Order Taker or Adviser: Which Are You?

I read a post a on ERE.net last year titled “Speed. Price. Quality. Are Your Recruiters Sacrificing One of the Above?” that I thought was fantastic. As many of you probably know, ERE is geared primarily to corporate recruiters, whereas Fordyce is geared to agency recruiters.

There were two specific things the author wrote that may seem unrelated but do, in fact, go hand in hand. It got me thinking about finding a solution to the problem, if there is one:

  • “…some recruiters may be inclined to over-promise and under-deliver, an understandable but avoidable mistake.”
  • “…recruiters need to become advisers to their hiring managers, presenting real solutions instead of empty promises.”

While both these statements are valid, I’m not sure they’re realistic.

Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

Is this really avoidable in a world where the vast majority of recruiters work for no commitment from the company? As in no guarantee of money in the end – or at the beginning?; as in no guarantee they’ll even hire anyone?; as in they could hire an internal candidate; as in the job description may not even be realistic. You get it.

Can anyone really blame a recruiter who tells the client that he can get the job done when the company has made no promise to him? I say NO. The recruiter wants to make some money so he tells the hiring manager he can fill the job.

That said, it is a far better strategy for a recruiter to create a realistic expectation. Not only will the client respect your candor, he’ll have the proper expectation of outcome. If you are willing and able to create a realistic expectation everyone wins.

Order Taker or Adviser

I received a call from a partner in a search firm. He was seeking my advice on something and, while engaged in conversation, he shared that his recruiters typically have 15-20 job openings on their desks at any time. I asked him how effective they were at working and closing this many openings. His response, “Not very effective.”

I asked why they didn’t just take fewer openings and concentrate on those. He explained it was the company’s policy to focus on gathering openings rather than working on, and building relationships with, clients. He said it was his partner’s opinion that marketing is more important than actually helping the client, and that this is a culture that the other partners have no interest in changing.

What this tells me is that these recruiters, like so many others, are nothing more than order takers.

What’s the Answer?

This issue is pervasive in contingent search, regardless of how great you think your relationship is with the client. I understand the entire industry isn’t going to take the time and make the effort to turn every practice into a retained one, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of a positive outcome (as in a placement).

As I said at the beginning of this article, these two issues go hand in hand. If you’re just collecting orders and slinging paper at your clients, how can you be an adviser and/or commit to successfully completing the search? Ultimately you need to decide if you’re willing to take on fewer openings to do more with each. You need to decide if you want to add value to the client or confirm that recruiters are just about sending paper.

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An Adviser From the Start

When you get a prospect or client on the phone, instead of asking him to give you the job order, you need to ask probing questions; questions that get at what their issues are, what problems they’re having in the search, why they believe they’re having these problems, what they think will solve the problem, what type of relationship they’re expecting from a recruiter, etc. You need to be an adviser from the moment you speak with the prospect.

It’s imperative you ask the owners of your search firm what they expect of you. This includes the number of openings you have on your desk at any time, how many of those they expect you to work on, what percent of openings you are expected to close, etc. Ask if it’s more important for you to build relationships with hiring managers so that they use your services over and over again, or to do one off deals. (Hopefully it’s the former.)

You have to decide if you want to be the exception or the rule. The majority of contingent recruiters spend their time sending paper to clients. The few that become advisers and create proper expectation are very successful.

About the Author

Carol Schultz is a pioneer in the recruitment process optimization and career strategy industries. She has built a client base of countless individuals and myriad companies from early stage pre-IPOs to publicly traded companies. She uses 20 years of recruiting experience where she honed her industry expertise and formed an intrinsic understanding of successful recruiting processes and the critical nature of alignment with corporate goals and objectives.

She takes a thoughtful approach to talent and focuses all her time on assessing, analyzing, and deploying recruiting strategies and processes that work. Her consulting and training company, VerticalElevation.com offers a fresh approach to talent strategy and incorporates the executive management team’s core values so they permeate every aspect of the hiring process. As an advisor and coach to corporations, she makes a stand for best practices to attract and retain the best and the brightest.