certain size, they have the processes and tools in place that will support the hire of a good recruiter – not to mention know what a good recruiter looks like. It’s also why over the last couple of years I’ve focused more of my energy on working with recruiters directly whenever my business allows, whether that be to take an “audit” approach to look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, then making recommendations, OR working with those who are new to recruiting and helping figure out where their blind spots might be so that they can find success in a position that can be way more challenging than the outsider might imagine.
So after providing a series of Top 10 Tips to job-seekers in this blog, I wanted to do one focused on my own underappreciated, usually underpaid, nearly always undersupported peeps: the Recruiters.
Whether you are on a large corporate recruiting team, the only recruiter on staff, the HR Generalist whose work includes recruiting, a staffing agency recruiter, or even an Office Manager at a startup whose CEO said “hey can you do the ‘HR stuff’ for us too?” (thinking that recruiting is just a matter of posting something on a job board)…this is all for you.
We’ve got a lot on our plates as Recruiters, most of us putting in well over 40 hours per week (and bringing the work home to boot), and I can’t imagine that there’s any of us who don’t want to find ways to make it more efficient AND satisfying.
And for those not recruiting who are reading this? Maybe a bit of empathy for those who have been crucified in the “I hate recruiter” themed posts on social media that make blanket statements about everyone in the profession. Like I say, recruiters are like bike commuters – there are idiots in the bunch who make all of us look bad.
So with that, here’s my Top 10 Tips for Recruiters…
1) Build your HR acumen. Recruiting is a cross-functional role and a strong HR foundation is vital to being a strong partner to your hiring managers as well as your candidates. Understanding how the rest of your HR team works and partners with the company helps you as a Recruiter develop your employer’s brand, not to mention be able to both communicate how the company works to candidates AND provide feedback to your company leadership on what you’re hearing from the outside (EXAMPLE: I had a client who was not offering 401(k) to his team because he had assumed it was too expensive to offer, and a lot of senior level candidates were not interested in coming to a company that did not offer this basic benefit. Because of my HR background, I knew he was misinformed and connected him to several resources, and within months they were set up with a plan at an incredibly minute cost to the employer.) No matter what some may tell you, Recruiting is NOT Sales nor is it Marketing. Recruiting can have elements of both to it, sure, but it is its own profession and if you think because you sold cars that it’ll be a snap to fill positions for hiring managers, you’re wrong. While not HR generalists are strong recruiters and vice versa, getting your PHR certification, enrolling in an HR certificate program, &/or attending your local SHRM chapter lunches/workshops to get a better understanding of employment law, compliance and overall HR best practices? It will not only make you better at your job, it will make you a more marketable, strategic partner with both HR and your hiring teams.
Note: If you are a staffing agency recruiter I consider this even MORE vital. A lot of staffing agency recruiters have shi**y reputations, because they come across both clueless and cocky. Clueless because many don’t have strong relationships with the company (both HR and the recruiter) &/or understand what they truly need, and therefore waste time (I’ve seriously had agency recruiters reach out to me on LinkedIn for junior level jobs even though I’ve been in the field 20 years) pretending they know more than they do (which turns into cocky as many condescend to candidates and act like they know what’s best, rather than learning from then partnering with them). Don’t treat HR like they are optional – learn from them, treat them as a partner, and you’ll be amazed at how this approach will ensure they ADVOCATE for you…ultimately improving your rep – and your paycheck.
2) Track your metrics! The first question I ask all my recruiter candidates is always about metrics. If you don’t have any, I won’t bother recommending you to the hiring manager. Seriously. End of story. Whether your company values and/or tracks them, it doesn’t matter – you should know what your time-to-fill is, at the very least. How can you possibly know how well you’re doing if you don’t know how many days it takes from the day the job is posted until an offer is accepted? You should know how long each step in the process is taking as well – where are your hiring teams dragging their feet? How long are you taking to respond to applicants after they apply? Also, how long do your new hires stay with the company? While you aren’t responsible for retention (that’s the manager’s job once someone is hired – so any managers reading this, stop blaming recruiters for your hiring decisions), it’s a good way to partner with hiring teams and look back to help them evaluate how they make their hiring decisions. Read here for more on metrics!
3) Build a diversity strategy. The next question I ask recruiter candidates is what their strategy is for getting a diverse group of applicants when they are hiring for any given position. And again, I’m amazed at how few have seriously never put any thought into it, yet are at companies which make a big deal about how they want to hire more women and minorities (or claim they are already doing it)…not to mention how many forget about those with disabilities, older individuals, and more. In Portland I noted how many companies would give themselves the stamp of approval if they had a significant LGBTQ headcount, as if that substituted for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups in tech. Get to know the professional, academic, and cultural associations where you can spread the word about your company and the positions you’re hiring for. Admit you don’t know everything and reach out to those who have been successful in hiring diverse teams so you can learn from them. Don’t pretend you are diverse if all of your female employees are in administrative roles or you have one person of color in the entire company or your entire executive team is white. Listen to what people say about the culture in the company and examine that for conscious and unconscious bias. Look at your job postings and recruiting processes! * Not long ago I asked two people from the same company about diversity and their culture and while they admitted they were not strong in diversity, they didn’t see anything wrong about the fact that they described their culture as “a college dorm / fraternity”. Oh. Mah. Gawd. * Before that, I had a new client who wanted feedback on their website so I checked out their “About Us” page only to find, just under their diversity statement, two larger-than-life photos of their two white male 20-something founders. They considered diversity to be the fact that they both had traveled globally. Um, notsomuch. Here are 15 ways to improve diversity when recruiting.
4) Respond to Every Single Applicant – period. I don’t give two shi*s if your manager says to put a statement on your website that says “we will contact you if you’re selected”. Respond to everyone. Period. Have the common courtesy to at least create a template in your ATS that, with one click, can let applicants know they were not selected, or that you are still waiting for an update from your manager, or whatever the status may be. Don’t tell them you’ll get back to them by Friday and then ghost them. And if they go through multiple interviews, you damn well better tell them why they weren’t hired. Yes, you do have time, so shut up and do it, whether it be via phone or email. Don’t be THAT company, THAT recruiter who thinks they are above responding to applicants – they are your bread and butter, y’all.
Note: Take the job posting down when it’s filled! Don’t keep postings up to “collect future candidates” – it deceives the applicant into thinking you’re actually hiring. If you want to have a place for interested parties to leave a resume, create a job posting called “future positions” or similar so they know to not expect a response and that it’s not a real job.
5) Make C/X your focus. C/X is short for Customer Experience. As a Recruiter, you have two customers – your hiring teams, and your candidates. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes (remember, you’ve been there yourself) when it comes to ensuring both they – and the hiring team – have a positive, non-time-wasting experience. As I like to tell my hiring teams, I want every person I come into contact with to say thank you for a good process – even if they don’t get the job. And if I do this, sometimes I even get a referral from them for someone who IS a better fit…imagine that. Remember to look at EVERYTHING you do as a Recruiter with a customer service lens.
Note: A good candidate experience does NOT include 8 hours straight of interviewing. If you need this person to actually use PTO just to interview with you because your process is so long and convoluted, and/or you think you need the buy-in of 19 people in order to make a decision, you’re not doing it right. Talk to your hiring teams – most don’t need to be in a room with a candidate for 5 hours to know if they want to work with them or not. Those who incorporate a lot of bureaucracy in your hiring processes probably have this issue in their culture as well – show them you know what you’re doing.
6) Own the process as much as you can! Establish an agreement with your hiring managers on not only what they are looking for, but the exact process you’ll be following, from where they want to meet candidates for coffee to agreeing on turnaround times throughout each step of the process to how you’ll keep them updated to ensuring your interview teams are both prepared and comfortable. Don’t assume they have all the answers when it comes to evaluating and selecting candidates – many will very much appreciate your perspective and subject matter expertise as a Recruiter. The more you own the hiring process, the more you can properly manage it and ensure you have buy-in from all parties and, with that knowledge, take care of those candidates and Get.The.Job.Filled. While you’ll never truly own the process because so many factors are beyond your control (managers changing the position around, not getting back to you in a timely fashion, etc.) the more you take ownership over the things you can control, the better for your own sanity – not to mention oftentimes giving you a better rep as a true hiring partner rather than simply an implementer.
7) Candidate pipelines don’t exist. Strong networks do. One of the biggest crocks I heard in a job was that it was vital that I build a strong “pipeline of available candidates” for when positions come up – because in these managers & executives’ minds, there were hundreds if not thousands of qualified individuals just waiting for me to approach them who would drop everything the minute I reached out to them about a job opening. They wanted them fully screened and ready to go, at my beck and call. This is total BUNK. First of all, they are only candidates if you have a POSITION OPEN. Second, most people don’t want to go through an entire screening process for a position that DOESN’T EXIST! When you are sourcing, you are building your network. When you are at recruiting events, you are building your network. When you have downtime, you should be – yep, building your network. When you are checking references, you should be…? You know the answer. This way, when it’s time to recruit, you have a lot of people to reach out to who either may be interested in applying, or may know someone. But if your manager says you should have people simply waiting in line to work for your company whenever you snap your fingers? This is narcissistic thinking by companies who also have the mindsets of “they should feel lucky to work for us” rather than “we are lucky to have them”. Build those relationships, and know that your reputation as a recruiter and how your company treats their employees – THAT will help you fill positions.
8) Challenge HR and hiring managers on the job descriptions and salary ranges they provide you. If there’s one word out there that is plastered on applicants’ minds, it’s UNICORN. And I have to agree with applicants – there are way too many job postings out there that are asking for some seriously unrealistic shit! The thing is, many hiring managers go into the process of writing a JD with HR with the best of intentions, but end up writing a profile of what their Dream Candidate will look like…with 86 “mandatory” items, while not realizing that either a) that person might not exist or b) the salary for the number of qualifications they are looking for is simply unrealistic. Go over each requirement with them and ask, “can the person do the job without that, and/or can they learn this on the job?” and if the answer is Yes, move the bullet down to the “optional / nice to haves” section of the job posting. Know the market when it comes to comp as well – what kind of salary requirements have similar candidates asked for in the past? While managers still might ask you to locate a needle in a haystack, start the process with a realistic picture for them of how hard their search might be based on the parameters they’ve provided. Along with that, HR teams often rely on salary surveys or websites that don’t always match up with reality. Great example: Software Engineer salary ranges on many websites come in lower than what I’ve seen in my recruiting, and I learned that it’s most often because most of the companies who participate in those are hiring .NET engineers rather than *nix engineers, and my experience has shown that .NET folks make less…but salary surveys/sites don’t differentiate based on the two types of technology. Be the subject matter expert – you’re the one on the front lines.
9) Know the difference between a Job POSTING and a Job DESCRIPTION. I’m constantly amazed at how many companies simply copy and paste their HR job descriptions onto their Career page listings, making the jobs sound about as exciting as mud. A job Posting is a marketing piece – not an all-encompassing list of duties and ADA requirements that HR will have you sign at orientation! This is where using that marketing lens is vital – tell the candidate why the company is cool for this type of employee, give us an idea of what a day in the life might look like for this person, and provide the drop-dead technical requirements for the role. Keep it concise and answer the basic questions every job seeker has – what would I be doing, what do you need me to bring to the table, and what’s it going to be like there? As WebRecruit says, a job description TELLS, a job posting SELLS. With most of my clients I’ve partnered with someone in marketing to come up with a description of the company that not only meets corporate needs but helps build the employer brand.
**Side note: a lot of companies jam in personality under job requirements which in my opinion are unnecessary. I mean seriously, what company does NOT want someone with “good communication skills” or is a “strong team player”? Not only that, you can’t quantify those when you’re determining initially if someone meets the requirements for the job. Focus on assessing personality during conversations with the candidate.
10) Remember that recruiting is not a one-person job. One of the hardest parts of recruiting is when hiring managers just expect you to do it all single-handedly, and are not cognizant (or willing to be) of the fact that a great recruitment takes all members to be successful. I can build a great process and give applicants a great experience from my end, but in a tight job market, I need everyone at 100%. That means when I get a job posting published, everyone on the hiring team should be supporting the recruitment by putting that posting up on their own LinkedIn profiles, social media if applicable, reaching out to folks they know, etc. If I go to an industry event, I bring someone from the hiring team to "tag team" with me (Seriously, as a recruiter am I going to be able to get into the weeds with a senior engineer about the technology? Umm, no. Tag team, y’all.). When I send a candidate to a hiring manager, that manager needs to follow up - quickly. They want to hire? They need to commit to making the time to review resumes. Agree upon turnaround time expectations at the onset. When I schedule interviews, the hiring team members attending need to be coming in prepared, not only with what they want to ask, but reading the resumes and prescreen details that I'd already send them. And after interviews are over, hiring decisions need to be made promptly and with respect for the candidates’ time. The more you as a Recruiter can do to lead the process and help everyone understand that the faster we can get through the hiring process, the faster they can get the help they need and of course get back to doing their own jobs, the better off you’ll be. This is where humor helps! As a Recruiter, get hands-on with your hiring teams – don’t assume they know what is/isn’t off limits when it comes to interview topics, or that they know how to handle an awkward candidate situation, or that everyone will be on their best behavior. While I’d love to take credit for every success I’ve had as a recruiter, I know that the more I prepare them to be successful, the more successful we all are ultimately.
NOTE: For hiring managers reading this who get in a tiff when external recruiters do not offer “guarantees” for the people their clients have the final say on hiring? Take accountability. The recruiter does not make the hiring decision – you do. My job as a retained search recruiter, for example, is to build a strong recruiting process, advise on your employer brand, create a stronger job posting, provide compensation recommendations, train your interviewers if needed, and work with you to bring in a stronger pool of candidates than if you were doing this alone. It is YOUR job to be the subject matter expert when it comes to knowing who you want on your team – that’s why you – not me – are the hiring manager. So stop blaming recruiters if someone leaves your department. You’ve spent a heckuva lot more time with them as candidates and as employees than the Recruiter ever has. Learn from employee departures so you can course-correct for future hiring (and see if your Recruiter has any suggestions!) – but do not try to use that departure to make the external recruiter work for free when they did not make the decision to ask that person to work there.