Every support person struggles with how to have influence when they do not have direct control. This is especially true of the recruiter or staffing person.
On one side, you have the hiring manager who wants magic. They want you to understand instantly who they are looking for and to find the perfect person without the manager having to spend much time looking or interviewing candidates.
On the other side you have candidates who are determined to present themselves in a way that they get an offer which puts their future in their own hands.
Facing this, as a job recruiter in the staffing function you have to make a choice: either find ways to gain more control over the process or figure out how to be more powerful in a consultative stance.
More control positions you as a surrogate manager which, over time, builds more resistance. The better choice is to operate as a staffing consultant.
Staffing as Partnership
Here are some ways of making the consultant role more powerful and satisfying.
The process begins with thinking of the role as a partnership with the line manager, regardless of how you are treated. Whether the manager wants an expert or simply a pair of hands, you do not have to respond in any other way than as a partner.
The essence of partnership is that both sides have the right to make requests and express their wants of each other. This means every project begins with developing a social contract of how you are going to work together.
This contract should be completed before the work begins. Do this before you talk about the job description, the goals of the unit, or questions of employee compensation and level.
Here are some elements of this contracting process:
- Begin with a personal acknowledgement. Make contact before getting to the task. Ask the hiring manager how the recruiting process has gone in the past. Do they have any concerns about how it will go this time? Are there any special pressures operating that you should know about? Include in this part of the contracting process your own concerns about making the project work well.
- Communicate an understanding of what the manager is up against. Ask what is happening in the business unit that has led to the hiring need. What kind of outcomes are they looking for? If the new hire is filling an existing position, how has it gone with others in this function? If it is a new position, what is happening in the business that has created this job? Don’t be helpful or give any advice here; just restate in your own words what you are hearing.
- Ask what the manager wants from you. This is not about the job description. This is about finding out how they want you to work with them. What part of the process do they want you to handle? What are the time constraints? How often do they want you to contact them? When do they want to be engaged in the process? Just listen, don’t respond….yet.
- State what you want from the manager. This is your moment to respond to any magical expectations the manager has. You can ask for the amount of time you will need with the manager. You can request clarity and patience in making the job description more useful. You can seek agreement from the manager not to delegate their part in the work that needs to be done. You may want the manager to respond quickly to your inquiries. You want to be clear about the decision process and who will be involved. This is where the partnership is established.
- Summarize areas of agreement. Reiterate the areas where you agree. Note also where there is disagreement and say that these areas will be worked out as best you can. Stay with your wants, especially the ones you find essential.
- Ask the manager if there are any concerns about control or vulnerability in what you have agreed upon. This line of questioning goes against the culture, but you want to have the manager’s concerns named, out loud, to you. This makes the concerns more manageable so they do not come back to kick you later.
- Give support. Tell the manager what they have done in this contracting conversation that has been useful. You need to train your client managers in how to work with you. This begins when you tell them what went well. Perhaps they listened. Maybe they were open about their concerns. They might have agreed to take an active role in the search. Or possibly they gave you their full attention in this era of constant distractibility.
After Contracting Comes Discovery
Now you are ready to begin what in consulting is called the discovery phase. This is the time to talk about the job description, the timeline, as well as strategies to find the right candidate. What is unique here is that you do not begin these more traditional questions until the contracting is complete.
The contracting that got you to this point is not always an easy process, but it is essential to having influence. It does not take that long to do, even though it may be a change in role for you.
One final word: you can use this same process with job candidates. Ask them their experience with the job-seeking process, listen carefully to better understand what they are up against, ask what they want from you, tell them what you want from them.
Reach agreement on how you will work together, testing for their concerns and making clear what they are doing that is useful to the process. You may learn as much about them in this process as in the storytelling that is to follow.
Remember: you have a right, an obligation and an opportunity to act as a partner in the staffing process, even if the world seems to want you to be an expert or pair of hands.
While you may not be able to achieve this all the time, you can do your part in constructing a role for yourself that is more powerful and influential, while helping to differentiate your staffing services.
See here for more about job recruitment: http://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices.aspx.