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How We as Recruiters Must Up Our Game

As a recruiting consultant, I've had really interesting experiences that really exposed the differences in how the whole hiring and recruiting processes are handled by companies, and it further proved my earlier points about the need to focus on customer service and process efficiency.

Several years ago, I was interviewed by a writer at Brazen Careerist for an upcoming article about recruiting software engineers and how I approach the process.  We talked a lot about the whole concept of great customer service and the idea that recruiting is a team effort with everyone on the hiring team.  Some companies expect the recruiter to do everything, rather than partner with them, and miss out. Why?  The recruiter is not the technical expert on the job you’re recruiting for – they are your business partner.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but the people who DO the job every day are the experts.  The recruiter is there to market the company, source and screen candidates, understanding both the needs of their hiring teams AND the people potentially interested in the job openings, and ensure a smooth, efficient, and positive process for all parties involved.

I’ve never pretended to be an engineer.  Or a public relations manager.  Or an inside sales representative.  Or a vice president.  Or a program manager.  But you know what I can do?  I can identify the type of folks who would be the most likely to mesh well with the team, who meet the basic quals on the job posting, who can communicate effectively, and work with candidates to explain their technical skills so that the hiring team can most easily evaluate their abilities.  

If they’re unsure about if they want to apply, I will hook my candidates up with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) informally so they can see if this is the company for them. Sometimes that means a coffee, sometimes a quick call, sometimes an invite to one of the company happy hours (for those of you not in the tech startup world, the onsite Friday Happy Hour and/or in-house kegerator is a pretty common sight - but don't feel obligated to go if that's not your scene).  

I would never expect my candidates to follow me blindly into an interview – everyone deserves to get an idea of what the job entails and the kind of people they’d be working with before they fully say “this is rad, I want this, pleeeeeease hire me”.  They interview us, we interview them – it’s a mutual relationship that must be built.  Sometimes folks are happy to go through the standard process, sometimes I need to woo them a bit more if they’re timid about making a move from their current employer.  It’s worth it – everyone deserves a great candidate experience.

Yet all too often, some companies have an entitlement mentality about candidates.  The “they’d be lucky to work here” attitude.  Which is usually the companies that have the most up and down ratings by their employees of what it’s actually like.  The more ego, the less customer service, the more BS there is – and it’s not fair to the candidate, or the teams that they’d be joining!  Give a realistic portrayal of the job (the positives AND the challenges, y’all), respect the candidate, go the extra mile, and even if it doesn’t end up being the fit you’re looking for, you’ve created, well, simply good karma.

What do I mean by that?  Well, as is common in my work, I had to turn a candidate down and I told him WHY (what is wrong with hiring teams where they say they don’t have enough time or concern to tell someone after an interview why they didn’t get the job?! sheesh!), and within minutes, he sent me the name of a candidate  that he thought would be a closer fit.  How cool is that.

You see, my network is more than a shopping list.  It’s made up of people who can trust that I’ll give them the real scoop on the employers I’m working or have worked with, who know before an interview I’ll share all of my suggestions as to how to prepare for it, and who know that they will NEVER go into a black hole where suddenly they never hear from the recruiter again.

To me, not responding to an applicant, and not responding in a timely fashion is simply unacceptable and unprofessional.   I have seen too many companies where they say “we only respond to those we want to speak to” and then they additionally have the nerve to put that on their website!  So while the candidate took the time to put together their resume and cover letter, and (more often than not) go through your ridiculously long online application process, you can’t even click the auto-decline button in your applicant tracking system to send them a polite no-thank-you?  That’s a giant WTF in my book and means we’ve got a lot of either disorganized or non-service-oriented recruiters out there, which is truly a shame.  You see, unlike the articles often say, Recruiting is not sales. Great recruiting is a combination of marketing, customer service, and logistics.  

I’ve witnessed the full range of candidate experience, from great to deplorable, both from the recruiting and candidate perspective.  I’ve seen hiring managers trying to get out of doing what’s right and fair and legal, and I’ve seen folks setting the bar on what a fantastic candidate and recruiter and hiring team set of experiences should look like.  

As a parting thought, many out there also forget that the recruiter must also be valued and treated with respect –  it’s a team effort, and the folks involved have got to focus on making sure hiring a wonderfully unforgettable, rather than terribly forgettable, experience.


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