If you’ve been on a recruiting intake call, you know how it goes.

Recruiter asks the hiring leader about the position, the team, their needs, the last person in the role, blah blah blah.

The hiring leader talks about what they need from the hire and what they want in a candidate.

And then everyone goes on their merry way.

All sounds great in theory…

But if this sounds familiar, I urge you to rethink your intake process!!

This step is one of the biggest weak points in most companies’ recruiting process.

Bad intake calls (like the one I described above!) are one of the BIGGEST causes you’ll see for bad hires.

Let’s dive a little deeper…

Hiring Leaders Don’t Know Jack About Recruiting

Recruiters are trained to ask a hiring leader about their needs and the type of person they want to hire.

The problem is that hiring leaders usually don’t know anything about recruiting!

And why would they? It’s not their job.

Whether they’re in sales, delivery, etc., they typically spend a very small portion of their time on recruiting or hiring.

The hiring leaders’ input is incredibly important…but the recruiter should be the expert.

A good recruiter knows the ins and outs of the skills required for positions in their field.

They know all about the talent market, what is and is not realistic for a salary band, what skills are teachable, and which are not.

And most importantly…a good recruiter is assertive enough to guide AND challenge the hiring leader.

Recruiters Should Challenge Hiring Leaders’ Assumptions

I know what it’s like to be a recruiter on a call with a senior leader or executive.

It’s really easy to get caught up thinking, “they’re the big bad leader, they know this stuff better than me, I’ll just nod and smile.”

Or maybe the recruiter fears that disagreeing with the hiring leader will reflect poorly on them.

But if you’re a good recruiter, you recognize the value in challenging a hiring leaders’ assumptions about candidates.

First and foremost, a great recruiter should ask the hiring leader open-ended questions about the role.

Many times, hiring leaders will jump to conclusions about what they need out of a candidate.

Recruiters and HR professionals do this as well.

We’re all guilty of it at some point or another – myself included!

But if we’re serious about consistently making better hires, recruiters need to take point on checking these assumptions.

Allow me to share an example from my own experience. I was on an intake call for a senior director placement.

The hiring leader kept going on and on about the former individual in the role and the skills that made them so successful.

In particular, they emphasized the former candidate’s ability to put together incredible videos for training and other cases.

But what I ended up with was a profile of a candidate that didn’t exist.

Virtually no one in the talent market had the other skills necessary to take on this leadership role as well as experience with video!

After a week’s worth of searching, we realized we were wasting our time looking for that individual.

Rather than focusing so much on the last person on the role or accepting everything the leader gives us, we have to ask thoughtful questions about the RESULTS they need from the candidate.

And going a step further, we must ask insightful questions about the different skills an individual might leverage to achieve those results. Some might use video; some might rely on other methods of communication and training!

Can We Train for This Skill?

One of the biggest mistakes on intake calls is writing off candidates who don’t have all the “right” experience with every skill needed for a job.

What a wasted opportunity!

Sure, some skills and credentials are non-negotiable.

But we often overlook candidates who would be all-stars if we took the time to train them on a few key skills.

A few months ago, the CEO of Wells Fargo took a lot of flak for saying their team wasn’t diverse because there just aren’t many black professionals in the industry.

While it is true that black professionals are underrepresented in the banking industry, that doesn’t mean building a diverse team is impossible.

Would you rather hire someone who knows banking…

…or hire someone with an amazing record of closing who can be TAUGHT banking?

One is easy to teach, the other is not!

Instead of focusing on years of experience or arbitrary qualifications, recruiters should guide hiring leaders to focus on core competencies.

This makes it way easier to tap into a larger talent pool and make quality hires that stick around.

Beyond DEI initiatives, a larger talent pool improves our odds of making the right hire for the right reasons.

The reality is that hiring leaders won’t be thinking of creative solutions to their hiring challenges.

It’s on the recruiter to challenge their assumptions and guide them to think about the big picture!

Setting Expectations from Day One

Another huge mistake I see with intake calls is not setting clear expectations from day one.

In addition to helping leaders think critically about what they need from a candidate, recruiters also need to set reasonable expectations for hiring leaders.

Sometimes that means telling someone what they don’t want to hear!

Listen, I know as a recruiter it’s daunting to tell a senior executive right off the bat that their expectations for a salary range, time-to-fill, or other aspect of the search is unreasonable.

There’s often a desire to be a “yes” man or people pleaser when it comes to clients or hiring leaders.

But if you get started with poor expectations, you’re only setting the leader up for GREATER disappointment down the road when you can’t deliver.

They will only be more frustrated about the wasted time and changing goalposts down the line.

The relationship will deteriorate, and you’ll lose trust that you might never regain.

Nobody likes being the bearer of bad news.

But the reality is that most hiring leaders will actually have more respect in a recruiter who is honest and upfront with them.

If we want to make better hires as well as serve as a recruiter with true influence, it’s important to set the right expectations from day one on the intake call.

Tell the hiring leader if you are worried you won’t find someone with that unique range of skills. Tell the hiring leader if their salary and time to fill expectations are unrealistic.

It’s better to get on the same page right off the bat!

Start on the Right Foot

It’s hard to overstate the importance of an intake call.

As a recruiter, it’s your one chance to make a great first impression and start building trust with the hiring leader.

The intake call is your opportunity to showcase your expertise, skills, and start influencing the hiring leader for the benefit of all.

Keep these principles in mind during intake calls and I GUARANTEE you will ultimately make better hires.

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