How Recruiters Can Become Trusted Advisors

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer September 29, 2021
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​Now is one of the most challenging times to be a recruiter and one of the best times to be a recruiter, according to talent acquisition expert Jeremy Eskenazi, SHRM-SCP. The skill set is more in demand than it has been in years, and recruiters' salaries are showing it. This is a perfect time to elevate the role from internal vendor to trusted advisor.  

With the current labor market in upheaval, organizations need recruiters to be trusted advisors and consultants, said Eskenazi, managing principal at Riviera Advisors, a consulting firm focused on talent acquisition, based in Long Beach, Calif.

Eskenazi was speaking at the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2021 in Las Vegas in August.

He said most recruiters think of themselves as being in customer service, with hiring managers and candidates as their customers. Many organizations naturally position the recruiting function in the same way, as an internal vendor.  

"In order to rise to the role of trusted advisor, you have to switch from thinking that you serve the business to understanding that you are the business," Eskenazi said. "You are a part of the organization and have skin in the game. Instead of just filling orders, your job is to consult and advise on the best ways to bring in the right talent."

The talent advisor concept positions recruiters as strategic, influential, data-driven business partners who deliver value beyond filling jobs. 

"Hiring managers have the responsibility for hiring," Eskenazi said. "Recruiters are project managers, facilitating the hiring process and setting and managing expectations."

John Sullivan, an HR thought leader, author and professor of management at San Francisco State University, described the recruiter role as providing expert advice on internal talent optimization and the external talent marketplace. "And because this big-picture, future-oriented approach is specifically designed to improve business outcomes, these consultants will have long-term job security in both up and down economies," he said.

The transactional approach to recruiting may be on shaky ground anyway. "Even though there will always be some recruiters that focus on filling requisitions, … [artificial intelligence] and machine learning technologies [will] gradually take over recruiting process elements and most sourcing and candidate assessment," Sullivan said. "To put it bluntly, that means that the typical recruiter role of filling requisitions will shrink both in numbers and in importance. I suggest that if you want job security in recruiting, the only option is to shift up a level to a more strategic, more impactful and more exciting role as a talent advisor."

Saying 'No'

Eskenazi said that to be a true talent advisor, recruiters must have the ability to push back and say "no." Valued talent acquisition professionals can't be shy about asking hiring managers to reassess what they're looking for, he said.

"The order taker gets the hiring manager what he or she wants, but the consultant gets the hiring manager what he or she needs," Eskenazi said. "Sometimes [hiring managers] don't know what they need, and constructive conflict can be very helpful. Be willing to take a stand and back it up, even when your position is not accepted. If you just say 'yes, yes, yes' and don't push back on hiring managers' bad ideas, you will be seen as less strategic and less credible and pigeonholed into a transactional, administrative function."  

Ultimately though, once recruiters present their point of view and the hiring manager still decides to follow his or her own direction, "you have to be OK with it," he said.       

Intake Meetings

Intake meetings, when recruiters and hiring managers initially discuss the requirements for the position and the particulars of the candidate profile, are where talent advisors shine.

This is also the time when it is decided who is responsible for what. "Managing expectations is key," Eskenazi said. "Clarify what [the hiring managers] are looking for and then be transparent with them about how the process will unfold. Make it clear that by using the company's specific hiring process that you will start sourcing by a certain date and return with a slate of candidates by a certain date, and that they will respond by a certain date with their feedback."

Timelines are critical, and just accepting it when the hiring manager says they need someone "yesterday" or "ASAP" does not work, he said. "If you know that it typically takes nine weeks to fill a role, say so up front. Show them the data. Let them know that it will take longer if they don't respond as quickly as they should or if they add interview rounds to the process."

Sullivan said that, when appropriate, recruiters should work with their hiring managers to develop service-level agreements clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all parties to increase responsiveness and improve recruiting performance. He added that when meeting, it's better to coach and influence with data "rather than cajoling hiring managers."

Top Skills of a Talent Advisor

Recruiters seeking to be more strategic in their organization will need to hone communication, consulting and persuasion skills, as well as become experts in their field, knowing the business and their employer's industry.

In addition, talent advisors should focus on the performance metrics that matter most—speed and quality—and work well with the other areas of HR. "I see so many recruiting teams that are siloed from HR, and to be a trusted advisor, you must be aligned with the rest of HR," Eskenazi said.

Advisors must be adept at networking and gathering intelligence from candidates, hiring managers, the marketplace and talent communities related to their industry.

"Focus on building strong relationships," Eskenazi said. "Don't use tech as a crutch. Knowing how to use technology is important, but you still have to pick up the phone."

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