How fools recruit: 'I'll know them when I meet them'

No matter how far we think businesses have come with respect to recruitment and employment practices, there are always plenty of reminders that old habits die hard. 

One of these old habits is the classic client response to a recruiter who requests a job description; ‘I don't need a job description, I'll know them when I meet them'

This would be laughable if it weren't so common to hear, even in 2014.

Considering the amount of money at stake in hiring somebody (not just direct costs like wages and recruitment costs but indirect costs like training and job/colleague/client adjustment time), it seems foolish in the extreme to be so cavalier as to not think it worthwhile to have anything in writing about the job you wish to fill or employee you wish to hire. What person would attempt to build a house without first having a plan? 

If you want to find your way to a destination, does a detailed map help or hinder you? Given the popularity of Google Maps I think we all know the answer. Of course a person may find their way to a destination without a map, but in all likelihood the journey will take longer and cost more. 

An effective job description broadly contains five things: 

  1. clarity about why the role exists (ie the overall purpose of the job)
  2. what needs to be done (ie the task or responsibilities of the role)
  3. how it needs to be done (eg the lines of authority, the demarcation with, and relationship to, other roles, resources available, etc)
  4. the performance to be achieved (the accountabilities or success criteria of the role)
  5. the key selection criteria (ie the existing capabilities required of candidates to be seriously considered for the role) 

The benefit to both the recruiter and the hiring manager is, I would hope, obvious; there is now a clear benchmark that both parties are working with. 

When a job description does not exist, all you have is a person's interpretation of what was said in a conversation about the vacancy. Such interpretations are both subjective and, of course, likely to be remembered differently by each side as time moves on. 

However a job description is really just the first piece of the recruitment puzzle. It is also critical to have a recruitment brief. 

The recruitment brief is a document that details all the information required to efficiently plan for, and execute, the recruitment of the position detailed in the job description.

An assignment brief should contain, at least, the following: 

  1. Remuneration and benefits details
  2. The candidate sourcing process
  3. Ideal or projected start date
  4. The interview and assessment process
  5. The background checking steps
  6. Verbal offer and written offer process
  7. Recruitment budget
  8. Recruitment timeline
  9. Overall ownership of the recruitment process 

As you can see, there are many other factors besides the job description that need to be identified, considered and a decision made about, before the actual candidate sourcing process should begin.

Completing, and working from, an accurate recruitment brief maximizes the likelihood that the recruitment process will deliver the desired candidate within the projected time-frame and budget.

Given the number of things that can occur outside of your control during a recruitment process, it is reckless to be ignorant, lazy or ill-considered with all the factors that are within your control during a recruitment process.

‘I know them when I meet them'?


I certainly know a recruitment fool when I hear one.

Views: 829

Comment by Gordon Alderson on March 27, 2014 at 5:31am

Well written Ross.

So is any recruiter worth their salt prepared to take on an assignment without a proper briefing?

Not this one.  Time to walk away as an encouragement for the Hiring Manager and that person's boss to have a reality check.

I suppose it might be a bit more difficult if you are an internal recruiter but even then surely it's time to retain one's own professionalism.

Comment by Ross Clennett on March 27, 2014 at 9:36pm

Thanks Gordon. If only all recruiters would walk away if they didn't get all this information then I suspect the success rate of all placements would skyrocket because hiring managers would be forced to think through every aspect of the recruitment process that they are ultimately going to be largest beneficiary of. 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on March 28, 2014 at 1:23pm

Gentlemen: Does any recruiter (3PR or internal) say to her/himself: "Oh, here's a really ****** search, I LOVE really ****** searches!" Rather, I think most of us take less than optimal searches/work/jobs/gigs be cause we  (rightly or wrongly) feel we need to.

Whenever I hear someone say: "I never have to look for work, I'm always being called by everyone, BEGGING me to come work for them, and if they aren't perfect, I just say 'no'....". I think: "*Good for you! Wish I were like that but I'm NOT (and doubt I'll ever be) that **guy.

If we want to have more people picking and choosing the very best for them (recruiters and applicants alike), we need a whole hell of a lot more good jobs for everyone to chose from...


*Actually, I think: "Pompous *******! I hope you end up homeless and alone!"

**IMSM, it's almost always a guy who talks like that...


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