RecruitCONSULT! Elevate Recruiting to True Consulting

In the corporate Talent Acquisition profession, the day-to-day process of what recruiters do is fairly simple:
  1. We work with the business to develop a plan to recruit talent (often includes developing the position profile,  the recruiting strategy, and other activities)
  2. We go out and “find” prospects and candidates using “sourcing” techniques.
  3. We assess candidates we have found and present them to our business hiring managers.
  4. We negotiate and extend offers and communicate declinations to candidates .

These are pretty simple steps, but often very complex to actually execute. Of course there are a lot of other “things” recruiters do.

In corporate recruiting and staffing, a huge amount of the content, articles, training, seminars, etc. are spent on the practice and process of “finding” people… the concept of “sourcing”. This is a very important part of what we do… identifying people who could be qualified for the vacancy we are trying to recruit for now, or even for our future needs. With the advent of the internet, and the myriad of sourcing tools and resources available to everyone… in my opinion, the “finding” of candidates has become much more commoditized.  This does not mean it is easy, but it is easier to find people today as compared to recruiting and staffing even 15 years ago. In those days, much of the “magic” of recruiting was in the finding and sourcing of candidates. With all of the tools, resources and options available to us today, sourcing is important, but in my opinion, we as a profession, focus too much importance on sourcing, and not enough on some of the other important parts of what we do: the consulting piece of recruiting.

In recent years, there has been a trend of specialization in our corporate recruiting and staffing to identify professional “sourcers” who can focus their attention on this important aspect of recruiting. In fact, there has been widespread use of outsourcing this part of the recruiting and staffing process to specialized sourcing companies, independent sourcers, and other external resources. All, clearly great ideas that really have added value to the profession. Even sourcing guru extraordinaire, Shally Steckerl calls sourcing "recruiting with AUDCACITY!" and he is so right! So, what about the rest of the work of corporate recruiting and staffing?

The real differentiator between corporate recruiting and staffing professionals and our colleagues in third-party recruiting and staffing, is that corporate recruiting and staffing professionals actually work inside the company we are recruiting for! That’s a huge difference, and it can make a big impact if realized effectively. Many third-party recruiting professionals are really great at the sourcing piece and the consulting piece. In my opinion, corporate recruiting and staffing professionals must be good at both as well… but they need to better at the consulting piece in order to realize the huge opportunity to leverage the fact that they actually are inside the company they are recruiting for. If you think about the best third-party recruiting professionals, they were great at all of the three elements of recruiting that I have outlined above, but REALLY good at the consulting piece. Why? Because the best ones have to be really good at this to be great!

Many corporate HR professionals view themselves in a “subordinate” or “customer service” role to the business that they serve. In my opinion, I think this attitude could be different. There is a difference in being “of service” (we answer the phone promptly, we respond to problems or questions, and provide high quality services), and “customer service”. Customer service typically teaches the philosophy that the “customer is always right” and places the customer service role in a subordinate role to the master. In this case, HR is indeed part of the company… we are partners in the company’s success, and have the ability to push back on bad ideas and suggest new other options.

In order to continue to build on the development of our profession, we must continue to hone the “consulting” part of what we do. Being more effective at handling Hiring Manager relationships, coordinating true “contracting” with the business and other constituents in the process through effective service-level-agreements (SLA’s) is part of that consulting role. Also, the idea of providing a true “menu of options” of solutions to the business’ needs is also part of this equation.  Our profession must focus on not taking an order from the business, but consulting with the business to determine what the need is (for example, as a consultant, I wont just take the pre-written job description that is handed to me by a hiring manager, I will ask them key questions about what it is that they want the successful candidate to achieve in the first year of their new job). Managing the expectations of hiring managers and candidates (along with other constituents) is key to success. Almost 100% of the failure in corporate recruiting has to do with the fact that we are not setting and managing expectations of our constituents in advance.

The “assessment” part of what we do is perhaps the most important element of our work in corporate recruiting and staffing. Who better to assess the “fit” of candidate into the organization’s environment than someone who actually works inside the organization? The ability to assess a candidate’s fit not only for job skills, but for organizational cultural fit and environmental fit is truly where the magic lies for our profession. This is another part of the consulting skill set that is really our differentiator.

These brief opinions I have shared are part of a philosophy I have coined called “RecruitCONSULT!”. The RecruitCONSULT! Philosophy is what I have created after more than 25 years in corporate recruiting, staffing, and consulting. The philosophy is based on my own experiences in doing much of the process of recruiting and staffing the wrong way, and learning time and time again from those mistakes and missteps. The RecruitCONSULT! Philosophy isn’t anything earth-changing, it is just another way to look at the focus of our profession a bit differently. I know many of you do practice this philosophy... I was just reminding you of your own opportunity to RecruitCONSULT!

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Comment by Tom Byrne on July 6, 2011 at 12:52pm

Jeremy, you bring up a very valid point here about consulting. You are right, there is way too much emphasis today on sourcing. As a 3rd party recruiter with 20+ years of experience I call on my ability to effectively "consult" with candidates on a daily basis (I work the candidate side of the business only and have counterparts that deal directly with hiring managers). The ability to offer advice and counsel candidates (or client hiring managers) is critical in order to be successful as a recruiter. This includes counseling spouse's and sometime other family members when someone is thinking of a making a job change.  As 3rd party contingency recruiters too often we find ourselves offering advice and counseling to candidates (and clients) on a daily basis and for free. 


When I got into the recruiting business 22 years ago we were called Personnel Consultants. Some recruiters still use the Consultant title of some sort or another.  Providing a "consultative" service to clients and candidates is vital to any recruiter who truly approaches recruiting as a profession. 

Comment by Jason Lee Overbey on July 6, 2011 at 2:22pm
I agree with the consulting observation.

Sourcing is the foundation. If it isn't right the entire structure will collapse. Disaster.

There is a lot of talk and attention on sourcing, to be sure. But the true work of sourcing might not be getting done. It is a simple concept but the execution is sophisticated and requires skill. If it were getting all the emphasis I don't think I would see this much desperation:

I see all over twitter and hourly in my inbox from Linkedin and on my phone - "HELP! Looking for..." or "URGENT NEED..." or "Does anyone know of..." or "What boolean search should I try for this engineer, HELP!"

It is rampant. Asking for help is okay. I think it is a sign of strength even. But these seem to be people who have not sourced (not just Linkedin or referrals or interent) or who have and failed at it.

I might argue that we haven't given enough attention (the right kind) to sourcing.
Comment by Jeremy Eskenazi on July 6, 2011 at 3:00pm

Jason... thanks for your comments. Agreed... sourcing is important. No doubt.

The process of sourcing (the finding of talent) can be outsourced to third parties who are often better than internal corporate recruiting and staffing professionals. There are also so many products and services out there that sell sourcing tools, resources, and technologies. Sourcing can be packaged, product-ized, and sold more easily than most of the skills I am talking about. Sourcing is key for sure. Finding candidates is a skill just as much as the rest of the parts of corporate recruiting.

The skill of internal corporate recruitment consulting isn't as widely discussed as sourcing, because you can't easily buy it, package it, or product-ize it. It's a skill and a competency that corporate recruiting pros must continue to cultivate and grow.

Thanks for your feedback!

Comment by Paul Alfred on July 7, 2011 at 9:40am
Great post Jeremy - as a professional that totally embrace  and practice the RecruitConsult Eskenzai doctrine :) - I still find that internal staffing professionals are not fully respected within their own organizations to make the hiring  decisions or recommendations required to expedite the hiring process.  We still need Corporate  Technical/Executive Management to fully respect the function of the HR Staffing Partner.


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