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Jan 16, 2012

Where do you add value in the recruiting process? Do your customers see you as a recruiting consultant/advisor? Do your peers see you as an expert in sourcing? Do you mentor others? What do you do to set the strategy for sourcing? Is there something special in the screening that you do? Is there something different in the techniques you use to find candidates? Is there something different in the overall work that you can do?

I just asked a lot of questions I’ll bet you’ve asked yourself at some point in time…

When I cut my teeth as a headhunter with Management Recruiters in the early 90’s, I was lucky enough to be trained on a full life cycle desk for Healthcare. The business at that time was not parsed into specialties like account managers and sourcing teams. You were a one-person show. You had to learn account management, selling yourself as a consultant, demonstrating enough value to warrant a huge fee, and then having to source and land great candidates. These skills have proven to be very valuable over the years in presenting my skills, solving problems, or sourcing talent.

After a recent presentation at a conference, I was asked by a corporate recruiter how I stop the customers (hiring managers) from using outside agencies. I shared a little trick with this person and that’s when I realized that some people may not know small ways to help set themselves up as a sourcing expert and advisor to their customers.

Here are three quick tips to help you:

Give me two weeks (Help Me, Help You)

If you are new to an account or requisition, the hiring manager you are working for may have no understanding of what you do. They may not realize the full potential and value that you can (and will) bring to them. Therefore, by setting yourself up as the expert and taking a consultative approach, you will set yourself apart and show where you add value.


Occasionally when I assume a new search with a new customer, I will have a hiring manager that wants to immediately utilize an agency.


The hiring manager may not see you as the recruiting expert. They see external agency representatives as the experts.

Tip / Solution:

There is a quick trick I use to set myself up as the expert and bypass the agency route. In the requisition kickoff meeting, I work to quickly establish myself as a credible consultant to them. The hiring manager is just looking to fill the job and they may know of a specific agency that (or believe this agency) will help find a person quickly. They may have had a negative experience in the past with talent acquisition or at a different company. They may never have hired anyone before!

What I do is to set myself up as an expert and also try to work with the hiring manager. I simply ask that they give me two weeks in advance of going to this agency. I explain that I am trained in the same tactics and I use the same tools. I will likely find the same people. I ask “Do you want to pay a fee for a candidate that I could bring to you for free? I hope you can appreciate that I do not want to be tripping over this other agency in the marketplace while trying to fill this role. If you don’t like what you’re seeing in ten business days then we will engage the agency. The least you can do is give me two weeks so I can show you what I can do and save you money in the process.”

Differentiation (Hip-pocket skill)

Always make sure that you have a specific way of gathering candidates that is different than anyone may just expect. Sure, you need to leverage the basics like posting a job via ATS and posting to various job boards, but is that it? Is there something more? Something you do a little bit different that works very well for you?

As a recruiter or sourcer, you always need to have a best practice or technique that you leverage. Always know what your “go to” tactic or “hip-pocket skill” is to find candidates. Using the hip-pocket skill, in any situation, make sure that it is unique enough that when described it separates you from any other recruiters or people that may be sourcing on the job.

My hip-pocket skill is called Sit, Source, Remind. This is a best practice that is a spin on the employee referral program and was covered recently in the Corporate Leadership Council’s December 2011 study on “Smart Sourcing.” You have to have something that generates candidates and also is a perceived difference and value to the sourcing process. Something that is different! What are you bringing to the table that is different from what people already doing or that would be just the rank-and-file generally accepted way of doing things? What is your value add? Make sure people know your hip-pocket skill (especially hiring managers).

Leverage the Requisition Intake Meeting (Assume a req)

When receiving a new requisition, the perfect time to set yourself up as an expert/advisor is in the intake meeting. A requisition intake is a meeting with the hiring manager to go through the specifics of the need and to be sure you are looking for the right profile. As an agency headhunter, this was where I sold the hell out of my skills, process, and value. The hiring manager needs someone, they want your help, and you get to you lay out a strategy and plan and describe what you will do to fill their role (aka – assuming the role of expert). Make sure you can deliver! By setting realistic expectations, I have had success by then under-promising and over-delivering on candidates. ** One caution – do not under-promise with a number that is so low that they get nervous and want to leverage an agency to secure volume.

I have seen many recruiters bypass this step and opportunity to meet with the hiring manager. If you do not have this meeting when you assume a req, then you have the opportunity to fill in the blanks on the old saying about Assume (A**-U-ME). Never assume you have all the answers. Things change! This is your opportunity, when you know the hiring manager will meet with you regardless of how busy they are in order to make sure they get the role filled. Make this meeting happen. I have had managers say, “I am slammed, I do not have time for this meeting, you know what we need. Can you just do this without this meeting?” OK…there are business situations where I have bypassed this meeting, but for the most part, I have found the hiring manager does not always have a solid understanding of what they are wanting. Not having the req intake is a recipe for recruiting disaster and a lot of dissatisfaction from everyone when you return with candidates that are off the mark. Save yourself the headaches downstream and stand firm on needing the req intake meeting. Explain to the hiring manager the urgency behind the need for this and you cannot proceed until you have had the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the exact needs of the role.

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