Partnering: How Companies Can Work With a Recruiter
Employee disputes, workers’ compensation issues, overbearing managers…these are just a few of the problems that human resources departments have to handle these days. So when it comes time to hire talent, they sometimes reach out for the expertise of a professional recruiter.
Says Cherie Friedman of Friedman Search Group, “Professional recruiters bring to the table a knowledge of the marketplace, candidate availability, compensation comparisons, and market trends. We know the nuances of candidate selection, interviewing techniques, offer negotiation, and counter offers. It is a fact that open positions often take two to three times longer to fill when not utilizing a professional recruiter. Also helpful for both candidates and hiring managers is that they have an unbiased person facilitating the process. In my experience, candidates are typically more candid with recruiters and will share more information throughout the process.”
And although the recruiter can be a lifeline of sorts, engaging the search firm is only the first step in your new relationship. Cherie Friedman:
From the outset it is important that the company and recruiter establish a tone of collaboration. Sometimes harried hiring managers make the initial call, give us a bit of information, and then want to hang up and move onto something else. This approach, however, will lead to misunderstandings, wasted time, and ultimately, wasted money.
Another way to waste time and resources is to time things haphazardly. So, advises Friedman, don’t call a recruiter prematurely. “We typically encourage hiring managers to conduct a search when the position has been approved and there is the ability to extend an offer within an eight-week period. With the exception of some higher-level management positions, most active candidates will be off the market after two months. We see a high degree of candidate falloff when there is a long delay in the interview process. And, it is not the best use of a manager’s time to interview candidates too early who may no longer be available when the position is approved.”
You could say that in hiring, a rule for the hiring manager starting a search is “don’t approximate, don’t elaborate.” Know exactly what you want. Cherie Friedman: “I like the adage, ‘When you go bass fishing you have to know what a bass looks like, ’ meaning, of course that to begin a search you must know the exact profile of your target candidate. Give the recruiter clear, accurate specifications on the position such as job title and responsibilities, compensation parameters, exact geography, interview time frame and process. Inaccurate information can stall the search process and lead to candidate falloff when the specs turn out to be different than originally stated. Hiring managers typically assess what is needed for a particular position, including skill sets and prior experience, but you must also identify what the absolutes are. Hiring managers tend to look for 100% in all areas, but it is better to zero in on four or five qualities that absolutely must be there.”
But sometimes companies are looking in the wrong direction. While a candidate doesn’t have to carry around a photo of his or her favorite surgeon, Cherie Friedman cautions hiring managers to be wary in the area of existing rep-surgeon relationships. “Many companies, especially start-ups, want people who bring with them immediate relationships. This should be approached with prudence, however, because you don’t want to assume that you’re getting good relationships. The person may in fact bring neutral or negative relationships when hired. And, it is relatively easy to project an image of having a good relationship. You want to ensure that it is for real. For example, on one occasion I interviewed a sales rep candidate about his best relationship with a doctor. When he replied ‘Dr. X, ’ I asked him how many kids the doctor had, their names, and his cell phone number. He had all the correct answers. When you hire someone without existing relationships, the positive is that you are not inheriting poor relationships, bad habits or a preconceived notion of this rep from clinicians.”
While a successful search requires a manager who thinks strategically, it also necessitates a manager who can manage his or her own expectations. Cherie Friedman: “The hiring market has changed significantly, with more positions than people who are qualified to fill them. Hiring managers need to realize that they have to sell the opportunity because the days of the candidate doing all of the selling to the company are gone. Another thing is that companies need to lower their expectations on the amount of experience they might want. No manager wants to turn around and have to fill a position again after a short period of time because of a poor hiring choice. Many companies are seeking candidates with direct market experience and plenty of it. We encourage hiring managers to expand their profile to include a range of best-in-class candidates―not just directly competitive ones or ones in the exact same market.”
Friedman continues, “If a candidate seems too good to be true for a position, take pause. Consider the career progression of an individual to determine if this is a logical next step that the person should be considering. Is he or she interviewing for the right reasons? Is it an advancement in his or her career path? Does the compensation being offered make sense for this person? Would he or she be a ‘flight risk?’ Is the individual going toward something or running from something? Is he or she overqualified?’ Research indicates that career moves involving taking a step backwards in responsibility or compensation are often mistakes. The emphasis on finding highly experienced, sometimes overqualified candidates often leads to a prolonged search process and missing out on other very talented, though lighter experienced individuals who also bring a great deal to the table.”
As for the process being a joint effort, Friedman stresses, “It is vital for us to have continuous communication with the person responsible for bringing on new talent. I have seen instances when a hiring manager gives the recruiter a search and then that manager is unavailable when we need to run things by him or her. If the recruiter cannot get in touch with the manager, it will prevent the recruiter from being able to answer questions posed by the candidates. Continuous communication will also let the recruiter know that the position is in fact a priority for the company. It also means that other things can be communicated to the recruiter, such as if positions are put on hold, territories are cut, or compensation is modified.”
While no one is recommending a year-long courtship, it is wise to let the process evolve so as to avoid bringing people on board who leave you scratching your head. “Have realistic deadlines and expectations of the search, ” states Cherie Friedman. “Most recruiters need a couple weeks to conduct a high-quality search. Fire drills where a manager would like to interview in a couple days or fill a training class deadline rarely produce the best results. Candidates wonder why they are getting called last minute, they interview in a rushed and unprepared manner, and the manager is often disappointed with the quality and quantity of the candidates. The most qualified candidates’ résumés are not usually sitting on any recruiter’s desk―at least not for very long.”
Advises Friedman, a former rep for Synthes, Inc., “Once candidates have been selected to move forward in the process it is very important to keep them engaged and interested in your organization. Most candidates and hiring managers benefit from having several steps that enable the candidate to learn more about the company while the manager utilizes additional tools and resources to evaluate the individual. We recommend the following steps where applicable: company employees in the same role speaking with the candidate, followed by a research assignment. For example, have the rep study up on distal femur fractures and put together a one-page synopsis. This will help you gauge the interest level of the candidate while demonstrating how the person writes and researches. This could be followed by psychological testing, field rides, customer interviews, or attending a trade show.”
“Likewise, ” says Friedman, “a shotgun approach should not be applied to hiring a recruiter. Two qualified recruiters are more than enough to handle any search―provided they are the right recruiters. Make sure to interview potential recruiters to understand their strategy for identifying top talent and what their process is. Most medical device recruiters are paid 100% commission on a contingency basis―meaning they do not get paid unless they make a successful placement. In general, recruiting fees for this marketplace have barely increased in the 10 years I have been recruiting. Strong recruiters have plenty of openings and will carefully prioritize where they focus their efforts. In most cases when several recruiters are involved, the manager may receive an early onslaught of active candidates that many recruiters are aware of for a particular market. But the more qualified candidates take serious ‘digging’ and very few recruiters will invest the time and resources for a search that has several recruiters enlisted. Consequently, those hiring managers do not get the quality or quantity of candidates they are hoping for.”
Finding the right person for a position is a combination of strategic planning, intuition, patience, and having others help with the process. Cherie Friedman:
If you are finding yourself impressed by someone, and you think that person would be a good fit for the company, introduce him or her to several employees. The more people the candidate comes into contact with, the more engaged he or she will become with the company.
Final message: Take time to hire the right person for the right position.