Most Recruiters Are Ignorant — Honest

Recruiting is a strange field. You can’t get a degree in it at any university, and that makes learning how to become a great recruiter a difficult task. Corporations also contribute to “recruiter ignorance.” Over 95% of all corporate recruiters are given their job without any required classroom training program in recruiting. To further compound the “learning” problem, the recruiting field itself is one of the fastest changing fields in HR. No matter what you learned initially, if you don’t constantly read and keep up with new tools you can be obsolete in as little as two years. How “Ignorant” Are They? In my work with corporations I get to meet with literally hundreds of recruiters each year. More often than not I am surprised by their lack of technical knowledge and how little they know about the available tools and strategies in recruiting. When I do a quick snapshot assessment of any corporate recruiter, I ask them three simple questions:

  1. Which recruiting source produces the highest performing hires?
  2. Which recruiting source produces hires that have the longest retention rates?
  3. What are the top three decision criteria that top candidates use when they decide to accept or reject a job?

Most of the time I get no answer at all, just a blank look. Less than 10% of all recruiters know the answer to all three. At some companies, not a single recruiter knows the answers. It’s not that these recruiters don’t work hard. They do ó it’s just that because they learned everything on the job, they keep doing the same thing over and over without really knowing about other newly developed alternatives. But if recruiters are to become more than administrators, they absolutely must become “knowledge experts” in their field. Keeping Your Recruiting Function on the Leading Edge Since there is no formal accreditation offered specifically for recruiters, if you want to stay on the leading edge of what’s happening you have to accept a large dose of self responsibility. Great recruiters are no different than great doctors or mechanics. There are things all top professionals know about the tools and strategies that produce great results. Top professionals know what works, when it works, and why it works. They also stay up to date on the latest advances within their profession. If you’re a manager of a corporate recruiting function, the following are the steps you can take to keep your recruiting department on the leading edge:

  1. Tell your recruiters upfront that it is a condition of their employment that they remain on the leading edge of knowledge in recruiting and business. Let them know that you will help, but that it is their personal responsibility to continually learn.
  2. Survey the very best recruiters in your industry and identify which periodicals, associations, seminars and web sources are the most effective in maintaining their knowledge edge. Then rank the sources and make that information available to every recruiter.
  3. Develop internal “learning networks,” list servers, and intranet sites to help recruiters share what works and what doesn’t between each other. Reward recruiters for sharing best practices as well as failures.
  4. Encourage or require each individual recruiter to develop their own learning plan each year and to develop a network of four to eight professional recruiters to share knowledge with.
  5. Periodically assess each recruiter’s knowledge and reward those who stay on the leading edge. Those who fail to meet the minimum knowledge requirements should be terminated.

Things Every Recruiter Should Know The following is a categorized list of what great recruiters should know (in descending order of importance): 1. Tools and information

  • The top five most effective recruiting sources for finding top performers and why each one works
  • Commonly used but marginally effective recruiting sources and tools
  • The decision criteria that top performers use to select a company and a job
  • The best practices in recruiting used by companies in your industry
  • Which jobs (within their recruiting scope), if focused on, would have the most impact on firm performance
  • Which tools are most effective for building relationships with potential candidates
  • The most effective methods for assessing candidate qualifications
  • The best tools and sites for recruiting top performers on the Web
  • The most effective technology tools in recruiting
  • The most effective finalist “selling” and “closing” tools and strategies
  • The best tools for forecasting economic trends and for workforce planning
  • The most effective market research tools for identifying what attracts candidates
  • The best branding tools for use in building our external image

2. Resources for continual learning

  • The best list servers and chat rooms for asking questions and getting information
  • The best e-newsletters on recruiting
  • The best websites for recruiting information
  • The best recruiting magazines, newsletters, and publications in recruiting
  • The best internal sources for keeping abreast of what’s happening in your company
  • The “benchmark” recruiting firms in your industry
  • The best industry journals for staying current in your industry
  • The best books and authors related to recruiting
  • The best local and national recruiting associations
  • The best recruiting conferences and seminars
  • The best magazines and publications that cover general HR practices
  • The best recruiting consulting firms and consultants
  • The best web sites for “global” recruiting tools and information

3. Metrics and building a business case

  • How to build an effective business case for getting new recruiting tools and programs funded
  • How to calculate the economic value of hiring top performers compared to average performers
  • The best measures for assessing the effectiveness of recruiting tools and programs
  • How to calculate the ROI of recruiting “passive (employed) candidates” compared to the more traditional “actively seeking employment” candidates
  • The best way to measure candidate and manager satisfaction

Conclusion If there is one fact that almost all experts agree on, it is that the world of business is shifting to a “knowledge economy.” In a knowledge economy, what you know (as opposed to your experience or physical strength) is the primary key to individual success. Unfortunately, in a knowledge economy, everything changes rapidly ó so fast, in fact, that what you know can become obsolete in as little as a month. Think about it: if you used the same recruiting tools and strategies in today’s “down economy” that you used even a year ago, you could easily embarrass yourself and your company. The only answer to this “knowledge obsolescence” dilemma is to dedicate yourself to the continuous process of staying on the leading edge of recruiting information. It’s time-consuming, but given the scarcity of good recruiting jobs these days, the alternative ó unemployment ó isn’t very appealing.

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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