Recruiting Must Accept Accountability… For Producing Great Hiring Results

Today, there’s plenty of evidence that debunks the old myth that “Recruiters don’t hire! Managers do.”

Fewer Would Aggressively Resist Accountability If They Knew Its Many Benefits

Since so many in recruiting appear to be passionately trying to avoid accepting accountability, it may be surprising to learn that there are, in fact, many significant benefits that accrue to those who voluntarily accept accountability for producing results. Below are the top 8 benefits that recruiting leaders can expect, with the most impactful ones listed first.

  • Accountability improves your business results – when full accountability is declared, every employee on the team will essentially be forced to focus on meeting this top-priority strategic goal. And because accountability is classified as a “superordinate goal,” it will constantly be a top-of-mind issue with each team member. With this added focus, each team employee will spend more of their time being productive, and when more employees outside of the team learn that each team member cares about and is committed to this accountability goal. More employees will be willing to chip in and help. Finally, because accountable team leaders measure their business results, those metrics will help drive continuous improvement in those results. 
  • Accountability increases feedback and speeds up continuous improvement – when you make it clear to everyone (both inside and outside of the organization) which individual leader or team is accountable for a specific result. It makes it much easier for coworkers and customers to find you quickly and provide you with feedback. And when it is clear that a single team is accountable. It makes it easier for them to sponsor and coordinate internal best practice sharing and learning.
  • It increases team cohesion and collaboration – when full accountability is declared, everyone on the team realizes their performance is tied together. And everyone on the team must produce if the expected results are to be reached. Fortunately, this knowledge of joint ownership also produces the added benefit of increasing team cohesion, cooperation, and collaboration. The increase in collaboration may also lead to an increase in team innovation.
  • Accountability makes it easier to target rewards accurately – when you visibly declare your full accountability for producing results. As a process owner, you also make it crystal clear that when desired results are met, precisely “who” has earned the subsequent recognition, rewards, and visibly increased resources. Also, realize that when you accept full accountability, you reduce the chance that others will suddenly try to take even partial credit. And, of course, with accountability, you will also receive concentrated criticism when the promised results are not produced. Finally, both recruiting leaders and managers should realize that with all of this fighting and confusion going on. It is quite possible that literally, no one (neither managers nor recruiting) will actually receive the proper credit when great hiring results are produced and when recognition does not occur. Those involved in recruiting simply won’t have their excitement levels boosted by the added public recognition that the results received.
  • Accountability increases process compliance – when it’s clear to every user that someone owns and is accountable for the process that they are using. And when users realize that the owners consistently enforce the rules and penalize noncompliance. Most process users will automatically become more consistent and compliant. And those users that don’t adhere will have to be educated and influenced by recruiting. So that they also comply.
  • It will reduce the amount of internal conflict – when multiple parties are simultaneously trying to shift responsibility, blame others, or simply take credit for something they didn’t really do. It creates a significant number of unnecessary and time-consuming internal conflicts. So, obviously, openly declaring accountability will reduce those conflicts. And the distractive anxiety that goes along with them. 
  • Having a clear purpose will attract others to your team – people are attracted to teams that are focused and that know where they’re going. So, declaring your focus on accountability will help you attract internal and external people seeking a clear purpose in their work.
  • As an individual, you will be recognized as strategic – because so many employees and managers are trying to avoid it. Everyone will notice whenever an individual leader openly accepts accountability without being forced. And because a foundational requirement for strategic leadership is accepting accountability. You will soon be widely recognized as strategic. And at the same time, your chances of receiving a promotion will go up.

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Arguments Covering Why Recruiting (And Not Managers) Should Accept Accountability

There are many reasons why the old contention “Recruiters don’t hire people, managers do “is no longer true. And why in today’s world, there are literally numerous reasons why recruiters (and not managers) should accept responsibility for our process results. Those reasons are listed below, with the most powerful arguments appearing first.

  • Managers can’t hire because they don’t actually have the final authority to put someone on the payroll – stop blaming managers for bad hiring. The fact is that managers never actually hire anyone. Yes, managers make recommendations. But that manager’s recommendation is only a recommendation. That can’t turn into an actual hire until the recruiting compliance manager agrees that the required recruiting/hiring process was followed. And that the manager’s decision was fair and non-discriminatory. So, if you want to put the accountability for bad hiring on anyone, place it on the recruiting compliance manager, who has the “veto power” and thus is the only one with the final say on who finally gets hired. 
  • It’s never okay to blame “the customer” (the manager) – recruiting runs a service process, and the customers of that process are managers with open positions. So when recruiting blames managers for bad hiring, it blames its customers. And in business, it’s never okay to blame the customer! Before you begin blaming customers. Everyone in recruiting should realize that you can never fully control your customers (i.e., managers). Fortunately, however, you can guide them into acting within your guidelines. The first step in guiding them is to “fully know your customer.” The next step is to use that in-depth knowledge to “influence” them to the point where managers consistently act within your hiring guardrails. An alternative assumption after a hiring failure should be that the hiring process itself was flawed so that the recruiting process owners (and not individual managers) should be charged with fixing it. 
  • In business, a lack of control over a process doesn’t exempt anyone from accountability – recruiters have argued for years that they shouldn’t be held accountable because they don’t control 100% of the hiring process. However, it turns out that the leaders of almost every process in business also lack total control over their users. So you won’t find the leadership of strategic functions like supply chain and finance openly stating that their customers are to blame for a decrease in their results. So instead of blaming customers, smart recruiting leaders should instead find a way to influence or nudge (the Google term) each customer/user so that they act appropriately. 
  • Realize that openly avoiding accountability may inadvertently serve as a red flag warning – in a business world that celebrates those who accept accountability. Those who publicly avoid accepting it will stand out, and not in a positive way. So, recruiting leaders should realize any exceptional avoidance may be viewed as a “red flag.” It may cause others to assume there are serious problems in that area that some are trying to avoid having to deal with.
  • Be aware that, in reality, managers seldom accept responsibility for hiring – even though managers with open positions obviously know the negative impacts created by bad hires. When you actually ask individual managers who are responsible for hiring results. They almost universally say, without hesitation, recruiting and HR. So rather than fighting this reality, recruiting should skip trying to get managers to accept accountability. And instead, accept complete accountability for producing recruiting results. If in the future you ever desire manager accountability. Realize that that won’t happen until individual managers are formally measured, recognized, and rewarded for great hiring results. 
  • Recruiting will be blamed anyway, so it might as well accept accountability – those who examine accountability in recruiting first learn that managers won’t ever accept it. However, they then quickly learn that recruiting is almost always automatically blamed for poor results in recruiting. The hiring process is clearly designed, maintained, controlled, and owned by HR. And because managers are busy with so many other priorities, they shouldn’t be blamed for this one. So, in my view, the fact that recruiting will eventually be blamed. It should be enough to cause recruiting leaders to abandon their attempts to avoid accountability. And to embrace it as the best way to become recognized as more strategic.
  • Accountability and being recognized as strategic go hand-in-hand – by definition, those who are strategic also embrace accountability. So, it’s time for recruiting leaders to realize that they won’t ever be recognized internally as being strategic in recruiting until they accept “captain of the ship” accountability, automatically accepting responsibility for anything that happens on their watch. Individual recruiters should also be aware that those who don’t accept accountability for hiring results won’t likely be a first choice for most managers seeking a top recruiter.
  • Don’t blame managers because some never really make hiring decisions – because most managers don’t hire very frequently. It’s not unusual for individual managers to be indecisive when selecting a final candidate. So, when you are looking to blame managers for bad hiring decisions, start off by realizing that many of them don’t always make candidate decisions. They instead delegate that decision to others. For example, some managers simply go by the numbers, automatically selecting the candidate with the highest numerical interview rating. Or the candidate with the highest team vote after a peer/team interview. Many managers shift the decision to an expert on hiring, meaning they simply go along with their recruiter’s recommendation. 
  • In case of doubt, look to the owner of the process – throughout the different business functions (excluding HR). It is an accepted rule that the owner of a process should be held accountable for its results. That is certainly true in sales, supply chain, and marketing. And because no one really argues against the fact that HR designs, maintains, and owns the hiring process. So, unless there is a compelling reason to place the accountability elsewhere, it’s only natural to expect the process’s designers to accept the accountability for a process that consistently produces superior results.
  • Professionals with “recruiter” in their title should be accountable – it may not be obvious to you. However, to most outsiders, simply having the word “recruiting” in your title should be enough to indicate where the accountability should lie. Clearly, having a recruiter in your title should be enough to indicate that you are a professional expert in this field (obviously, few managers claim to be recruiting experts). Also, because they have recruiting in their title, these individuals will likely be continuously involved in hiring (where managers might only do it once a year). So, given the time spent and the expertise of those with recruiting in their title. Most naturally expect the title and the accountability to go together.
  • Finally, don’t blame managers because they have little control over many hiring steps  If you believe the degree of accountability should match the degree of control. Then, consider lowering your accountability expectations for managers. Because for many hiring steps, managers have little control. For example, managers have little control over these initial hiring steps, including the development of the job description, ATS sorting, and the initial telephone screenings. Managers also have little control over the applicant pool. Because sourcing controls employer branding, direct sourcing, social media sourcing, and the placement and content of job ads. Finally, managers may also lose multiple top candidates because they have little control over the offer process. In fact, with all of HR’s hiring guidelines, policies, and rules. I estimate that managers only have complete control over less than 20% of the steps in the hiring process.
If you only do one thing – commit to visiting the leaders of other processes within your corporation who have accepted full accountability for the results from their process (e.g., supply chain, finance, and advertising). And ask each how they successfully influence their users in order to achieve process compliance and superior results.

Final Thoughts

The arguments I have presented here cover why recruiting should become more strategic by declaring itself fully accountable for recruiting results. Although this article only covers recruiting accountability. It is part of my multi-decade effort to convince HR leaders to accept accountability as a foundation principle and other outside-the-box steps that will make HR more strategic. However, over that time, my recommendation on the subject of accountability hasn’t changed much. My advice for recruiters is

For recruiting leaders to openly and willingly accept full accountability for both the hiring process and the results that it produces. As the process owner, accept the fact that you won’t ever have total control over the process users (i.e., managers). So that if you’re going to get process compliance and extraordinary results. Recruiting leaders will have to accept as a foundation element the critical importance of educating and influencing their recruiting partners (hiring managers). So that managers faithfully follow your guidance and that they also devote sufficient time and resources to this important process. Recruiting and managers can consistently reap the many benefits that come from consistently producing exceptional recruiting results.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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