October 29, 2019

Confessions of a Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader: Can Recruitment Shake Its Bad Rap?


Recruiters have gained a bad rap over the last decade. It is my mission to change that. Having been in the recruitment profession since the mid ’90s, I have seen the field transform from one of consultants and partners to something more functionally operational and annoying.

There are three general models of recruitment, and each has some room for improvement. With just a few tweaks, the recruitment profession could change for the better. It could make its mission serving people, not paychecks; serving clients, both internal and external, not process.

Let’s take a look at each model:

1. Large Agency Partners and Retained Search Firms

Large recruitment agencies are notorious for pushing activity numbers that drive sales and revenue. If you work for one of these establishments and are new to the profession, this attitude is fundamentally important, but it could put you into the “annoying” category when it comes to partnering with business leaders, clients, and candidates.

Why? It all depends on your approach. Pushing for numbers can negate service and partnership.

Why should someone work with you? What value do you bring? How are you approaching the market? If you are blasting out people’s resumes, you hurt not only the people whose resumes you are blasting, but also your reputation within your local market. Who are you sending resumes to? Do you have permission to send the resume to a particular client? There is nothing worse for a person than to meet a prospective employer at a social function only to learn that a random recruiting firm sent their resume unsolicited to that company, and now the company has an obligation to pay a fee if it wants to hire that person. Or the company has to spend time and money in the legal department to counter the fee. The person whose resume was sent may be penalized in the form of a lack of consideration by employers.

In short, everyone ends up hurt.

Agencies that push you to deliver numbers on a spreadsheet with little regard for quality of work do not view recruiting as an art of partnership. A better approach is to lean in on partnership. Take the time to learn who your candidates are and what they want. Make solid connections with permission. Research clients on social media. Find out whether a client would find value in your service before you start chasing them. Spend more time uncovering opportunities than blasting out emails and making cold calls. Be a partner on all sides.

2. Independent Agency Partners (Boutique Firms)

A great many of my colleagues left the large firms to start their own businesses focusing on particular areas of specialization. I love this model.

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In these firms, partnership, focus, and deep niche markets are all foundational to success. Both clients and candidates love working with people who have a vested interest in providing service and value over meeting quotas. These boutique firms tend to have less competition in their spaces because their clients know and trust them.

Sure, independent agencies are driven by revenue, but the best ones don’t seek revenue in spite of trust. They know their clients and candidates keep the lights on and provide for their families. Most importantly, independent agency partners find value in recruitment and deliver on their passion for people first. They take great pride in doing great work, and people gravitate toward them as a result. Some boutique firms will even partner with others to reciprocally share candidates and clients in order to deliver better service — but not without permission. Again, it is about service over numbers.

3. Corporate Recruitment (In-House Talent Acquisition)

Corporate recruitment, when done right, delivers partnership and talent to the business with an outside agency mentality and philosophy. When internal recruitment partners or talent advisors understand the business and its vision, mission, and values, they can deliver a company story to the talent market as an extension of the company brand. Recruitment’s story becomes the candidate’s story, or the people’s story.

If your internal team is not properly selling your company or opportunity, then the candidate flow will be mediocre at best. Your internal hiring managers will turn to their agency partners to find talent instead. Leaders of talent acquisition should ascertain agency spend and compare it to the performance of their internal teams in this area. There is a direct correlation.

Which takes us to leadership in talent acquisition. Talent acquisition is a center of excellence under the HR umbrella, but no talent acquisition team can be successful without proper experience in the art and science of recruiting. Talent acquisition leaders who focus mainly on metrics and insights lose the opportunity to enhance delivery and partnership in on-the-ground recruitment efforts.

Instead, lean in on your recruiting team. Get a grasp of market conditions. Review how your company is viewed in the market and come up with creative ways to become an employer of choice. Then, use the data to evaluate and direct your efforts. So many talent acquisition leaders are still fixated on the 1990 HR model — and they wonder why turnover is high, quality of hire is low, and internal candidate flow is lacking. Hire solid recruitment professionals who love the craft to deliver to the market.

Process is important, but not at the sacrifice of the human component. Consider these questions:

  1. When you get a call on your cell from a number you do not know, do you answer it?
  2. When you go through your mail and find one relevant piece out of 50, do you open all 50?
  3. How do you feel when you answer the phone, thinking it is an important call, only to get a prerecorded message trying to sell or scam you?

Your prospective candidates and clients feel the same way. So stop the spam and start delivering service. Lean in on your teams and come up with strategic ways to deliver value over process. Then, design a process that works for you and your organization.

Your employer value proposition is not just your company’s — it is yours. What is your value proposition in recruiting? People follow people, not companies. Why should someone follow you?

Laureen Kautt is a global talent acquisition executive and the founder and principal coach of Volitionary Movement, LLC. “Confessions of a Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader” is her recurring column on Recruiter Today.

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Laureen Kautt, BCC (with additional Career Coach designation), is a global talent acquisition executive experienced in creating and building talent acquisition functions for organizations through creating vision, driving strategy, and delivering solutions. By translating her decades of agency recruitment experience to corporate, Laureen grew the global talent acquisition function for a $1 billion legal technology firm from 4 to 28 over a 6-year period, leading and delivering recruitment practices and strategies in North America, EMEA, and APAC. Laureen is also the founder and principal coach of Volitionary Movement, LLC, where she is engaged for individual, group, and corporate coaching and consulting. She is certified in strategic intervention coaching methods and strategies from the Robbins-Madanes Training in Strategic Intervention Coaching.