Can This Relationship Be Saved?

There's a noticeable disconnect between recruiters and hiring managers, according to a new industry survey. What can HR do to get the two sides back on the same page?

Thursday, June 5, 2014
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When it comes to recruiters' effectiveness in filling open positions with talented employees, hiring managers believe there's room for improvement -- and so do recruiters, according to the 2014 State of Recruiting survey by New York-based ERE Media. According to the survey, recruiters tend to give themselves a performance grade of B, while hiring managers tend to give them only a C-plus.

The findings came as no surprise to Elaine Orler, president and founder of Talent Function Group, a recruitment-consulting firm in San Diego. Many recruiters aren't being proactive enough in finding out what hiring managers truly need, she says.

"The ability of recruiters to communicate what they're doing and be in front of the hiring manager's expectations is where we see a lot of them falling short," says Orler. "It's the difference between asking questions of the hiring manager to get what you need to do the job and simply waiting for the manager to tell you what you need in order to do the job."

The ERE survey queried 1,300 recruiters, hiring managers, heads of recruiting and CEOs. It also found that a difference exists between recruiters and the other groups over what constitutes a key measure of recruiting performance: Although all groups think quality of hire should be the No. 1 hiring metric, recruiters and recruiting leaders said they believe time-to-fill is actually the top hiring metric, with quality of hire and candidate satisfaction ranking much lower.

Defining what constitutes "quality of hire" in the first place has been problematic for organizations, says Orler.

"Should it be based on whether the person exceeds expectations, how long they stay? The quality metric should be that they meet the expectations of the job. You can't hire for above-average; otherwise, you'll never fill the position -- 'above average' will become the new average," says Orler, who in a panel on recruiting at ERE's latest conference and co-presents the annual Candidate Experience Awards at HRE's HR Technology ® Conference.

"We have to collect the data points in order to measure this, and we're often failing to collect that kind of quality data element in the recruiting system," says Orler. "A lot of organizations still have that disconnect between recruiting and performance."

Hiring managers aren't the only ones dissatisfied with recruiting: A recent ADP survey of 3,000 adults in large and mid-sized U.S. organizations reveals a chasm between recruiters and job applicants concerning the hiring process. While 46 percent of recruiters think job-applicant tracking "works well," for example, only 16 percent of job applicants feel the same way, according to the survey.

Part of the reason for the disconnect may be that, while today's consumers have been conditioned to expect near-instantaneous responses from using services such as Amazon and iTunes, most of the recruiting systems in use today haven't been adapted to this consumer model, says Terry Terhark, president of talent acquisition solutions at Roseland, N.J.-based ADP. Many don't even acknowledge receipt of a job application or resume with an email message, he says.

The situation isn't helped by hiring managers who may have unrealistic expectations, says Terhark. Many managers, particularly those from well-known companies, assume that everyone wants to work for their company, he says -- which is hardly true, particularly for highly skilled talent in an era of declining unemployment.

"There's always been a gap between hiring managers' expectations and what's actually available in the market," he says. "Often, their understanding of hiring-market conditions differs from reality."

It's up to recruiters to educate managers on actual market conditions -- using available resources such as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if necessary, to give them a more accurate picture of the gap that often exists between supply and demand, says Terhark.

"The more recruiters can do early on in the process to help hiring managers understand what's available, the greater the likelihood that those managers will respond well to the candidates they do see," he says.

Recruiters also need to limit their reliance on technology and devote more time to getting to know candidates and hiring managers via face-to-face meetings, says recruiter Eric Silverman of Blue Horizon Tek Solutions in Coconut Creek, Fla. 

"I think recruiting is still best accomplished the old-fashioned way," says Silverman, who has nearly 30 years of experience in the recruiting business.

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For all the complaints hiring managers may have about recruiters, recruiters tend to have just as many gripes about them, says Scott Erker, senior vice president of selection solutions at Pittsburgh-based DDI.

"Recruiters have lots of complaints about hiring managers -- they're terrible about setting schedules and articulating their needs, for example," he says. "Something in this relationship needs to change."

Recruiters obviously can't force hiring managers to be more articulate, so the onus may be on them to get a better understanding of what managers are looking for, says Erker.

"Recruiters have to know what questions to ask," he says. "It's not 'Tell me about the qualities, attitude and personality you want' but 'Tell me about the business, what this person is going to be doing, the most difficult tasks they'll be faced with.' Let the hiring managers talk in their own language, rather than forcing them to use 'competency language' that they're not used to."

The most successful recruiters embed themselves in the company's business, says Erker, speaking to recent hires and managers and getting a firsthand look at how the company operates. The best recruiters also understand that their job isn't over once a candidate accepts the offer, he says.

"The more progressive recruiters are chasing outcomes and looking at what happens with new hires: Are they productive and engaged, do they intend to stay?" he says.

The latest talent-management systems make it relatively easy to gather data and generate reports so recruiters can get a good sense of how new hires are performing, says Erker.

Smaller companies that can't afford the latest technology can take advantage of free tools such as SurveyMonkey to assess their quality of hire, he says. "You just need the discipline to run that survey every time someone is hired and make sure this happens routinely."

A good relationship between hiring managers and recruiters is ultimately based on mutual trust, says Orler.

"The recruiter-manager relationship is similar to the way we treat vendors: Are they vendors or are they partners?" she says.


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