A common mistake a lot of HR managers make is that they often attribute unsuccessful hires to either job-seekers or recruitment consultants. However, according to the data from both RMG China Talent Flow Survey 2012 and 2013 (see figure 1), the role of third party recruitment consulting agencies are quite important in the interview process. Two-thirds of the hiring calls for mid and senior level positions come from recruiters instead of HR people from the hiring company. Imagine that HR managers and recruitment consultants become team players in the interview process, and then the chance of successful hire will be enhanced greatly. In this regard, I would like to share some basic principles of how HR managers can work better with third party recruiters to control interview processes and candidates well.

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A recruitment consultant with systematic training understands that to guide candidates through the whole interview process a primary task. On average, executive search professionals spend at least 45 minutes preparing candidates for one single interview, and another 30 minutes for after-interview debriefing. The guidance will not stop until the candidate is well seated in the new role. On employers’ side, recruitment consultants need to work closely with the HR department to ensure a smooth interview process. While working with some clients, I notice that problems often appear when HR managers are not clear about 4 things, which are listed below in each point!

1. Communicate clearly with the senior management

To start with, I would like to take a real example. Last year, the HR manager who worked for one of my clients in Tianjin resigned. It was difficult for me to believe that she quitted a top market player in the logistic industry where she had worked for over 6 years. Later on, she explained the reason of her resignation to me. She felt too much pressure from the top management regarding a special job opening which was vacant for a year and a half. As I recalled, I was also working with her on that case at that time. However, I stopped after providing 10 candidates. The reason why I stopped was that there was no mutual agreement of the prospected candidate profile from her and the managing director. Even though she repeatedly searched for the understanding of the senior management, there was little support. Her pressure went up while budget and requirements barely changed.

Recruitment consultants can help in-house HR a lot on difficult head accounts, but they need to be very clear of the candidate qualification. In this case, the biggest pressure of HR managers in their recruitment job comes from a lack of information and support from the senior management. If employers expect HR managers or even recruiters to provide the best, then they have to treat them as strategists. Involve them from the beginning of the job opening. Make sure that before starting the interview process they is involved in meetings or discussions with line managers or senior management in detail. Only in this way can HR managers and recruitment consultants can start as a team!

2. Formulate company unique selling points (USPs)

In general, when HR managers describe to me in detail how their ideal candidates should look like, the question I usually ask them is that what the unique selling points your company have! The interesting phenomenon I noticed, however, is that there is always a 30-second silence over the phone call when I ask this question. I understand what clients are looking for. I also know where and how to find those candidates who fit the requirement. However, prudent competitors are hiring the same candidates with good qualities. So if a company does not figure out its unique selling points in the first place, then it will be difficult for both HR managers and recruitment consultants to convince potential candidates.

Hiring companies should realize that they need to promote their image in order to attract the best candidates. To define a company’s USPs, HR managers and the senior management should have a sit-down discussion about the company business model, organization culture, missions and values, team-building events, company public relations and branding, internal training system and so forth. As for recruiters, it is also their responsibility to help HR managers   understand the significance of company USP-building. For example, a question I often ask HR people is that why they join the current company! This can help them get the point in their own cases. To work as a team, HR managers can remind recruitment consultants to add efforts in the process.

3. The interview process matters

In order to save time, some hiring managers or senior management personnel would like to make a hiring decision after one round of interviews. To be honest, I would never advise my clients to do so. Although it is possible for a hiring manager to select the right candidate fairly quickly, for candidates it is a different story. Changing jobs is an important step in one’s career. There are many factors to consider before a candidate can clear his or her mind and make a balanced decision. Experience shows that when a candidate is rushed into a decision, he or she often quits the job within three months; just because of the decision was made unbalanced.

Like a company will decide to hire a candidate on the performance during the interview, a candidate would make a decision to accept a job based on the interview process. A candidate puts high value on the professionalism of the HR manager, the duration of the interview process and especially the communication towards the candidate during the process. The candidate’s image of the company is created mostly during the interview process. A lack of communication and slow follow-up might represent a bad company culture and turn off the qualified candidate eventually.

4. Work with specialists, not generalists

Some companies assign many different recruitment agencies with the belief that this will result in a broader choice of candidates. However, the reality is that the HR Manager spends too much time screening unqualified candidates and eventually eliminating underperforming agencies from the search process. A recruiter needs in-depth market knowledge to understand the client’s hiring needs and to judge whether their requirements are realistic or not. Only an industry specialist recruiter has the understanding of both the client and the candidate to ensure a smooth procedure of the interview process.

Specialized recruiters can indicate the best talent in the market due to their wide network in a niche market. They are able to attract candidates by their market knowledge. Specialists are well aware of current market trends and understand the availability of the labor market. It is important for a company to select the right recruitment consultant to work with upfront starting the interview process.

The interview process is a critical aspect of a company’s hiring strategy. Caused to a lack of communication with the HR Manager, companies often fail to clearly define the candidate profile upfront. Even when a company is able to clearly describe its desired candidates, it might forget a lot of important factors. However, the problem can be well solved if HR mangers understand how to work well with recruiters. Trying the basic principles will not take HR people risks, so why not put them into practice in the last third hiring season!

  By Ruben van den Boer