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Staffing Management: Pulling Together

Stephenie Overman  7/1/2007
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Vol. 3, No. 3

As e-recruiting overtakes traditional want ads in popularity, is your company taking full advantage of all that the Internet has to offer?

Recruiters and hiring managers must work together to find and hire the best people. But the two sides "do not fully understand each other's worlds."

That judgment comes from the Corporate Executive Board Recruiting Roundtable, the Washington-based membership organization of senior executives. Roundtable research finds that 63 percent of hiring managers do not feel that their recruiters understand the jobs they are trying to fill, while 57 percent of recruiters feel that hiring managers do not understand recruiting.

"No one party owns the staffing process," says Ed Davis, ConAgra Foods Inc.'s vice president of staffing and winner of the 2006 Staffing Professional of the Year Award from the Chicago Employment Management Association, a special interest chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. "Staffing is not just a staffing thing--it's relationship support from the recruiting department."

To build a better relationship with hiring managers, what recruiters need to do, first and foremost, is "learn the business," Davis says. In return, it is critical that the hiring manager develop an understanding of the recruiting process and of his or her role within that process.

It is the hiring manager's job to educate the recruiter about the critical competencies necessary for the position to be filled, Davis says, emphasizing the importance of the "specifications meeting."

The recruiter should spend "a lot of time in discussion with the hiring manager, asking: 'Who are your top performers?' 'What characteristics do they have?' 'Tell me about the people who work for you who are less successful.' I often ask: 'A year from now, how will you define success' " in that position?


Both sides should "overcommunicate," Davis adds. He wants to hear "whether you really like the candidate" and details including "why you liked or did not like the candidate."

This give-and-take process is time-consuming, he says, but necessary: "Like so much of business, this is a journey." The more time the recruiter works with the hiring manager, the better he or she becomes at meeting company needs, Davis believes. "That's one of those key enablers to how you get there. You have to make that investment to get the [return on investment]."

The investment of time up front "absolutely will reduce cycle time. The more the recruiter is educated, the more it reduces cycle time," Davis says, adding that "most hiring managers are willing to wait to get high-quality candidates."

Angela Barfield, client relationship manager for Clevelandbased outsourcer CBIZ Inc.'s Western Region, also stresses the importance of one-on-one meetings with the hiring manager.

"That focuses attention on the actual [job description] itself and brings support and clarity. Out of that meeting comes a sense of defining how the process will work--the definition of the timeline, who will be involved, how the process will occur. All are clarified with the hiring manager. They walk away with a sense that somebody is on their side," she says. Then, the process "takes on a life of its own."

Probably the most important thing is that "hiring managers have somebody in their court who is driving the process forward," Barfield believes. It's not that hiring managers want to drag their feet, she says, "but that they feel overwhelmed when they have to initiate everything."

Paul McLaverty, of PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa., works with Philadelphia-based outsourcing firm Yoh.

An on-site manager from Yoh routinely meets with PJM managers, especially those managers who most frequently have positions to fill. McLaverty estimates that PJM fills between 100 and 150 jobs a year, mostly in IT and engineering.

"When Yoh first came aboard, I recommended strongly that they meet regularly with managers of every department, but especially those that do the most business," McLaverty says.

"We had put together a rate card for many positions, but they' ve worked on better defining the requirements, so that less time is spent at the front end every time a position comes up," he says. "A manager can call and say 'I need a business analyst,' and [the recruiters] know exactly what [the hiring managers] need."

From a process standpoint "this has saved us a ton of money and even more in soft dollars.It's a big improvement," McLaverty says.

Reverse Engineering

Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing for Yoh, believes the best way to work with a hiring manager is "to almost reverse engineer. Learn what the needs are going to be long term.

"A lot of times a recruiter just gets an order and fills it. But if you find out the long-term needs--the manager may have big projects months out--you need to start a pipeline of talent," Lanzalotto says. "It can be almost talent-on-demand, where you anticipate their needs, because you understand what their needs are. You develop a relationship with the line manager."

That relationship has to be based on trust "because they' re going to show you their business model," he adds. "You need to understand the [hiring manager' s] work style and the culture of the department. The last thing you want is to not have a fit between the hiring manager and the [recruiters]. If there's not a close relationship, you may not get the mark, and the hiring manager gets frustrated."

Lanzalotto says he finds that the lack of time a hiring manager spends on the hiring process is one of the biggest hurdles. Recruiters need to be able to convince hiring managers that spending more time on the process produces better results.

"You have to have a track record. It's almost a Catch-22. Our biggest proponent is good word of mouth. If we do a good job with one manager," he says, "that manager will refer us to other managers. We try to show that it helps if you put a little more work in at the front end."

Weak job descriptions are another problem, he says. Hiring managers should keep in mind that "what goes into a good job description impacts the end delivery. The job description is critical. If the job description doesn' t hit the mark, the wrong person may be delivered. The recruiter is only as good as the information provided."

Internal vs. External

When it comes to working with the hiring manager, who makes the better partner--an internal recruiter or an external one? Naturally, representatives from each of these fields answer that question differently.

"Being an outside vendor, I have more weight than internal recruiters," says Barfield of CBIZ. "When someone is brought in as a vendor, it's a different situation; I' ve watched this time and time again. There may be a perception on the part of the hiring manager that the internal recruiter is there to support them, but that there's not a great sense of urgency."

One of the reasons that Barfield sees recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) gaining momentum "is that RPO is engaged in driving the process forward. It's an internal cultural shift from the HR and hiring managers' perspectives."

And, says Barfield, "a lot of HR departments don' t have the bandwidth and the talent. Sometimes, by inference, having an outsider come in more clearly defines the role."

There is "a degree of truth" to the theory that external consultants have "instant credibility," says ConAgra' s Davis, but both external and internal recruiters should see themselves as an extension of the team.

"Fundamentally, I don' t think there should be a difference," between the two, says Davis. "It's the same competencies. What is different is that the internal recruiter is here every day, so the dedication is a little different."

And where does the HR generalist fit into the picture?

"I' ve seen [options from] HR [running and controlling] the process to HR influencing the process to no HR at all," Lanzalotto says. The option that works best, he says, is for the hiring manager to make decisions while HR relieves the administrative burden.

The HR generalist "has to be an enabler," agrees Davis, and should help to refine job specifications, working closely with the hiring manager and taking part in the interviewing.

It's HR's job to "remove roadblocks and obstacles" from the recruiting process, he says, adding that another way the HR partner can support the process is by making sure the organization is an attractive place to work, with competitive compensation and benefits.

"You need a clear alignment on the competencies and roles of the recruiter, the HR generalist and the hiring manager," Davis says. "The more those three groups are aligned about the roles and process and positions, the better."

Stephenie Overman is editor of Staffing Management. 

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