March 28, 2023

What A Modern Recruiting Partner Looks Like


Episode Highlights

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What does good look like? Would you know it if you saw it?

If you’ve tuned into our rants before, you certainly know what bad looks like. Heck, if you’ve ever used a firm to hire or look for a job, you’ve undoubtedly had a bad experience at some point yourself.

But if you need to hire in 2023, what expectations should you have? 

Jeff Smith and James Hornick attempt their first Un-Rant: The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 61 “What A Modern Recruiting Partner Looks Like”

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. Before we dig in, all of our content we found at

This week’s topic, perhaps the unrant, episode 62 “What a modern recruiting partner looks like”. Leading this off, I get- there was one take that annoys me the most. It’s the whole “recruiting is broken” or “hiring is broken”. It’s always the same thing. It’s always like someone saying that everything sucks, but no solution to it or why it’s broken or anything else like that.

Just kind of the same old tired things. We got so much of the woe is me, Oh, recruiters complaining” yeah. Yeah. So today we’re going to like I said, the unrant. We’re going to address what recruiting done right looks like. I usually lead these off. But Jeff, I’m going to- I want to put the, why don’t you do the honors on this one and lead off by saying what you basically see on every single time I’m on a new client call with you.

How do you introduce yourself? What is your background and why are you here? Wow. The people get the pitch today? Yes. What’s the unique Jeff Smith pitch? Yeah. So uniquely, I’ve sat in an internal seat. I’ve sat in a contingent seat. I’ve sat in every seat for better or for worse. And boy, god damn, is there a better way?

There’s gotta be a better way to do this. That’s my general takeaway, right? If I’m in that seat and I’m buying recruiting services and I have been in that seat and bought recruiting services as the lead of a TA function, of my company, my options are always limited- 99% limited to “Here’s your contingent fee, here’s your retained search, here’s your contract recruiter, or RPO.”

That’s it. And it’s a very, very transactional take it or leave it attitude. It’s why our industry has such a poor reputation. We haven’t been forced to innovate. We haven’t progressed because of that exact reason, and it’s why almost all of the conversations we have with potential customers, i.e when I pitch that comes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

What are the most common complaints you had when you were buying recruiting services and what are the most common complaints we hear you and I hear daily whenever we’re talking to potential cleints? Yeah. I mean it’s pretty simple stuff. It’s the lack of communication, lack of updates, which we’re going to get into-

why contingent contributes to that, poor candidate vetting. You know, they get on a call or get into an interview with a candidate and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this person literally has spent five minutes with the recruiter. They have no idea what this job is.” Total lack of insight or knowledge of the skill sets.

It becomes pretty apparent pretty quickly to either the hiring team or the hiring managers that the recruiter doesn’t know what they’re talking about, has no real domain expertise. There’s not a plan to actually pivot to adjust on a difficult search and advise. And frankly, they just didn’t understand our, your company or the message.

So here’s the thing, take a step back. Doesn’t this all seem so basic? It’s so basic. Like if you were a management consulting firm or a modern tech consultancy or a modern digital consultancy or anyone else kind of in the professional services space, would you hear complaints this mundane usually? It’s just B2B buyers just expect so much more nowadays and

every other industry, every other professional services part of the industry has kind of like elevated their game and had to become better over time. Even if you’re at like SaaS firms, which isn’t service, it’s more software. They’ve literally created the customer success function just to make sure things go right, which didn’t exist 20 some years ago.

Everyone else has kind of figured this out except for recruiting firms. Yeah. We’re still stuck in where we were. But everyone throws out the word partner, you know, like that’s a very common, “We want to be your partner”. What does being a partner actually to you? The tie that binds is the simplicity James.

It’s all in the simplicity. Look, it’s exactly what the big four does. It’s exactly what really buttoned up consulting firms do. And arguably the other thing that I say on these pitches from the beginning is look at us as a professional services organization. We are going to advise you.

So just at the very beginning, just position yourself as an advisory service. I think one of the primary issues with traditional recruiting is this dichotomy between building an internal team versus hiring a bunch of high cost people at contingent rates. So like paying 25 points per transaction. As opposed to- gasp -a hybrid approach. Blending those two things so that there’s the right mix of strategy and tactical stuff to accomplish the goal of what actually makes the business better.

So defining the customization isn’t even that hard. It’s a handful of very, very simple ideas. And the rest of this rant is just to kind of go through those so that you know what they are. So hit us with number one. All right. This is so- it’s so ridiculous. Regular status updates, like live in person or at least live on a Zoom, or actually- not email.

Not email. Not- actually every week, even every day, depending on the volume of the search of stuff you’re doing. And. And having the recruiting partner actually drive it, not like you having to chase them down or anything like that. This is so basic. I don’t even believe I have to talk about it, but it’s the root cause of every other deficiency because if you’re doing this, you can uncover and be aware of every other thing that’s going wrong or going sideways and whatever.

It just, it blows my mind when this is not like standard industry practice to just both talk with people. Go ahead. Both sides of those meetings are at to blame too. There’s lots of that deficiency on our end, but I also find that you’ll get like a retained search and then every single status meeting is just, declined.

Yeah. Oh, I’m busy. Oh, I’m- anyway. Very true. Yeah. Partnerships do run two ways. Yeah. The second thing is having like a strong and equally as importantly, well articulated vetting process. Like they need to be able to do- take your client through these things on a very granular, soup and nuts type of level.

Like if they can’t, you have to be able to tell them how you do it, how the bacon is made without being able- if you don’t do that, if they don’t understand exactly what goes into it, you do not have a leg to stand on if you ever need to make an adjustment to the search, which we know has to happen a lot for things to be successful. Otherwise, if you’re not talking- if you don’t have a great process and you’re not articulate in what that process is and you’re just saying, “Sorry, can’t find anybody, can I change a search?” They’re going to think you’re a total loser. It’s as simple as that. So having a great process and then in terms of vetting and then also be able to kind of talking through it,

that way they’re bought in and they realize when you’ve actually hit a wall, when you’ve actually hit a point in a search where things aren’t tenable and for whatever reason it can’t be successful as is, you can actually have a change and have them agree to it. So simple.

Putting myself in my customer’s shoes, the idea of teach me something I don’t know, is so powerful and so real. And it’s not just a salary recommendation or just regurgitating how hard you perceive the- the recruiter perceives the search will be. No shit. The hiring manager gets it.

That’s why they’re coming to you, right? I think demonstrating a deeper knowledge of the candidate landscape, of your subject matter expertise in the functional area. Maybe it’s you bring something to the table that’s different before you even sell. These are the differentiators that make you stand out as a recruiter.

And then secondly, how do you ensure that the search will be a success no matter what? Again, the hiring manager’s coming to us because it’s hard. It’s a hard search. Mm-hmm. They want our subject matter expertise. They don’t need to tell us that. What they need to hear is a path forward to finding someone that can do the job and we’ll say yes.

All right. We got two more here for you. You should expect a recruiting partner to be able to tell your story to candidates better than you can. So I think step one is making sure you can tell the same story because I think that’s another thing that kind of gets lost in translation. Not like when they’re talking to an external recruiter versus an hiring manager

from a candidate’s perspective, it should be in sync. Mm-hmm. But here’s the thing, the recruiter should actually be able to tell it better because they actually should be able to know like what’s appealing to candidates more so than someone who isn’t a recruiter. So someone who can actually take your company’s story but elevate it even further,

make it even more compelling. It’s something they should be able to do with candidates and relay that to you, so you. Aha!” Have that aha moment. This is how I should be doing it. I just learned from them. Kind of like you were saying before. Yep. And then lastly, all these things we just talked about, outline all of it,

upfront. They should be able to explain these kind of things. They should be able to make YOU the customer feel good about kind of buying from them, not that you’re taking some huge risk or gamble because they have the credibility to kind of set themselves up this way that these are the types of things that make a, search successful, which is ultimately what makes someone a true partner.

Yeah. So some takeaways. I stole this from you, by the way. Unfortunately this was your- but look, not everybody wants this. Arguably, some companies are perfectly content with staying in the transaction, staying super tactical, and it’s exactly why we still see vendor lists and VMS systems and, RFPs that are, you know, 12 pages long.

They don’t want the recruiting industry to change because they love how shitty it is just how it is right now. The recruiting industry, just to wrap this up, the recruiting industry lags behind other professional services because it’s an industry that comes from a very transactional nature. It’s just out of place with modern buying expectations. I know a lot of great recruiters, I mean, truly great recruiters who still struggle with this because this isn’t the world they came from.

We’re terrible at- even when we do things right the right way, we’re terrible at putting a red bow on. Like it can be as simple as outline your entire process, throw it in a visual, throw it in a PDF, walk a client through it, and you’ll be amazed how much more they’re willing to work with you, not just buy from you, but actually make it a two-sided relationship where they trust you enough to make searches successful.

Because it does take that. Yep. All right, that’s all I got. We are short on clock. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series, which is always available for replay on, as well as YouTube, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and Amazon.

Jeff, thanks again as always! Everyone out there, see you soon.

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