Being a Talent Acquisition Partner Means Doing Your Work Early

TA Partner Do Work Early


All of us in talent acquisition know the feeling. We are just wrapping up a feedback session with a hiring manager following a candidate interview. We’re either on the phone with them, or sitting in their office, and they’ve just spent the last fifteen or twenty minutes talking about how great the candidate did, how much everyone on the team liked them, and how good of a fit they seem to be for their organization.  

“Excellent!” we say, mentally drafting that offer letter in our head. “So let’s talk about next steps!”

“Yeah well…” the hiring manager hesitates, “The thing is I’d really like to see some more folks before I make a final decision. Just to make sure I am making the right choice.”

Cue the sad trombone from those old Saturday Night Live Debbie Downer skits. This exact situation has played out in front of everyone who has worked in Talent Acquisition and few scenarios are more frustrating. Why, oh why can’t this manager just pull the trigger if the candidate is such a great fit?

On the surface, it’s a simple answer.

Human nature is wired towards risk aversion and avoiding potentially trying outcomes. So while a manager may be saying they want to make the right choice, in reality, they are afraid of making the wrong choice.

The high cost of employee turnover means making a bad hire can substantially damage a business’ bottom line; one hiring mistake can have a dramatic effect on budgets, production, and delivery time to clients.  

But an experienced recruiter that is working with an external client likely knows there’s another dynamic lurking: A lack of trust.  

The delay of an offer under the premise of “seeing what else is out there” doesn’t necessarily signal a conscious distrust of the recruiter. However, if the client you were working with had full, total faith in the process and your discernment as a TA expert when it came to the talent being provided, wouldn’t they be ready to move quickly and put pen to paper on an employment letter?

This is just the most common example of an obstacle that a lack of trust can create. There are numerous similar potential pitfalls along a recruiter’s path towards achieving their primary objective of filling the client’s organization with outstanding people.

The most foolproof way of navigating these challenges is to establish the proper expectations with those involved in the hiring process at the start of a partnership or engagement. If this was a basketball game, the coach would say “do your work early.”

Imagine an oversized NBA center sprinting down the court towards the basket and establishing position against his defender before the ball has made it close to him, so that when it does he is already in a spot where he can score. Taking the time at the start of the engagement to help all participants in the process understand your role can set you up for quicker success down the road by establishing a relationship where your advocacy is valued and paid attention to.

This is true regardless of whether the recruiter is working for a client in a traditional third-party arrangement where fees are being paid on a contingent basis, or whether the relationship is structured  within the rapidly growing Recruitment Process Outsourcing model (RPO, also called DRS which stands for Direct Recruiting Services). In both cases, the solution isn’t usually there to replace or disrupt the current talent acquisition structure. Some clients working under an RPO/DRS model will give the recruitment firm carte blanche to overhaul everything, but that is usually a best-case scenario. Both the account manager or engagement manager that is responsible for handling the overall client relationship and the recruiters responsible for delivering the candidates must present themselves and their process as a solution that can be used to enhance and add value to the existing recruitment infrastructure.

At this point of entry into a client relationship, the challenge often comes from misguided preconceptions rather than the actual performance of the TA providers. Usually, this opposition is based on a natural resistance to change, or worse, a suspicion that outsiders aren’t going to be able to do a job that has been handled internally previously. Some complaints include, “Why do we need to change things, we are hiring plenty of people?” Or, “How can an outside firm know more about our company and our environment than the people that work in it every day do?”

In a traditional third party relationship, it can go deeper than this, particularly with clients that may have been burned by such a relationship in the past.  There is a tendency to feel like the recruiter just wants to get the position filled and that there might be five better resumes hiding behind the curtain.

This is why if a firm is operating as a DRS / RPO provider, it is important to communicate that your solution is based upon being a strategic partner, an advocate of the company, and an employment brand ambassador.

Basically, the idea that you have skin in the game as well. The success of the hires that are made directly correlates to your success in executing the engagement. If the people you bring into the organization fail to achieve as desired, then the TA provider has also failed to provide its service at the level that is expected. This is true for the traditional third-party firm as well. No firm can survive a model where they eschew a long-term relationship in order to make a quick buck on a candidate that they know isn’t going to work, thereby leaving the potential to burn a bridge with a client.

Eliminating these notions, and instilling confidence that you are focused on placing candidates that will succeed over the long-term will help greatly with having every candidate viewed as a legitimate prospect, not someone being put in front of a hiring manager to fill a quota or make it look like the TA team is busy.

If you are the account / engagement manager or the recruiter, and it’s your responsibility to get the client to move on this candidate that you are confident is an excellent fit, what do you point to to instill this trust in your Talent Acquisition Expertise and your hiring process?

The Candidate Experience

Research has shown that the interview / hiring experience is, in many cases, even more important than the ultimate offer that the candidate receives, particularly for younger job seekers (MILLENNIALS!). Putting off making an offer to a good candidate (i.e. one that is receiving serious interest in the marketplace for other excellent opportunities) so that you can compare and contrast other resumes to reassure yourself, is going to cause your client to lose the original candidate. Whether it’s because they received another offer they liked better, or were turned off by the long wait after the final interview, great candidates simply have the luxury of not having to wait around on an employer that’s dragging its feet.

Local Market Expertise

What hiring managers forget, is that dedicated recruiters are experts in this job market. Having dozens of clients in similar spaces across a narrow geographical location allows us to garner insights on employment trends, salaries, and other data that is not available to the public. This information can be very instructive on whether a candidate is the right one and it is unbiased with a huge sample of instances to draw from.

Key Performance Ratios

Your own internal metrics should give you reams of data to develop your own ratios. We’re talking about:

  • Interviews / Submissions
  • Offers / Onsite Interviews
  • Offers Accepted / Offers Extended

If you aren’t keeping track of this stuff; what are you doing?!

If you are, you need to communicate these ratios to the relevant parties at the start of the engagement. This data will be your ally in a situation where the hiring manager just doesn’t want to pull the trigger. 

Show them that once they have seen X number of candidates for a role like this, they’ve seen the best people they are going to see and that you have the NUMBERS to back it up. Numbers are important; they carry weight and can be used to leverage your position as the talent acquisition expert.

A good recruiting firm is masterful at coming in and building trust with the way they assess a client and integrate themselves into that environment, regardless of relationship type. They meet with the right people. They ask the right questions. They play off their past experiences with other clients, recognizing the similarities, as well as the unique challenges this client may pose.

Straight from the client kickoff call, the message should be about your expertise in assessing and then championing the organization, and the value this adds beyond just shuffling over resumes. Companies that operate on a transactional basis always have a big stack of resumes for you to look at, but no idea about your culture, or your process, or your people, and that is where a successful Talent Acquisition organization is different.

If a client really understands your value proposition and you build on that understanding with solid results once the rubber hits the road and it’s time to start recruiting, they will view you as a partner, rather than a resume provider. That will lead to easier pathways to offer letters and acceptances.  

Do your work early, and reap the benefits often, in the form of a long-term engagement that is fruitful for both parties.

By Mike Mammoser, Engagement Manager, Dedicated Recruiting Services – Objective Paradigm

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