It’s Time to Face the Reality: You’re Recruiting on Autopilot

It’s time to shift your focus from just ‘doing’ – and spend more time on planning before it’s too late.

It would not be hard to argue that with the steady increase in hiring volumes, coupled with a lack of top talent and the growing expectations for recruiters to do more with less, the role today can often feel like ‘mission impossible’.

This situation is compounded further by the sometimes negative image associated with recruiting, even though from my own experience many of the career recruiters I have met or worked with over the years are some of the hardest working, most tenacious and committed people I know.


An Unsustainable Problem

In the face of this adversity, most of these typically action-oriented recruiters draw on what’s made them successful in the past and double down on their efforts, working even harder and with even more tenacity to get the job done. Whilst commendable, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that this is not a sustainable, let alone scalable, approach and runs the risk of these committed employees becoming overwhelmed, burnt out, or worse still, quitting.

At the heart of this problem lies a recruiting conundrum which desperately needs to be addressed: as recruiting workloads and expectations grow, how do recruiters find time to step away from the ‘busyness’ of the day-to-day to review processes and methods of collaboration that can drive greater efficiency?

It’s a classic catch-22: if a recruiter stops working to fill roles the system will quickly overload and meltdown, but if they don’t stop to find better ways of doing things, the system will likely overload and meltdown anyway.

The truth is that this is a business problem, not a recruiting problem, but the reality is that it’s probably going to be left to recruiting to fix.


illustration150x150-2So what’s the solution?

I believe that learning agility is the key to resolving this problem. As I mentioned in my last post, recruiters need to start recognizing that what has made them successful in the past is unlikely to be what makes them successful in the future. What has historically been a reactive and tactical role is now required to have a much more strategic outlook.

Recruiters are not a dying breed – far from it – but they do need to evolve and think differently, which in itself requires a significant shift in mindset.
Those who demonstrate learning agility will thrive.

Only last month, Unilever stated that they want to shorten hiring from four months to two weeks. Clearly this cannot be achieved while sticking with traditional and staid talent acquisition (TA) strategies. Perhaps necessity will continue to be the mother of invention but make no mistake: the warning bell has sounded; it’s time to stop recruiting on autopilot.



Step into the driver’s seat

One of the fundamental challenges recruiting has historically endured is that it is largely focused on execution, with little or no time taken to review if there are better ways of doing things. Let’s be honest, agile methodology and continuous improvement are skills we look for in people we recruit rather than practices we actively adopt within our own industry.

One of the biggest challenges for a recruiter is to escape the gravitational pull towards execution. One technique for combating this is to adopt the Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80:20 rule. It’s more an observation than a rule (or law) but it infers that most things in life are not distributed evenly (including role responsibilities).

This rule of thumb is often adopted within business e.g. 20% of workers contribute 80% of results, or 20% of customers contribute 80% of revenue – the inference being to concentrate one’s efforts on the things that deliver most value.

As a recruiter, how can you (or your hiring manager) use the Pareto Principle to review the ROI of your contribution?

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What are the 20% of tasks that contribute to 80% of my value?
  • Do respective stakeholders agree with the distribution of these tasks?
  • Which tasks currently dominate my time?
  • If I am not focusing 80% of my time on the 20% of tasks that drive most value, what is preventing me from doing so – what are the blockers?
  • Conversely, what will enable me to spend more time on those top 20% tasks?
  • And how is this value being tracked and measured?

But of course, the art is in the application. One of the most effective systems I’ve used for getting the right sh** done is a traffic light calendar system which I discovered from sales guru Juliana Crispo. It’s a simple system – and even mindset – which can be used to make sure you are focusing on the tasks that will differentiate your performance while keeping your work limit to a specific period of time.

Simply color code your calendar tasks into the following:

  • Green for high value tasks
  • Yellow or Amber for medium value tasks
  • Red for low value tasks.

When scheduling tasks that involve speaking with stakeholders (e.g. candidates and hiring managers), consider when is the best time of day to reach them. Managing your calendar this way with time chunks of green, yellow and red tells you if you’re setting yourself up to achieve those tasks which deliver most value in your role. It should hopefully go without saying that if you don’t have enough green on your calendar you’re probably focusing on the wrong things and need to step up your game.

Incidentally, in considering where recruiters add most value I would argue that it is the tasks that have a human element (preferably talking) e.g. managing candidates or working more closely with hiring managers. Outside of select organizations with mature and highly optimized TA models, I would question whether these most value-adding tasks get the majority of a recruiter’s focus.

Bersin in fact identified that a strong relationship between a recruiter and hiring manager is, in fact, the number one predictor of TA performance.

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Tune into TA tech

Personally, I believe that technology has a huge role to play in supporting recruiters, whether it be automating the computation of complex data or simply replacing time-consuming, repetitive, lower value, but nonetheless necessary tasks. Either way, one of the basic questions for a recruiter to address when considering new technology is, will this enable me to spend more time on high-value tasks?

One of my observations, however, is that there is a large percentage of recruiters who resist a more widespread adoption of technology. Sometimes it’s because they don’t trust it, other times because the value is not clear; they believe it simply duplicates tasks they already do, but often this is because there is a misunderstanding about where they deliver most value in their role and how the technology can enable them to have more impact.

I remember one such discussion with a TA leader who challenged me by saying, “I will sign up if you can guarantee me that your product will find people I cannot find myself.” He was clearly an experienced and competent recruiter who, given time, could probably find a lot of the people on our platform. I responded by saying, “The value of our product was less in the people we could find that they couldn’t and more in the time we could save them by not having to search for candidates themselves”.

The underlying value was less about whether we could find this company ‘purple squirrels’ and more about how we could increase the productivity of the TA team.

Whatever your views or circumstances on the use of technology, it’s important to not lose sight about where you or your team add most value compared to where you are currently investing your time.

With the industry evolving at a tremendous rate, what worked yesterday may not work today and those who have the agility to adapt to these changes will outperform their peers, have the most business impact, and close the best people.

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