By Ron Proul, CEO
Right now, with unemployment at less than 5%, companies are reaching out to us to fill their openings and looking for results. The government says 5% unemployment is a healthy unemployment level, considering it “full” employment. With the current unemployment rate at 4.4%, recruiting’s best practices are under heavy scrutiny as during a full employment market, recruiters, more than ever, hear… “Hey, where are all my candidates and why aren’t we seeing anyone?” Unfortunately, it’s typically a lack of understanding of how a contingency recruiter works combined with what companies do to hinder the process that creates this vacuum in the search process.
Contingency recruiters work on a success fee basis; they work on multiple openings to spread the risk of investing time without a return on investment. Companies that don’t understand this reduce the effectiveness of a success-fee relationship usually without taking notice of the very things they can control that will increase the effectiveness of the process.
Here are some behaviors that may be hindering your recruiting department from taking full advantage of your contingency search partners and some simple solutions:
1. Hurry up and wait
We have all seen this scenario first hand – the mandate is issued; this is an important job; we need all hands on deck; we want this person hired immediately! Every agency is called; the job is posted all over the Internet on job boards, social media, and association web sites. Soon, you discover every candidate you talk to has heard about the opening, submitted a resume and referred a friend. But wait, no one has had an interview. The human resources person, usually working on 20 other open requisitions, has no time to follow up with agency submissions, ad responses or referrals. The sense of urgency has grounded to a halt.
Now when you talk with a possible candidate, you both agree that the job must have been filled because no one has heard back. You take your ball and go home but just then, the phone rings the company frantically declares, “The search is on, we need people.” But wait, everyone you’ve already submitted has a job, candidates have lost interest, candidates think there must be something wrong with the job, and as a recruiter, you can’t afford to invest any more time on contingency because the possible return on your investment is close to zero. You have a lot of other serious employers that need your attention instead.
SOLUTION: To avoid the fire drill, be selective with postings to sources that present the opportunity to the right community. Select recruitment partners that specialize and have your trust. Most of all communicate the timeline for the hire. If you aren’t ready to move, don’t post the job, but rather conduct a more deliberate search through your partners with the understanding the select candidate drives the process. If it is all hands on deck, fewer rather than more partners may produce better results, so they can focus and afford to invest the time.
2. Let me phone screen first
The whole recruiting industry has this wrong and it drives me nuts. This is a lazy, half-hearted, useless exercise which makes internal hiring authorities fool themselves into thinking that they are doing something to fill their job. Usually, a person who isn’t qualified to do a technical interview, (the only kind of phone screen that can be acceptable), gets on the phone with a few basic questions that really don’t tell you how legitimate a candidate is. A phone interview takes as long as an in-person interview; is usually followed by an in-person interview and drags the process out longer than necessary. An interview process viewed as too long has been identified as a sure-fire way to lose good candidates. For some reason, the phone interview was supposed to improve the process – not true. Most of the time a phone screen can eliminate candidates who do not represent well in a phone interview, but are much better in person. Or once you like them on the phone, you set them up only to find that the candidate isn’t serious enough to make an in-person interview let alone a job change. Worse yet, the candidate was turned off during the phone screen. You invested a half hour only to find when the candidate came in that they weren’t a good chemistry fit or were already off the market. There is no such thing as a phone screen in a full employment market. If you are not selling the minute you get on a phone and advocating for your company, you are at a disadvantage to companies and recruiters that are.
You need to meet people to hire them; why are you avoiding the very activity you need to do to make a timely hire? When you call a candidate, it is to advocate for the company and sell the opportunity to invite them in for an in-person interview, so that a legitimate evaluation of the entire candidate can take place.
SOLUTION: To entice your partners don’t be the roadblock with a phone screen, recruiters won’t waste your time with inappropriate candidates because they’ll see that you understand the process and as such, are a valuable client. Candidates seeing the environment they will work in is part of your recruiting process. Ask your partners to set up their top three candidates for an in-person interview. If they are a specialist and experienced, your search partners will take care of your time, and if they don’t they are the wrong partners.
3. Your company has a bad reputation
This form of denial is dangerous. Company culture and morale are cornerstones of recruiting and of keeping productive employees, so it is amazing to me when there is a problem in the market with a company’s reputation and the company is slow to react. To be fair, usually it isn’t the whole company; it’s a department or a segment within the company. When the issues are primarily a manager that is highly-productive and creates value in other ways, taking notice can be difficult, but turnover should never go unnoticed. Nonetheless, when the feedback is given the client usually says things like, “Well, we only want the best and so we are not the place for everyone” or “That candidate wasn’t that good.” You hired them…so you’re saying that you aren’t that good at hiring, onboarding, training and developing? Rather than taking a hard look at the pattern, the company usually blames the candidate or the recruiting firm. Stop! After two bad hires, recruiters get the picture; why don’t companies see that themselves?
SOLUTION: IF you are sensing a problem ask for feedback. Make sure you are doing exit interviews, Ask your recruiting partners what they are hearing in the marketplace. Ask if they are seeing resumes from your firm coming in from job postings. You don’t need to put them on the spot by asking for the names but most recruiters can tell you what they see and hear in the marketplace. Remember a good recruiter is talking with everyone working or not.
4. It’s your problem now
Companies with turnover resort to demanding lower recruiting fees because they say they’re paying too many. And they request longer and longer …and longer guarantees on candidates placed. Any self-respecting recruiter knows what a long guarantee is symptomatic of, he or she should run for the hills at that point. It’s amazing that companies themselves don’t see it. I interpret it like this – rather than taking responsibility that the company has difficulty finding and keeping good employees, “We want you, Mr. /Mrs. Recruiter, to work twice as hard to overcome our reputation, work for a lower fee (if we pay you at all), because we want you to take on the entire risk of how we treat our employees by extending your guarantee.” Sorry, no can do Mr./Mrs. Employer; next!
SOLUTION: Just don’t do this! Pay a market fee, and a standard guarantee to get the best to work. If a recruiter accepts this type of arrangement chances are you are getting what you pay for. Even during the downturn, we held our fee schedule and guarantee schedule. Guess what? My staff prospered and continued to service the clients that valued our service. It is one thing to “take a job order” it is a completely different amount of effort to “work a search” and go find someone that isn’t actively looking. Without a competitive structure, you will only get the candidates that other clients already passed on.
5. They are already in my database
I love this one. Some CRM or vendor management service has sold a company on a product to solve all of their recruitment deficiencies. They promise you the CRM will capture all the resumes and submissions in the database so that your recruitment professionals can search, source and keep recruiters from earning fees for prior candidates submitted to the company. The one problem is no one knows how long, or how, to keep the information up to date. There is really no incentive for the internal recruiting people to continually mine and update the database prior to an opening so when an opening comes up, the CRM information is old, or worse yet, trapped in the system never to be accessed. Then, a recruiter is hired because the company’s internal resources weren’t successful. The recruitment firm actively sources, recruits, and submits the perfect resume only to be told, “It’s already in my database,” or, “I’m connected to them on LinkedIn so we aren’t going to pay your fee.” Wait one minute, you have the candidate in your database and couldn’t make the match until I pointed it out? Shame on you, as if someone in your database is more valuable than the work the recruiter put in to match and attract the candidate for this very opening that you couldn’t fill. Can recruiters earn a fee just for having someone in a database without making a match, pre-qualifying and convincing the candidate the job is right for them? No, they can’t! Three things happen with companies that repeatedly do this to recruitment partners, (1) the recruiter asks the candidate where the mix up is and usually the candidate says, “I haven’t applied there for two years or talked to them” …then… the next two things happen; (2) the external recruiters stop working hard to find anyone and (3) starts ensuring that particular candidate has as many interviews as possible and is off the market before the company can phone screen them. Yes, companies that have a database searching problem usually have a “hurry up and wait” or a “phone screen problem”.
SOLUTION: There is only one solution for this, a well structured and fair agreement with your search providers. One that spells out how long a providers referral is good for and as a client you are held to the same standard. Make sure there is a clear definition of a referral and the standard to be considered a referral spelled out. Everyone one likes to know the rules of engagement. Comes right down to business ethics and codes of conduct in commerce.
So now you say… “Where are all my candidates?”