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Often Recruiters Can Never Truly Be a Partner

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 02/16/2017 in Recruiting articles |

I have been a recruiter for a long time and spoken with a lot of my peers about this.  In the end, I think Human Resources/Talent Acquisition has messed up the possibility of being partners to many hiring managers.  We keep saying hiring managers are our primary customers.  There is a difference between customers and partners.

We also all have heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.”  Some of us send out hiring manager satisfaction surveys and others have them integrated into the performance reviews of the recruiters.  I hear peers say that we do everything we can “to make our hiring managers happy.”  We want those glowing reviews of hiring manager satisfaction surveys because it will reflect upon our salary increases and bonuses.  In this way, it is dangerous to displease a hiring manager.

Thank you Mary Wang (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We put all this effort and focus on making hiring managers happy, and to do so I have been witness (over the years) to breaking policies and standard procedures in order please the hiring managers.  Treat all applicants equally…oh, this one is the son of a friend of the director…interview him anyway.  Everyone must meet the minimum requirements of the position…oh, this is someone the hiring manager knows and didn’t know she was looking for a job and oh, she doesn’t meet all the requirements…but we want her interviewed anyway.

Think about the kind of relationship this creates with hiring managers.  When this kind of stuff happens, are we partners or are we underlings/minions?

Part of the problem is because many of us think it is our job to make the hiring managers happy and totally satisfied with their experience of recruiting.  It isn’t.  Our job is to hire the best people for the company.  Our highest priority is the good of the company, not a single hiring manager.  It is to make sure the policies and procedures of HR/talent acquisition are followed.  So that if we are ever brought to court for a discrimination lawsuit or our hires questioned by auditors, we can clearly show that we were doing things consistently and correctly.  Of course, this means that at times this is against the wishes of hiring managers.

Another part of the problem is that many companies have very little accountability required from hiring managers.  If our relationship is truly to be a partnership, then hiring manager’s should also have recruiter satisfaction surveys.  Did the hiring manager give feedback in a timely manner?  Was the feedback detailed enough to be usable in tweaking the screening criteria going forward?  In partnerships, things should be equal.

Recruiters at some companies are assessed by candidate satisfaction surveys.  Hiring managers should have candidates assessing them on their part as well.  Did the hiring manager show up on time to the interview?  Was the hiring manager prepared for the interview?

Thank you Steven Depolo (CC BY 2.0)

I think hiring managers’ performance reviews should also be linked to their performance as a hiring manager.  If a hiring manager takes 3 weeks to give feedback on candidates on average, then that should impact their performance as a hiring manager (and be reflected as a component in pay increases and bonuses).

Without having this accountability, the hiring managers really don’t care about the recruiter’s problems of not getting timely feedback.  As recruiters, we get more desperate and beg for feedback…and this is not the relationship of partners, but more like servants.

There should be a policy that any job that is open for four months (six if you want to be generous) or longer without an offer being eminent…the position should be cancelled.

I have seen jobs stay open longer than a year.  You get hundreds of applicants.  The hiring manager interviews two dozen applicants or more and none are quite strong enough in all the categories they want.  Who is doing the job while this is open for so long?  Is this a real need?

Making hiring managers go back and create a new job every four months (3 times a year) will make this problem more visible.  Visibility is key for accountability.  The various approvers of new jobs will start asking questions.  Why do we keep seeing this job open up over and over again?  Is there really a need if it has been so long?  It adds a level of accountability for positions that hiring managers that may be being too unrealistic.

I have brought this idea up my managers a couple times, but it was laughed off.  It would not make the hiring manager’s happy.  Of course it wouldn’t…but it would equalize the relationship a bit.  Thereby making it more possible to become partners.  It should be noted, the loudest opponents to the idea among hiring managers are probably your worst offenders.

This is a systemic problem in talent acquisition.  We are all so busy trying to please…and in doing so we are undermining the possibility of being a partner.  I keep hearing recruiters should be partners, but partners do not bow at ever turn like this. Partnership is among equals.

Thank you dianaholga (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A balance must be reached.  There should be an equal accountability for the candidate experience for recruiters and hiring managers.  There should be an equal review (of satisfaction) of each partner doing their job to make the recruiting process work.  Each partner should have it tied to their performance, which is tied to pay increases and any bonuses.

Until it is balanced and equal, recruiters are really not partners nor can they ever really be…because we are not equals.  Instead it is a one-sided relationship where recruiters are at the disadvantage (therefore subservient)…and hiring managers know it.

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