Recruiting a Recruiter

 In Founders, Recruiting

Recruiting a Recruiter: How much experience should your first in-house recruiter have?

As an outside recruiting consultant working with young start-ups it is shocking to me that most companies answer this question wrong:  They hire a very inexperienced person to “save money.”   That decision shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what is needed in this critical role.

Without recruiting top people perfectly matched to key roles, the company will fail.  Talent acquisition is really hard, really complex, and really competitive.   Why would a company increase the risk of failing by hiring a junior person as their first recruiter just to save a few bucks a month?

Here is an example of what can go wrong:

At one of my clients the newly-hired recruiter, “Joe,” (with 2 years of recruiting experience) conducted an interview with a software engineer candidate that my firm had already extensively interviewed and passed along as an excellent match. Joe had a short call with the candidate and cut him.  What?!  Why?  Joe told us, “The guy was not enthusiastic enough about our company”.  Huh? How could he be?  He had not met a single person in the company before Joe.   The HIRING Manager needed to do a call with that fully-screened candidate so the candidate could get a good feel of the role, the software team’s talent dynamics, the priority projects to be tackled, and the hiring manager’s style and expectations.  Joe was so inexperienced that he vetoed a very good candidate – and did so on entirely the wrong metric for this stage of the process.  Joe was expecting the candidate to sell HIM!   So the seat stayed open a lot longer.

To win in the competitive talent wars here is what needed at a high level:

+  A very positive candidate experience from the first company contact to the job offer and up to start date. This includes very early contact with the hiring manager.

+ A process that facilitates candidates moving at lightning speed through the interview process, and rapid feedback to them after each interview. Otherwise, they will get hired by another company.

+ An organized process for the interview “batting order” with candidate evaluations matched against the job description and an ATS system in place to manage this smoothly.

+ An advanced understanding of interview skills as well as legal minefields on questions that cannot be asked.  All of the above needs to be verified or taught to all who participate in the interview process.

+ A person who has respect and clout with the Exec Team the ability and judgement to “call an audible” in a search and do something out of the norm to land the perfect person.

+ And lots more.

Competence in all these areas is learned from prior experience in multiple environments and then applied as a template to the new company because the recruiter has already “been there, done that!”

Bottom line, there is no real value-add to the team by hiring a first recruiter who has less than 8-10 years of experience.  If the company is not committed to invest in this essential function at that level, outsource it to a firm or consultant who can walk in with and immediately leverage this experience.    The risk is too high to gamble on a cheaper in-house alternative who actually can drive talent away – like our young recruiter Joe did.

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