June 23, 2018

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The Client's Perspective

In a perfect world, recruiters and HR executives would have shared goals, mutual respect and a completely trusting relationship with the company's short- and long-term objectives in mind. Yet, the perception that recruiters are merely commission-hungry sales people still exists, despite solid gains in professional advancement, training and development.


Steven A. Blau, Second Vice President, Human Resources at Hartford-based Travelers Insurance. Blau is currently responsible for home office staffing and college relations. Ten years as a generalist, his background includes assignments in all levels and types of recruitment.

David Meyer, with 13 years in the human resources field, Meyers is an MBA graduate of Harvard and currently director of human resources at Neurogen Corporation, a Branford, Connecticut-based biotechnology company. Meyer formerly held HR positions at Pfizer Inc. in Groton, Connecticut.

Audrey Blauner is vice president of human resources at 24/7 Real Media, a provider marketing and technology solutions to online marketers and publishers in New York City. She has over 25 years experience in the human resources industry.

Terry Dyckman is vice president of Human Resources at Saba Software, Inc., a Redwood Shores, California provider of human capital development and management software solutions. With more than 20 years experience, he formerly held executive HR positions at Rolm (now Siemens) and was VP of HR for Claris, Apple's software subsidiary.

What impact have the job boards played in the recruitment process?

Steven A. Blau: Certainly they've made it easier to generate candidates. They've also pretty much eliminated most newspaper advertising for certain types of jobs. They need to be part of your recruiting strategy. However, despite what many vendors may claim, I don't think anyone has quite figured out how to resolve the issue of resume responses to on-line postings that don't match the job criteria. It's a huge waste of time for companies to wade through it all.

Meyer: "While boards like are huge avenues for sourcing candidates, the hit ratio on both ends is low. It must evolve to source candidates better and make the recruitment process easier and less time-consuming."

Blauner: "It's certainly much cheaper than hiring a recruiter or a contingency firm. We're getting great candidates from the job boards and other online resources, especially in this market where there are a lot of well-qualified candidates out there who are using every means possible to find a job."

Dyckman: "Job boards have decreased the time from posting an open position to the moment we begin to see candidates. They also unify the resume format making it easy to transfer, forward, and save resumes in a database."

How do you choose recruiters?

Steven A. Blau: Honesty is key. I need to know that I'll get the full story on candidates and the search process. If a recruiter is coming up dry on a search, let me know! I also look for people who do their homework. Nothing makes me crazier than a recruiter who calls me and asks," So what are your hot jobs?" They're on our web site for the world to see!

Meyer: "I use recruiters sparingly, but we do use them for higher level or single incumbent positions where more traditional avenues of volume recruiting are not applicable. I tend to like to work with a very small set of recruiters with whom I have an ongoing relationship who can provide a very high level of service, who sell the company well but don't misrepresent or oversell us.

Blauner: "Right now, we are trying not to use recruiters because of the current economic conditions. However, for senior-level positions, we use retained search and we pay whatever the fee is. Over the years, I've build up relationships with certain recruiters in certain industries and specializations when I've worked in other companies and cultivate those relationships from company to company. I want them to send me the best candidates they can and I know they will because they have performed in the past and I can trust them."

Dyckman: "We choose recruiters through referrals from hiring managers who have had success in the past, as well as through an interview process."

What are the key hurdles or stumbling blocks that can come up during the recruitment process?

Steven A. Blau: We have several recruiters that we've had relatively long relationships with and we tend to go back to them. We find them through a variety of means, but the most common is via referrals from other companies or the general HR community. Putting fees on the side, the most common stumbling blocks tend to be 1) recruiters trying to end run the process, i.e. working around the corporate recruiter and trying to get to the hiring manager, which just muddies up the process and 2) recruiters not doing their homework with candidates, i.e. getting "surprises" at the last minute of the offer process.

Meyer: "When recruiters circumvent human resources and present a manager directly with a "hot" candidate, the manager may come back to me expressing interest in the candidate. Of course, we pursue the person, and then the recruiter has license to go forward. However, the recruiter might not represent us in the way we would like and, similarly, may be misrepresenting the candidate. Recruiting companies who are only looking to get one hit are not interested in negotiating price or terms of agreement."

Blauner: "In the past, I've had a warm working relationship with my recruiters. They knew me, and they knew the company. After a point, there was almost a friendship that developed. A trust developed with them so I didn't have any key problems. They knew what I wanted and delivered it."

Dyckman: "The key hurdles we have encountered are strategic changes at the corporate level and time constraints, such as deadlines or deliverables that extend the [recruitment] process."

Describe a brief success or horror story in working with a recruiter.

Steven A. Blau: We had a terrific experience a couple of years ago with a recruiter who managed to uncover a candidate in our market who somehow got under our radar. The recruiter just came at it from a different direction and managed to surface someone who was not part of our normal networks and contacts. The person we hired has worked out great.

Meyer: "There have been those rare recruiters who have scanned the environment to produce the near-to-impossible. Again, these are people who have a vested interest in the company and go the extra mile for you. They have somehow found a specialized person, interested in relocation, a fit that goes beyond a match of candidate to company and vice-versa."

Blauner: "Once, I had been asked by someone in management to use a certain recruiter. And normally, one of the things I do with new recruiters is negotiate a fee that is favorable to the company. In addition, I always want a guarantee in writing that if a candidate didn't work out within a 90-day time frame, that the recruiter would either refund the fee we paid or find a suitable replacement. This recruiter, who brought us a candidate (that ultimately left before the 90-days were up), said that they would find us a new candidate. But they were very lax--didn't find us a new candidate and wouldn't refund the fee."

Dyckman: "We successfully worked with a recruiter who had developed a strong relationship with our hiring and staffing managers, and who spent the time to really get to know our business. Through this understanding of our strategic objectives, the recruiter proactively introduced candidates to us, and although there were no open positions at the time, we hired a candidate anyway and successfully found a role to fit the person."

How do you see talent acquisition evolving over the next 3-5 years?

Steven A. Blau:Tough to call - five years ago, there was OCC, Monsterboard, Career Mosaic, etc. Those are all gone or have changed significantly, so it's hard to predict what things will be like five years from now. I do see the consolidation of the big job boards continuing, and I also see companies going back to basics - doing their own digging and networking before posting a job on a board or using an agency. I do think companies will continue to try and find ways to leverage technology to make the process of locating and matching talent easier and more cost effective. Based on our own use and conversations with my peers, there will also always be room for very sharp, focused recruiting agencies. The level of demand may vary, but the need is always there.

Meyer: "It's going to be much more technology driven. What I see going forward is that the technology will be better at matching company to candidate or job to candidate. Services like Restrac [a provider of networked recruiting solutions] will allow you to download resumes and screen on keywords. Every recruiter has horror stories of going home with 300 downloaded resumes only to find 3 potential candidates. Your hit ratio will become much better."

Blauner: "Right now, there are so many good people unemployed that it's really a buyer's market. Talent acquisition and techniques really ebb and flow with the economy and I see it evolving as it has based on this cyclical element. Will new technology really aid us? I don't know. We saw it happen with the job boards and online resumes, but those need to evolve more to be a real resource."

Dyckman: "Over the next few years, we believe that organizations will continue to leverage the Internet to manage talent. With a system such as [our] Saba Talent, organizations can model the current - and desired - state of their organization, identify key resources as well as key competency gaps, and perform "what if" scenarios to assess the impact of reorganizations or acquisitions.

-Lisa Micali
Freelance writer