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Five Killer Questions for HR to Ask Recruiters

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How can human resources (HR) distinguish the good from the bad recruiters? How does HR know that they are engaging with super recruiters (SR)?

The demand for talent in the pharmaceutical industry in Japan is strong, and the supply is limited, mainly due to the need for candidates to be bilingual in English and Japanese. Unlike in other markets in Asia, HR in Japan often believes that the more the merrier in terms of the number of recruiters that they use. I have met with some firms that have admitted to having 20 recruiting companies on their books. Their theory is that the more recruiters they have, the more resumes they receive, which means the quicker the position is likely to be filled. However, this is rarely the case; the multi-recruiting approach confuses the candidate market and multiple recruiters, often with different messages, tend to sully the companies’ brand and reputation in the market..

In his book Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, Charles Duhigg discusses a study conducted by MIT that sheds light on what the best of the best recruiters do. The study looked at a mid-size recruiting firm in the United States and analyzed the factors that explained why some recruiters were more productive than others. Anecdotally, I can attest to these characteristics being evident in all superstar recruiters in Asia.

1. SR only work on five projects at a time on average. Lower performers lack focus and have a shot-gun approach, working on up to and, at times, more than, ten searches at a time. SR carefully evaluate the searches that they are considering working on. They conduct a cost-benefit analysis and look at the opportunity cost of working on any particular assignment.

HR Question: Can you briefly outline the projects that you are currently working on?

2. SR have a niche that they have mastered; they deal with a specific job function within the industry. And they understand that repetition is the mother of excellence. They are therefore able to list the top candidates for that function off the top of their heads.

HR Question: Describe the job function that you excel at and briefly describe some of the best candidates working in that function at the director level.

3. SR are tapped into the market through attending conferences and working with younger consultants who meet new clients and candidates.

HR Question: What was the last conference that you attended?

4. SR are always generating theories about ways to improve. They have theories on why some consultants succeed and others do not and why clients are happy or dissatisfied. They are constantly telling stories about successful and unsuccessful searches, which lead to more theories. In short, they are a little obsessed about explaining their theories on recruitment to the world.

HR Question: Why do some recruiters succeed and others fail?

5. SR constantly invest in new technology and social media, and they comment to the industry. These commentaries may be published in hard-copy form, but they will almost certainly have a blog that they used to reach out to new candidates and clients.

HR Question: How do reach candidates in both local and international markets?

Like many sales jobs, recruiting has a low entry bar. Also, following the Pareto principal, 80% of productivity comes from 20% of the recruiters in the industry. If HR asks the above five questions, they will be able to distinguish the great recruiters from the also-rans.

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