How to be the HR Director’s Trusted Partner.

Last week I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to the APSCo Scottish Forum about what an HR Director is looking for from their recruitment partners.

Until recently, I have been heading up HR Departments for over 20 years.  In that time I have worked for a variety of companies and sectors.  A family run construction company, a privately owned financial services business, private equity tech company, engineering partnership and many more.

All of these companies had a couple of things in common;

  1. They were all growing businesses so recruiting for new roles as well as replacements
  2. They either had or I introduced some element of inhouse recruitment function
  3. All had between 200 and 2000 employees

So all large enough to be recruiting a significant number of employees but not large enough to have an MSP or RPO.  For a lot of recruitment agencies this type of company is right in your sweet spot.  Small enough to be able to build a good relationship with someone of influence and large enough to make it worth your while.

So what is the HRD of this type of company looking for in a good recruitment partner?  For my presentation last week I narrowed it down to 4 key things;

  1. Respect my process
  2. Be easy to do business with
  3. Offer me something I can’t get in house
  4. Be well networked in my sector

Respect my process

I spent a lot of time on this, it works for me and my team and it’s set up to help me manage the business.  If you step outside of my process – by approaching a line manager direct with a CV for example….

It doesn’t just affect that vacancy – it causes my team a problem because they have lost control over the vacancy.  We may not be aware of that candidate until the line manager wants to make an offer.

How does that make my team and I look? HRDs and all functional heads are always striving to demonstrate the value that they add to the business.  If you put them in a position where their process has failed or they are unaware of something they should be in control of – how predisposed to working with you in the future do you think they will be?

Be easy to do business with

When I was working in financial services we were setting up our preferred supplier list.  One of the agencies we added was a recommendation from the CEO.  My team hadn’t worked with them before but they met all our criteria so they went on the list.  The first role we sent to them they responded really quickly with a great CV.  The next day another agency who we had used often sent in the same CV.  We rang them to say we had already received this CV and they kicked off a bit….. “that’s not possible we have exclusivity on this CV the other agency must have an old CV etc etc”

I rang the new agency to explain we had a bit of a situation – my plan was to see if they may consider a split fee.  Right away they responded with “Don’t worry we won’t take a fee, that’s a great candidate they will be perfect for your role, let the others have the fee.  We don’t want to cause problems.”

As you can see I still rave about that agency now Campbell and Fletcher.  I can’t remember who the others were. 

Bring me something I can’t do inhouse

I already pay for an internal recruitment team – if I am using an agency I want you to add something that I can’t get in house.  I was talking to an ex colleague the night before I did this presentation and she was telling me she is advertising for an HRBP – she’s had 100s of applications.  The inhouse team don’t have time to review all those applications so in this instance using an agency to manage the vacancy gives me something I can’t do in house.  The other area I think is really useful is when you take the role brief.

Internally, we speak a kind of short hand – the inhouse recruiter asks the line manager “what sort of qualities do you want this person to have to fit in with the team?” The line manager replies “well you know what Fred and Ginger are like – we need someone who will fit with them”.

If you are an external recruiter – you don’t know Fred and Ginger so you will ask better questions and push my line managers to really  think about the role brief.

Be well networked in my industry

I want to see you at events (when we are allowed to go out again) and on zoom calls.  I want you to know everyone.  Who’s actively looking – who may be interested if it’s got xyz responsibility or is based in abc town?

Where do the people who can fill my hard to find roles live?  Give me access to candidates I don’t yet know.

The people I talked about earlier who were easy to do business with – they were also really well networked.  They would go to the opening of an envelope ????.  Which meant they knew everyone, and took the time to really know the individual what motivated them, what successes and challenges they had experienced recently, what sort of culture were they a good fit for, what were they were looking for long term.

So those are my 4 key pointers for being the HRDs trusted recruitment partner…

Respect my process – help me to demonstrate the value of good HR

Be easy to do business with – solve my problems don’t cause them

Bring me something I can’t do inhouse – add value to my internal set up

Be networked – make me feel like you could suggest a name for any role I have open

Sarah Cook

MD of WeDo HR Support.

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