When to outsource recruiting?

One of the most essential activities for any organization is to take the time to draw the line between its core and context. In other words, identifying those activities where the organization truly excels, outruns the competition, and seals the deals. Those are the activities that typically result in competitive advantages. Those should form the core of the organization’s value and growth potential. As such, resources should be allocated to the core activities in adequate proportion. That, however, is often easier said than done. Any organization in any industry faces countless requirements and dependencies, many of them almost hygiene factors that just have to be taken care of in order for the core operations to run smoothly. The contextual activities are viable candidates for outsourcing.

Which one of the lists, the core activities or the contextual ones, would you expect most businesses to include recruitment in? To my surprise, exploring this with the CEO’s and the management teams, I have often found it missing from both lists! This is an interesting – and rather alarming – phenomenon given the significance the right talent in the right positions have to any organization’s sheer existence.

My punch line is this: if you do not have the time or the competence to run a recruitment process properly, you are always better off outsourcing most of it.

However, to provide you with some tools to assess this activity area in your organization, here are some of the first pointers I typically look at.

1. Availability of the needed talent in the job market
Are the types of professionals you are looking to hire, readily available and easy to reach in the location where you need them? If the answer is ’no’, or if you are uncertain, I would turn to a professional recruitment consultant or headhunter already when planning the recruitment. Especially if you have a definite deadline by when you need certain roles filled, you may not want to waste valuable months in trying a job ad, learning that it did not result in the type of applicants expected, and then having to turn to professional recruiters anyway. Also, the opposite scenario has wreaked havoc in many a recruitment process: if there are hundreds of professionals matching your vacancy without jobs in the location you want to hire, they may flood your recruitment process beyond expectation and tie far more resources into the overall process than you had planned. Also in that scenario, better go with outsourcing.

2. The confidentiality of your recruitment
Is the role you are looking to fill related to an undisclosed, new business area – or for example a replacement you do not wish to let your competitors/customers know about in advance? If that is a ’yes’, using a headhunter is in practice the only option you have. Even spreading the word internally in your own networks would be highly risky, as almost inevitably your existing customers and competitors would end up in the loop before you were prepared to answer those questions.

3. The recruitment experience
Many – I would like to say most – organizations leave the direct line manager to take care of his or her hiring. You may have some line managers who often have vacancies in their team and are seasoned recruiters; quite likely, though, you also have some who are not. From profile definition to recruitment method selection to conducting interviews and making selections, there are several critical steps in a recruitment process that also require experience to get them right. If you are lacking the experience, outsourcing the recruitment is typically an inexpensive method of damage control.

4. Time
Even if you have done more than enough recruitment in the last few years to know how it should be done and how it works, if your workload now is such that you simply do not have the needed amount of time to focus on another recruitment process and run it properly, you are better off delegating it to a professional. Remember that as a client, you can always choose which parts of the recruitment process, and to what extent, you want your service provider to manage for you.

5. Unknown territories
When you are entering a new market – usually in a geographical sense, but can sometimes apply also in the case of a new industry – and you are not familiar with the local recruitment practices in the market in question, you can save yourself from many unwanted surprises by opting to use a recruitment professional familiar with that market. One customer of mine gave me a good anecdote related to this: ”I would not dare to even drive in that country – how on earth would I know how to recruit there?”.

A few cases in point to help you determine whether outsourcing some of your recruitment would perhaps be a good idea. Just one last flag I want to raise on this one: the final hiring decision is always yours to make. If need be you can outsource the entire search and selection process up to the last two to three strongest candidates – but insist on making the final decision yourself.

It is that important.

All the best for your next interview – whether you are the one asking the questions, or answering them!


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