Recruiters can play a strategic role in any company, but too often their focus is filling jobs with a reasonably competent person at a reasonable cost in some reasonable timeframe. But as far as I’m concerned, this kind of hiring is an overhead function that can be automated with some combination of an ATS, a chat bot, and a robot. A more strategic recruiter, on the other hand, is someone who can consistently raise the talent bar when the right talent is hard to find. Let the robots fill the easy positions. The recruiter of tomorrow is someone who can fill the hard roles, and take my word for it — in the future, there will be more hard ones to fill. Here’s how to get started.
What it takes to be a great recruiter in a tight labor market
1. Know the job. When a top candidate asks “Tell me about the job?” a recruiter needs to be able to describe some of the tasks and challenges the person will be handling and why they’re important. Otherwise, the person will opt-out before knowing what he or she is missing.
2. Be a good interviewer. If the recruiter can’t conduct a professional and accurate interview, hiring manager clients won’t trust their judgment and they’ll need to present too many candidates. Worse still, the best candidates will consider them a gatekeeper, not an advisor.
3. Overcome objections. The best candidates, whether active or passive, will bombard you with reasons as to why they’re not interested. So you have to be persistent and be able to counter their objections in order to engage in a serious career conversation.
4. Get passive candidates to sell you. Recruiting isn’t about selling an awesome job using hyperbole and generic buzzwords. It’s about convincing someone who’s not looking or who has other opportunities that your job is the best — even if the compensation isn’t.
5. Write compelling messages. You don’t need a single skill or “must have” competency to attract the strongest talent. However, you do need to write exciting story-based messages like this one that compel the person to engage in a conversation.
6. Source semi-finalists. Semi-finalists are people who will be seen and prized by the hiring manager and would accept an offer for a modest pay increase if one were extended.
7. Get great prequalified referrals. These are recruiters’ gold since they call you back and are perfectly qualified to do the job.
8. Negotiate offers with modest compensation increases. This is easy to do if someone is out of work or desperate, but these aren’t the people you want to hire. The people you want to hire are not looking or have a few other great opportunities to consider.
9. Be someone worth knowing. Your LinkedIn profile needs to say, “Let’s talk even if this job isn’t perfect. I have other jobs that are — or I’ll be able to put you on a better career trajectory.”
10. Manage the talent pool with metrics using a “small batch, high touch” process. You don’t need a lot of candidates to make one great hire. You just need a few great ones and a well-managed recruiting process, plus an extraordinary candidate experience.
The bottomline is that in order to raise the talent bar, you need to start with a discussion about a possible beneficial career move, not an open job. Don’t worry about filling positions faster and at a low cost. Instead, worry about raising the talent level at your company by going slower, which will allow you to present hiring managers with fewer candidates who will see your opening as the best career move. By getting more high-quality referrals and developing deep-talent networks, you’ll be able to reduce time-to-fill and cost-per-hire while also raising quality of hire.
To stay relevant, recruiters need to develop a high-touch personalized process that leverages technology but is not subordinate to it. It’s my opinion that the quality of the people hired in the future will depend on the quality of the recruiters hired today — and this process starts by mastering the 10 competencies outlined above.