Do You Give Hiring Managers Recruitment Advice?

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Hiring Managers Project TeamA recent article on discussed Brook’s Law and its implications for recruiting and hiring. Brook’s Law states that adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. The gist of Brook’s Law is that you can’t throw manpower at any project and expect to experience the same labor productivity.

Hiring managers whose teams have too much to do may often think that hiring an employee or consultant will relieve their workload. However, in practice, as team members add up, management overhead increases and communication complexity increases. When deciding to take on additional staff or consultants, hiring managers may often be wrong.

Of course, hiring too many people is only one of the mistakes that hiring managers make. If you’re in either corporate or agency recruitment, you understand some of the common mistakes that hiring managers make. After a few years in the business, you learn to recognize the warning signs and familiar patterns. These typical hiring manager mistakes include:

  • Hiring too much or too often and burning through employees through rapid firing.
  • Trying to recruit “rock star” candidates but having a plebeian budget for salaries.
  • Hiring inexperienced candidates with the hope of training and retaining them long term.
  • Taking too long to interview and missing out on qualified candidates.
  • Rejected candidates for the wrong reasons; for example, communication issues when communication isn’t part of the job.
  • Getting “sold” by the wrong types of candidates, for example, candidates with strong salesmanship.
  • Perceiving a group of unrelated qualifications as one position: for example, a “salesy” Java developer or the accounting professional with strong database and presentation skills.
  • Hiring in their own image or their team’s image, when they really need differentiated, complimentary talent.

These common recruitment mistakes are easier to see from the outside than the inside: recruiters (whether corporate or external) have the best vantage point on hiring. Recruiters can often see that hiring managers are making mistakes – but as a recruiter, what is your place? When do you give recruitment advice ?

The difficulty is that honest advice is often contrary to the self-interest of the recruiter. External recruiters make their money on placements, so they often benefit from bloated project teams. Let Brook’s Law be damned – hire as many people as possible! Let the project costs balloon into the stratosphere and the hiring managers get fired years later for incompetence and lack of fiscal discipline. Let a team get hired and two months later get fired. Let candidates quit their good jobs for a little more money, while knowing that the candidate will most likely get fired in a month as the staffing money dries up…

Corporate talent acquisition and HR face many of the same issues. Internal recruiters need job requirements to justify their jobs. Although when burdened with heavy requirement loads, it may be easy to council a hiring manager out of a hire, it often feels like advice is not the function of a recruiter. Recruiters recruit, right? They find people for the company that will make an impact. So when does a recruiter’s job instead become advising hiring managers to make better hiring decisions, implementing stronger recruitment and talent programs, and in a sense, becoming a sort of uber-hiring-manager themselves?

Can either corporate or agency recruiters ever really give objective advice?

The answer (of course) is yes. In fact, to progress to be a senior professional in the recruitment industry and profession, you have to become more than someone who takes jobs and fills orders for hiring managers. It can take a few years, but recruiters can usually realize that:

  • They often know more than hiring managers about hiring.
  • They have specialized knowledge about the local marketplace for talent.
  • They understand the common relationship of skills, meaning they know what characteristics, technical aptitude and skills are normally found grouped in single candidates.
  • They often know the candidates better than hiring managers and understand how they will fit in on the team.
  • They understand best how the preferences of a hiring manager are biased, patterned, or flawed.

Once you realize your strength as a recruiter is this vantage point, is this keen sense of hiring pattern recognition, you will feel confident to give hiring managers advice on recruitment and hiring. At its best level, the relationship between recruiter and hiring manager should be both symbiotic and a relationship of equals. The most successful hiring practices emerge from a mutual process of input and discussion from both recruiter and hiring manager.

As to how to negotiate and advise hiring managers while keeping your own best interests in mind, it’s best to take a long term view of staffing issues. If you deconstruct a vicious hiring pattern, help bring on one person instead of two, or council the hiring manager how to reduce turnover, you are setting the stage for a long-term, successful partnership. As a recruiter, you don’t need to become a hiring guru or mentor, but developing a consultative approach to recruitment is the only way to differentiate yourself. It’s the only way to build your recruiting career and a rock solid reputation in the employment market.

By Marie Larsen