By Aaron Dodd, Operations Director
A couple of days ago a Twitter acquaintance of mine Ellison Bloomfield posted in her blog the rhetorical question; shouldn’t an internal HR department have the skills and knowledge to be able to recruit their own people?
Good question. Even though it was rhetorical, I’m going to answer it anyway as it’s a pet topic of mine. My view is this; recruitment AND selection are very specialised competencies within the overall scope of human resources management.
Not all HR Managers will have the necessary skills, commercial knowledge or time to be able to effectively do one or both. Often, particularly with senior executive search assignments, it will also be next to impossible to carry out the assignment appropriately via internal resources. Many companies have recognised this. Some bigger blue-chip companies even have specialised external recruiters sitting full time in their offices sourcing candidates (the RPO model). Some companies have specialised Recruitment Managers sitting within their HR teams. These examples are recognition enough of the specialised nature of recruitment and selection.
So what are these specialised skills?
Dictionary.com defines recruiting as; (the activity) to engage in finding and attracting employees, new members, students, athletes, etc. This is a very broad definition, and I draw distinction between “recruitment” and “sourcing”. Sourcing is the most difficult skill to acquire within the scope of recruitment activities. I’ve always held that anyone can recruit. In the traditional sense, recruitment is about drafting an advert and getting it out there on job boards, newspapers etc, wherever it will be seen (hopefully). Using this methodology certainly has a luck component. The success or otherwise of the advert will also largely depend on the language and marketing skills of the person writing it.
This form of recruitment is also largely a passive activity as an ad is posted and then one sits back and wait for the applicants. Sourcing however, is a much more active approach that involves detailed detective work, networking, market and/or industry knowledge, intuition, guile, time and persistence. A good sourcer (or researcher as they are often known) will uncover passive candidates and other potentials who are NOT out actively looking for roles. This is executive search methodology. These are difficult to acquire skills almost always outside of the scope of generalist HR personnel. At Mindset, it is the skill of our researchers in uncovering this so-called hidden talent that has made us so successful. Our researchers are one of the reasons why we are regularly engaged by HR Managers to find talent for their organisations.
The other and most important part of the process is selection. This is the choice of candidate (if any) from the available pool of talent that has been sourced by advertising or research.
In her blog Ellison goes on to ask; how well can a recruiter with an agency really know a position? Or, for that matter the personalities of the people in the team or the style the manager wants. Again this is a good question.
A skilled and competent selection consultant (this is distinct to a recruiter) will have taken the time to meet with and understand the often multiple stakeholders in the role. They will understand the company and its business as well as the internal and external issues that the company faces in order to achieve its goals. The more assignments a consultant carries out with a client the better they will know it and the more value he or she will create for their client. Further, if a consultant is a specialist in a field, say engineering or finance, they will often always be better at determining technical skills and experience than a generalist HR practitioner.
A company is only as good as the talent it is capable of attracting and retaining. As such, a skilled and commercially astute recruitment/search and selection partner will become a vital trusted advisor to a client. Their skills in attracting talent to the organisation can often have a positive strategic impact second only to the product or service that the client actually delivers.
And that is why so many companies turn to recruiters rather than their HR personnel to find them their people; their strategic advantage.