Why You Need to Take Your Recruiter for a Drink (and the Three Things They’ll Tell You)

Four years ago I was sitting at a bar called Cafe Van Kleef in Oakland, California where our company was hosting a cocktail party for SHRM attendees.

saltydog@2x-191-Page had taken over the whole place. It was great fun, and a chance to meet the hard working folks in recruiting growing some of the best companies on the West Coast. After a few Salty Dogs, things loosened up a bit. Our team and the recruiters who came started to open up with each other. You know how those parties go. My ice breaker line was “So how did you get involved in recruiting?” Not very original or enticing, but it worked, and gave me tremendous insight into the daily life of the recruiter.

I was surprised by one common part of their answers…very few had gotten into HR on purpose. Most had “fallen into it” at an early stage of their careers. Many had applied to a company for one position and told while that position was filled, there was an opening in HR.

“You know, you seem to be a real ‘people person.’ Have you considered an HR role?”

I have often thought back on that night, and those women and a couple of guys – that rare breed we call recruiters. So right here and now I’d like to advocate for these recruiters and suggest to their bosses, the recruiting managers, the staffing managers, the C-level executives to give the front-line recruiters much more support and consideration. Walk in their shoes, and hear what’s on their mind, if you dare.

I believe if bosses took their recruiters one-on-one for drinks, dinner and got them to share what was on their mind, here are three things they’d tell you…


Problem #1: You have given me of the most difficult jobs in the company, where the odds are stacked against me

There are nearly half a million recruiters at enterprise-size companies in the United States competing with each other to make 11.8 million hires (BLS, 2014). To fill these positions recruiters are scouring a US workforce of over 150 million people for candidates and free agents. These recruiters are in direct competition with each other AND in direct competition with over five million smaller companies (less than 250 employees) that are also aggressively scouring the same talent databases, job boards, and resumes.

To make matters more challenging, the average person now has five social media accounts, spreading different aspects of their life, work, and personality across each. The task of sourcing in such a large and ever expanding pool is almost humanly impossible. Get me out of the sourcing game altogether. Engage a third party with the computing power to build the pipeline I need for my req. And let me start doing my job again – recruiting.

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Problem #2: You are giving me very little training about the company itself

Not getting constant briefings about the overall strategic direction of the company is unacceptable, because it puts the recruiter at a huge disadvantage when engaging a prospect. At the heart of being a recruiter is their ability to engage prospects with a compelling value proposition. I have seen many times recruiters that are not informed and briefed about the industry the company is in, competitors, values, and leadership.

Worse for some recruiters is that access to the hiring manager is severely limited, breaking down their ability to really grasp the challenge a hire is to solve. Instead, you are told to operate off of some vague and outdated job description, copied and pasted from probably five others.


Problem #3: What are the actual needs of the hiring manager again?

On that very point, by the time you get me the job req. there have been so many middle men – and the human process so deteriorated – you begin to believe they are called “hiring managers” and little else.

(FYI nobody in any company has a card with the title “hiring manager”. It was a term invented by HR and it sucks, because it dehumanizes the whole process from within.)

If you’re in a large company, in most cases you barely know the hiring manager’s name, much less their title, much less what they do, much less the kind of person they are looking for. You are treated like a cyborg with skin, to use the Terminator analogy. “Find the target and go fetch!”

Do not settle for this.

If you don’t have a solid working relationship, and all the information you need, you cannot do your job. And you’re going to fail. You won’t stand out, and your messages will continue to go unread. Particularly with passive candidates, you need to be able to leverage of the name and brand of the person you are hiring for. You need to leverage their knowledge. Their words need to be front and center.

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Forgive me for being so blunt, but when you have a drink or two, the truth comes out. At our company, we believe in the power of one person (one recruiter, one hiring manager, or one hire) to make a difference to the success of an enterprise. So we believe in you. I hope you will keep the discussion going in your own enterprises.

The great physicist Stephen Hawking said recently “There should be no boundary to human endeavor. We are all different. There is no such thing as a standard or run of the mill human being – but we share the same human spirit. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

Bartender…another round!