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What Is Wrong With The Way Recruiters Are Assessed & How To Fix It!

As a former recruiter turned trainer of recruiters, I face a daily challenge to convince front-line recruiters and sourcers to adapt their behaviours to incorporate medium to long-term talent acquisition strategies. Most recruiters I meet all agree on the importance of long term planning, talent pipelining, selecting long term fit, etc. But the fact remains that when they go back to work, most are evaluated and remunerated on their short term achievements – namely filling vacancies.

If you are an agency recruiter, you are likely evaluated almost exclusively on your billings or placements in any given month or quarter. Your boss will recognise the importance of building your recruiter brand, the value of your blogging, the contribution that you make to the furthering of the agency’s brand by speaking at events and conferences, but let’s face it: if you aren’t placing people, you will quickly be shown the door.

Performance Review for Recruiters

If you’re an in-house recruiter, your performance is probably measured by some combination of the following:

  • Number of hires in X period
  • Time to hire
  • Cost of hire

You may have a weighting factor that takes into account difficult or strategic roles but I almost guarantee you that the above stats are what really dictate whether you get promoted or let go. More day-to-day statistics might include:

  • Number of Interviews Completed
  • Interview to Offer Ratio
  • Offer to Acceptance Ratio

The problem remains that all of these are short-term. They don’t recognise the real value of a great recruiter.

Recruiters find the people that shape the business. The people recruiters identify, court, negotiate with and eventually on-board are the life-blood of every business. Great employees will go on to grow new markets, invent new products, lead teams, save money, mitigate risk and a host of other things that you, the recruiter, will never be credited with. Bad employees can poison an otherwise positive work environment, they can foster resentment and disengagement, they can embarrass the company, get the company into legal trouble or (worst of all), cause your customers to fall out of love with you. On the upside, we rarely get the blame when the proverbial hits the fan, and we sure as hell don’t remind anyone that we helped bring these losers on board!

Us recruiters hire people with a business objective in mind. It could be as simple as “ensure widget X is boxed according to standard Y“, or it could be as complex as “Develop new markets and display leadership in all you do“. It is essential that recruiters see that their role is not just filling vacancies. Your role is to help to solve problems or exploit possibilities on behalf of the business. Imagine, if you will, a performance appraisal for a recruiter that went something like this:

  • You walk into a meeting room with your boss.
  • On the wall is an organisational chart. Circled on this chart are all the people you’ve helped hire for the business.
  • Your boss begins by talking you through exactly what these people have achieved since they joined the company, using their performance appraisals as a guideline.
  • You both compare the performance against the original role specification and rank the performance of each employee on a scale based on their under- or over-achievement of expectations.
  • For the super-stars, you discuss what attributes may have contributed to this excellent performance. For the under-achievers you identify behaviours that may have, in hindsight, led to such poor performance.
  • Next you look at your budget for recruiting for the period, including your own salary and costs. This is weighted against the contribution that the people you hired have made to the business.
  • You both agree on whether “your people” have justified the cost of hire and plan for how to more effectively use your budget going forward to identify more star performers and better screen out potentially weak/ negative candidates.

I think that when you go back to your desk to fill the next “urgent” role, you’re going to think a little more strategically about what type of person you look for. You’re going to challenge requirements in the spec that you don’t agree on. After all, it’s your neck on the line if you hire the wrong person. Your focus will be less on “fill the job” and more focused on “service the business need”. Sometimes, you’ll suggest people that aren’t right for the job but are great for the business. You’ll create jobs, you’ll build business cases for superstars you think the firm should hire and you’ll be more critical when assessing and evaluating candidates at the interview stage. In short, your goals will be aligned with the business goals, and that’s exactly as it should be.

As for the agency recruiters, can you adapt this model? It’s harder, but not impossible. Our partner in the Nordics started life as an agency recruiter. He didn’t bill a straight percentage of first year salary in return for placing candidates – he did something else. He billed at a slightly higher rate than his competitors (we’re talking a modest rate of 2 to 4% more) but he only sent the first half of the invoice on the day the person started. His clients only received the second half of the invoice on the 1 year anniversary of the candidate’s start date and only if they were still employed. This ensured he had “skin in the game”. Whilst not quite as integrated or aligned as the in-house model above, I think he would be less likely to recommend an unsuitable candidate (we’ve all made these 50/50 calls in our career and they usually come down in our favour, all else being equal!) and his clients see him as being part of the business solution rather than just the hiring solution.

If we keep measuring recruiter success in short-term goals, we’re going to continue to breed an industry of short-termists. If you seriously want your recruiters to see the big picture, you need to evaluate and remunerate accordingly! Thoughts?

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