Saving Your Butt and “Wowing” Your Managers

If you currently have a job as a recruiter, this is certainly not the time to rest on your laurels. With the downturn in the economy, every VP of HR is entertaining the thought, “Why do I need you?” So if you want to save your butt and be the last recruiter standing, here are some suggestions on how to “wow” your managers. Remember, these are advanced tips, and they are not designed for the squeamish. (But then, if you are squeamish you probably aren’t a “real” recruiter anyway!)Who Should You Impress First? There are basically two types of people that influence whether you keep your job as a recruiter: HR professionals and “line” managers. Unfortunately real line managers have completely different criteria for maintaining people in staff positions than HR professionals do, so I have split my tips into two basic categories, managers and HR. But if you have any doubt about which you should target first, go with the line managers. Managers, especially in growth divisions, have tremendous influence in any organization. In many cases, they have sufficient budget to pay you directly, regardless of whether HR likes you or not. What Recruiters Can Do To Wow Managers Line managers tend to be a relatively focused group, and their focus tends to be on the money and business results. If you want influence them, you need to focus on improving business results. Here are some things you might try:

  • Forecast the future. Forecast when the industry will make an upturn, and make the case for the need to prepare for the upturn and begin new hiring immediately. Show them you used competitive intelligence to identify when (and in which areas) your direct competitor will begin hiring.
  • Show them the superstars. Demonstrate to managers the quality of talent that is now available. Show them that during the economic downturn the very best talent is now ripe for recruiting (at prices they can afford). Make a list of the very best people (those a manager would know by name) that you could bring in for an interview within 10 days. Send them the actual resumes of five highly qualified (and interested) individuals that fit their toughest open job.
  • Demonstrate how you could hurt the competitor. Show your senior managers that you know the top talent of your competitors by name and how to acquire them. Develop a plan to poach them away, thereby helping your firm and hurting the competitor at the same time. Show them your competitive intelligence on what tools and strategies your chief competitor has used to lure away your firm’s top talent.
  • Place a stick in the sand. Managers put their neck on the line every day and they are impressed with others that do the same. Make some specific promises about the number, quality, and speed of hires you can make in certain key jobs. Guarantee your “service levels” and report periodically to the managers how you did in relationship to your promises.
  • Focus on powerful managers. Identify the most powerful and influential managers (and business units), and prioritize your work around them. Make an effort to provide superior customer service and immediate response to their requests. Do training seminars or speak briefly at management meetings in order to teach managers how to recruit and retain, while at the same time increasing your exposure.
  • Drop the turkeys. Show them, within your firm’s organizational constraints, how they can easily get rid of their bottom performers and replace (or swap) them with top performing new hires. It’s not enough just to identify the turkeys; managers also need to know that the process of getting rid of them will be relatively quick and painless. Don’t be vague, and be sure you can actually walk them through the steps.
  • Make the business case. Make a business case (i.e., economic argument) for recruiting top talent in key positions, even during tough economic times. Demonstrate to the managers the return on investment (meaning a direct improvement in their business results) for hiring top people in key positions. Calculate how much productivity or output increases every time you replace an average performer with the top performing hire. Also demonstrate the relatively low economic return that training or “fixing” troubled employees will have compared to recruiting.
  • Show them speed. Managers traditionally hate recruiting because it’s so slow and bureaucratic. Show them how you can break through the bureaucracy and have a new hire starting within three weeks. If they don’t see the immediate impact…they don’t care. Develop a prescreened, pre-qualifed and pre-sold applicant pool for key positions so that they can fill vacancies immediately.
  • Show them new tools. Demonstrate to managers that you have new tools and strategies both to find and “sell” top candidates. Show them that your tools are superior to those of your direct talent competitors and other internal or external recruiters.
  • Help them with retention. Show managers which of their key people are ripe for leaving. You might even show them, by name, which employees are actively looking. This is especially important in organizations that recently had layoffs (where the survivors may be frustrated and disillusioned) or where key managers have recently lost some of their critical talent. Show them quick and cheap, but effective, retention tools that work within your organization.
  • Headcount approval. Demonstrate to managers that you know how to “get around” the requisition approval process so that they can have their reqs approved within a week.

Impressing HR Professionals It’s no secret that, with the downturn in the economy, almost every firm has reduced its HR expenditures. As a result, HR leaders are constantly looking for ways to impress senior managers in order to increase HR funding (or at least limit the cuts). Individual recruiters must also realize that they live in a political world, so that in addition to demonstrating their effectiveness they also need to standout among the rest. This means showing how recruiting has a bigger impact on business results than other HR functions (compensation, training, employee relations or benefits), as well as showing that you should be the last recruiter that is let go. There is no room for subtlety here: it’s you against them, especially during slow growth times when it’s automatically assumed that recruiting is less necessary. Your job is to demonstrate to senior HR leaders that they need to keep at least one recruiter, no matter what…and that you are the one to keep! Making the Case for Keeping Recruiters

  • Show them managers can’t do it. Using numbers and actual examples, demonstrate how using professional recruiters (and you in particular) provides results that are clearly superior to the alternative of letting managers do most recruiting. Make the business case for not wasting valuable management time on activities that require technical experience and knowledge. Show them the performance of people hired with professional recruiting help compared to the performance of those hired by managers alone, without professional help.
  • Serve as a model. HR executives are constantly trying to improve the effectiveness of the entire HR function. Demonstrate how recruiting can serve as a model for improving the rest of HR. Show how by making the business case, becoming global, and using metrics and technology, one function (recruiting) can dramatically improve its results. Offer to be the lead, and then show how you will directly assist other HR functions in making the transition to the “new” HR.
  • Become talked about. HR executives are constantly striving to improve their image. By writing articles, being quoted in industry journals, and making presentations to industry groups about your “industry leading” approach to recruiting, you not only improve your own credibility and job security but you also help build the overall HR departmental image. By building up a strong external image, you can directly increase management’s support for your function.
  • Improve redeployment. When there’s little external recruiting going on, there is also likely to be an increased need to move talent around internally to where it can have the highest impact. Design a system or develop tools that increase the internal movement and redeployment of talent within the firm. Demonstrate that your recruiting skills can be used internally (even when there is little external hiring).
  • Focus on inexpensive tools. When recruiting budgets are lean, it’s even more important to demonstrate to HR executives that you are a “low-cost provider.” For example, show HR management how cost-effective recruitment tools (like employee referral programs) can dramatically improve recruiting effectiveness, and therefore dramatically reduce advertising, executive search, and web costs.
  • Prepare for the upturn. Demonstrate to the VP of HR that this is the best time to build up your recruiting function. Show that the best recruiters are now available, and that by the time the team is built up, the hiring room will have begun again.

Making the Case for Retaining “You” as Your Firm’s Best Recruiter

  • Future competencies. Make an assessment of the skills and tools that will be required in recruiting when the economic turnaround begins. Demonstrate that you have them, and that you can take the lead in training and developing these skills in your firm’s managers and other recruiters.
  • Quantify your results. Demonstrate the quality (on-the-job performance), speed, and cost of your hires compared to the departmental average. Also show that you know which recruiting tools and sources are the most and least effective.
  • Lead in technology. As recruiting becomes more electronic and global, it will become more important to be a technology expert. Demonstrate your knowledge of the Internet and recruiting software, and show how you can help assess and manage new systems and vendors.
  • Demonstrate sales skills. As marketing, PR, branding and “closing” become more prominent issues within recruiting, it’s essential that you demonstrate that your skills in these important areas are superior (and that you are willing to share them).
  • General work. Demonstrate that you can do other non-recruiting work (generalists, training, or compensation).

Conclusion In a highly competitive market, it’s essential that you take a proactive role in guaranteeing you own “employability.” Keeping your job requires the same war mentality that you used in the war for talent. And incidentally, not only will it help you stay employed, but it will also make your company more productive.

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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