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Being a Better Recruiter Isn’t About Being More Efficient, It’s About Being Different

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I’m now working with a bunch of staffing professionals and corporate recruiters who (along with their employers) want to be more competitive. I suggested the best way to change is by becoming different, not by trying to be more efficient.

Why is being different more important? Because it can result in improvements of 50-100% or more in 6-12 months. It’s almost impossible to be 10-20% more efficient in the same timeframe.

Here’s the short summary of what’s typically involved in this type of intense reengineering effort.

Start by refreshing your recruiting mindset

Before you start differentiating yourself as a recruiter, you need to think strategically by doing the following;

  1. Change the focus to improving quality of hire. The ROI of hiring a top 25% person is over 500%. This dwarfs the 10-20% ROI of reducing cost per hire. The idea is to focus on measuring the impact of the people being hired, not the cost of hiring them. For example, hiring 10 people at $100 thousand each is $1 million in added compensation. Reducing the cost per hire by $2500 each results in a one-time $25,000 savings versus the lost opportunity of more sales, better products, higher margins and more productivity year after year after year.
  2. Start with a clean slate. Forget the process improvements. Start with a completely clean slate. This will open up your mind to possibilities never before considered.
  3. No more skills-laden job descriptions. If you want to hire a great person you need to start with a great job description. This needs to emphasize the challenges and impact the person in the role can make. Recognize that it’s what a person does with his/her skills that makes him/her successful, not the skills themselves.
  4. Hiring managers must get engaged early in the process. A short exploratory discussion between a hiring manager and strong passive prospect is the key for converting the person into an interested strong candidate.
  5. Implement a more is less mentality. Spending more time recruiting fewer high quality passive candidates is a better strategy than trying to be more efficient weeding out weaker active candidates. This will improve quality of hire without sacrificing cost per hire or time to fill.

Implementing these ideas requires some changes to how recruiters need to source and recruit candidates. Now, it’s time to make yourself stand out.

How to differentiate yourself from other recruiters

1. Narrow your focus and reduce the number of assignments handled at one time. 

If a recruiter is handling more than 5-6 search projects at any one time, it’s hard to do anything other than review resumes of active candidates. Being deeply networked in a niche area is the key to making better placements more quickly. After a period of 2-3 months with this type of intense specialization, the same recruiter is likely to be making the same number of placements per month as before but with stronger candidates.

2. Emphasize connecting with passive candidates.

Passive candidates represent 85-90% of the talent pool for most high demand positions. While it takes longer to build a deep network of interconnected passive candidates, once it’s built a recruiter can find strong candidates for any formerly difficult to fill position within 5-10 days.

3. Make quality of hire the metric for success, not activity. 

Too many staffing firms and recruiting departments still measure their recruiters on calls made and email response rates. When quality of hire is the ultimate objective the tracking metrics need to be the number of top prospects in the pool, how many are converted into serious candidates and how many are hired.

4. Use the phone 50% of the time. 

Convincing passive candidates to consider your opportunity and getting high quality referrals involves getting on the phone and engaging in exploratory career conversations with at least 8-10 prospects every day.

5. Become a career counselor. 

Too many staffing and corporate recruiters still focus on filling positions quickly using a transactional process. Passive candidate recruiting is a consultative process demonstrating that the open opportunity offers more stretch, growth, impact and job satisfaction. This is the very definition of being a career counselor and essential to recruiting passive candidates.

Being different is not about being more efficient. It starts by starting over.