Note: I am frequently at odds with myself over posting something such as the following. I count many friends in the world of recruiting, all of them dedicated professionals who care about the value they deliver. And yet I can't help but feel that our profession is at a crossroads that many are ill-equipped to face, no less capitalize upon. It is my hope that these postings help prepare us all for our likely future.
The Clearview Collection (the name of the group of bloggers over at Glassdoor of whom I count myself fortunate to be a part) is primarily targeting candidates rather than recruiters. My purpose for the most part is to get candidates to take control of their careers, building on the theme of Brand Talent. My post this past week over at Glassdoor explained how a candidate can evaluate whether a recruiter is worth an investment of time.
I started out writing on Glassdoor as a way to connect with candidates, to understand what they are thinking and feeling and to offer my meager advice about how best to take advantage of the changing world of work. But a funny thing happened on the way to that objective: my posts have become a Trojan Horse enterprise, sneaking better candidates into the world of the recruiter. I found myself believing that raising the candidate's game may be the only way to get recruiters to confront the realities of their changing industry.
From where I sit, the millions of hours and dollars that have gone into providing recruiters with improved tools and processes have largely been worthless or wasted. It is not that all the work and advice is without value. It is that the value is not keeping pace with what the market needs.
Imagine if Chevrolet started marketing a car that they trumpeted as "every bit as good as the 1955 Corvette." The 55 Vet is a classic. Compared to a Model T, it was a huge improvement in transportation capability and value. But consumers today are faced with higher gas prices, faster travel speeds, more populated roads and longer average commutes. Therefore the average consumer doesn't pine away for an equivalent of a car that is 54 years old. They require high-mileage, trouble-free vehicles that has creature comforts that make the long suburban commutes bearable.
My latest post over at Glassdoor talks about four things that good recruiters look for in a candidate: business focus, problem solving, agility and purpose. Continuing with the car analogy, this is what I would expect from a recruiting Camry. This is what I believe the average business buyer demands. Nothing fancy. Just the basics. Unfortunately I would have to equate that level of capability to a recruiting Rolls Royce. The recruiting Camry isn't functionally superior to the Model T.
I base this conclusion on my own experience, not on the scientific method. I know of only two recruiters that even attempt to evaluate candidates for their abilities I listed in the post. It is not that they are incapable of doing so. It is that recruiters are caught between two worlds: what they were taught and what is needed.
What recruiters were taught is that hiring manager satisfaction is their number one priority (of course this is a generous assessment - there are many people who believe that recruiters continue to be taught about various tricks for putting butts in seats, many of which do no credit to the profession). The implicit assumption behind this teaching is that hiring managers are wise buyers of recruiting services. And I guess if you are a third-party recruiter you have to assume that whoever is signing the checks knows what they are doing. But if you are a corporate recruiter, you exist for the benefit of the business (rule 18), not the benefit of the hiring manager. The implicit assumption is that the hiring manager really knows how to best attract, engage and optimize talent. That is patently untrue.
Most hiring managers are too busy to understand the depth of their ignorance in the area of talent. They fail to understand the potential value of talent to their organization at the same time they over-estimate the risks of not homogenizing and controlling their teams. They write poor specifications, fail to understand biases that hurt their operational effectiveness, employ sub-optimal hiring processes that hurt organization productivity, evaluate risk improperly and fail to learn from previous hiring failures. This is the customer for recruiting services: march to their tune at your own peril.
This is the recruiting Camry: recruiters blindly accept job descriptions that are thrown their way by harried and distracted hiring managers, scanning resumes for keywords that they don't understand, eliminating candidates based on the "don't fit" criteria that they can't explain, and treating candidates like cattle. And this is not just in the trenches - I run into a lot of executive and retained search specialist who exhibit the same behaviors.
The entire system of recruiting (recruiters, candidates, management, consultants, specialists and hiring managers) continues to reinforce these behaviors even though they add little value. Woe be to the recruiter who dares challenge a hiring manager, or demands that a candidate stop bs'ing them and answer some questions directly. I am not saying that the needs of tomorrow are easy. But the problem remains: a recruiter who merely responds to quixotic requests from ignorant customers is bound to be automated or outsourced.
The standard retort to this indictment is that I don't really understand recruiting. I am glibly told that transactional recruiters will always be in demand because those same harried managers don't want to have to deal with talent problems themselves. The recruiter may not be doing brain surgery, but what they are doing is valued. The people who say these things are dangerously mistaken.
At the turn of the 19th century there were more people employed as household servants than as almost any other profession except farm laborers. The advent of household self-service destroyed the domestic help industry. Technological advancement always displaces work. Today I type my own memos, book my own meetings, arrange for conference rooms, book my own travel and manage a budget. How many of those tasks do you think were done by executives in the early 70's?
Transactional recruiting is a costly luxury. As costs continue to be eradicated more work will continue to be pushed from specialist (i.e. recruiters) to internal clients (i.e. hiring managers). The same trend that reduced the steno pool to a distant memory and that demolished the number of secretaries and AP clerks to just what is necessary to manage the work that hasn't yet been automated will inexorably reduce the role of the transactional recruiter. The technology exists to make this a reality today, but the corporate will required to force hiring managers to take the load has not widely existed. That is changing as companies look to deeper cost control as a competitive advantage. And that is the reason that what recruiters were taught and what is needed is growing into an ever widening gap.
But all is not lost. There is still a huge market opportunity for talent services. The changing world of work is challenging hiring managers too. Good hiring managers understand that just as manufacturing needed to bring in supply chain, robotics and computer control specialists to increase throughput, most hiring managers will need to bring in talent specialists to provide the capabilities needed to redefine who specifications are created, talent sourced and engaged, people motivated and organizations formed.
The two recruiters I mention above are already delivering this service. They force their clients to be clear about their desired business objectives, require that inefficient and ineffective talent practices be modified, challenge bad specifications based on their deep knowledge of the industry, the company and the businesses needs. They operate as true consultants, winning the trust of their clients so that when they have to deliver the hard news the client is open to change.
These recruiters usually don't have direct candidate relationships, because they know that this is increasingly the role of the corporate sourcer and the hiring manager themselves. Instead they are the translator of the businesses objectives into talent specifications, practices and processes that can be implemented, measured and improved upon rapidly. They don't just own the client relationship - they own the client's success. They take accountability for failure to make the numbers. In short, they are an integral part of the business. They are the ones who are truly at the fabled table.
And now to the punchline: Dolby is looking for someone to be the talent consultant for the sales and marketing organization. Put another way: I am looking for a good recruiter. Do you know of any? Would you be willing to loudly proclaim their existence in the comments section of this post, quickly desrcibing how this rare individual has already been delivering the next generation services that are described above? Or, if you are too shy for that public display, would you be willing to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your narrative and link to your public profile? And if you are in the market for a talent consultant, know what they are and how to use them, please let me know that as well. Creating a market for this higher-value recruiting is the best possible way to ensure the longevity of the profession.