As a specialist recruiter working in a niche I have always been truly passionate about, I know what it is like to build long-lasting relationships with my clients. In fact I have always been committed to not simply being a provider of candidates to my clients, but also a trusted advisor to all of them.
For the most part, given the role I play (along with my team of specialist recruitment consultants), we typically partner with HR leaders or practice leaders (hiring managers) within the organisations we work with.
However, every now and then, when a role pops up that may be unusually difficult to fill or highly sensitive, we will be briefed to initiate the confidential search. In these case, we then work closely with the company’s internal talent acquisition team for a considerable portion of the process.
I’ll admit that at first this was quite an unusual working relationship since internal recruiters often question our presence, and at times, may have even felt a little threatened.
Over the years, however, we have developed some fantastic relationships with dozens of internal recruiters. I’ll even go so far as to say that in many cases we have even become their trusted advisors.
It’s in this particular role where I have learned some of the biggest frustrations many internal recruiters typically face in their roles.
Many talent acquisition specialists often feel like they are the “jam” in the sandwich – stuck between their HR Managers and their hiring managers with very little room to manoeuvre.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “trapped between a rock and a hard place” many times before, but in the case of our industry, I really like the “jam” analogy.
In this post, I want to share 7 suggestions for how HR Managers and/ or Hiring Managers/Leaders can ensure the best possible working relationship with their internal recruitment teams – primarily through always promoting open & honest channels of communication.
1. Set realistic expectations up front
When a vacancy comes up in an organisation of any size, it’s not just a matter of sending an email to an internal recruiter saying “please find an account manager to work on the XYZ account immediately”, or “we need another digital operations manager asap. Helen’s just resigned”.
The recruiter and the line manager should sit down or at least have a phone conversation to discuss what exactly is required and how the process will work. This would include setting realistic timeframes, not only around when the candidate would need to start, but on when an initial shortlist could be provided, when first and second-round interviews would be taking place, who will be interviewing the candidates internally, as well as the compensation & benefits plan for the position.
2. Ensure two-way communication
There are some hiring managers out there who seriously expect to see résumés an hour after they’ve sent out the job requisition.
And yet when the internal recruiter does send through a shortlist of appropriate candidates (typically pretty quickly), days can pass without the internal recruiter hearing a peep from the hiring manager. All this while, the HR manager is chasing the internal recruiter for a status update. And when the internal recruiter does finally hear back from the line manager, it is often a “none of those were suitable” email situation with no further explanation.
Expectations around feedback need to be established up front. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) should be discussed around (for example) how quickly after a CV or résumé is shared will the line manager provide feedback; and then how quickly after interviewing a shortlisted candidate will the internal recruiter receive feedback, etc.
3. Have a standardised interview process
More often than not, internal recruiters will conduct an in-depth behaviour-based, competence-based, or values-based interview. They will then share the candidate with their hiring manager who will then simply ‘sit down for a chat’ with the candidate and decide that, for whatever reason, “I just didn’t like him”, or “I just don’t think she’s what I’m looking for” – again with no further explanation.
The interview process between the internal recruiter and the hiring manager needs to be streamlined in order to allow for the candidate to be assessed against exactly the same criteria at every step along the way.
There’s no point in an internal recruiter benchmarking strictly against a series of competencies or attributes, only for the line manager to make the final call based purely on gut feel. That’s a recipe for a recruiting disaster. But it does happen.
When in doubt, hiring managers should invite the internal recruiter to either take part in – or perhaps even run – the interview to ensure a valid approach to benchmarking and decision making.
4. Appreciate that there isn’t an endless supply of candidates
Attention hiring managers! Your internal recruiters do not have access to an open buffet of candidates.
If they send you a shortlist of 3 – 5 candidates that match the criteria you have (hopefully) discussed with them up front, then this literally means that those candidates meet your brief. It’s not simply the first 5 candidates in a never-ending supply waiting eagerly in the back room.
Hiring managers need to trust that their internal recruiters have filtered and assessed all the applicants before submitting the shortlist. Remember that they are always adding to their talent pipeline for upcoming potential vacancies.
A shortlist is exactly that: a short list of the most suitable candidates. Not just the appetizer before another list to choose from for the main course.
5. Decide on a proactive approach
Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but too often, hiring managers fail to have a recruitment strategy in place, or even a hiring forecast planned out. This means that the minute there’s a resignation, or a vacancy that pops up, it becomes a matter of über urgency and the internal recruiter needs to jump to attention.
If possible, on a monthly or at least a quarterly basis, the HR team (along with the internal recruiters of course) should sit down with each team manager to plan what recruitment might be coming up in the weeks or months ahead.
Ads can be written and approved in advance; sourcing strategies can be implemented; and a recruitment strategy can actually be planned for a change. This is when the decision might even be made to brief an external search firm to assist.
Last-minute recruiting demands very rarely result in a successful outcome.
6. Agree who will measure what
Imagine the following scenario: HR is looking at the cost of hire ratio; hiring managers are scrutinising recruitment efficiency ratios; meanwhile the talent acquisition team is monitoring the ratio between the number of candidates they submit to the line managers compared to the number that actually get interviewed.
Basically there’s no common approach and all parties are just measuring what they feel is important for them without taking into account how it might impact any of the other metrics.
Metrics must be established up front. At the same time, exactly how the results are going to be interpreted needs to be determined, so that everyone knows what they are accountable for.
7. Talk to the bread!
To wrap up (pardon the pun!) and to come back to the “jam in the sandwich” analogy, it’s important that internal recruiters feel confident enough to raise their challenges with both their HR manager and their line managers.
But perhaps more importantly, HR managers and hiring managers need to take the TIME to make internal recruiters feel comfortable enough to talk to them and discuss their approach to each individual recruitment campaign, not expecting them to be mind readers who can perform their roles with not knowing heads or tails as to what is going on.
You know what you’re looking for. A good search firm will know who you’re looking for.
We might be good, but we’re not that good. Recruitment isn’t magic, it’s a process. And we all have a part to play.
Our business is evolving, and so is the language. Here’s a little Rosetta Stone of sorts to help you talk the talk.
No one likes being left dangling. A little honesty can go a long way in maintaining professionalism and a positive reputation for your organisation.