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Monday, October 25, 2004

The Strategic Recruiter

The Recruiting Profession
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
The Strategic Recruiter

The bulk of recruiting is far more tactical than it is strategic, especially since most of the heavy lifting takes place between recruiter and candidate. Unfortunately, the endless details of dealing with candidates, resumes, interviews, and feedback — while also trying to close the deal — can have you running from pillar to post in a completely reactive style on a daily basis.

This bizarre existence is played out in countless companies across the country, and it is probably the primary reason recruiters lose productivity, become jaded, and burn out. After they snap, corporate America's brilliant response is to replace them, which allows them to burn out new recruiters. As an added bonus, the crowd that's on its way out now has the dubious opportunity to ply their trade at another company and have what usually amounts to same experience. This is one of the reasons why there are very few 100 year-old recruiters around.

Things do not have to be this way. But if recruiters want life to change then they will have to be the ones to drive that change. Change requires power, and power is never granted; power is only taken.

The first step towards empowerment for recruiters is to acknowledge that they are professionals and need to run their job as opposed to having their job running them. Unless you call the shots, you will continue to be hammered by the forces and whims of those dilettantes who believe they know your job better than you do. Your time and energy will continue to be drained by those who are more than happy to burden you with the blame when an offer is turned down, while bestowing you very little credit when it is accepted.

If you have days where you go home exhausted and feel as though you have almost no control over anything, migrating towards a strategic recruiting model might save both your sanity as well as your career.

Strategic recruiting starts with a belief that running around like a kid on too much sugar is no way to live, be productive, or build a company. It is reactive as opposed to proactive, governed by things that are urgent as opposed to things that are important (for those of you familiar with Covey, I am obviously talking about quadrant one versus quadrant two existence).
Interested in getting a bit of control into your function and meaning into your recruiting life?

Consider the following three points:
Stop all activity for a day or two (or three). Find a quiet conference room away from the madness of the phones and email, huddle with your team and do some thinking. An offsite would even be better. This is to be a quiet and reflective time to look at and examine your role, your priorities and how you run your business. If you say that you have no time to stop for a few days then I say you have to follow this advice more than you will ever know. (Charles de Gaulle said "the graveyards are filled with irreplaceable men." Think about it.)

Create a plan with a set of priorities that will govern how you spend your time. Notice I said how "you" spend your time. Not how "others" spend it. You should be the one to determine when you will do interviews, when you will do research, and when you will review resumes. There should be no other modus operandi if you are the one responsible for getting the job done. If you let the organization or politics of the day dictate what you should do, when and how to do it, they probably don't need you in the first place. Personally, I would much rather fail because my plan did not work than fail because someone else's plan did not work.

Armed with priorities and a plan, get your job done more effectively while enjoying a better quality of life in the workplace. For a recruiter, filling a position is no different than building a house is for a developer. Both endeavors require a well thought out plan (think strategy) before the actual work (think tactical) begins. This plan and the ability to stick to it will save both parties' endless time, and the result will be happy customers. Unfortunately, recruiters seldom have the time to really do the kind of planning necessary to prevent them from spinning their wheels on a regular basis. This "no time to think and only time to do" style of living, coupled with a workplace existence that is interrupt driven, makes true growth and a feeling of professional satisfaction hard to achieve. If you believe this type of thinking makes sense, I want to outline just a few things you can do to get back your span of control, sense of well-being, and ability to be productive.

The first and most crucial step is to learn the importance of planning. The second step is to learn the importance of working that plan as close as possible and resisting the endless distractions that are the enemies of real progress. I suggest that you look at planning in the following manner and remember that long-term planning is more strategic while short-term planning is more tactical:

Plan quarterly for long-term conceptual workforce type issues. How many requisitions do you have on your plate, what are the priorities, and how will you manage this workload? Put your plan in writing. Don't worry about it being perfect because that will never happen.

Plan monthly. How are you progressing based upon your workload? What midcourse corrections should be made to have things come together for you to meet your goals?

Plan weekly. Do it every Friday after lunch. Do not wait till 4:00. If you do, there's a good chance you will not be able to get it done and will have to play catch up on Monday, and we all know how happy life can be on Monday.

Plan for tomorrow. This plan should be specific to the next day's activities. Remember to put the most important things at the top of the list. Furthermore, don't schedule every minute of the day; you need time set aside to deal with life's unexpected problems. Empowered with this new and different way of dealing with your work, be aware of the main enemy confronting a person with a plan, the time-waster. It could be anything from useless meetings to nonsensical paperwork to people stopping in your office for the usual five minutes that turn into an hour.
There are many ways to deal with time-wasters.

Here are just three:

Feel free not to answer your phone every time it rings. A ringing phone says, "I want you now." Well, perhaps they want you now but that does not mean they can have you now. Let voicemail handle your calls. Check voicemail at noon and about an hour before you end the day.
Do not check email every four seconds. It causes you to lose focus, increases stress, and reduces productivity. If you do not want to operate in an interruption-driven manner, do not invite interruptions. I can assure you your emails will not disappear, and if someone dies, you will get the word soon enough.

Schedule meetings with hiring managers. Discourage them from popping in on you (when they show up ask them, "What can I do for you?") and do not drop in on them. This demonstrates a respect for their time as well as yours and gets them in the habit of communicating on a regular basis as opposed to hit or miss. By the way, have meetings in other people's offices as opposed to your own. It is relatively easy to get out of their office when you are finished, but far more awkward to throw them out of yours. Buckminster Fuller, the great inventor and architect said, "Our power is in our ability to decide." If you decide to make this change, you are well on your way to seizing all of the power you will need to make this all-important transformation. There really is no other way.

As an aside, I seldom recommend any books I've read, but I do hope that you will read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. It outlines some interesting practices and attitudes in companies you know well and is both informative as well as disturbing.

Howard Adamsky is the founder and president of HR Innovators, Inc. He is a management consultant, author and public speaker. As a consultant, Howard's sole purpose is to improve the condition of his clients' business (he has to or they don't pay him). His presentations, all customized to audience needs, include the importance of ethical and proactive leadership, creating the perfect candidate interviewing experience, and how to turn your company into an effective recruiting machine without really trying. Howard's new book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike, has been published by McGraw-Hill. He is currently finishing the last edits of his new book on people skills and had just completed development an interviewing program entitled The Other Side of Experience/Six Critical Assessment Tools for Long Term Thinkers.