Herding Cats…and Recruiters

John Whitaker John Whitaker, Managing People

Remember when you had a recruiting desk to manage? You had your requisitions, you had phone screens scheduled, interviews scheduled, you knew your hiring managers, and you developed a rhythm. Cashing checks and snapping necks.

And then they went and promoted you.

Now as the manager of other recruiters, you confirm what you probably suspected all along–recruiters are a wacky bunch to manage. It’s a high-energy, high-pressure position, and it can chew you up if you let it get on top of you. There are a few common characteristics that seem to run in the DNA of successful recruiters, but like salespeople, there are 100 different combinations of skill sets and personality traits that can result in a high-powered staffing machine. It’s actually one of the things I’ve come to love over the years. When building a world-class recruiting team, you can’t limit yourself to a cookie cutter approach. And you have to be prepared to manage a few of the more challenging types that come along.

For instance:

  • The Maverick – Always living on the edge between innovative and insubordinate, this recruiter is constantly on the lookout for a new way to accomplish things. This creates some great new ideas, but can also result in a blindside when you realize after the fact that policies & procedures have been ignored, skipped, or disregarded. If you find yourself stretched and unable to spend much time in overseeing the Maverick, at some point, you’ll be blindsided. Management Tip: Assign creative projects to this person; akin to giving a puppy something to chew on besides your shoes, you must keep the Maverick occupied with something tasty.
  • The Native – You know this recruiter because everybody knows this recruiter. Hiring managers love him/her, and the feeling is mutual to the point of sometimes confusing the reporting structure. When a recruiter goes “native” to the detriment of your ability to influence said recruiter, you have an issue. There are differing opinions on this matter, but I look at it like this–as certain as it is that a hiring manager doesn’t hire my employees, they also do not manage my employees. The job has to be bigger than “my hiring manager likes me.”  Management Tip: I’ve seen too many stories like this; hiring managers love you as long as you are prioritizing them. Keep an eye on other hiring managers to make sure they aren’t playing second fiddle.
  • The Leader-in-Waiting – Smarter than you, more capable than you, and has a great plan for how the department should be run. At least that’s the opinion of the LIW, and they will, at times, share this opinion with you and others. As long as it’s not done in a way that’s meant to undermine you, taking the more mature approach of humoring them is okay. If, however, you feel a direct shot fired over your bow, it’s time to put an immediate stop to it. Management Tip: Lose your ego. It’s okay to be challenged or questioned, this isn’t the Army. Consider the ideas, not the delivery–you might find some gold. Then explain how a valuable suggestion can be minimized if it’s offered in the wrong manner.
  • The Charmer – If allowed to linger, this one is harder and harder to let go because they are so darn likable. The problem is, that likability is killing their ability to close deals, push back on hiring managers, and negotiate offers. They master the relationship piece to the detriment of the craft of actually filling requisitions–similar to the “Native” but without the notches on their belt. If you have the budget for someone dedicated to sourcing or coordinating, this is your perfect fit. But the added responsibilities of putting asses into seats don’t fit well with the Charmer. Management Tip: Of all the types to manage, this is one of the most difficult. Good people in the wrong role are always a tough job for a manager. You have to saddle up early in the game and let them know what you know–”This isn’t for you.”

Now, as my team tries to pinpoint who currently occupies these roles (none of my current team does, I’m not stupid), I wonder what other challenging types you might add to the list?