The Recruiting Blame Game


We have all heard the saying “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” I have used this phrase myself from time-to-time, and think I’ve heard it from every HR/TA leader I have met when we discuss the challenges they face in serving the business. But not every problem has an easy solution and, without the ability to look at the situation from all sides, we might just misidentify the problem and come to a solution that compounds the issue, rather than solving it!

Take the issue of candidate quality, for example.

In most organizations, recruiting teams feel they are being blamed for the quantity and lack of quality in the candidates they present to hiring managers.

When unhappy hiring managers converge on you to complain about the quantity and lack of quality of the candidates they have seen thus far, what do you do? Do you look at the role of all contributors to the issue? Or do you keep from adding fuel to the fire by failing to mention where the hiring manager could be part of the problem?

Your hiring manager may be your team’s customer but, let us face it: “the customer” is not always right. You will never really solve an issue that involves more than one person by addressing it in one direction. In fact, absorbing the blame only perpetuates the issue by diminishing the value of your recruiting team’s work.

What happens when your team continually takes the fall?

spinningwheelThe finger-pointing that goes back and forth from the hiring manager to the recruiter is an age-old problem that can’t be solved by simply asking recruiters to “send more candidates.” Trust me, that’s why it rears its head time-and-time again in the thousands of conversations I have with HR and TA leaders. I’ll hear phrases like “our recruiting is broken,” followed by complaints that their recruiters don’t listen, don’t understand the business, the role, the requirements, the type of candidate fit…and the list goes on.

Everyone looks to someone else to take the blame—someone outside of themselves. But when we ensure the blame lands on the recruiting team by “letting sleeping dogs lie,” it has a far greater impact on your process than you might expect. In fact, it often elevates hiring manager dissatisfaction by not looking for a resolution that makes the experience better, rather than alleviating it. It also reduces the team’s morale and steals away one of its most precious resource—time.

So, what can you do about it? I don’t have a magic wand, but there are quite a few techniques I commonly offer leaders in this situation. I know first-hand these will make a significant difference in your ability to restore and elevate your team’s morale, positively influence hiring manager attitudes and behaviors, and shine a light on the great work recruiting does to find your organization the talent it needs to thrive and achieve its great purpose

Three Game-Changers to Implement Now

  • Provide Communications Training

Communication is both a skill and an art. Through every consulting engagement and training I have been a part of, much of the hiring manager feedback was centered around “quality and lack of communication.” This is where Recruiters can improve both their confidence level and work to win over hiring managers.

Communication training should be part of every recruiter’s performance goal. Recruiters often must persuade and influence hiring managers with whom they have no real authority, and that requires adopting an “influencer” style of communication. Successful influencing is about making a connection and appealing to the heart as well as the head. Learning to influence and get true ‘buy in’ from the hiring manager requires active listening and the ability to identify ways to connect with your audience’s needs. Alone, learning to communicate effectively won’t fix the blame issue, but it can certainly improve the relationship that is so integral to the hiring process

  • Acknowledge that the customer isn’t always right

As I said earlier, giving in to hiring managers in order to avoid conflict doesn’t solve the problem and usually makes the issue worse. Providing hiring managers training on the recruiting process is one step every HR/TA leader should take to avoid the blame game. And it should be ongoing; not every hiring manager is in active hiring mode and it’s likely that they’ll only partly listen until there is an urgent hiring need, when they’ll do a full court press.

Not every hiring manager is well-versed in the hiring process. They may not understand what it takes to find good talent, grasp current labor market conditions or have a mistaken understanding of how sourcing even works! Many are convinced it starts and stops with a single message on LinkedIn!

That’s why we recommend that every intake strategy include a discussion of the sourcing techniques your team will be using to fill the role as well as the methods (and effort) required to engage, nurture and convert the right profiles for the role. This lets the hiring manager know the lengths you go to find talent that fits! And don’t forget to have your team include their research on market conditions and labor supply. Training your team to use these steps in their intake structure helps position them as true talent advisors, elevate your team’s value and create a better recruiting process experience from start to finish.

Lastly, make sure each participant in the hiring process, both the recruiter and hiring manager, agree on the KPIs for the recruiting effort. When everyone has skin in the game and accountability for their part in it, the effort is more successful.

  • Encourage curiosity and growth

Those who possess an innate curiosity to learn often come out on top. In fact, to flourish in the recruiting world—or any area of business today, for that matter—requires a deep sense of curiosity. Curiosity helps you be more innovative in your approach, lets you grow from your mistakes, and learn to meet a diverse array of challenges. We all want the smartest and most experienced teams available, but did you know that studies have confirmed that it is not intelligence that creates expertise but curiosity, effort, and practice?

HR and TA Leaders need to continually coach recruiters in the importance of self-learning to their careers. Every new position they recruit presents a new opportunity to understand the role, its responsibilities, and how the role fits into the business.

Here at Newton Talent, our recruiters conduct a fair amount of research in advance of scheduling an intake call as part of activities that we call “pre-search.” Pre-search allows recruiters to prepare and ask questions of the hiring manager that a candidate might ask. It also allows the recruiter to get a deeper understanding of the role and how it contributes to business unit where the hire will work.

Game Over

We can be stuck in the negative cycle of taking credit and placing blame, or we can change our approach and focus on our future. I encourage everyone who is reading this piece to look for ways to reframe your next challenging situation, explore different options and, yes, learn from your mistakes. Not only is it the best way to help your team understand why blame is counter-productive, but also a smart step for leaders who want to increase their team’s value to the business.

Struggling to satisfy your hiring managers? Learn how PowerSourcing’s integrated solutions can help you identify, nurture, and build a pipeline of higher-quality candidates so you can fill roles faster.

Written by Patty Silbert

President of Newton Talent since 2018, Patty Silbert has over 30 years of experience developing the innovative solutions that help HR professionals just like you meet their most pressing recruitment challenges and their companies achieve their talent acquisition goals. She is a regular writer and speaker on the subjects of recruitment strategy, employment branding, HR technology, and leadership.