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Do your recruiters know what they’re looking for?

November 15, 2016

By Dan Van Slambrook, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Imagine being sent on an assignment to find a very specific person in a large city many miles away, but only being given limited information to describe the person being sought after.  One might imagine themselves spending a great amount of time searching, only to discover the one they identified was not ultimately a match, at all.  Recruiting is much like this.  Recruiters are essentially given the mission of finding talent among potentially thousands of candidates.  All too often, they are given vague information as to a hiring manager’s requirements—or conversely, “laundry lists” of requirements that a single candidate could not possibly possess.  The result is a search that is often inefficient, costly, and frustrating for all involved.  What’s the solution?

It’s critical that hiring managers work closely with recruiters to impart the specifics of what they’re looking for when a position needs to be filled.  Ultimately, it is the hiring manager’s responsibility to get that vacancy in his or her department filled.  Yet the recruiter plays a vital role in identifying the candidate who the hiring manger will interview and ultimately, select.  It follows that the partnership between hiring manager and recruiter is an essential one, and the better the information exchange is between the two, the more efficient the recruiter’s search for qualified talent will be.

Although a job description may exist for a role, these may be outdated or too broad to be relied upon exclusively.  An initial meeting between recruiter and hiring manager is a great best practice for launching a new employee search.  As Stephen Covey wrote, “Begin with the end in mind.”, and that’s exactly what should be established for recruiters to have a clear line of site for the talent they’re targeting.  The hiring manager should describe the qualities of the candidate that he or she would ultimately like to hire, and also the role and department.  This initial meeting is a needs assessment and sometimes called an “intake meeting” or “qualification meeting.”   Whatever name it’s given, the meeting should take place at the front-end of the search process when the recruiter’s support is enlisted to fill the position, with a goal of establishing the following:

a)       An understanding of the job and department.  This will help the recruiter envision not only the responsibilities of the job, but also equip him or her to paint an accurate picture for candidates.  This part of the conversation will answer a number of questions for the recruiter, including:

  • Why the position is open
  • How the role fits in the department and company
  • What the scope of responsibility will be
  • Where the position is to be located, and any travel requirement
  • Chain of command
  • Work environment, including the work culture of the department
  • Target compensation range

b)       The qualities necessary to succeed in the role.  The recruiter needs to understand the basic qualifications that are required for the role.  These are best quantified, as it will help the recruiter objectively separate those who meet qualifications and those who do not.  This is particularly important for federal contractors, who will be required to track and “disposition” candidates.  Qualities can be broken down into several categories:

  • Knowledge (example:  knowledge of human physiology)
  • Skills (example: must be able to complete a pivot table in Excel)
  • Abilities (example:  must be able to lift 10 pounds)
  • Other Characteristics (example:  must have at least 5 years of Java development experience)

c)        Setting expectations.  In the spirit of the partnership that exists between hiring manager and recruiter, an intake conversation isn’t complete without setting expectations from both parties.  This will help the recruiter prioritize his or her efforts, and also establish accountability between the two.  This part of the conversation should cover:

  • If the manager has approval to hire, or at what point he or she expects to
  • The urgency to fill the position
  • The recruiter’s estimate of when he or she expects to deliver candidates to the manager for review
  • The hiring manager’s commitment to deliver feedback to the recruiter on presented candidates 

Hiring managers sometimes express concerns of being too busy to invest time in an up-front intake meeting.  Yet when one considers the recruitment time required to identify qualified candidates, a fiercely competitive labor market, and multiple demands these days for a recruiter’s time, managers really can’t afford not to invest the time.  

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