As a recruiter I follow Ere.net articles. One of the more humorous, and at times annoying aspects of that and all other recruiting sites, is the constant war between corporate recruiters and third party or agency recruiters. A significant portion of each group is of the opinion that the others aren’t ‘real recruiters.’ As if there was such a thing. It’s funny and maddening, and I’ve been on both sides of the equation so I see points made by each side as sometimes valid and often times ridiculous. There was a recent article by one of their regulars, Dr. John Sullivan, which illustrates this nicely and which I felt like answering point by point.
The aim of his article is to differentiate between Exceptional Recruiters and Recruiters In Name Only, or RINOs. He lists 14 points that differentiate them, here they are with my answers.
An active candidate focus – they may spend nearly 100 percent of their time working with active candidates.
One of the buzz words that always infests recruiting discussions is ‘passive candidates.’ It comes down to marketing essentially, a portion of job seekers are ‘active’, which means actively looking for a new job. A portion is ‘passive’, which means open to moving but not actively looking. The reality is there is a continuum of candidates from desperately looking for a new job to couldn’t give a shit less. The claim, which I have never seen proof of, is that passive candidates are superior.
In my own experience, this is not true, the split seems to be even, or random in other words. What really matters is finding the right person for the job regardless of how they are recruited, and the method by which they are found makes up a very small percentage of the process and has little to no impact on performance going forward that I can see.
Plus, say a guy is not looking for a job and gets a call from a recruiter, and even though he doesn’t go for that option it gets him thinking and he starts looking on his own. Did he just become a worse candidate because of it? The conceit itself is totally ridiculous, and somehow implies that a top performer will never actually be looking for a new job. This is complete BS. If you insist on dividing candidates into Active vs Passive for the sake of simplicity or categorization I’ve got no objection to that, because it just helps define strategies to hit each crowd. However, one has to understand that the populations are dynamic and constantly changing. The guy who was passive last week is active this week. The guy who was active last week is passive now because things have settled down at work or for some other reason. The split between active and passive recruits has nothing to do with performance, it has everything to do with how recruiters have to market opportunities. It’s a business function/decision to be made. You don’t simply and blindly pursue one population or the other on the assumption that the results will be superior. You consider the relative ROI of each approach in the context of each opportunity and chose the approach, or often a mix of both, that is likely to work best.
Passive candidates are merely a large chunk of the market which you have to hit if you really want to get a pool of good candidates to choose from if active sourcing doesn’t produce. It’s marketing in the end, getting the word out to as many people as possible. They aren’t inherently superior, and the constant harping on passive sourcing by many recruiters misses the forest for the trees.
Passive recruiting is also the least productive, most expensive, most time consuming method. This does not lend itself to managing dip shit internal hiring managers who tell you today about a position they needed filled six months ago, despite numerous planning meetings where it was never mentioned even though that was the reason for the meeting: future needs.
Right now I am the only recruiter in a company of 500+ people with over 100 open and active requisitions for new hires and replacements. Quite frankly, I don’t have the time to ‘build a pipeline’ of passive talent which I might want to hire somewhere down the line. I have needs that I have to meet now, not in six months. As such my passive recruiting is allocated toward higher end, difficult to fill positions. I just filled a position with solely passive recruiting. However, I don’t need to passively recruit for entry level customer service and factory people.
Passive recruiting and pipeline building is much more feasible in an agency because there you need to produce people to fill a certain type of position of which you have multiple opportunities, not a specific position in a specific company for which you may have just one opening and not need to fill another for years on end. If I work in an agency whose focus is construction, then Project Managers are people I need to speak to regardless of whether or not I have current openings, because I will have openings shortly. I can create the demand to an extent that can’t be done working within a specific company, unless of course as a recruiter I want to try and actively get coworkers fired.
Passive sourcing should be used when appropriate and necessary, and it is appropriate and necessary when it is needed to get the best person for the job, which is usually when active sourcing is only producing sub standard candidates. Generally speaking the higher up the ladder in a company the position is, the more likely passive recruiting is necessary.
But for the love of God, people, stop harping on Passive Recruiting! as if it’s the end all be all holy grail that will solve every organization’s problems. It isn’t. And while talent acquisition can affect and improve those problems, often the problems are rooted in the behaviors of people, up to and including company managers and principles, who aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and recruiters can’t get rid of those people so the problems persist.
An internal focus – a RINO recruiter is internally focused on knowing and following their own corporate recruiting processes.
Having worked both ends of the spectrum, this is true of corporate and third party recruiters, so it would be a valid differentiation between good and mediocre on both counts, which I believe was the author’s intention.
Cost conscious – RINOs focus on costs rather than increasing revenues or ROI.
This point is moderately correct. The bottom line is cost matters because not every expenditure is an investment. Nor to be frank do most managers or company prinicples view employees as anything but a cost. I personally do; people get paid because they’re doing something productive the company needs. However, you have to strike a balance and choose your battles for your budget. The Ere.net site is littered with articles on how to make the case for such investments, however these articles assume the audience they will be delivered to is rational, even sane. There’s an author there, Keith Halperin, that says many companies are held back by what he calls GAFI; Greed, Arrogance, Fear, Incompetence/Ignorance. Unfortunately this is true. It took me over 3 years of offering proof before my company would agree that paying 25% and more below median wages might affect our ability to source quality candidates.
Authors like Dr. Sullivan seem to assume the basics are being taken care of and that companies are being run competently by rational, reasonable, sane people. This is far from reality. Most companies are medium and small sized companies run by entrepreneurs who often assume they know how to do everything and won’t hear otherwise until their business fails. The response to this issue is to ‘manage’ those people and make ‘the business case’ for yourself. Fair enough, however there are those of us who work in companies run by people who can not and will not be managed to any degree. At my current company people have been trying for thirty years, none have succeeded. Attempts usually end in 30-60 minute long screaming sessions and in the past even physical assaults. Good luck making the business case for spending more money in that environment. Sometimes we have to work with what we’e got.
Job posters and scrapers — active candidates can be easily attracted using newspaper ads, the corporate website, and major job boards. As a result, RINOs spend a significant percentage of their time writing job announcements, posting open jobs…
No major disagreement here, however again implicit in this is the passive/active nonsense. The majority of the hires in any given company will be the nuts and bolts people who do things like customer service and data entry. These people don’t need to be passively sourced, and it would be an idiot who did so. Why waste resources doing such a thing? However this is a common perspective among people with a bias toward agencies and third party recruiting because they often only see a small subset of the positions that need to be filled at any given company. Often times those with an agency bias simply don’t realize that the subset of positions they see is not representative of the company’s total openings, and therefore not representative of the methods necessary to fill the majority of the company’s openings.
Requisition managers – pseudo-recruiters spend a good deal of their time creating requisitions and getting approvals for them. Unfortunately a requisition whether approved or not has nothing to do with actual recruiting.
On this one he goes off the rails. Only someone with a massive third party/agency recruiting bias would suggest that you should allocate time and resources to filling a position when you may not need it filled. What kind of company wants you to spend their time and money going after a goal they don’t want to fulfill? Making sure a requisition is approved is absolutely necessary, and especially so in small and medium sized companies which are often family owned and run, and have a lot of ‘managers,’ meaning people who can scuttle a recruiting effort even after it has been approved. Yay! You just spent three weeks hitting up candidates, getting passives and actives going, and interviewing, and now you find out because the company’s son jumped ahead of the father’s desired timeline, your efforts were for nothing.
Approvals are vital. If you’re responsible for how the money is spent, you know this. Now, an agency based recruiter would consider the time spent an investment because the people will be likely usable and match up with other open positions. That is not the case when working within a company as opposed to working for many companies as a vendor. As such it becomes more and more likely to be time and money wasted as opposed to efforts that will bear fruit later on.
Schedulers — even though scheduling can be better done by admin staff or on a scheduling website, RINOs allocate much of their time to scheduling interviews between managers and candidates.
This is true… except of course for the fact that many companies won’t pay for that administrative staff. So what’s a recruiter to do if they don’t have anyone to pass their admin work off to? But then that’s a question someone would ask if they realized labor costs money, and when they realized that companies will not necessarily have all the staff they need even if it makes sense for them to have those people, even if it makes them more money in an ROI sense. In the real world people simply do not all think that way. As such, recruiters get tasked with duties which are less than optimal uses of their time.
Vendor managers – RINOs feel comfortable letting outsiders do their recruiting for them. And because managers like using third-party recruiters, RINOs do little to limit the use of this expensive external approach. As a result, they spend a significant percentage of their time managing vendors rather than actually recruiting and their costs.
I would say this is correct, which is why I don’t use many vendors anymore.
Offer-letter assemblers – understanding an individual candidate’s expectations are critical to successful closing. Unfortunately, RINOs are not experts in candidate closing so they restrict themselves to creating canned offer letters that are not designed to sell the candidate.
Unfortunately offer letters exist in the real world of litigious assholes. Offer letters have to be controlled because people talk and things don’t always work out. The purpose of the offer letter isn’t to ‘sell’ the candidate, that should already be done at that point. It’s to lay out the offer, and if it is different for every candidate you may well end up in court one day having to explain why.
Reference checkers — only occasionally does reference checking require an exceptional recruiter.
Seeing as how references don’t correlate with good or bad performance on the job, I find this point a bit mystifying. It’s a CYA move; cover your ass for those who don’t know. It looks good to do it, but it doesn’t add value to the process.
They attend events looking for actives — RINOs spend a significant amount of time attending events like job fairs and campus career events that are created exclusively for active candidates.
No argument here.
They sit in – RINOs love meetings, so they attend them at every opportunity. They also frequently look for opportunities to sit in on candidate interviews, even when they add no real value.
Meetings are how we find things out, and how we force hiring managers to sit down and devote some time to thinking about their hiring. We sit in interviews to make sure the HMs don’t screw up and start blathering about illegal subjects, asking irrelevant questions, and more so making sure they ask the relevant ones about performance. i would argue this point because an exceptional recruiter would also want to spend as much time with the HMS and the candidates as they can, it’s how that time is used which matters.
Use the same process every time — years ago research by AIRS uncovered the fact that most recruiters use the same exact hiring process for every job.
True to a point. However a lack of process also usually means a lack of scalability. It also means a lack of data that’s worth a damn, even historical. While the author is right in that you shouldn’t be afraid to try new methods, you have to have some process so there’s some control points so you don’t go off the rails completely. This is the truth of the world of management where not everyone has the discipline or experience to do everything on their own from scratch. Process should be aimed at that end and ensuring performance. As such, process can demand a change in method. Some people hive off into new methods which are really just fads.
No follow-up – after a hire has been completed, they “drop the hire over the wall” and consider their job to be done. They do not follow up in order to later determine the quality of hire and whether the hiring process that they used could be improved.
No argument here, except to say it’s often an issue of logistics as opposed to desire. Sure I’d love to follow up at 30, 60, 90, and even after with all new employees. However, I have more positions that need to be filled and the managers themselves have to step up to the plate on this one. If I’m going to do their job, I want their salary added to mine. We do followups at 90 days in my current company, beyond that it’s the manager’s job. There has to be a hand off point.
Generalists are often RINOs — although there are obvious exceptions, in my experience, many HR generalists simply don’t have the aggressiveness, interest, or skill sets that are required to avoid earning a RINO designation. Some generalists rely on agencies to mask their lack of interest in recruiting.
No particular argument with this point.
The author now goes on to identify the attributes of exceptional recruiters. I’ll address the ones I disagree with.
A sourcing focus on not-actives — rather than sourcing the easy-to-find and sell active candidates, they instead focus their sourcing activities on identifying and convincing the top currently employed individuals to become candidates at their firm.
An exceptional recruiter gets the best person for the job, period. It doesn’t matter where they came from or how they were sourced. A focus on passive sourcing where it is appropriate and necessary is what this should be.
A focus on selling and relationship building — exceptional recruiters realize that even if great sourcing or a strong employer brand brings in top-quality candidates, they know that the best candidates still have multiple job choices (including staying at their current employer). So these recruiters build their selling skills and focus on building relationships that allow them to build trust, identify, a candidate’s job acceptance criteria, and then sell top prospects on applying for and accepting a job.
I have to disagree here as well. A focus on ‘selling’ is the major problem with recruiters I believe. They spend so much time ‘selling’ the candidate and the hiring manager, and everyone feels great about it, and then when the agency’s guarantee period is over and the initial enthusiasm dissipates, often both parties realize it wasn’t such a good match. Ever been sold a car and realized afterward it wasn’t as good as you thought?
The best recruiters find the best fit for a job. Selling may be a part of that, it doesn’t have to be because such good fits often sell themselves. It is the recruiters job to find that match, not to ‘sell’ people on inappropriate jobs or candidates. So many recruiters I’ve worked with spend so much time ‘selling’ us and the candidates that they forget the most basic job requirements and end up selling opportunities to people who wouldn’t last a week in the position, and even if they did last, would be miserable and poor performers.
‘Selling’ includes all professional sales people as well as your slimy used car salesman archetype. The author needs to find a better word for this. Matchmaker might work, but sales has too many negative connotations, at least in my mind, to be the right term to use here to identify this attribute of exceptional recruiters.
A focus on diversity
I have to disagree here too; I could care less about diversity. Again, it’s the best match for the job that matters. If all those people tend to come from India or The Dominican Republic or the south of Manhattan, I don’t care. It may be politically correct to yell diversity, and I do believe cultural diversity in a company provides strength and knowledge you can use, but diversity for its own sake isn’t a priority for me. I don’t even care or look at people’s names when I first see their resumes, much less gauge where they’re from in terms of nationality or culture. If they’re commutable and they can do the job well, those are my only requirements. If that gets me diversity, cool. If not, cool.
Building a candidate pipeline
Again, building a pipeline makes more sense in an agency. In a corporate setting it only makes sense in higher turnover positions. We all have limits on our time and resources, building a pipeline of candidates to fill positions in departments that have had near zero turnover, and with positions can generally be filled on demand, is a waste of time and money.
If you need a constant source of something, water for example, then you build a pipeline. If however you only need a glass of water every now and then, you walk to the stream on an as needed basis. The cost of not having a pipeline has to outweigh the cost of building it before it makes sense to build it. And again, it makes much more sense in an agency setting to build that pipeline because you are responsible for manufacturing the demand for your product. That is not the case in a corporate setting. It would certainly make my job easier to have pipelines for every possible job that might surface which I’d have to fill, it would also cost a shitload more money and take way more time than I have, rather than prioritizing and dealing with some jobs that way, and others on an as needed basis.
Global recruiting – while RINOs only have U.S. recruiting capabilities, exceptional recruiters find the best talent everywhere in the world and include them in their candidate slates. When appropriate, the best recruiters convince hiring managers to allow global and high-impact candidates who won’t relocate to work remotely.
Again, budget no obstacle this would make sense. Many companies don’t support remote working, and moving someone from foreign country to the US is no picnic with regards to time, money, logistics, and paperwork. Especially if you’re tasked with doing it all yourself because of the ‘afore mentioned lack of admin staff. While his above quote sounds reasonable the cost alone associated with it can be monstrous, not to mention that to ‘sell’ these hiring managers on such a method, be it bringing the person to the work place or remote working options, would mean driving a change in corporate culture that is well beyond the ability of most people to do in most situations for simple logistic reasons, never mind their actual ability to do so circumstances allowing.
Overall the author’s article isn’t bad, but it’s fraught with things which show a massive third party/agency bias in approach. The realities of what you deal with within a company as opposed to working for one as a vendor simply do not make many of these approaches cost effective or even productive, and this does not make the people within those companies ‘not’ recruiters. It makes them different recruiters; different skill sets and approaches for different situations is not a weakness and does not make someone a RINO. The priorities working within a company are simply different than those faced by agency recruiters.
Furthermore, the realities of working with many companies simply do not allow for many of these suggestions to be implemented because that’s not what the owners/principles want, and it’s a choice for the recruiter of devoting his time to changing their minds, and probably getting fired in the process because all that time spent telling them how to run their business is usually not welcome, and it is always time spent not doing your primary function. We do not live in some ideal world where all owners/principles in a company are rational, reasonable, and competent. The bell curve applies to all people in all situations, meaning most workers at all levels are… average. As are most managers, most CEOs, most CFOs, most business owners, most doctors, most soldiers, and most recruiters. Expecting people to push excellence through a swamp of mediocrity just isn’t practical. Shit needs to get done, first and foremost, which means almost all functions in all companies will be performing sub optimally all the time.
The trick is targeting and prioritizing your battles so you can get some excellence into the mix. Authors of such articles rarely have practical advice on how to do that. Or, as an example, to get a company to agree to remote work when its principles are so paranoid about document security that one of them actually chased an employee out of the building and jumped on the hood of his moving car to stop him from taking work home. Once I hear how to apply best practices to that environment, I’ll pay attention.
There are many things you can theoretically say companies ‘should’ do to run better. Some of Doctor Sullivan’s recommendations are not off base in that regard. However cost is as subjective as any other price. And companies are willing to bear the same cost differently. Some have a philosophical objection to remote work for whatever reason, or they know their managers are not top notch and can’t handle the situation and aren’t willing to spend the money to improve. That last is key, the improvement is in the minds of the people making the decisions, it is not an objectively provable thing, because even if it results in additional revenues they may not want to do it for other reasons. That may sound ludicrous to some, but monetary factors are not what drive decisions. All factors that matter to the decision maker are what drive decisions, and people rate them as they feel appropriate, monetary and non monetary. This rating is only rational in the sense that it is goal driven, even though it may be totally counter productive toward reaching those goals.
What the author is basically saying is, “I know how to run your business better than you do.” He may in fact be right in monetary and other quantifiable metrics. However, factor the ego and pride of the person you’re saying that to into the equation, and recalculate. That is how decisions are made, which is why many of them are ‘wrong’ decisions in the end. We’re dealing with people, not androids, who exist in a state of varying levels of ignorance about all subjects, but who usually estimate themselves to be expert in everything. Wrestling the necessary control and authority from them is the biggest challenge in helping them make better decisions, not the decisions themselves. Those are usually pretty easy.
Getting the people you’re trying to help to admit they’re wrong, that’s hard.