Recruiters In Name Only: Why Real Recruiters Should Be Hunting for RINOs
Aug 26, 2015
OK. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “of course. Here we go with another political post. Damn you, Zeller.” But even though my niche network of cleared tech talent in the DC area kind of qualifies me as a Washington insider, I promise I’m as sick of hearing about politics as most of you people probably are. If not more so. I mostly try to avoid it, but there’s one primary season acronym in particular I find kind of funny: R.I.N.O.
That’s the term Republican candidates like to throw out there to dismiss rivals’ Conservative credentials: “Republican in Name Only,” suggesting that like Optimus Prime, these purported Tea Party partisans are more than meets the eye. They are, in fact, Democrats in disguise, 21st century carpetbaggers towing whatever party line it takes to win – and winning at all costs is really what the game is all about. Hey, don’t hate the players, as they say.
Unless, of course, those players are the R.I.N.O.s of recruiting – those “recruiters in name only” who give the rest of us in the business a bad name. That’s right, I went there. Sorry, not sorry. See, I’ve dedicated quite a lot of copy to talking about the current state of talent acquisition and the pulse of recruiting. Right. This. Minute.
RINO Hunting: Why “Recruiters In Name Only” Piss Me Off.
Honestly, I’ve put off writing this post for a little while – it’s one that’s been pent up inside for sometime, but the thought of these “Recruiters in Name Only” so thoroughly annoys me that I go into a blind rage at the mere thought of these douchebags.
I mean, I have to deal with these dickwads enough at work without having to drive my blood pressure any higher from what has become, frankly, my biggest professional pet peeve.
After my lastest magnum opus, in which I traveled through the 9 Circles of Dante’s Recruiting Inferno, I thought after going through hell I could use a break. So instead of another journey into the fiery pits of despair, I could stay on the surface to talk hellfire and damnation this time around1. After all, I’m a recruiter, and it’s true what they say.
Hell really is other people. Especially if those people also happen to be hiring managers. Or candidates, for that matter. But if you think it’s hot in here now, just wait a few years. Because at this point, I’m pretty convinced that if recruiters keep at their evil ways, we’re doomed. And I’m pretty sure eternal damnation looks a whole lot like being forced to continually search and apply for jobs online for the rest of eternity.
Anyone else smell that sulphur? Forget it. All I know is that in the 18 years I’ve been in this business, I’ve seen us move from Rolodexes to resume databases to the rise of online employer branding, social sourcing and mobile recruiting.
But the one thing that remains constant, no matter how much the technology around them changes, is the fact that at the end of the day, recruiters recruit. That’s what we do. Or at least, that’s what we should be doing. But it never fails to amaze me how many people with recruiting related titles don’t actually do any recruiting whatsoever.
Sure, you’ve got some talent title on your business card and professional profile. You probably call yourself a “ninja,” “guru,” “maven,” “innovator” or some other stupid shit that underscores the fact that if you’re not capable of thinking, you’ll never actually be a thought leader, no matter how hard you try. But real recruiters don’t give a shit about their Klout, their Kred or how many fans or followers they have.
How To Tell If You’re Not Really A Real Recruiter.
Recruiters care about controlling the process, closing candidates and making hires.3
We care about making the right hire, and taking the time to get to know our candidates and the job well enough to get it right every time, all the time.
That’s what real recruiters do. We don’t sit around talking about talent trends on Twitter. That shit doesn’t make placements.
And ain’t no one got the time to do anything that doesn’t ultimately end in attracting, engaging and closing top talent today (or at the very least, building a pipeline for tomorrow).
If you don’t strategically manage the sourcing, screening and/or selection process, if you’re not involved in offer creation and negotiation, tasked with closing candidates or have responsibility for onboarding, internal mobility, workforce planning or retention – if that doesn’t match your job description, than your job isn’t really recruiting. If you do none of these things, then you are not a recruiter. So stop calling yourself one, already, because frankly both of us know better.
Look. I’m going to put this in the simplest terms possible, which basically involves reverting back to Jeff Foxworthy and pointing out that “You might not really be a real recruiter if…”
You might not really be a real recruiter if…
You hate picking up the phone and think that everything can be done through e-mail instead. This one’s sadly become somewhat standard these days, but it still never fails to blow my damn mind every single time.
Yeah, I know how important a role e-mail plays in communicating with candidates, and recognize how effective e-mail can be at attracting and engaging with targeted talent.
But even e-mail has its limitations. Eventually, every recruiter is going to have to actually talk to every new hire they make, whether they like it or not.
So might as well pick ’em up and start reaching out. It’s never too early to start pre-closing a candidate by giving them a call. It sends a more powerful message than e-mail could ever dream of delivering.
You might not really be a real recruiter if…
You give two shits about time to fill, or think that it’s in any way an accurate indicator of recruiting success.. Seriously. If you’re still this guy, just get the hell back to HR already. Sure, time matters in talent acquisition, and taking too long is one of the biggest deal killers in this business. Always has been.
But there are just too many moving parts for this metric to have any meaning whatsoever. I sincerely believe when a position is open for too long, the recruiter isn’t always at fault.
Hell, I could write a whole post on just this topic, but between hiring manager hurdles, process breakdowns and feedback delays, you can’t realistically hold any individual recruiter responsible for this metric, because our hiring teams tend to mostly fill jobs on their own damn time, time to fill be damned.
The only real standard to which a recruiter can be held is finding people who want to work with your company and having your company feel the same way, too. Real recruiting is always a win win, and you win in recruiting when you make the hire you need with the candidate you want. That’s what it’s all about, which brings me to the next point on my list.
You might not be a real recruiter if…
You think closing a candidate is someone else’s responsibility. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – this is kind of the entire damn point of the entire job; if you have an issue with closing an offer, then you should start looking for a new line of work, because that, baby is the key to making placements.
You know, what most agency recruiters need to make to pay the rent and put food on the table.
I’d like to share this little gem of a story one of my readers recently told me.
That recruiter, who shall remain anonymous, recounted:
“Once, I had a manager go rogue and use an agency without telling anyone on the talent acquisition team. The only reason recruiting found out as soon as they did is that it came up during the final stages of a very long, very intense interview process. The total time from resume submission to verbal offer extension for this requisition was 13 days (which is FAST for us – everything from OFCCP documentation to the candidate’s background check was fast tracked so we didn’t have to stop the process while we waited around for approvals).
Part of the reason I was so proactive in pre-closing candidates for this particular requisition is that the skill set we were looking for is next to impossible to find, so using an agency actually made sense. No harm, no foul.
But because the hiring manager initiated that relationship, the recruiter had no control over the actual offer process because they’d never even talked to the agency or the final candidate – everything was done directly through the hiring manager instead of HR. But when the offer went out, the candidate wanted a week to think about it – which did not make the hiring manager or their boss happy, since they assumed it was a done deal.
The candidate eventually told the agency recruiter how surprised they were with how low the offer came in at, and how it wasn’t the money they were hoping for. After connecting with the candidate directly, the hiring manager that money wasn’t the issue – he wanted a different title, which we weren’t willing or able to give. He also told us he was in process for several other opportunities and wanted to see how those played out before making a final decision.
When the hiring manager approached the agency for help closing this candidate, the recruiter replied that this was the company’s responsibility, not theirs – they found the candidate, but closing them was up to the client, at least as they saw it.
I was a bit shocked that someone who stood to make ~30k in fees was willing to put in so little effort into the actual close (and apparently had done no pre closing, either, nor had they accurately portrayed what motivated this candidate and what they were looking for, etc). I was equally as shocked the recruiter was so unaware of what other activity the candidate had happening (and what counter-offers were coming from other well known employers, one of which he ultimately decided to take instead of ours).”
So this happened. True story. Sad, but true. C’mon, people. Seriously.
You might not actually be a recruiter if…
You’re not willing to push back a little on hiring managers or think telling internal stakeholders “no” is always a no-no. OK, this might just be a reflection of my personal experience and perspective, but the fact is that most of the time a hiring manager is just that: they’re a manager.
They manage a process, and they manage people, but they probably have little to no experience managing the processes behind those people, which is where recruiters come in.
I can’t count all the times on previous searches where the hiring manager was caught using a standard internal job spec and simply cutting and pasting those same boring bullet points as the entire basis for an external job description, without even paying attention to what keywords or qualifications are actually relevant or required for the actual job these POS SOWs purportedly describe.
I had a manager once pull their copy from the wrong statement of work, and then wonder for weeks why I couldn’t find any candidates and was having such a hard time understanding what they were looking for before they looked close enough to figure out that I wasn’t the one at fault. I wrote about this before, and I’m sure I will again – reqs have a way of going wrong in recruiting, and it happens to the best of us. Repeatedly. It’s one of those things you learn to live with in this industry.
What no recruiter should ever have to put up with, though, is partnering with a hiring manager who’s more concerned about getting the work done than the people responsible for doing it. Hiring managers should care about recruiting, but if they just want to bark out orders and put a butt in a seat, or if they treat talent acquisition as a necessary evil instead of an absolute imperative. then your job is to be an educator responsible for guiding them to a better hire, even if that means pushing back a little.
Every recruiter recruits better once they “say yes” to being able to say no once in a while. But with that great power comes great responsibility – and it’s our responsibility to make the best hire possible, no matter how bad the hiring manager might be.
You might not be a real recruiter if…
You place a premium on compliance instead of candidate experience, if you prefer filling out spreadsheets to engaging with people, or if you base your life on sweating the small stuff instead of seeing the bigger talent picture. If you can’t put the candidate first, then please – get the hell out of recruiting.1
Yeah, I get that those acronyms like EEOC and OFCCP are really important to follow, but compliance doesn’t necessarily require putting the candidate through such an overly complex and incredibly painful process simply to successfully apply for the job.
We expect (and we demand) our potential new employees jump through every conceivable hoop and over every possible barrell simply so we’ll deign to consider their candidacy – and even after all that, there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever receive even so much as a “thanks but no thanks” as a reward for all of that effort. This reality is so often rooted in misplaced compliance initiatives, but the truth is, most of the time legal requirements are a thinly veiled excuse for lazy recruiting.
Hey, no one argues with the law, and no one argues with HR – so if you have a passion for these draconian HR rules and compliance regulations, that’s cool. But there’s no place in recruiting for someone who puts this sort of shit before people – playing policy police is HR’s job, and they can have you.
You might not be a real recruiter if…
You’re OK with post and pray. You need to be active and actually get to know the job, function and industry you’re recruiting for, and build a network within that professional community, too.
The only way to do that is by putting in a little face time; working places like job fairs, networking events and industry conferences should be part of our daily routine rather than an occasional exception.
You’ve got to prove yourself, and that means proving to candidates that you’re more than just another lazy recruiter. Reaching out and making a meaningful enough connection to build trust while building your network is at the crux of what we do as recruiters. We’re not farmers, sitting around waiting for the crop to come in.
Nope. Real recruiters aren’t content to simply shrug their shoulders when no one applies for their job. We’re always hunting for candidates, not twiddling our thumbs waiting for people to apply for our open positions. The only thing more suspect than a truly active candidate is a truly passive recruiter, so get off your ass and stop simply farming resumes. We’re called headhunters for a reason.
If you don’t love the thrill of the chase and would rather sit around waiting for someone else to do something so you have something to work on, then there’s some gig in benefits administration or payroll that’s probably much more your speed. Real recruiting happens fast, and if you can’t keep up with the pace, then you shouldn’t keep with this profession. Period.
You might not be a real recruiter if…
No one calls you a recruiter (or you call yourself something else). I know this sounds obvious, but if you don’t self identify primarily as a recruiter – and you’re not damn proud of that identity – then you’re probably right in not even trying to play pretend.
Good for you, you “thought leader,” “talent finder,” “staffing specialist,” “experience ambassador” or whatever the hell else it is you and your company call whatever the hell it is you do.
Just as long as we can both agree that it’s not recruiting, we’re all good.
I don’t know why we suddenly stopped calling it recruiting and started coming up with all these stupid synonyms and banal buzzwords, but I’m proud to be a recruiter, and would never in a million years dream of calling myself anything else. This is what I do, and I’m damn good at it. Even if it doesn’t sound as sexy as, say, “talent acquisition engagement specialist” or “people program manager” or whatever shit the kids are calling it these days.
I don’t get it, but maybe that’s because my self-identity and my title are more or less intertwined, and no matter what’s in fashion, I can’t see calling my work recruiting – and myself a recruiter – ever going out of fashion. I’m not sure what’s up with this talent trend; I remember being in a meeting a few years ago, and everyone was asked to go around the room and share their title.
Everyone rattled off a different buzzword, from “sourcer” to “talent attraction analyst,” and being the smart ass I am, I finally couldn’t keep myself from asking random one woman what the hell the difference was between her job (I think it was experience or engagement something or another) and just being plain old recruiter instead. She informed me that she was offended by that term. That’s right. She was offended. I was incredulous.
I asked her what, exactly, offended her so much about the term “recruiter,” and I’ll never forget her response. It was priceless, really. She looked at me and informed me, without so much as a hint of irony, that she doesn’t do recruiting, she does talent attraction, and they’re two completely different things. Recruiters just recruit, you know – she had a specialty, and that, apparently, made her more special than every other recruiter out there.
This woman, by the way, currently serves as the Chief People Officer at a major multinational organization, where, I’m sure, she still has as little to do with recruiting (and as much disdain for “recruiters”) as possible. But me?
Well, I’m still recruiting, and I’m still OK with being “just” a recruiter. Because it’s more than what I do – it’s who I am. For me, it’s recruiting is more than just a name. It’s my purpose and my passion.
It’s easy to call yourself a recruiter, but the process of actually becoming one is one of the hardest – and most rewarding – experiences I’ve ever had. Yes. I’m a recruiter. And that fact alone makes me feel pretty damn lucky, and pretty damn proud.
Even after all these years, I’m finding there are some parts of recruiting that never get old. Kind of like doing whatever it takes to make sure Recruiters in Name Only don’t give the rest of us real recruiters a bad name. Here’s hoping you’ll help keep it real in recruiting – and do whatever it takes to keep these douchebags out of our industry entirely. Hey, a guy can always hope.