On Becoming a Corporate Headhunter – Part II
Third-party recruiters have a huge competitive advantage over their corporate recruiter rivals. For one thing, they can cherry-pick their assignments and thus don’t have nearly as many assignments to work on. For another, they can market their best candidates to multiple clients. In many cases this allows them to present high potential candidates with comparable, but not identical, experience. Retained recruiters also have open access to their hiring managers, spend a great deal of time understanding real job needs up front, and 100% of their candidates are interviewed. Of course, since there’s a fee involved, their candidates are put under the microscope, and repeat business is a function of how well their candidates perform on the job. This actually is a good thing, since candidate performance is how external recruiters are evaluated, not cost per hire.
Despite the fee, if the external recruiter delivers top people on a consistent and timely basis they get more assignments. A case can be made that the corporate recruiting department should more closely model the external recruiter in both process and technique. To move toward this end objective, here are some techniques you might want to try on your next assignment:
Throw away the job description
I’ve probably only made this point about 1000 times this past year, so here’s number 1001: a traditional job description listing skills, duties, experiences, and competencies will not help you to find top performers or screen them accurately. Instead, you must ask your hiring managers to define exactly what the person taking the job must do to ace the first performance review. If the hiring manager says he doesn’t have time to do this, ask him what he’ll be saying to an outstanding candidate if she asks a similar question. Alternatively, you can ask the manager when he’ll be telling the great person he’s hired what she’ll be doing. Strong prospects, especially those who aren’t looking or who have multiple opportunities, will be asking you these same questions before they agree to go out on an interview, and if you can’t confidently answer them, they’ll say they’re not interested.
The two following tips require that you know the top 4-5 performance objectives of the job in order to maintain applicant control and convert your job openings into career moves. These are important skills if you want to source and convince the best people when you first contact them to consider your opportunity. Your hiring managers must also know the performance objectives of the job if they want to see more top performers and then accurately assess their ability and motivation to do the real work required. (We call these performance-based job descriptions Performance Profiles.)
Another huge win: you’ll quickly discover that some of your best prospects, including diverse candidates, have a slightly different mix of experiences that might have been overlooked using traditional screening measures. Most managers will want to see these candidates if they’ve accomplished tasks comparable to those listed it the Performance Profile.
Don’t take “No” for an answer
Sometime during your first call with a candidate, ask the person how long she’s been looking. You’ll quickly discover that the best haven’t been looking very long. Of course, these are also the hardest ones to recruit since they’re more discriminating. At first, they won’t even call you back, so persist. If you somehow get them on the phone they’ll quickly say they’re “not interested” as soon as you begin your pitch. This will be followed up with the classic, “what’s the compensation?” to finally get you off the phone. Don’t succumb to these temptations. For one thing, these people don’t really mean “no,” they mean you haven’t said anything that would get them to say “yes,” and everything they do next is to get rid of you. So in the future if someone says “no” or “not interested,” just say “that’s exactly why we need to talk” as your default comeback. Then go on to suggest that wouldn’t it make sense to talk 5-10 minutes under the chance your job offered a true career move.
While you mustn’t take “no” for an answer, it’s actually best to ask questions that can only be answered by a “yes.” This way you determine if you’re interested in your candidate, rather than the candidate determining if she’s interested in your job. This is what applicant control is all about, and is the key to becoming a corporate headhunter.
Use the phone screen to convert your job into a potential career move
Start the phone screen by conducting a work history review going through the candidate’s background in some detail. Spend 15 minutes on this. Then use the One-question Performance-based Interview to review the candidate’s most significant accomplishment in great detail. This will take another 15 minutes, but you can stop the interview if you determine the candidate is too light for the job. Use fact-finding probes to look for voids and gaps in the candidate’s background by benchmarking what she’s done in comparison to the performance objectives listed in the Performance Profile. These gaps can then be used to present your job as a true career move. For example, a top person will see a job with a bigger staff or a bigger budget or more visibility or a broader impact as a career move. Don’t be surprised when the candidate then starts selling you on why she’s a strong candidate, despite these shortcomings. As long as the gaps aren’t too big, you can move forward without compensation being the primary driver. This will help increase your close rate if the candidate is ultimately offered a position, especially if she’s comparing it to other jobs that are more lateral transfers.
Becoming a corporate headhunter will become more important as the supply of strong candidates declines as the economy recovers. In the early stages of the recovery, external recruiters will have a field day, snatching some of your best employees for their best assignments. Corporate recruiters will then be faced with the double challenge of filling both new as well as these just-vacated positions. While these tips will help you become a better headhunter, the bigger task is getting your whole team on board, getting your hiring managers actively engaged, keeping your best people engaged, and using the latest sourcing techniques to find the best talent available. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
Lou Adler is the president of The Adler Group and Amazon best-seller author of Hire With Your Head and the audio program Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Hire Top Talent. Adler is a noted recruiting industry expert, speaker, and columnist for SHRM, ERE, RCSA, Kennedy Information, HR.com and ZoomInfo.com. Learn more about Lou Adler’s Performance-based Hiring methodology at: http://www.adlerconcepts.com/index.php/us/performance-based-hiring. Learn about our training programs for recruiters and hiring managers at: http://www.adlerconcepts.com/index.php/training.