This blog post first appreared on LinkedIn´s Talent Blog.
I have good news and bad news to share.
Good news, first. If you’re a corporate recruiter, I can say with pretty good confidence that most of your hiring managers want you to show up as a Talent Advisor. There’s pull — the business wants a strategic partner in you, they’re eager to partner, and they need a partner, especially in this economy.
How do I know this? Because my team and I work with thousands of hiring managers every year — in training and focus groups — and they tell us, all the time, what they want, and what they need, and how much help it’d be if we showed up to the conversations with them differently.
Before I get to the bad news, I want to share a few resources in case this idea of a Talent Advisor is new to you.
Now, the bad news.
We do all kinds of things that negatively impact the perception our business leaders have of us as a Talent Advisor. I’ll share three examples — all requiring small changes — that will have a big impact on how you’re seen by hiring managers.
I wrote about this back in 2016. The term intake sounds so customer service-y. It’s a term my wife uses in her job in the medical field, when she rooms patients before the doctor arrives, because in that context, it is an intake — she’s asking questions about the patient’s health, and it’s mostly a one-way conversation.
But in recruiting, we need a two-way conversation. I’m not there to take your order. I’m not there to fill out an intake form. And I’m not there to just take notes and learn.
I need to be adding value now — in this meeting with the hiring manager. I should be demonstrating my expertise, partnering on the strategy and process we’ll use, and making recommendations . . . not just listening to the hiring manager’s requests for their ideal candidate profile, or asking them about their ideal interviewing team or what they think we should pay to close an offer with their ideal candidates.
I need to lead. I need to influence. I need to bring my point of view, my expertise, my insights into this first-impression conversation with a business leader, who may not even know what they want or need, and may be asking me to do things that they don’t realize are bad for the very things they want: speed, quality, diversity.
Now, does a name — intake — really matter that much?
I actually think it does.
Many of our more sophisticated clients use terms like strategy meeting or kickoff meeting for this new-req meeting between the recruiter (and sourcer) and hiring manager. I love this. Labels signal to the business what the meeting is, what role we play in that meeting, and what they should expect to get out of that meeting. Intake just reeks of order-taking to me.
Let’s retire this term, OK?
This recommendation goes out to those of you in TA leadership roles. Please stop asking hiring managers questions that make it sound like they’re the customer. I believe strongly that the business — not the hiring manager — is our customer.
This is a fundamental shift in thinking for many TA teams, as many recruiters — like me — were raised to believe a primary measure of my success was pleasing the hiring managers. And many TA leaders — me included, years ago — created “how’s my driving?” surveys that went to the business to ask for feedback. Many sounded like, “Are you happy with your recruiter?” and “Did you see enough candidates to make a quality hire?” and “Is there anything your recruiter could have done to make your experience and the process better?”
Those all communicate a “hiring manager is my customer” tone. They don’t reinforce any partnership language, they don’t recognize that things like speed, quality, and diversity are driven as much — maybe even more — by the hiring manager and their team than anything I do as a recruiter.
If I’m a TA leader telling my team that I want them to be Talent Advisors, that I want them to push back on unrealistic expectations, to lead the process, to expect their hiring managers to play a bigger role in sourcing, interviewing leadership, and closing, then I need to do two things differently.
Have you heard that phrase “more is caught than taught”? My mom used to say that about parenting, reminding me that people tend to learn from watching what people do more than what they say they’re going to do. As a skeptical Gen Xer, I can say, HR doesn’t always practice what it preaches, and people notice. Especially when it comes to diversity.
There are so many things we can do to help or hurt diversity, but I want to focus on a small, relatively easy fix for something that gets us in trouble and creates eye-rolls from people like me.
When we make new hire announcements to big teams or the whole company, we need to stop focusing on pedigree (brand company, brand school) and referral status and instead focus more on what the person built, scaled, led, achieved — the very things we say we’re evaluating in our interviews.
Because while many companies are committed to widening the aperture, recruiting candidates from diverse companies and backgrounds and schools, those organizations end up undermining their efforts when they hire someone new — especially someone senior — and then emphasize all the pedigree stuff that they say is no longer a primary focus.
Good intentions (what is taught): “We are committed to widening the aperture and going after untapped talent from companies and schools that haven’t been our primary focus in the past, all in service to creating a diverse company that cares more about performance than pedigree.”
Three weeks later, what is caught: “I’m pleased to welcome John Smith, our new VP of product. He worked as the head of X at Google and the head of Y at McKinsey and got his bachelor’s from [top-rated university] and his MBA from [top-rated university]. We’re excited to bring this high-caliber talent onto our executive team.”
I’m not saying don’t hire from highly rated companies or schools, of course. I just want to point out that we can send very mixed messages to our employees when we say we’re widening the aperture and we’re committed to recruiting from underrepresented groups, teach people to interview with a more evidence-based approach, create more formal, fairer hiring decisions practices, and then, after all of that, make our hires and frame them up as good because they come from certain companies and schools.
As a Talent Advisor, you may influence new hire announcements (I would often help craft these when I was head of tech recruiting at Amazon years ago). Please coach your hiring managers to make sure they’re congruent with your company’s words, intentions, and practices.
These are just three relatively small changes we can make in TA to help hiring teams see us as true Talent Advisors. If you want some suggestions on how to become a stronger Talent Advisor, check out our TalentAdvisor.com expert resource page for a bunch of podcasts, articles, and free training-quality videos.