Working with Your Recruiting Partner

Oil and water, fire and ice, yin and yang, Red Sox and Yankees…recruiters and hiring managers. Here’s how these occasional opposites can work better together.

Business, like politics, makes for strange bedfellows. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the sometimes-unhappy marriage of hiring managers and recruiters. It’s not just that some recruiting agencies can drive their clients absolutely bananas. The love-hate relationship runs even deeper than that. It’s almost as if the two parties, recruiters and hiring managers, were born to lock horns. As a client of mine once joked to me, we’re like the original “odd couple.” On the one hand, most recruiters like to work quickly and make things happen fast, partly out of necessity — in most cases, we only get paid after a placement is made — but also because we understand that there’s a brutal war for talent out there, and companies need to move and act swiftly, before they miss out on a great candidate or, worse, lose them to the competition. By contrast, hiring managers, on the whole, tend to be somewhat more methodical and deliberate in their approach; they want to make sure that every “i” is dotted, every “t” crossed, so that they can be confident a hire is right for their organization, since they’ll ultimately have to live with the results. (I’m painting in broad strokes here, of course — not every recruiter or hiring manager fits these generalizations.)

The hiring manager-recruiter relationship is, in the first instance, one of convenience and circumstance, bringing together these two very different tacks and temperaments. Your company has a staffing need that, for want of time and manpower, it can’t fill on its own, and so you’ve solicited the aid of a recruiting agency, which has the personnel, expertise, and resources to recruit, source, and screen the best talent for the position. But the relationship between hiring managers and recruiters is also a strategically valuable partnership — or it should be, at any rate. Both, after all, are ultimately working towards attracting and acquiring the best talent. Yet all too often, hiring managers and recruiters find themselves at loggerheads over one thing or another. Because hiring managers and recruiters don’t always see eye-to-eye, I’ve put together the following set of pointers for how you, as a hiring manager, can work more productively and effectively with your recruiting partner.

Describe your ideal candidate

To ensure that your working relationship gets off on the right foot, it’s critical that at the outset you properly brief the recruiter on what you’re looking for in a hire. That includes not only the technical qualifications, experience, and education required for the job (as well as anticipated compensation package), but also the precise types of personality, attitude, and other intangible qualities a candidate should possess, in order to merit consideration.  It’s especially helpful if you can describe an incumbent or another previous employee who was successful in the position, so that we can identify the kind of professional background and personal traits that you’re looking for in a successor. If any of these requirements need to be updated at any point, either in response to the prospective talent available for the position or a change in the project, business, environment, or some other external factor, inform your recruiter immediately; trying to hit a moving target can be time-consuming and frustrating for all parties concerned.

It’s almost as if the two parties, recruiters and hiring managers, were born to lock horns.

Explain the job in detail

In addition to your image of the ideal candidate, your recruiter needs to know as much as possible about the actual job itself. This means scratching beyond the surface of the official job description. Be as honest and as thorough as possible in describing the position. For example, what will the successful candidate’s typical workday consist of? What kinds of projects or assignments will they be working on? Who will they be reporting to, or who will they be supervising? One of the major reasons employees give for leaving a position in the first year is because they feel the work they ended up doing was not in fact what they were told they would be doing. The easiest way to avoid this sort of turnover is to specify your job needs as precisely and accurately as possible at the outset. If you yourself are unclear as to what the job would require, your recruiter can help you break down its different responsibilities and identify the most important performance requirements.

Set expectations and a timetable

Jointly establish a roadmap and timeline for the recruiting process — from sourcing and screening candidates, to reviewing resumes and reports, to conducting interviews and callbacks, to making the final call. That way, both you and your recruiter will know what to expect, and can organize your schedules around important dates and milestones. Be sure to convey to your recruiter the priority of the position for your company, as well as of any challenges it’s faced as a result of the vacancy or in trying to staff the position. How urgently do you need the position filled? How long has it already been vacant? What kind of impact do you expect a hire to have on your business?

Similarly, you should be upfront about how available you and the other stakeholders will be to provide input and direction throughout the process. How long will it take to round up all of the key decision-makers to interview candidates? What do you expect your response-time will be after candidates have been presented? By the same token, your recruiter should give you a rough idea of how many resumes you’ll likely need to review, or how many candidates you’ll end up interviewing. Setting a realistic timetable for both parties can spare a lot of needless waiting and frustration on everyone’s parts.

Setting a realistic timetable for both parties can spare a lot of needless waiting and frustration on everyone’s parts.

Help your recruiter sell your company

A good recruiter will want to learn not just about the job you’re hiring for, but the company as a whole. Remember, they have to sell candidates on your company as much as they will be trying to sell you on the candidates they present. In fact, as the one on the frontlines, they will be many candidates’ first point of contact and interaction with your company. But to be an effective ambassador for your business’ brand, your recruiter needs to know it inside-out: its products and services, its corporate culture and leadership, its forecasts and history, and so on.

You, the hiring manager, are their primary source and authority for this information. Make yourself available to talk or meet with your recruiter, as this will give tnew-call-to-action

hem a flavour for your organization — something they will be able to pass along to candidates. Arrange for a visit to the job site, where they can see the work environment firsthand. Introduce them to the staff whom the successful candidate will be working with, as well as the other members of the hiring team, so that they can get taste of the specific management style and culture of your company. This kind of facetime can serve as a recruiting tool, to persuade candidates that they should want to join your company.

Provide feedback promptly and constructively

Avoid procrastination: once your recruiter has qualified candidates and submitted them for your feedback or approval, it’s imperative that you respond promptly. This isn’t so much about courtesy as it is about strategy. Even in a buyer’s market, top-flight talent — the kind you want to join your organization — will always have other options, and they won’t be content to sit around and wait for you to make up your mind. And remember: the superstars of today could very well be the clients or partners of tomorrow, so it pays to be responsive, lest your company’s reputation end up sullied.

If you don’t feel a candidate is a good fit, provide feedback explaining your reasons. Be honest, but constructive in voicing your concerns; that way, your recruiter can adjust their further efforts accordingly. Hear out your recruiter if and when they make their case for a candidate. At the end of the day, you still may not agree that they’re right for the job — it is ultimately your call, after all — but your recruiter may a different insight into the value a candidate can add to your organization, which you might not be able to see from your vantage-point.

But to be an effective ambassador for your business’ brand, your recruiter needs to know it inside-out: its products and services, its corporate culture and leadership, its forecasts and history, and so on.

Keep your recruiter in the loop

The best recruiters give as good as they take. That is, they serve as consultants throughout the whole recruitment process, lending you their considerable knowledge of the practice and industry of hiring. For example, your recruiter can help you conduct effective interviews or come up with better interview questions to pose to candidates; assuming it’s feasible, you may even find it worthwhile to have them join in on panel interviews of candidates with the rest of your interviewing committee. When it’s time to extend an offer to a successful candidate, your recruiter can, if you like, aid with salary negotiation, by acting as an experienced third-party mediator between the candidate and yourself. Your recruiter should be a resource you can draw upon to guide your hiring strategies and decision-making — be sure to take advantage of their stengths and make the most of their expertise.

Build the relationship

This final point is actually the precondition for everything I’ve suggested up till now, but I’ve saved it for last because it’s also the most important. The best way to get you and your recruiter on the same page is to treat them less like a vendor from who’ve you procured a service, and more like a partner with whom you’re working to grow your business. (It cuts both ways, of course: your recruiter should treat you as more than just a paycheque.)

Think about it like this: when you’re dealing with your family doctor, your lawyer, your wedding planner, or your home decorator, you know that you’re more likely to get the results you want if you work constructively with the other party and try to cultivate a relationship with them, rather than just barking out orders and instructions and expecting them to be heeded without contest. It’s no different with your recruiter. Two heads are only better than one if they aren’t butting each other all the time. A value-added partnership can only be built when there’s some level of trust and confidence between the two parties. And that starts with you thinking of each other as more than just either buyers or sellers, and more as peers and partners.

Thawing the sometimes chilly relations between hiring managers and recruiters requires effort from both sides. Remember that you and your recruiting partner ultimately have the same goal — to attract and recruit the best talent for your organization. A great hire benefits everyone involved, while a poor one is no less equally shared. We all know that the right kind of talent can transform your business. Work with your recruiter to make that happen.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!