Recruitment is, at its most critical end, a function of sales and performs best under a well-defined brand and when underpinned by a decent marketing strategy.
This is an ethic that is largely embraced in the better recruitment agencies, yet isn’t in the corporate sector. In most companies there is little or no interaction between the Sales & Marketing function and the HR/Recruitment function.
I’ve heard a lot of people speak in business about corporate hiring and much of it misses the point. They seem to see the most important element as the selection process, but this is just the ‘buying’ part of the recruitment life-cycle and important as it is, it’s only actually possible if enough qualified candidates are found.
To find enough qualified candidates, the company’s employment brand needs to not be weak, its employment propositions attractive and compelling and its various candidate sourcing channels well-defined.
This is just as relevant if that company only use agencies to source candidates.
The view that recruitment is more about buying than selling belies a kind of institutional arrogance that makes many companies believe that if they have vacancies, good people will come – that somehow they are doing the wider community a favour by actually inviting people to come and work for them.
It is this misplaced arrogance that has enabled the agency sector to gain so much traction over the past 15 years - because the more companies fail to source their own candidates, the more they buy into the myth (a myth often perpetuated by agencies by the way) that finding good candidates is some sort of ‘dark art’ that can only be performed by certain types of people. This ‘myth’ is only half right. It isn’t a ‘dark art’, but it is something that can only really be done by certain types of people – and that is people who know how to sell.
Unfortunately, many internal company recruiters come from HR and administration backgrounds and not sales. HR requires knowledge of laws, policies and managing people resources, which are all extremely important functions - but they are not sales and as a result too many people who handle recruitment within corporate HR just become an administrative cushion between their hiring managers and the agency PSL.
The basic stages of the sales cycle are to find, to qualify and to sell to and to close and these broadly cover the key stages of the recruitment cycle – namely to source enough decent candidates, to screen and short-list the best qualified and to convince them the job and the company are right for them.
So, how can the Sales & Marketing function help re-invigorate a company’s recruiting effort?
Firstly, HR could do a lot worse than outsource (or sub-contract) their recruitment & resourcing function to their Sales & Marketing department rather than to an external provider. Their Sales and Marketing people are best placed to do this because:
1) They know the company, its ethics and its strengths and weaknesses
2) They know how to help build brands
3) They’re good at developing routes to market, managing distributors/suppliers/resellers
4) They are used to getting the best out of CRMs
5) Building dialogue with prospects is second nature
6) They know how to sell and how to close
In recruitment terms, this means;
1) Being able to inform and articulate all of their recruitment materials
2) Building and disseminating a powerful employer brand
3) Managing agencies, headhunters and other recruitment suppliers
4) Optimising the use of an ATS (applicant tracking system) and using it to build Talent-Pools
5) Communicating with these Talent-Pools to enable ‘just in time’ hiring for business-critical vacancies
6) Attracting better candidates and converting more of them to attending interviews and accepting job offers
An ongoing working collaboration between HR and their Sales & Marketing colleagues could work with recruitment reporting directly to the head of Sales & Marketing with a dotted line reporting to HR also. HR would still retain some ownership of recruitment - something they would need to do given their offer-management and onboarding responsibilities, but most of the commercial activity that recruitment entails would be driven by people who have some intimacy with the ethos and practices involved.
The recruitment function of any company needs to think and act more like a Sales & Marketing department if it's to win its unfair share of the best available talent and to build a ‘I want to work there’ employment reputation.
Having the Sales & Marketing and HR functions operate independently is a big mistake.
If the two worked more closely together, or even better, if recruitment was moved out of HR and into Sales & Marketing, companies would save hundreds of thousands of pounds every year and the recruitment agency market, already overcrowded with too many wide-boys and paper-pushers who feed-off HR’s recruitment frailty would shrink so that those left would the ones that offered real commercial value.