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6 Steps to Avoid a Talent Acquisition Tug of War

Earlier this month, 4,000 Talent Acquisition (TA) and Recruiting leaders gathered in Las Vegas. These professionals represented more than 1,900 companies and 22 different countries. This annual LinkedIn Talent Connect event, now in its seventh year, is like no other business gathering, bringing together passionate professionals to share their ideas, successes, failures, learnings, and vision. In addition to listening to 15 keynote speakers, attendees heard from more than 90 TA leaders who facilitated breakout sessions on topics such as: recruiting metrics, social media presence, candidate experience, and how to add value to HR initiatives to make  companies more valuable.

6 Steps to Avoid a Talent Acquisition Tug of War

I was asked to present how internal TA professionals and external search firms can work together in a breakout session I titled “Playing Nice in the Sandbox”. 

Many times, there can be a tug of war at play between the internal TA team and the external recruitment team, with both sides working to fill the same positions. Ideally, there will be clear lines of demarcation that will keep this from happening.

Why does this situation occur? Admittedly, some external search firms are to blame. Pushy and intrusive salespeople looking for quick hits frustrate corporate clients. At other times, the external search team has put forth disappointing candidates, which forges the idea that the external team isn’t worth it. News flash: simply putting together a list of candidate names is no longer enough. With today’s search tools, the reality is that every potential job candidate is discoverable by anyone. Just providing candidate names that match a few key search criteria doesn’t cut it anymore. Low barriers to entry and sophisticated search tools have created an ever-growing population of talent providers worldwide. The days of “smiling and dialing” are over. Unfortunately, some search firms haven’t figured that out yet.  Another reason for poor experiences is some search firms aren’t really tooled or trained to recruit in today’s Google-connected economy.   

So how can internal TA teams and external recruiters work together more effectively?

  1. Define how you want to work together. Every good relationship is based on mutually-agreed upon rules of engagement.
  2. Set clear and reasonable expectations. Mutual accountability and teamwork make the process easier and drive better outcomes for all parties.
  3. Commit to honest and timely communication. Industry studies show the negative impact of “low to no communication” with candidates in the recruiting cycle.
  4. Build partnerships for long-term success and two-way leverage.
  5. Assess the relationship on a regular basis in order to update tactics and stay relevant with trends in the market in terms of recruiting practices.
  6. Don’t be afraid to disengage if the relationship is not working. 

The Recruiting industry is often measured internally by revenue and margin and measured externally by value, reputation and quality. That’s a big disconnect. The good external search firms feel lumped into the same group as all the other guys. Candidates are often left confused and frustrated. When using an external search firm, corporate clients have to trust the recruiting process. Otherwise, the employer’s brand can be damaged.

With the imbalance of demand vs. available supply for skilled workers, the need for external search still exists today. But how value is provided and perceived are different. The way recruiting firms provide value to end clients has to change with the times.

Message for Internal TA: be clear about what you want. Set expectations about service levels. Don’t expect perfection. Realize that not ALL search firms are bad! Be clear about when you can and can’t engage. Once trust is built, internal and external representatives can work better together.

Message for Search Firms: add value or die. We all know it’s much more than just providing a name first. It’s about relationships, quality, and delivery. Don’t oversell your capabilities. Do your homework and show value first. This makes it easy to do business with you, and to respect the process.

At the end of the day, we’re all here to find the right talent to support the business, and we can’t do it alone. Just keep in mind: the candidate is king. Having clear expectations about the roles internal and external TA will play in the talent search will keep both sides from exerting unnecessary effort and put an end to a lot of rope burn.

Let me know in the comments how you leverage your relationships with TA partners. 

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