The Simple Phrase that Empowered My Recruiting Team

June 18, 2015

Here at LinkedIn, I don’t want a team of recruiters. I want a team of strategic partners.

What’s the difference? A strategic partner is, as the name implies, an equal partner on the same playing field as both hiring managers and candidates.

Why is that important? Because a recruiter is just as valuable to the hiring process as the hiring manager.

Yes, a hiring manager is the expert on the particular position. But the recruiter is the expert on the hiring process itself, and can provide valuable insight into how long the hire will take, what to expect, the best ways to approach it, etc. If the recruiter isn’t seen as an equal partner, the hiring manager will be much less likely to use that recruiter’s advice throughout the process, and only half of the team’s capability will be utilized.

The goal is to avoid that and have two heads instead of one. To ensure that happens, I train each one of my recruiters to master the phrase: “I’m concerned.”

It starts at the beginning

Like most companies, our recruiters have intake meetings with hiring managers whenever a position needs to be filled. This is where we go through each step in the process, create a realistic timeline and an agreement is formed.

Here’s the key part though – the agreement is not just what recruiters have to do. It also details what the hiring manager has to accomplish and gives specific timelines for each activity.

For example, the hiring manager will agree to put in all their feedback on candidates in our ATS within 24 hours after interviewing them. Again, this is all part of our belief that a recruiter and a hiring manager are equals, and equals must abide by the same set of rules.

“I’m concerned”

The hope is that the intake meeting produces a realistic timeline, both sides meet their objectives and someone is hired successfully. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, and that’s where “I’m concerned” comes in.

When a hiring manager doesn’t hit one of their objectives and it slows down the process, we teach our recruiters to call that hiring manager right away. When they do, we instruct them to use the words “I’m concerned” and then pause for 10 seconds.

This will stop the hiring manager in their tracks and pique their attention.

Then, the recruiter should tell the hiring manager what exactly they are concerned about, leaning on either the agreement from the intake meeting or the company values to make their point. Most of the time, the hiring manager will fix whatever the problem is, and it helps reinforce the concept of the recruiter as their partner.

The point is “I’m concerned” ensures the dynamic remains two equals working together. Off that foundation, a better solution can be reached.

Sample conversations

I’ve always been a believer in show, not tell. So here is a quick examples of how this conversation can go. Natasha swings by Alan the hiring manager’s desk to talk because she is…well… “concerned.”

Natasha the recruiter: Hi Alan, have 5 minutes.

Alan the hiring manager: Sure. What’s going on?

Natasha the recruiter: I’m concerned…

(Here Natasha takes a 10 second pause…says absolutely nothing. Think of it as whoever talks first loses).

Alan the hiring manager (realizing this is a serious conversation): What are you concerned about?

Natasha the recruiter: You haven’t been putting your feedback about the candidates into our ATS within 24 hours, as we agreed upon in our in-take meeting. What I am most concerned about it that all our candidates are members and we need to live up to our company value of putting members first. Every interaction with our candidates reflects on our brand and it is slowing our process down. We need your written feedback to make the most informed decisions and to let candidates know the outcome of their interviews. 

Alan the hiring manager: I’m so sorry Natasha, I’ve just been busy. It won’t happen again!

Natasha the recruiter: Thanks! One last question - Where is this search on your current set of priorities this quarter?

Alan the hiring manager: It is in the top 3.

Natasha the recruiter: Excellent. I will continue to hold you to our agreement. I am looking forward to making a great hire together.

Final thought

This all sounds simple. But the fact is, many recruiters are reticent to have these sorts of conversations with their hiring managers, and the result is the recruiter ends up working for the hiring manager instead of the two working together.

That’s why we take the time at LinkedIn to arm each one of our recruiters with language like “I’m concerned” and teach the power of silence. By giving each recruiter a framework to follow and training on how to very specifically navigate the many scenarios we face as recruiters, it exponentially increases the performance of our talent acquisition organization.

And, from what we’ve seen, the first time a hiring manager hears “I’m concerned” is generally the last, as the dynamic in their mind is shifted. They go from seeing the recruiter as somebody who works for them to seeing the recruiter as a partner who works with them to achieve impactful business results.

I chuckle thinking back to several instances when we started our training after which hiring managers called me to ask “What is going on with recruiting? Your team is really demanding excellence. They are calling me out.” This was evidence of us evolving from order takers to talent advisors and truly becoming equal partners in the hiring effort.

Two heads instead of one. A much better result.

So next time you find yourself venting to a teammate about a hiring manger who is “concerning” you…flip the script. Go line up a brief conversation with that manager.   Open with, “I’m concerned”…then pause for 10 seconds of silence…and see how the outcomes change.

Let me know how it goes.

* image by Runar Eilertsen

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