How I lead my recruiting team to victory: 4 Tips from Greenhouse's recruiting manager

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6 mins, 33 secs read time

What does working in the hospitality industry have to do with working in the recruiting industry? A lot more than you’d think!

During my career in hospitality management, I led numerous teams, ranging in size from 6 to 60. My employees also ranged in age from 18 to 60 and came from various educational, socio-economic, and ethnic backgrounds. To say the least, it was a great learning experience working with such a diverse group of individuals on a daily basis. I gained so much insight about relationships, team dynamics, and most importantly, how to effectively manage varying personalities, strengths, and skillsets to bring the most out of every team member.

Fast forward 9 years, and I now work in the fascinating world of corporate recruiting! Lucky for me, I have been able to take much of what I learned as a restaurant manager and apply it to my current career as a recruiting manager.

Now I certainly can’t make any claims to be an expert on management or leadership. But what I can do is share some lessons and epiphanies that I’ve had along the way, enabling me to effectively manage my small team of ambitious, hard-working, eager-to-learn recruiters at Greenhouse—and hopefully these will help you in your pursuit to do the same.

Here are 4 tactics to guide you in leading your recruiting team to success:

1. Set goals that create a sense of accomplishment

Okay, this point definitely falls into the “good idea for all managers” category, but I’d like to speak to the way that I set recruiting goals at Greenhouse. Recruiting is unique in that it is a people-oriented industry, making it easy to use the excuse “There are too many human factors to quantify our goals.” But I disagree. You must recognize the human factors (sure, a hiring manager’s summer vacation can delay your hiring process by two weeks), but you must also continue to set tangible short- and long-term goals for your team to keep them on track and working towards something at all times.

Here, our short-term goals are like weekly sprints. For example, based on past pipeline data it may take 50 prospecting emails to get to the 10 qualified phone screens necessary for 5 onsite interviews and ultimately 1 hire. Clearly, our short-term goal here would be 50 prospecting emails sent during the first week a role is open. That being said, I choose not to measure my team’s success on these incremental goals, but rather use them as a tool to help us get to the big picture goal: a great hire and a great experience for both the hiring manager and the candidates.

Clearly, if you don’t set goals—whether big picture or incremental or both—you are are not setting your team up for success, and you are not giving them the opportunity to feel the rewards of that success. And, if you don’t track the results, it is difficult to show your team’s value to the company and difficult to iterate and improve as a team. Remember: Your team members need to feel like their work is integral to the success of the organization as a whole. That’s what will encourage them to continue performing at a high level and move the business forward.

2. Empower your recruiters to be confident business partners

Have you ever been out to dinner, and had flawless service? Every question you asked the server had a clear, knowledgeable response, and your drink was refilled many times without asking—actually, everything was done perfectly without asking. Why is that? That server knew their job inside & out, was confident about that fact, and most importantly—was empowered by their manager to take control of your dining experience. Recruiters happen to be in the service industry as well.

Recruiters must feel confident about driving the hiring process. To facilitate this, I empower my team through data and knowledge. For example, every member of Greenhouse’s recruiting team knows how to pull historical data to provide predictive insights to their hiring managers at the kickoff of each role. And they continuously follow up throughout the hiring process with pipeline stats to keep the hiring manager’s expectations in line. A key part of gaining respect in this position within the company is setting a high standard for process and always bringing data to the table.

I first realized this parallel early on in my career as a recruiter at a previous company. Having never worked in a traditional business org, I lacked a lot confidence in my position, but I had a manager who encouraged me to own my business relationships and the recruiting process. I soon found myself advising the Chief Accounting Officer and acting as a sounding board as he decided on the future structure of his team. (Who did I think I was?!).

The way that my manager empowered me to have those conversations and instilled confidence in my position as a consultant and subject-matter-expert made a huge impact on my future career. As such, I try to set the same path for my team by establishing clear career ladders. Having defined goals tied to a career path is very rewarding and will help to retain recruiters in a competitive landscape.

3. Provide consistency for success in a frequently changing environment

In the same way that a chef can mix up the daily features on a menu or a 20-person group can show up for dinner without a reservation, hiring plans can change at the drop of a hat. Business goals and priorities can shift and backfill expectations can be unclear—and this ultimately results in constantly changing goals for your recruiting team. But it is part of our job as recruiters to be nimble and adapt—and with that, you should make sure these traits are included on the interview scorecard you use when assessing potential new recruiters.

However, even with the most versatile and resilient team members, it’s still important to help guide them and provide direction so that you’re on the same page and they can effectively execute their jobs. A member of my team once told me that she felt like she was driving a car and one passenger was yelling “Turn left!” and another, “Turn right!”. I immediately realized that in order to set her up for success, I had to get rid of the outside noise and ensure that there was only one voice telling her which direction to go.

4. Be available all day, every day

Luckily, in my time as a recruiting manager, there have been no actual fires (I wish I could say the same of my time as a restaurant manager!). Either way, like in restaurants, things move fast in recruiting. A delay in decision-making or communication can mean losing a great candidate to another company. As a manager in this industry, I make it a priority to be available to my team. Again, this signals that you’re dedicated to setting them up for success.

Sometimes this means answering a question by text message after hours or putting your quarterly planning on hold for 15 minutes to help talk through a candidate issue. All in all, you must be regularly reachable and help your team find answers, no matter how big or small the questions.

Being a good leader is an important part of management across all industries, but there are things that we can do as recruiting managers to help elevate our teams above the administrative resume pushers of the past. Being a strong leader for your team will not only help each individual grow, but will also make your recruiting org become a true business partner for your company.

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