HR and internal recruiters, YOU need to lift your game too

There has been a great deal of criticism of Agency recruiters lately, quite a bit of it from me.

But a recent theme is emerging where Corporate HR managers and internal recruiters have launched some scathing attacks on the process followed by recruiters. A recent blog, Dear John, from Katie McNab being a case in point – albeit a very constructive and fair one.

Truthfully, many of these criticisms are valid. As an industry we are guilty of shortcuts, shoddy service and overselling. It’s not true of all recruiters, but it does happen… a lot.

But, as with most contentious issues in life, there are two sides to this debate. And in the case of the relationship between third-party recruiters and internal HR, it is time for a little clarity on how the HR side of this uneasy relationship can improve, for the greater good.

These observations are my own, based on decades of dealing with HR through countless economic cycles. But to make sure I was taking the pulse of the current Zeitgeist on this, I asked for input from 40 recruiters I know across the globe. And they were very keen to have their say, and much of what they said cannot be reproduced here! But I have summarised their perspective in the 8 points below.

HR and internal recruiters, bring it in tight, I have a secret to share. Recruiters want to make you happy. We really do. We know that some of our number are a pain in the butt for you. But please don’t tar us all with the same brush. In fact some of your number are as bad as the worst of ours. Seriously.

So we promise to lift our game. But we need you to make some changes too.

  1. Please don’t be so defensive when dealing with recruiters. We are not the enemy. We are not even bad people. We know you were once an Agency recruiter yourself, (and we will take your word for it that you were “really, really good” at it), or maybe you have an honours degree in HR, but please don’t lord your ‘power’ over recruiters, who should be your partners and not your ‘vendors’, as you so often call us. Arrogance is not an attractive trait, and it’s not a great foundation for a working relationship.
  2. Please understand that we are not competing with you. We are offering to support your talent acquisition endeavors. Yes, we get that your job includes cutting the cost of outside recruitment, but we are pretty sure your CEO did not mean doing that at the expense of missing out on the best talent. Help us to help you.
  3. Please appreciate the need for urgency in talent acquisition. Requesting candidates, and then not responding to a short-list for six weeks is not in the interests of your employer. And when you do finally ask to see those candidates, please don’t be shocked, even angry, with us, that they are not available any more. Good candidates have options, and they will exercise those options, to your detriment. Please work with us to secure the very best talent available. For you.
  4. Please don’t see yourself as the gatekeeper between the recruiter and your hiring managers. We understand you are managing the process. You are in charge. We respect that. But please, accept you will seldom have the depth of understanding of the role that your line managers will. So let us speak to that manager, to refine and calibrate the search criteria. You lose none of your control by doing this. But you increase the chance of your organisation making a great hire. Keeping us from talking to line mangers is counterproductive. Your company does not need you to be a gatekeeper. They need you to be a conduit.
  5. Please invest time in us. This might mean you need to work with far fewer recruiters than you currently do. And that’s a good thing. For everyone. Don’t make us compete on speed. Make us compete on quality and access to talent. We can only do quality work if you take the time to fully brief us on your hiring needs. In detail. And preferably face to face. In recruiting, as in life, you get what you give.
  6. Please don’t delegate your most junior internal recruiters to brief us on your senior roles. We are not snobby. We will deal with anyone you require us to. But please make sure the person we work with has enough knowledge to communicate all the job requirements, and enough clout to ensure line managers respond quickly.
  7. Please, oh please, communicate with us. Return our calls and emails, not just out of common courtesy, but also because we are representing your employer brand to the talent market. Keep us hanging, you keep the talent hanging. They don’t like it, and they wont like your brand as a result. Be upfront with us about the status of each role. If it’s likely to be filled internally, tell us. If it’s about to be put on hold for a month, tell us. When you interview our candidates, make the time to provide detailed feedback – so we can service out talent, but also so we can refine the search.
  8. Please, take our advice. We understand you have been burned by less scrupulous operators, but please don’t lump us all together. Actually, it’s your responsibility to find a good recruiter and build a strong relationship with them. Sure, set your expectations of us very high, but apply those same expectations to yourself. You want us to listen and understand. You need to do the same. Listen to what we have to say on salaries, on urgency, on market trends and on which candidate to interview. If we get it wrong, warn us, and if we get it wrong too often, fire us. But remember if you treat your recruiter like a transactional drone, chances are, that’s what you will end up with.

The truth is that many of the very best business relationships I have had in my recruiting career have been with smart, demanding, Corporate HR professionals. I love dealing with those people. But they are rare, like good recruiters, I suppose.

It works best when the communications is open and the expectations are clear. But always built on a platform of mutual respect and understanding.

So, recruiters reading this, lets go and fix our processes. Listen to the voice of HR clients, unhappy with what we do. Let’s get our house in order.

But please HR and internal recruiters heed my call. Invest in your relationship with a great recruiter, or a small set of quality, specialised recruiters.

The rewards will astound you.

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Views: 5822

Comment by Boris Stefanovic on May 26, 2011 at 11:40am

The futility of this post is almost painful to me. Reading it makes me wince and makes me more depressed about being an agency recruiter than ever before.


If the role of Corporate HR Recruiters was to make rational decisions and pursue the best solution for their employer most of this would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately the role of Corporate HR Recruiters, especially the junior ones, is to follow procedure. Procedure is not written proactively to improve processes so much as it is written reactively to avoid/deflect liability. It also obscures a giant (and arguably overly complex) mechanism of interrelationships into which that procedure must integrate.


The changes/revelations you propose can only be wrought from within but to join the ranks of corporate HR Recruiters you must first forswear any inclination to deviate from established process.


Every one of your very sensible points cements your position as an outsider so you may as well be shouting at the sky for rain.  

Comment by Mike Hard on May 26, 2011 at 12:06pm

Boris.... Really?


Yes Greg has very sensible points, but bashing Corporate Recruiters ain't the response here.


Corporate HR does a heroic job sourcing on their own, but at the end of the day they need to send SOME jobs to headhunters. Pick your reason: niche, bandwidth, urgency, whatever. They send as few they can because working with headhunters can be a huge hassle, but they send them anyways because - guess what? headhunters work!


Still, keep in mind the pressures HR are under. They're sending 2 jobs to search, and sourcing 20 others at the same time. Scheduling interviews, fielding cold calls, communicating with hiring managers, haggling, updating. They ask for a little process? Damn right they do!


Greg isn't arguing against HR, he's telling HR not to lose sight of the fact that despite all the pressure and need for speed, treat your agencies as your partners. Get back to them. If it's a NO, tell them (it lets them move on). Communicate with them. Move briskly, but move smart




Comment by Boris Stefanovic on May 26, 2011 at 12:40pm

I certainly wasn't intending to bash Corporate HR, so yes...REALLY.


As I hoped to communicate in my post (and I apologize if I was unclear), Corporate Recruiters are not in control of their decision-making and if they were I have no doubt that many of them would already be working more closely with us, communicating with us, recognizing the benefit we strive to bring them. I see them as the loyal footsoldiers who must either unquestioningly carry out their orders or face discipline for breaking ranks. The process they uphold is a small part of a much larger whole.

That Greg's post exists and rings true to us as a group, however, is evidence of a certain futility. I don't know what Greg's market/client base/geographic catchbasin is but every one of his points is echoed by every agency recruiter I've worked with (myself included) over the last 16 years and the eternal meta-message is "We don't get no respect". 

There is nothing in Greg's post that is new or revelatory, it's all eloquently laid-out common sense that appears to be "plain as day" to us and to suggest that Corporate HR recruiters, many of whom have made the transition from our side of the phone, don't know this is to paint them as hapless dolts.


To believe in a Utopian outcome in which we may one day become the glove into which slips the hand of Corporate HR Recruiting is to labor under the delusion that we have a common goal. 

Comment by Boris Stefanovic on May 26, 2011 at 1:16pm

Additionally, Mike, it should be noted in the interest of disclosure that the organization you represent is actively engaged in undermining the likelihood of Greg's suggestions being adopted. The very name "Bounty Jobs" reduces us to a class of mercenaries (or Bounty Hunters) who are by definition loyal only to money and self-interest. Furthermore, the engagement structure of BountyJobs exists to allow HR to keep us at arms length and swap us out with every search.


Your participation in this forum, therefore, is as a salesman profiting specifically by undermining long-term relationships between HR and Agency recruiters as you are not, nor have you ever been, either.

Comment by Jason Hartman on May 26, 2011 at 1:56pm
As a corporate recruiting manager "drone", it's interesting to view these conversations.
We actually do add strategic value and are not just another cog in the process wheel.  As someone who's involved in the planning, budgeting talks, and yes, decision making of openings and candidate selection, I can say we're not just tasked with being a gate keeper, but a strategic partner.  We've been brought on board to not only reduce fees, but also enhance hiring and candidate experience.  We're on the inside of the walls.  Beyond sourcing and skill set, we focus on fit, career planning, retention.  These are all huge facets.
These are also things agencies rarely take into consideration.  Yes I know you'd love contact with the hiring manager, but they don't have a lot of time to spend with you either, nor do they want to. 
I've come from the agency background myself, albeit 11 years ago, I get it.  I choose not to work with agencies now, not just because of fee reduction, but because it takes more of my job to maintain them, then it does for me to find and hire the candidates myself.  In addition, we know what roles are actually OPEN.  I can't tell you the number of times I've had to reel in an agency who attempted to work with a hiring manager directly, only to have to tell them they weren't working with the right decision maker, and that we don't even have headcount.  This is a huge waste of the agency's time and resources.
All in all, this article by Greg comes off as patronizing, insulting, and insincere. 
So, apologies for the long winded post, but listen to us too.  We actually know what we're doing.
Comment by Chaser on May 26, 2011 at 4:55pm



Sorry Greg...Boris 2 you 0.


@Jason...Are you saying as outside recruiters that we don't also focus on "Fit, career planning and retention.."


And sounds like you were working with one too many Agencies if it took too much of your time.  As well when you say things like "we actually know what roles are open and that the Agency Recruiter was working with the wrong HM"...You echo exactly what Greg was stating about the perception of internal HR and Recruiting...Sounds like you did a poor job of communicating to the multiple agencies you were working with when you should only have had two active agencies AT MOST.  ...And thank you for showing us its actual reality then just perception. 


And yes Hiring Managers DO want to talk to us because typically internal HR/recruiting has no clue about their needs and it takes a specialist to listen and understand what it is they truly seek...Once again beyond skill set...Chemistry has to fit too.  How do we know what a Hiring Manager is like or a particular team if we don't get the chance to engage with them...Your perception may not be my perception to how someone/department acts or "is" hence why we want direct contact.  Furthermore If you were all about being a "strategic partner" to fill the role with the best talent possible then you would continue to use an Agency you can trust and one that can deliver...


Greg doesn't come across insulting or insincere at all...You come across very insecure and I'm not sure why you would take offense to his post especially if you've been on the outside before even if its been 11 years...ya trader!

Get back to being a Recruiting Manager delegating to your team of "recruiters" and we'll stick to doing what it is we do best...Filling the roles you cant.  Anybody can grab the low hanging fruit so hit those job boards Jason, you got some work to do!  ha




Comment by Jason Hartman on May 26, 2011 at 5:59pm
Thanks Chase....So these are the views, client service, and attention to detail I (and hiring managers) should expect from using your company, Career Strategies?  Excellent branding.
You've done an amazing job here at solidifying and perpetuating the reputation of your field.
You're wrong on all accounts above, but I, and the people I know who've viewed your comment, got a great chuckle.  Best of luck.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 26, 2011 at 6:38pm

My, my, my Jason,

Perhaps the problem is that like many internal recruiters you see any attempt by an outside recruiter to reach out and ask for cooperation, mutual respect, and communication as "patronizing, insulting and insincere."


By all means if you can fill all the jobs needed at your company there is no reason for you to use an agency so my question is why are you taking such great umbrage and throwing a foot stomping, insulting little fit in response to a what appears to me to be a sincere, open and honest request for both internal and external recruiters to work together, up their game and help each other.


My impression of your comments is that your immaturity is sticking out all over the place.  You certainly may know what you are doing but as Greg stated many of your counterparts do not. Just as many of our counterparts give us a bad name so do many of yours.  Throwing insults around then trying to justify that type of behavior by insinuating that you and your coffee group are chuckling is a junior high response.  Don't do that it ruins your personal image and makes you look childish.

Comment by Meagan Johnston on May 26, 2011 at 6:43pm


I’m blown away by your comment and lack of professionalism.   I’m also surprised that you would post something as unprofessional as this – knowing that your audience both internal and external recruiters are pretty connected (some of us more than others). Being the expert agency recruiter that you are, you must know how valuable a recruiter’s company and reputation is and how fast word travels. So it is unfortunate a good chunk of recruiters in the US have a pretty good idea of the type of service and respect (or lack of) that you could potentially give them as client.  

Comment by sbarbour on May 26, 2011 at 6:55pm
I am in Corporate Recruiting today but have been on both sides and could take offense to some of these comments. It almost reads as external recruiting provides more value, really? I don't find it valuable nor do my managers to receive non-stop calls all day from agency recruiters promising to have the best candidate, wish I could call all of you back but I don't get paid to return agency calls.  Just like anything there are good recruiters and bad recruiters both internal and external. Good Corporate Recruiters don't need BS like Greg's post, and can and should be able to build strong agency relationships so the hiring manager does not need to play a role. Please do not think Corporate Recruiters have insecurities around filling jobs themselves, we don't or at least many of us don't. My job is to help filter the noise for managers, and make quality, long-term hires as fast as possible. Any happy hiring manager will prefer to have one point of contact (internally) and be in a position to trust their Recruiter to manage staffing no matter the source. I think the post actually makes agency recruiters look worse...discouraging.


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