You Don’t Know Recruiting
by Susan Strayer and Lars Schmidt
You don’t know recruiting like we know recruiting. Seriously. Okay, maybe you do. Maybe you’re an actual recruiter, working in a company. You have a budget, internal clients and you have to connect your recruiting function to the larger HR organization and the company itself. But if you’re a vendor, consultant, or candidate, you don’t get what it’s like on the inside.
There’s no Recruiters Anonymous where we can stand up and share our woes. No psychotherapists with an in-house recruiter specialty. As recruiting and talent acquisition leaders, we’re not looking to scream and yell or kick down your door. But the root of frustration is this: you don’t know what it means to understand recruiting from the inside out unless you’re on the inside right now.
Every consultant, expert and guru out there has an idea of what recruiters can do better—from talent acquisition strategy to social media to selection. Vendors think they know our business better than we do. Candidates complain we don’t care, we’re not efficient, and we don’t get back to them in time.
Here’s the real truth. There is a sharp disconnect between what the experts say recruiters should do, and what is feasible based on resources, time, bandwidth, and company culture.
Cue the psychotherapy. All it took was one session on the in-house blues to result in how recruiters can get you to…
…stop saying in-house recruiters ‘don’t get it.’
You’ve heard it before—in-house recruiting teams lack the sophistication, drive and motor of their agency or consultant counterparts. But the realities and priorities of an agency recruiter and the realities and priorities of an in-house recruiter are completely different.
Agency recruiters tend to be specialized: working in a particular niche, building deep networks and an intimate knowledge of their space. They search for new business and new candidates. They cultivate relationships with star talent. They make sure they’re aware of the latest news, trends and information affecting their space. They blog, tweet and make deep peer relationships with others like them.
In-house recruiters have a different reality. They juggle 10-20+ positions at any given time, rarely with much input on the types of roles they support. Every job they get is mission critical according to their hiring managers. They review hundreds of resumes for every single job. They field calls from their agency brethren who always seem to have “the most perfect candidate you can possibly ever come across for that job of yours.” They often own every aspect of the hiring process. In their spare time, they may also manage brands, technology, training, and maybe they even sleep. Maybe.
So let’s not make “all things equal” comparisons when discussing agency and internal recruiters. They’re not. This is not a knock on agency recruiters. We like them and know how hard that job can be. This is simply calling BS on the notion that internal recruiters can’t be every bit as motivated, hungry, passionate and successful as their agency counterparts. They just have to channel it into many more things.
…stop saying you should circumvent corporate recruiting at all costs.
There seems to be a lot of chatter out there advising candidates to do everything they can to avoid the “black hole” that is the corporate recruiting team, or circumvent recruiters altogether. There’s merit to the advice that job seekers should network and seize any opportunity to interact with hiring managers (or anyone) inside the company. If you have someone inside the company championing your candidacy, that’s a good thing. But listen closely people: internal recruiters are your friends, your advocates.
When recruiters find an exceptional prospect, they work to make sure doors are opened for them, now or in the future. Internal recruiters know what’s open today, and should have a sense of what’s coming in the future. Many of them are actively engaged in building talent communities, constantly searching for top talent for jobs that may not even be open at that very moment. Remember, in most companies at some point or another recruiting has to be involved; so candidates should invest as much time and energy getting to know the recruiters as they do getting to know anyone BUT the recruiters.
…stop assuming company size and brand correlates directly with available spend.
It’s great to work for a well-known brand, especially when it’s a B-to-C brand that ignites a positive reaction in consumers. But regardless of brand cache, all businesses are run differently. Revenue and margins vary based on industry and product. Forecast and budgets change sometimes as often as the stock price does. And just because we’re big, popular, and/or performing well, doesn’t mean we always have money at our disposal.
If a recruiter can’t afford your seemingly fair contingency fee or cost-effective social media widget, it’s not an excuse. Budgets can be siloed or limited in specific areas. Company strategy can mean that spend is concentrated in areas not related to hiring. Budget timing can vary in companies based on the budget year or planning cycles. It all depends. So let’s stop assuming that big business means big bucks.
…stop ignoring the importance of employment laws.
Let’s take the video resume. It’s hip. And it’s the king of popular content online these days. But in the U.S. where employment laws have to be followed, recruiters have a responsibility not to open their companies up to additional risk. And video resumes are risky in numerous legal areas. That means in-house recruiters at big companies can’t admit them in the process. It doesn’t mean those recruiters aren’t cool or hip to the latest technology. It means that they know their company risk strategy (and legal teams) really well.
The same goes for the application process. Do you think recruiters want it to be complicated? No, but U.S. laws require certain steps. If we don’t follow them, we open ourselves up to risk—risk of not being able to handle an EEO audit. Risk of lawsuits. Risk of negative PR about these issues. Risks of not being able to comply with Federal and state laws that change. All the time. Have you heard of e-Verify?
And for organizations that have contracts with the government, there’s an additional set of laws to follow and great companies want to be ethical and completely in compliance at the same time. So yes, you do have to apply online and follow the process, even if you’re a referral from Mr. Important Executive. The law says so.
…stop assuming we can give feedback and reply to every candidate.
Recruiters are often drawn to this field because of the opportunity to connect with candidates and get to know them over weeks and months, and the unique satisfaction they get when they help candidates find a dream job. Without candidates, we wouldn’t exist (well, doing this at least. We might be in ad sales, or hosting a talk show, or following that lifelong dream of being a ninja for hire).
We do love candidates. But we can’t interact with all of them all the time. Consultants and candidate experience experts love to remind recruiters that they should respond to every application submitted, proving detailed feedback as to why candidates weren’t selected. Sorry, but that just can’t happen.
As mentioned earlier, the average in-house recruiter has 10-15 open jobs at any given time. Depending on the company and the economy, they may receive 300-500+ resumes for every one of those jobs. Good recruiters are also looking for you on job boards, LinkedIn, blogs, social media, networking events, while performing all their other responsibilities. Recruiters can’t possibly provide detailed feedback to everyone who applies based on this workload.
But if recruiters did give feedback, it would very often be one of these four replies:
1) “Make sure you have at least the basic skills and experience required before applying.”
2) “If the posting requests a cover letter include it. You likely won’t be considered if you don’t.”
3) “Typos are sloppy and show us you’re not serious enough about this job to proof your application. This helps recruiters narrow the pool in the beginning.”
4) “You’re right. Your background is a great fit for the experience we’re looking for. But we’re also looking at how people get work done, their behaviors, and you were not a fit for this position at this time based on your interviews. Or, maybe you were, but there was another candidate who was slightly stronger in one or all of the abovementioned areas (which leads us to….”
…stop wondering why you didn’t get a job you thought you were perfect for.
Every recruiter can commiserate with the call from someone who applied for the job, had great experience that was a perfect fit and is astounded they weren’t selected. It probably happens around the world every 6.5 minutes. Here’s the thing—a great recruiter brings in five of those perfect specimens for an interview and there’s only one position. It’s not about the perfect fit on paper at this point—the skill sets of those five have to be somewhat similar. It’s about the perfect fit with the team, the business, the clients, the culture or something that’s key to the role that makes one applicant stand out above another.
Recruiting isn’t a puzzle with pieces that snap perfectly into place—it’s a nuanced process driven by a number of factors beyond “can she do the job?” Plus, many organizations may continue to take resumes even when there are already candidates in the pipeline. Even if a company has given an offer to a candidate they may keep the job open in case the candidate doesn’t accept the offer. Unless a job has a “posted on” date, you could be the first or the 500th perfect candidate.
Internal recruiting is a “different world.” While all recruiters are searching for the right person for the job, internal recruiters are faced with demands, priorities and requirements that are unique to both their position and their company. Broad generalizations about recruiting would send most internal recruiters to therapy—if they had time.
Susan StrayerFrom career coaching to recruiting strategy to social media, Susan has experience with in-house corporate HR and recruiting leadership roles, as a Fortune 500 consultant, and as a career and brand coach. She’s held positions with companies such as Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Arthur Andersen and The Home Depot and has consulted for hundreds of Fortune 500 organizations. Full Bio »
is a passionate recruiting and talent management leader with over 14 years experience in Technology, Web, Media, Non-Profit, eCommerce and Consulting. He’s a fierce HR advocate with a strong track record building and leading progressive recruiting teams. He’s a bit of a digital geek. He’s a friend of technology and social media and a foe of bureaucracy and ‘old school’ HR. The term ‘personnel’ makes him cringe. He’s a dog lover, traveler, husband, rabid FSU fan, challenge seeker and all around good guy. Lars has worked in the Recruiting/Talent space since 1998. He currently leads Talent Acquisition at NPR where he is the voice behind @NPRjobs and provides leadership and advocacy for company-wide talent acquisition initiatives that align with NPR’s strategic mission and core values. Prior to NPR, Lars was the VP Human Resources at Ticketmaster in Los Angeles where he oversaw global talent acquisition, internal communications and employee development. You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter, About.me, Twylah.