Unpopular opinion: Talent Acquisition is a sales job
By Byron Fitzgerald – Director, New Era
Disclaimer: To be clear, I am NOT bashing TA (nor do I really get the tension between TA & recruiters, but I’ll save that for another time). TA is an absolutely essential function of any successful business. It adds tremendous value.
I talked about the lessons we’d learnt over the last 3 years in a previous post. That post talked about the first lesson: go (very) deep in your niche to add value as a (genuine) expert.
Here’s another lesson we’ve learnt: TA is (or, should be) a sales job.
Unpopular opinion, I know…
Over the last 12 years, I’ve worked with a lot of Hiring Managers – CEOs, Presidents, Regional BU leaders; to people who had their first leadership stint and they’re hiring their first employee.
For the most part (I know I’m generalising here…), we can split these groups into two buckets:
(1) They had already tried to fill the position with their internal TA team, it didn’t work, so they outsourced to us for help.
(2) They didn’t have a TA team (yet) and they were outsourcing what they didn’t know how to do and/or didn’t have the time to do.
(there’s a third bucket – they’ve already tried another recruiter which didn’t work so they’re coming to us for a more targeted (retained) approach – I’m not here to bash other recruiters either so I’ll save that one for another post, too)
I’m just talking about the first bucket here. I’ve spent the last 3 years figuring out why this happens.
In that situation, it was always important (still is) to firstly troubleshoot why it hasn’t worked on the first pass. I’d start with these two questions:
(1) How many candidates are in the funnel at the moment?
(2) How did you get them into that funnel?
A common response would be: “Oh, you mean how many people have applied to our job advert? Well, it’s “X” but they’re just not the right candidates for us.”
My response: “Oh, so you have an advert posted, that’s great – what other funnels are you using?”
Or, I might hear responses about other funnels:
- “We have community groups inside our ATS (applicant tracking system) that stays in touch with previous applicants, and we offer referral incentives to those people for introductions… we offer referrals to our internal staff too, but it just isn’t working.”
- “Our TA team works closely with Marketing so our employer branding is competitive… we talk a lot about our employee benefits and workplace culture through online channels.”
- “We post regularly on LinkedIn to make sure the market can see what we have to offer.”
These are all important and useful for long-term candidate pooling/employer branding. They’re not be undervalued. But I do still ask:
“How many candidates have you directly reached out to?”
The answer is usually either zero, or a number between 0 – 50. Based on the role we’re talking about, I know (from previous searches) that the immediately obvious candidate pool to reach out to is somewhere between 150-500 (and that’s just to start with).
And I’ll tell them the solution.
If they already knew the answer but they’re outsourcing their TIME to us to carry out the heavy lifting of outreach, then we partner. If not, I always recommend they do that first before coming back to us. There’s no glory in capitalising on others’ ignorance (just my belief, you might feel different). And, people don’t forget when you want to help them without asking for anything in return.
The job of a business development/sales function within a business is to bring in customers through the front door.
The job of the TA function within a business is to bring in talent through the back door.
Business Development & sales people know that to acquire new customers, you need a multi-channel, multi-funnel strategy. One of the funnels is direct outreach. It is, and always will be, the bedrock of selling.
Selling your product/service is no different than selling your open positions. Inbound marketing funnels obviously work (more-so in B2C than B2B) but by adding in direct outreach, it will work BETTER.
People who apply for your job advert are more than likely already looking for a new job. By reaching out to EVERYBODY who could do the job, you have a far higher likelihood of success. It also gives the opportunity for 1:1 dialogue between the candidate and TA. The candidate can then ask questions/buying signals (which they’re more likely to engage in because you’ve directly reached out to them, if nothing more than curiosity about why you reached out to them in particular), which gives you the opportunity to SELL the position (and what the candidate’s future could look like if they made the switch).
You can only put so much into a job advert. You can get way more out of a conversation.
I could talk way more about this (I’ve generalized a lot here, and there are a lot of nuances within the points), but I’ve already taken up enough of your day. If you’re interested in knowing more, DM me and we can chat.