In a world where candidates have more power in the hiring process than ever before, companies need to hire differently than just a few years ago. From my personal experience in the recruiting industry, I've found that taking a positive approach to recruiting makes a difference.
Though it sits in Human Resources, recruiting being akin to sales is a common notion, closing deals and moving on to the next one. The salesperson (in most scenarios) has very little skin in the game once the contract is closed. Going forward it is typically the responsibility of the account manager, delivery of service, or product itself to maintain the ongoing customer relationship.
Carrying this analogy across recruiting, the expectation is often this: recruiters fill the jobs and are not responsible for the success of the candidate or the success of the business.
The sales approach to recruiting causes poor long-term realities for the organization such as high turnover, low performance, or poor morale. This framing undermines and limits the value a recruiter can bring to an organization.
Organizations taking a sales approach to recruiting often define the success of recruiters by time to fill or by the number of qualified phone screens conducted; the theory being recruitment is just a numbers game. This is where the great fault lies in the “recruitment is sales” mentality. Judging success by these metrics encourages recruiters to work on short-term individual wins instead of long-term organizational success.
I took the sales approach the first few years of my career. Back then, if I could source enough people, make enough phone calls, I would eventually fill the job. It felt like a tedious day to day job and I wasn’t connected to a greater organizational purpose. As a result, I was almost certain talent acquisition was not the right career for me.
Then at one point in my career, my chief human resources officer at the time, Larry Kelly, looked at our recruiting team and told us he viewed our team as the gatekeepers of the company. Then he said something that I will never forget.
"While the local hiring team own the skills and functional acumen, you, the recruiting team, are ultimately responsible for presenting not only the best talent but the best fit for our company."
-LK, Zoes Kitchen
Our team’s job wasn’t to fill an open position but was to improve the organization. It was to help drive the company’s strategy forward by recommending the top candidates and the best people that radiated our values and were intrinsically aligned with who we were as a company.
This concept of being the gatekeeper was new and intriguing. I don’t know if Larry invented the idea of recruiters being gatekeepers, but I do know he implanted it into my psyche and inspired my new philosophy for recruiting:
Recruiters should not be looking for a candidate they can close. Instead, they should be looking for candidates that will close a gap in the organization's ecosystem.
The Gatekeeper approach requires recruiters to be focused on (and held accountable to) the quality of the hire, not the quickness of the close. This means positioning recruiters as the experts of the magical mix of environment, people, strategy, and work that makes each company unique. It goes beyond a recruiter finding the best talent, but a recruiter being able to understand, find, and advocate for the best talent that is also the best cultural fit.
What do companies and recruiters have to do differently to create a gatekeeper mentality?
- Position your recruiters as trusted talent advisers to the business.
- Empower recruiters to become experts on their company culture, protect their values, and to guide HR leaders to find the best fit for their organization.
- Create purpose for your recruiters by connecting them to the larger organizational goals.
Companies need a purpose-driven and intentional approach to recruiting. In a job market that is candidate-driven and where employees are more committed to being connected to their work than to a particular employer, companies need to understand who their candidates are, how to attract them, and how to make hiring decisions based on more than meeting the job application criteria.
Successfully implementing a Gatekeeper’s approach requires a shift in mindset for all parties involved in recruiting decisions, which I’ll speak about in my upcoming series, The Gatekeepers. Throughout the series, I will guide you through understanding the different perspectives impacted by the Gatekeeper approach and how to best implement them as the HR leader driving this change.