5 Ways to Be a True Talent Acquisition Partner

By Roy Maurer Oct 7, 2016
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Nellie Peshkov, vice president of global talent acquisition at Netflix

​LAS VEGAS—Nellie Peshkov, vice president of global talent acquisition at Netflix, learned a valuable lesson early in her executive career.

In an earlier job at Symantec, Peshkov partnered with the vice president of engineering for a leadership development program. They were challenged to tell one another what value each brought to the other's team. After hearing him speak about complex engineering issues and how they related to the rest of the company, she stumbled.

"I did not know what to say. I wasn't searching for any roles on his team or working on any initiatives for his department. I did not know what value I brought" outside transactional work, Peshkov said.

His response floored her. "Are you kidding me?" he asked. "You have people talent. Your insights and instincts about people will be invaluable to me. When I get stuck and don't know how to get through to someone, you will be the person I call."

That exchange gave Peshkov the confidence to think of herself as more than a recruiter and instead as a talent acquisition business partner.

She shared that experience with recruiters Oct. 5 at LinkedIn's Talent Connect 2016, a conference for LinkedIn users.

Now she's at Netflix, a company famous for its innovative hiring process and its intense "freedom and responsibility" culture—one without performance reviews, expense approvals or many administrative hurdles at all.

She said that the company's talent acquisition practices draw on that culture, including the focus on collaboration, transparency and feedback, which stands in sharp contrast to the typical consultant-client relationship between recruiters and hiring managers.

"That's not a partnership. If the goal is to hire great talent, the most critical key to success for the talent acquisition team is partnership with the business," she said. She explained that hiring managers are ultimately responsible for hiring and are expected to "put as much energy and effort" into recruiting as recruiters do.

The Work Must Be Mutual

With everyone pushed to work at talent acquisition, what's expected of recruiters at Netflix? "Not only do they have to be amazing at identifying talent, engaging talent, assessing talent and getting them on board," Peshkov said, "they need to be an amazing talent acquisition business partner. It's their job to turn every hiring manager at Netflix into a recruiting champion."

She quoted actor Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood character from the popular Netflix program "House of Cards" in giving a succinct definition for a true business partner: "If you want my loyalty, then you have to offer yours in return."

She added that the foundation for a successful partnership is that it is mutual, it is built on trust and it has a constant flow of communication. That's what is discussed with hiring managers during the first meeting with the talent acquisition team at Netflix.

"We're going to source together, engage candidates together and work on strategy together. There's no such thing as my role and your role," she said.

Peshkov outlined the following five ways that recruiters can be better business partners.

  • Go through the process together. "Don't show up with a stack of LinkedIn profiles and resumes at the first intake meeting with hiring managers," she said. "That sets the tone for how the experience will be. You're implying that it's your job to source and they can be passive at this stage." She told attendees to instead give managers a role and show them how to source. "Show them how to identify talent in their networks and how to reach out to referrals and leads. Show them how to look at people who interact with their profile as possible leads. Make sourcing fun for them."
  • Ask lots of questions. Peshkov said to be unapologetic about it. "Go to meetings that you're not invited to. Take part in the conversations and attend the meetings you need to attend to get information. A product meeting can help you become a subject matter expert, which makes you a better recruiter." She advised recruiters to take notice of how teams engage with each other, to know what candidate would make a good fit.
  • Give feedback without an invitation. "Your opinion matters," Peshkov said. "You are the subject matter expert on people. Don't wait to be asked." She said that she's seen too many recruiters afraid to disagree with a hiring manger's assessment of candidates because they think they don't understand the job or what the manager is looking for. "We approach candidate evaluation with a different perspective. If you provide your expertise, managers will come to depend on it and expect it."
  • Raise the bar. Knowing the difference between a good and great candidate and stepping in to advise the hiring manager to walk away from B talent will have that manager thanking you for having the courage to keep going, Peshkov said.
  • Go beyond specific job searches. "You bring macro knowledge on larger trends for the business," she said. "To be a true strategic talent acquisition business partner is to understand what is happening in and outside your organization and bring that information to the business to help them make better talent decisions."
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