Why Recruiting Relationships Are Underrated

Recruiting RelationshipsOctober 23, 2015 With technology buzz all around us, human connections – relationships – in recruiting have become underrated. We use technology as a crutch, not as an enabler. There, I said it. It’s not that I am a tech Luddite – I love well-designed recruiting technology as much as you do. But as long as there are humans involved in recruiting, it remains an inherently relationship-driven process.
So, when the Staffing Management Association of Seattle recently asked me to keynote their annual symposium around the theme of “Recruiting Rebooted”, I was delighted to observe that the common denominator of all presentations circled around this very notion of the human element in recruiting.
I opened the event by talking about the evolving recruiting relationship ecosystem, encouraged participants to identify their own blind spots, and left them with actionable steps recruiters can take to create effective collaboration across key stakeholder groups.
[You can view my entire keynote presentation here.]

So what are the critical external and internal recruiting stakeholder groups, why are they important, and how can we improve our relationship with each? This is a summary from my presentation:

Cross-Sector Partners

The skills mismatch is real. If you are a Recruiter for tech or other STEM talent, then you know that already. I believe that Talent Acquisition has the opportunity to become a leader in shining a light on this challenge and creating a sustainable future talent pipeline. One way to do so is by partnering with non-profits and other external partners to access traditionally untapped talent pools (e.g. women in STEM, people with different abilities, opportunity youth, military vets).


Think about your current vendor relationships. Are they largely transactional or even confrontational? Steve Browne (CHRO at La Rosa’s) recently wrote an excellent blog post on how to create more fruitful vendor relationships in HR. Here are my three steps for how you can optimize your vendor network: 1) Analyze how much you are currently spending with each vendor, why, and what has been the return? 2) Set clear expectations and provide feedback to your vendors – only by providing constructive feedback can vendors improve their products and become better business partners. 3) Create an informal vendor advisory council with representation from consulting, tech, search, staffing. Choose people you trust, who are brilliant, and who will give you objective counsel and insight into leading practices.


Do you hire millennials? Do you involve their parents in the recruiting process? If the answer is “no” to the last question, it’s a big miss. According to a recent Pew Research study more millennials are moving back in with their parents after graduating from college. Who do you think has a major impact on their job search and decision making process? Think through your end-to-end recruiting process and identify creative ways to inform and engage these parents. Peer review sites such as Glassdoor are becoming increasingly popular as influencers in the candidate decision making process. What is your response and engagement strategy on this platform?


According to last year’s Talent Board Candidate Experience Awards only 53% of candidates gave high marks to their recruiting experience. In my research and in authoring the HR Marketing & Recruiting chapter in Springer’s “Handbook of Human Resources Management”, I outlined six key activities that can positively impact the candidate experience: 1) Design a tailored approach. 2) Create an engaging online experience. 3) Build talent communities. 4) Include self-assessments. 5) Streamline the interview experience. 6) Create communication and feedback loops.

Hiring Managers

You know it – our relationship with hiring managers is fraught. Sometimes it’s hard to know if they are friend or foe. Fact is that working well with hiring managers is key to recruiting success. This is backed by research: Bersin by Deloitte found that creating effective hiring manager relationships is the top driver of an effective Talent Acquisition function. Earlier this year I wrote an ERE article about why the hiring manager experience matters and proposed a new way of thinking about this key relationship.

Executive Team

The best way to influence your CEO and the Executive team is to “data-dazzle” them. Determine the business problem that ineffective recruiting is causing and quantify it. As an example, we recently calculated a multi-million dollar benefit for a client by quantifying drivers of “bad hires” and impact of time-to-fill for revenue-generating roles. The company would be able to generate a multi-year benefit while making investments in the talent acquisition function. A win-win!

Finance, IT, Marketing

Your CFO, CIO, and CMO should be your BFFs! I always involve the CFO in any HR metrics discussion and have them co-design and review the business case. My experience is that you will save yourself a lot of re-work and gain buy-in if you involve Finance early. If you have a large contingent workforce another critical partnership you want to forge is with Procurement. As technology is becoming an increasingly important part in Talent Acquisition so is your relationship with your IT team. They will be able to provide a different perspective throughout the vendor selection process. And your CMO is guaranteed to listen to you if you can outline how an integrated approach between employer and consumer marketing can drive sales. Take a look at this great case study on how Marriott’s Talent Acquisition team is creating an effective partnership with Marketing.


Your best Recruiters are your employees. How are you empowering and enabling them to help you? For example, tech company Adobe created a comprehensive brand ambassadorship program. And when is the last time you optimized your employee referral program? It should be a key quality source of hire.

Human Resources

Candidates today evaluate their experience with an employer across the entire talent.experience lifecycle. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important for HR teams to collaborate. Yet we still frequently operate in siloes. How can you build these relationships and re-define Talent Acquisition responsibility with your HR partners? Are you providing your CHRO and HR leadership team with Recruiting insights to inform overall HR strategy setting and activity prioritization? Are HR Business Partners your allies in brokering fruitful relationships with the business?

Recruiting Team

The biggest challenge for many Recruiters is the daily grind of fulfilling heavy requisition loads. And this gets especially overwhelming if you feel you are alone in it. Relationships at work matter. Studies show that getting along with your co-workers not only makes your day more pleasant but also makes you better at your job. Build friendly competition and fun into your daily work routine. Are you an expert in your ATS or a sourcing ninja? Teach your colleagues – be known as an expert. If you work with remote team members, get to know them better by spending the first five minutes of meeting talking about non-work related topics.

Talent Acquisition Leader

As the Talent Acquisition leader, you are responsible for creating and nurturing relationships with all the stakeholder groups previously described. You are holding together this entire ecosystem. An effective Talent Acquisition leader plays four key roles: 1) Trusted advisor to the business 2) Networker across the entire stakeholder ecosystem 3) Student of the business, trends, technology 4) Visionary and storyteller inside and outside the organization.

Want to find out where your recruiting relationship blind spots are and how to address them? Connect with us to receive a complimentary copy of our recruiting relationship blind spot self-assessment.


Nicole Dessain is the founder of talent.imperative, a next generation talent management consultancy. We guide our clients in surfacing their most pressing talent questions, crunch data to answer them, and customize solutions to realize value through talent. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

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