In my very first week as a recruiter (cue “Old Guy Story” music) I was handed a stack of resumes that had to be a foot thick. My boss told me my job was to contact every single one of those candidates and find out what they were looking for, salary, timing, etc. There had to be 500. He told me not to return to him until I called all of them.
It took me three weeks to get in touch with every single candidate, and some of those I had called so many times I lost track. But I finished — I was so proud! I walked into his office with the entire stack and a big smile, with notes on each one, and I said, “Here you go! I’m finished. What would you like me to do with them?” He took the stack, turned around, and dropped them into a trash can.
He then handed me my first job requisition and said, “Now you’re ready to recruit!”
I will never forget the sound all that paper made landing at the bottom of that trash can. All that work, gone! All those conversations! All for nothing! That was my first thought. But as time went on, I realized that the entire exercise had nothing to do with recruiting those candidates and everything to do with seeing if I was willing and able to simply pick up the phone, again and again and again.
Can you imagine any recruiter putting up with being treated like that today? I’m honestly thankful for the lesson I learned back then, but if that happened now I would have quit before the end of the week. Most recruiters would. It was a terrible experience, and we should be able to do better at improving the recruiting process. We can do better.
What is “recruiter experience”?
Simply put, the recruiter’s experience is a combination of how a recruiter is treated in their role — from what is expected of us in the role by stakeholders to the technology we are given to help us be more successful to the measures and accountability we are held to in our performance.
For many years, talent acquisition pros were sort of left on their own little, oft-forgotten island. But in the past decade that has changed drastically as CEOs figured out talent acquisition is the machine that keeps organizations humming. Now, for the most part, talent acquisition teams are part of the “the cool kids” in many organizations — but that doesn’t mean our experience has changed much over time. Which doesn’t seem to make much sense: “We know you are super important, but we’re going to treat you the exact same way as we did before!”
Why? That doesn’t add up.
The problem is everyone thinks they know how to hire. “It’s simple. Anyone can hire someone!” Okay, champ, hire me 50 software engineers in 90 days! So one major issue we have is that people still the job of a recruiter as “easy.” No, we aren’t designing next-gen software, but that doesn’t make what we do any less complex.
Second — and this is huge — we made the same mistake our HR peers made. We became “clients” to our hiring managers versus a peer to our hiring managers. We acted like a vendor versus another valuable function in the company. This allowed the hiring manager to treat us poorly and not give us all the things we needed to be successful, like feedback and time. Your hiring managers are not your customers! They are peers. They have needs, and as peers, we help them. But we also have needs, and as peers, they should help us. It’s a two-way street.
What should the “recruiter experience” really be?
In a word: simple.
If the design of the experience is simple, it allows more organizations to pull it off successfully. Here is what I believe are the pillars of a great employee recruitment experience:
- Respect. Just as we respect finance when they ask us for our annual budget projections, recruiters should have the same level of respect from internal and external stakeholders. We will not allow our recruiters to be taken advantage of by hiring managers or candidates.
- Properly funded and resourced. You don’t ask sales and marketing to sell your products and then not give them the tools and resources needed to make this happen, but somehow we feel completely fine with telling TA to increase hiring by 30% this year while also cutting budget by 10%. Investing in the right recruiting tech and tools will actually save you money longterm by making your recruiters more efficient, and also happier — for instance, 72% of recruiters say they’re more likely to stay at their current job if their employer invested in conversational AI. I find most organizations do very little development or funding of their recruiting teams, and it can make all the difference.
- Clear measures of performance and accountability. Recruiters have success when they are told what is clearly expected from them, given great resources and tools to meet those objectives, and then have leadership that follows up with the results in a way that is driven by development and betterment and not a hammer.
- An organizational culture of recruiting. Talent acquisition doesn’t own recruiting in an organization. Each individual team leader actually owns talent. They pick each person who will work for them. They manage the performance and development of each employee on their team. Talent acquisition leads the function that will help each team leader hire more easily. Too often, a bad recruiting experience starts with them being blamed that the organization can’t hire better talent or faster. Great recruiting is less about one function’s performance and more about having an organizational understanding that it takes a culture of recruiting across all functions to be great.
- Rewards and recognition. Traditional salary and annual bonus programs do not make for a great recruiting experience. If everyone on the team basically makes the same, and I’m the best recruiter by a mile, shouldn’t I be rewarded for that performance? We need to find ways to reward our best and hardest working recruiters. This rarely happens in today’s talent acquisition functions.
A great recruiter experience isn’t about Zoom Happy Hours and corporate logo swag. Our best recruiters are results-oriented, high-achieving employees who want the leadership, the tools, and the recognition of a job well done. What most of them are getting at this very moment is increased pressure and blame, most of which they don’t own and shouldn’t own.
Like every talent problem we face in organizations, those who can figure out how to deliver an amazing recruiter experience with the proper software tools will grow, attract, and retain amazing recruiter talent. It’s not a giant leap to see those who have the best recruiters tend to have the best talent overall in their organization and the least amount of talent problems!
The next part in the series on rethinking "top talent" is here.