In having the privilege of working with many firms across the country on executive searches, I have noticed a distinct pattern. Many of these firms unwittingly frustrate their own ability to target and attract the best talent.
The process typically starts with the client calling the recruiter and saying something like this:
“Hi [Recruiter]. Yes, I called you because we have a really important executive search we would like you to get started on immediately. I’ll send you the job description next week, but the position is similar to the last one you filled for us except for X, Y, and Z. I don’t have time to do it right and send an updated spec to you now. Send me some resumes as soon as you can!”
Based on the knowledge they have, the recruiter sends some resumes over. They don’t hear back from the hiring manager for a few days. Then the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, and the position is still unfilled. For some reason, the hiring manager can’t figure out why they are not filling the position quickly.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a better way for hiring managers to partner with recruiters to get the best candidates in the door quickly.
1. Start With an Accurate Job Description
In the rush to get started, a hiring manager will often kick off an executive search without an up-to-date job description. While the trust between the hiring manager and recruiter implicit in this act is laudable, this practice is risky at best.
For one, the hiring manager taking the time to calibrate the job description will inevitably produce some significant updates in terms of required skill set, technology, or industry experience – all information that is crucial to finding ideal candidates.
Equally important, many top candidates ask for the job spec up front. When the hiring company is not prepared to offer this information, that makes a bad impression on the best prospects. Treat having an updated job description as your ticket to start the posting and search engagement.
2. Provide Quick Feedback to Your Recruiter on Each Candidate Profile
Regardless of whether the candidate profile was good, bad, or ugly, it is important to provide immediate and specific feedback to the recruiter. Just like a basketball player finding their range on their jump shot and calibrating accordingly, a good recruiter will calibrate their search according to your needs.
In most cases, a hiring manager has a certain nuanced picture of an ideal candidate in their head, and this picture needs to be shared with the recruiter in order for the recruiter to surface candidates who fit the profile. In a very tight search or one needing a specific technical skill set, the ideal profile may be virtually impossible to find, so the recruiter needs to understand what kind of flexibility is appropriate with respect to candidate backgrounds.
If the hiring firm does not get back to the recruiter quickly on candidate profiles, the recruiter is left guessing. Speed wins in recruiting, so you want to get back quickly to your recruiter so they can focus on your best candidates, rather than wasting time on profiles that don’t fit. In this ultra-competitive market for talent, speed of feedback may be the differentiator you need to sway a top prospect to your firm.
3. Don’t Burn Out Good Candidates
Sometimes, a recruiter may serve up a quality candidate who is not quite right for the current opening, but is a very good potential for your firm in the next 6-12 months. Be sure to give these candidate quick and specific feedback on why their backgrounds are not right for the current role, while making it clear that you would like to stay in touch regarding openings that may be available in a few months. Getting back to these candidates quickly makes a great impression on them and helps build a pool of talent, from which you can draw as needed.
On the flip side, if you leave these candidate in the dark, you will burn out otherwise great sources of future talent who will no longer return your phone calls because you did not have the courtesy to let them know clearly where their candidacy stood.
4. Collaborate and Brainstorm With Your Recruiter During Regular Strategy and Candidate Review Sessions
Some very competitive industries with specialized skill sets can make for extremely challenging searches. In these scenarios, it is not uncommon for a recruiter to screen upwards of 1,000 profiles to find the right match for a single position! As such, it is vitally important to hold regularly scheduled strategy and candidate review sessions to discuss the candidates the recruiter has identified so far, as well as potential strategies to find new sources of viable candidates.
In some cases, that ideal A-player candidate with the right skill set and experience at the right compensation level may be as rare as a metaphorical unicorn. If that is the case, instead of settling for a B player, you should direct the recruiter to other adjacent technologies or skill sets that can be very relevant to success in your position. It is far better to get a slightly less experienced A player at lower compensation than to waste your time and money on a B or C player whose resume looks the part, but in fact falls short.
These regularly scheduled meetings will facilitate the best thinking and therefore the best results in your search. Your recruiter will be extra motivated to produce and share a fresh candidate pool for you at each review, and you can both communicate in real time about calibrations to explore in order to surface the right candidate.
The type of partnership described above is rare between hiring managers and recruiters, but when this type of collaboration is in place, it produces the best, fastest results. Your candidates will appreciate it, and in this war for talent, every edge matters.
Rick Crossland is author of the book The A Player.