Perils of the Recruiter Nursery Slopes

Expert AdviceWhat is it that drives consultants to talk to HR whilst conducting business development calls? When I sit with consultants at their desks there is sometimes a compulsion to talk to the named HR contacts on their database rather than find out who the true decision makers and line managers are. As a consultant, and later as a manager, I would regularly ask myself and my team the question “Who do I/we not know in this business?” In essence, who is not listed on our database (by job title) who we should be networking with. Just who is their MD? CEO? Procurement Manager? Head of Sales? Pretty much anyone who would manage the people you recruit should be on your database.

I know how easy it can be to fall into the trap of talking to the HR and recruitment teams in a company, as I have been there myself. It starts at the beginning of somebody’s career as a consultant when they phone a company and ask:

“Who do I need to speak to in your business with regards to recruitment?”

Any gatekeeper worth their salt will know that HR deal with all recruitment! Why would an IT/Accountancy/Sales/Marketing line manager take responsibility?

This is how a database can end up with companies sometimes having more HR contacts than line managers!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to speak to the direct managers of the types of people you recruit for. In reality this does not mean instead of talking to HR. You could talk to both and get both of their perspectives on what is important when they are recruiting. Even those businesses where line managers refer you to HR the line manager will have some involvement in recruitment. If you don’t know what is important to them when they interview candidates or understand the dynamics of the office you are reducing your chances of filling the requirements you generate.

There is only one market where talking (almost) solely to HR would make sense – those who recruit HR professionals! (Is it possible that these specialists keep talking to finance directors?? – unlikely I think. In turn I know they may neglect to talk to MDs and CEOs yet who would recruit the head of HR or the HR director??).

With the market as it stands there is a greater need than ever to find high quality business, this is going to come from those businesses where you actively map out the structure and speak to the right people – the line managers. Whenever a consultant tells me they are struggling to pick up fillable requirements the first thing I do is look at who they have called recently. I know it is likely to show a high percentage of business development calls taking place with HR people. In addition it is also likely to show a series of calls to individual businesses in a “one company, one call, move on mentality”. Only last week I saw two consultants in different offices make a string of calls to HR. Total number of requirements generated? Zero.

What can human resources really tell you about what is going on in their business? Many HR professionals talk about strategy yet very few take a seat at the table when it comes to setting it. They can, in the main, tell you the here and now and the history from a recruitment perspective. They can take your details and claim they will call you when they recruit in the future. They can also fob you off and make you think that you have a chance of getting something. Line managers know who is performing in their team. Line managers know what is important to them in terms of cultural fit and personality. Line managers are also able to tell you what they think of their current recruitment processes (set up by HR quite often). Line managers can also give you a hard time as they are busy! Plus, they can stop and listen if you talk sense and have veritable business reasons for them to speak. That’s why I consider talking to HR to be the nursery slopes. There are some pseudo experienced recruiters out there who never stray from those slopes and they forever remain a beginner.

The truth is it can be more difficult to get hold of line managers. It takes planning and focus. Success over the next 6 to 12 months will also require planning and focus – so get into practicing it. Go back over the past weeks canvassing activity and ask yourself

“Which companies did I call and who did I speak to (by title)?”

Now ask yourself this, “Who else will I talk to in those businesses?”

There is work out there, plenty of work out there for good consultants. Step one is finding it.

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