HR & Recruitment Agencies...where's the love?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

To my fellow recruiters: did you ever get the feeling that your latest call to HR (to market a candidate, ask to be put on the Preferred Vendor List, solicit feedback, etc.) put you further at odds with the person you were calling? In fact, when you hung up the phone (or got hung up on), did you have a flashback to your last date (whether it was last night or 20 years ago)? Remember the old “it’s not you, it’s me?” Let’s “KIS” the subject (keep it simple) and look at this relationship (and quickly repair it!).

The HR function at any company is tasked with a host of responsibilities, ranging from compensation, benefits, training, performance reviews, and employment issues, to name just a few. One of the more critical functions for an HR dept is hiring employees. So, if that’s the case, then why is there an apparent inability to communicate with outside recruiters? After all, the common goal is to place the best possible candidate, right? So what’s the problem?

The first and most important issue involves trust. In order for the relationship to work (to both parties’ satisfaction), they must trust each other. Trust is not something that can be bought, it must be earned (think John Houseman in the old Smith Barney commercials HR must trust that outside vendors are not there to “take their jobs away.” Rather, recruiters are present to help HR achieve the common goal of a great hire. In order for HR to trust recruiters, the recruiters must, above all else, be honest and frank in all discussions. Recruiters need to explain that while recruiting is a business (not such a terrible thing), the overall mission is to develop a partnership that is mutually beneficial. That relationship can only thrive if there is dialogue uninhibited by fear, jealously, distrust, etc.

Another issue, while it seems elementary, involves the disconnect between what the HR representative THINKS the recruiter does versus what the recruiter ACTUALLY does. The simple fix to this problem is for the recruiter to explain to the HR manager what his/her job involves. Explaining the nuances of recruitment (everything from researching the company to searching for candidates to closing the deal) should and will put any misconceptions at ease. Again, once there is complete transparency, the “trust gap” will close quickly. Conversely, HR bears some responsibility as well. They must be open and accepting that the recruiter is truly trying to forge a partnership, and put any preconceived notions or prior bad experiences aside. Simply put, there are good recruiters and bad recruiters (as there are good HR people and bad HR people). Yes, some recruiters only care about invoicing the customer, just as some HR people only care about who gets the credit for the fill. At the end of the day, those recruiters and HR people will not last long. Both HR and outside recruiters need to have the same aforementioned goal: placing the best candidate possible, in an honest and transparent way.

Some other issues that arise include job specifications. It is the recruiter’s obligation to ask as many questions as necessary to find out who would be the best candidate for the position. Likewise, if you are an HR person and hand a recruiter a two-line job specification, you can’t possibly be surprised when you get poor resumes in return (sarcasm intended). Another issue involves “reality.” If there is to be a true partnership regarding a candidate search, the position requisitions must be realistic. The recruiter must discuss the requisition with the HR manager and speak up when he/she sees a search for the infamous “purple whale.” Again, it comes down to communication!

While the above seems simple (remember “KIS”), there are several other items that need to be discussed to effectuate a strong, long-lasting and beneficial relationship between HR and recruiters. One such item is “value-add.” For the relationship to grow (or even start), the HR side must be cognizant that there is a high value to working with a recruiting agency. That value includes: finding (active & passive) candidates, market intelligence, promoting the client brand, allowing the HR team to spend time on equally important internal issues, etc. Sophisticated HR people understand the value-add.

Finally, a specific issue that is worth noting is the idea of “speculative submissions.” Spec submissions are when a recruiter sends a candidate (usually, hopefully, of great experience and credentials) to the HR Manager asking if there would be interest in such a candidacy. Any experienced recruiter has done this, and some make it a practice. Those same recruiters have certainly come across HR people who get annoyed with this approach, and selectively screen out those recruiters. The onus must fall on the recruiter to discuss (again, communication!) with the HR Manager and find out the basis for this reaction. Sometimes the issue is budgetary. While that is understandable, it should not lead to the HR person being annoyed. Most times, after a frank and open conversation, the parties will be on the same page and can move forward towards a long and prosperous relationship.

To review, the “love” between HR and Recruiters needs to be fostered in the following environment: honest and open communications, mutual respect for each other’s positions/directives, mutual education, and most of all, the desire for a long, prosperous and mutually beneficial relationship.

Steven Levine, Esq. is the Managing Director for Compliance Legal Search Solutions, a System One Services Division. You can reach him at, and follow him on twitter at slevineJOBS

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