How to Be a Consultative Recruiter

Guest: David Anderson HR, Organizational Development, Recruiting, Sourcing

A well-respected HR professional reminded me a few months ago that hiring is an exclusive process.  Meaning:  It’s almost always approached as a process of elimination.  Hiring officials look for anything they can use to justify saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  It’s a heck of a lot easier to say no than to say yes.

As recruiters and hiring managers, we become frustrated when the hiring manager is stuck on looking for the perfect candidate while the position sits vacant.  Everyone wonders why, in a slow economy, there still seems to be a shortage of talent.  Look, purple squirrel!

For better results and a better hiring experience for all involved, recruiters must learn to be consultative in their relationships with hiring managers at all levels of the organization.  It starts with understanding that the focus for hiring decisions is largely based on industry experience, titles, and skills.  It’s called checking the boxes.

Hiring managers see it as a safer way to hire.  But is it?  What about the person who was promoted last year from Accounting?  He was even less of a match on paper than the external candidate (Candidate X) who our hiring manager just declined!  See the paradox?

Candidate X matches 85% of the position requirements.  She’s the best person we’ve ever sourced, demonstrating all the core competencies for the job, except she lacks industry experience.  The hiring manager declines her, because he doesn’t think she has what it takes to be productive in a reasonable amount of time.  But does she?  Have we asked the right questions to truly determine that?

Our job as consultative recruiters is to address this specific skills/experience objective with the hiring managers before they ever talk to a single candidate.  It starts with asking the right questions.  For example:

  1. How were you (or your best employee) able to come up to speed with XYZ technology when you started?  How did you learn the industry and how long did it take until you felt productive?
  2. If I have candidates, who have all the core competencies, but they too, are starting fresh in this industry, or, they’re a C# developer and you need them to learn Ruby, how long do you think it would take a new employee to be successful given they’ve demonstrated similar success with previous employers?

Once we’ve answered these questions, let’s vet candidates focused on a performance-based approach rather than checking the skills and experiences boxes.  If we see that candidates lack certain experience, ask them to describe how they learned a new industry or skill previously.  For example:

  1. Please give me one or two of your best examples when you were able to use new technologies to solve complex problems.
  2. Describe for me when you were new to the industry.  What did you do to learn it?  How did you do it?  How soon did you see results and what were those results?

While they’re answering, our job is to listen.  It’s one of the best qualities of a consultative recruiter.

After the interview, write a thorough summary and review it against what the new hire needs to do to be successful.  Have they demonstrated enough key indicators for success, despite lacking Ruby programming skills, or despite experience selling in the food and beverage industry?  If so, we may have our top candidate.

They may not be perfect, and they may not be even a purplish tinted squirrel, but it’s not our job to find perfect.  We’re to find the best—those who are an 85% to 95% match against the duties and core competencies needed for success.  Once we’ve done that, we can effectively present them for an interview and hopefully onward to becoming the newest member of the team.