The retooled recruiter: Driving talent acquisition value through advanced capabilities

Posted by Bill Cleary and Nicole Brender à Brandis on May 8, 2019.

The introduction of Ulrich’s new HR model almost 20 years ago changed the way business thought about HR. HR Generalists found themselves in a strange new world, suddenly expected to perform strategically as an HR Business Partner. While many liked the concept, they found they didn’t necessarily have the skill to perform in the new role. Not unlike HR Business Partners, talent acquisition professionals also need to reinvest in and reinvent themselves in sync with the times.

Advances in robotic processing and artificial intelligence solve many “old school” complaints that recruiters just don’t have time to source, consult, or be a partner because their role is too administratively heavy. Further, disruptions to industry as a whole, and our profession specifically, are necessitating us to reevaluate the competencies we need to move from a requisition manager to a business partner in our own right.

In order to position ourselves for success in the future, recruiters should be willing to learn new skills—and hone some old ones. I call these skills Relationship Maven, Influencer, and Storyteller.

Somehow, in the days of texting and e-mails, the art of the relationship has gotten lost. You know, where you walk down the hall or pick up the phone (gasp!) and have meaningful conversations with another human being. That skill (and desire) to truly connect has to return to the top of the recruiter toolbox. In addition to building impactful relationships, recruiters have new hats they must wear (and skills they must learn) related to influence and marketing to add value in the future world of talent acquisition.

Key skills to cultivate

Relationship Maven
Perhaps not surprisingly, the No. 1 lever for a high-impact talent acquisition organization is the relationship between managers and recruiters.1 This relationship is more than understanding that the manager has an opening; it’s using skills like conviction (bringing a point of view), collaboration, and perspective to develop the relationships we have with hiring managers.

Thinking through the customer groups, relationships with candidates is also of paramount importance. We sometimes talk about the “war for talent” as though it’s a new concept, but it’s a term that’s been thrown around for 20 years. What we haven’t seen enough of is a change in behavior about how we interact with and build relationships with talent.

Sure, we are familiar with the superficial, basic prescreen. We might even throw in a couple of behavioral-based questions—and we check the box that we know our candidate. But how many can honestly say we understand the nuanced differences between our candidates and what they need—and adapt our approach based on what we know? We should develop skills like empathy (walk in their shoes), selflessness, and candor to help strengthen the relationships we have with candidates.2 “For recruiters, it’s about adopting the coaching model on top of the AI stack of requirements. This requires building genuine relationships with talent and strong ties across departments.”3

Influencer noun [‘in-flü-ən(t)s-er]. Individuals who have the power to affect decisions of others because of real or perceived authority, knowledge or position.4

Recruiting has (in most cases) successfully moved away from being thought of as purely administrative function with the pendulum settling somewhere in the middle, where we’re mostly seen as managing the process and the ubiquitous compliance police. Our next big move should be to get that pendulum swinging farther, to where we’re seen as Influencers.

Leveraging our unique position in the organization can help this. Like few others in the organization, we have a direct line of sight to both our company’s strategy and external labor markets and trends. Our ability to bring these two perspectives together to help build the workforce of the future through integration with the business (including strategy) is one way we can influence.5

But first, people have to be willing to listen to us. HR has long had a “seat at the table”; however, we must shift to get a voice at the table. In order to do that, we must be able to speak the language of the business. Doing this requires deep business acumen, a skill many HR professionals (including talent acquisition) must hone. “Recruiters must understand the complexities of the company’s vision, goals and needs in-depth, not by rote.”6 Only when we accomplish this and are able to speak to both sides of the equation—the business side and the talent side—will the organization actually seek to include us in more strategic conversations. And these same skills help us resonate with candidates as well, improving the candidate experience through the ability to represent the organization authoritatively and at a high level.

Have you ever been a candidate on the receiving end of the recruiter’s spiel about his or her company? “My company was founded in 19XX in Little Town, US…” It might be factually informative, but it’s not very telling about the “real” organization and is typically the same story regardless of who is on the receiving end—a passive candidate, an applicant, entry level, higher level.

Instead, recruiters should be thinking more like marketers, tailoring stories to critical talent segments. So, for example, in health care, both housekeeping workers and nurses are critical, but the relevant stories for each are quite different. In the same way, active and passive candidates require different approaches. Passive candidates that you’re trying to attract may, for example, want to hear more about your organization as a whole, rather than specific openings. Or they may resonate to stories about how the organization and their potential coworkers support causes or activities they care about (volunteering, health & fitness, philanthropy).

The ability to tell stories that are both authentic and transparent, while still supporting the organization’s overall brand, is key. We all know that some work environments, or particular jobs in an organization, are challenging—maybe high stress, long hours, fast pace, whatever it may be. Recruiters should be able to communicate the realities in a way that attracts people who like that kind of environment and activates their interest. Of course, the bigger picture—retention—is a crucial factor here. Telling truthful, meaningful stories goes a long way to finding talent that’s the right fit and likely to thrive in the organization and stay with it.

Embracing an expanded role
The time to build these skills is now. They are not economy driven or job-market dependent; as we said, the war for talent is ongoing and the expectations of that talent are evolving in the same way the future of work is evolving. There are many learning resources available to help recruiters better position themselves. (Just as an example, Deloitte’s own HR Professional Capability Academy offers a Talent Acquisition track.) BersinTM’s High-Impact Talent Acquisition findings are another valuable source of information about how High-Impact TA looks and acts.

Recruiting is in a tough position in the organization, sitting in HR but with a job that is more like a marketer or salesperson and with a direct mandate to support the business and its hiring managers. Cultivating our skills as Relationship Mavens, Influencers, and Storytellers can help us fulfill our unique role and progress beyond being process owners or compliance police to become valued business partners in our own right.

Bill Cleary, GPHR, is a senior manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Human Capital service area. Bill’s primary focus has been on complex global HR transformation projects with extensive experience focused on talent acquisition.

Nicole Brender à Brandis, SPHR, is a specialist master in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Human Capital service area. Nicole’s primary focus has been helping global organizations navigate HR transformation initiatives, with a focus on talent management, talent acquisition, and HR capabilities.

1 Six Key Insights to Put Talent Acquisition at the Center of Business Strategy and Execution, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Robin Erickson, PhD, and Denise Moulton, 2018.
2 Moments that Matter Field Guide, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2016.
3 Caroline Stokes, “AI and The Reinvention of Recruiting,” Forbes, August 2017.
5 Six Key Insights to Put Talent Acquisition at the Center of Business Strategy and Execution, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Robin Erickson, Phd, and Denise Moulton, 2018.
6 Regan W. Garey, CPA, Business Literacy Survival Guide for HR Professionals, Society for Human Resource Management, 2011.

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