What Does a Recruiter Do? Part 1

I started off my career as a Recruiter, and because I love working for start-ups, I still dabble in recruitment from time-to-time. I really don’t mind it. In fact, I love it. Especially at the beginning stages of a company, where everyone you bring in literally determines the shape the company takes.

If you’re to go with a lot of the negative comments on LinkedIn, Recruiters often get a bad wrap. Yes, there are some awful Recruiters out there but that doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing people too. I rarely see positive stories about Recruiters, and I know for a fact there are some phenomenal Recruiters out there.

There can also be challenges when a Recruiter works internally for a growing company. The role of a Recruiter is sometimes underestimated, undervalued and looked down on. We’ve traditionally been an external function and are now part of a function (People / HR) that people either appreciate or don’t… kind of like Marmite.

I hope to shed some light on the responsibilities of a Recruiter in this article and the follow-up next week. To be a good Recruiter, you must understand people and business, you must care, and you must be an awesome juggler and pardon the pun, but that does mean you may drop a ball sometimes. We’re only human… just like you.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “What exactly do Recruiters do? What keeps them so busy that dropping a ball is even possible?”

Well, let me tell you some of the fun tasks Recruiters have.

In this first portion, we will discuss the work Recruiters do with internal stakeholders. The second part, next week’s article, will focus on the work Recruiters do with candidates.

Let’s get started.

Building a partnership

When working with internal stakeholders, particularly hiring managers, the first thing we have to manage is their unrealistic expectations. We spend time explaining why hell won’t freeze over, pigs won’t fly and unicorns don’t regularly fall out of trees. When working with a hiring manager, their wish list is extensive or sometimes non-existent, and they want the new hire yesterday.

To make things more interesting, some hiring managers view recruitment as a subordinate function and interact with Recruiters accordingly. These interactions are demanding, condescending and really don’t leave the Recruiter feeling good about themselves. The most extreme example I’ve seen was when nothing this Recruiter did was right. I’d always get feedback that the Recruiter wasn’t doing a good job, and wasn’t filling roles, but the opposite was true! The Recruiter had filled the majority of the hiring manager’s roles, many of which were hard-to-fill vacancies. The hiring manager had one outstanding role that the Recruiter was proactively working very hard on… and in reality, the role… let’s say… it lacked clarity. 👀 The Recruiter was doing a phenomenal job.

In some businesses, a lot of time is spent using data, building decks and spreadsheets to continuously and proactively fight and reshape perceptions of the effectiveness of a recruitment team. Even then, there’s no guarantee that tactic will work, particularly when you don’t have the right leaders or culture in place.

A Recruiter’s job is not just to build a relationship with a hiring manager and their team, but a partnership. Building a good and successful recruitment process requires everyone’s input and participation. The onus cannot be on the Recruiter alone, there’s only so much they can do.

The best partnership I’ve had was when the hiring manager and their team worked closely with me on all elements: the job description, interview process, technical exercises and scorecards. We all sat together, gave the exercise some real focus time, and left the meeting knowing what we needed to do next and by when. We were hiring Software Engineers at a very high level, and we did this successfully. So much so that even candidates who didn’t pass were very positive about the experience.

Building a partnership enables the Recruiter to work more effectively with realistic expectations, and for both sides to apply pressure or challenge each other where necessary — in a constructive and healthy way.

Getting the information needed

A major part of being able to recruit properly is the ability to get the information we need to implement a successful recruitment process and strategy. This kicks off when talking to the hiring manager about what they’re looking for. Even where there is a job description, it isn’t necessarily saying the right things in the right way.

As a Recruiter, our job is to understand what is between the lines and at the core of what the hiring manager is looking for in order to build a true depiction of the role and make it advert-ready for the public.

Sometimes there is no job description, and the hiring manager doesn’t have the time or isn’t confident creating one alone, so we help to build job descriptions from scratch. As well as a conversation with the manager, this requires research into the market to understand how this role stands against others and sometimes, whether it even exists! Ha! 😄

Once you have a job description everyone is comfortable with, over time it inevitably starts to become out of date. New information needs to be added or amended based on candidates we’re coming across in the search or feedback we’re getting from or on candidates post-interview or due to the role evolving in some way.

Setting up the process

When we have a job description, we then need to build a robust interview process. Similarly to the job description this evolves over time, but at a quicker pace. I discuss some interview best practices for hiring managers in a previous article, ‘Remote Interviews: For Hiring Managers’, and I feel a lot of what I touch on there can be slotted into this part about setting up the process. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“An interview process is not only a reflection of you, but your company too. The way a company manages an interview process is a good indication of how processes work within the business and of how people are valued. If a company values people, they’d be concerned about their experience at every touch point… starting from when they are a candidate, whether they are successful or not.” — Lola Oguntokun

If you’re interested to know more on this topic, I recommend you read the full article straight after this one.

When a good interview process is agreed, it is then down to the Recruiter to coordinate the process and ensure it runs smoothly.

Keeping the database up to date

Most Recruiters maintain a candidate database or applicant tracking system to keep track of candidate progress. They’re usually also able to schedule in interviews and record any feedback or notes in such systems. This enables us to keep track of past and current applications and the Recruiter’s overall performance.

It also means we know who has been contacted, for what and the result of that conversation. The worst thing that can happen is you reach out to a candidate who has already been reached out to, spoken to and rejected and there’s nothing in the database. This doesn’t look good on the Recruiters involved, it doesn’t look good on the company, and often p’s the candidate off, and rightly so!

Keeping records up to date in a timely manner also enables us to report back to the business, leadership or the board using the data stored in these systems. This is a good way to prove impact and ROI. It also helps us address recruitment challenges.

I often tell my recruitment team, if it’s not in the system, it didn’t happen. It’s the one source of truth. I’m sure you’re thinking, “That’s harsh!” The thing is, when it comes to recruitment, you can do a lot of work and not necessarily get the results that you want. If there’s no record of the work done, how do you prove to the business you’ve been doing the work? The activity has got to exist somewhere, and it’s got to be tracked over time.

Reporting

A Recruiter is constantly reporting progress: to their manager, to the hiring manager, to a curious interviewer, to leadership. Each stakeholder requiring a different level of detail or presentation. A good recruiter will ensure these moments happen on a scheduled basis but sometimes the business business-es and random questions are asked at random and unplanned times and you have to react to them. Again, culture plays a big part in this. A good working culture would allow the Recruiter to push back and respond to the ad hoc request at a more suitable or planned time.

Hopefully, this first peek into the world of a Recruiter gives a better sense of the work done behind the scenes. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be working with fantastic stakeholders who make your job easier, other times, you’re not. I’m sure you can now imagine the impact of either scenario. Next week, I’ll share how Recruiters work with candidates.

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Lola Oguntokun

Lola Oguntokun

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I help build, shape and champion innovative companies and culture.