Recruiting without a recruiter (Toughest HR question)

How do I recruit high-calibre candidates without using a recruiter?
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/25/2011

Question: How do I recruit high-calibre candidates without using a recruiter?

Answer: The answer to this question largely depends on whether you mean your organization doesn’t have access to a recruiter or you want to improve the quality of your hires while reducing your reliance on external recruiters. The answers to both situations are addressed below.

No in-house recruitment staff

Having one or more in-house recruitment specialists on staff is highly useful because they are able to provide specialized coaching, expertise and guidance to hiring managers, HR generalists and executives with respect to developing a recruitment strategy, sourcing candidates, creating job postings, interviewing and the recruitment process in general.

However, many small organizations can’t support hiring a full-time recruiter. A few larger companies have also done away with the recruitment function altogether simply due to financial pressures. Either way, the result is line managers have to do their own recruiting, with or without the support of HR.

With some advice and training, line managers can become skilled recruiters within a relatively short period of time. HR can still provide assistance in having jobs posted, training managers to be better interviewers, helping them conduct reference checks and assisting in the preparation of offer packages.

In any organization where hiring managers do their own recruiting, it’s recommended a behavioural interviewing training program be introduced for all managers. Behavioural interviewing is based on the premise past behaviours are generally accurate predictors of future behaviours. Candidates are asked to demonstrate desired behaviours by providing specific, real life examples from their past. For example, “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty to satisfy a customer.”

Behavioural interviewing has been shown to be highly effective. It introduces consistency and structure, and makes the interview process legally defensible. It reduces the opportunity for candidates to be untruthful and allows an interviewer to assess a candidate’s fit with the culture and values of the company vis-a-vis its competency framework.

Training managers on behavioural interview techniques will help them become more effective interviewers, regardless of whether or not the organization has one or more in-house recruiters. Recruitment training programs also typically cover internal recruitment policies and procedures, the legal environment affecting recruitment and selection, reference and background checks, and the interviewing process in general.

In organizations without a recruiter, HR should also provide tools, templates and forms to hiring managers to introduce a greater degree of consistency to the process. Examples include permission-to-recruit forms, candidate profile templates, application forms, job posting templates, job descriptions, reference check forms, recruitment policies, competency frameworks, telephone prescreen scripts and recommended interview questions.

Reduced reliance on external recruitment agencies

The answer to this part of the question actually starts with the answer above, especially if reducing an organization’s reliance on external recruitment agencies means line managers would receive little or no support from external recruiters. Depending on the nature of the search, and the type of position being recruited for, managers may have to do a great deal more of the work themselves. This is the case, for example, if an organization essentially outsourced the recruitment function to a recruitment agency or managers worked with executive search firms for retained searches, with headhunters essentially becoming the de facto HR department for those vacancies.

Like hiring managers, HR practitioners sometimes become reliant on external recruiters. While valuable resources, especially for highly specialized or difficult-to-fill roles or for temporary vacancies, agencies can be expensive. Many organizations have had to cut recruitment budgets, which include employment agencies. There’s no reason why an HR department shouldn’t become more self-reliant, especially when recruiting for more mainstream vacancies.

Some of the following tips and strategies can be helpful in building the skill and effectiveness of in-house recruiters:

• Use social media to engage candidates, answer their questions and target passive jobseekers.

• Establish employee referral programs to essentially have your workforce act as recruiters for the organization.

• Develop a pipeline of candidates for commonly occurring vacancies.

• Establish effective employer branding and promote the organization as an employer of choice.

• Be willing to consider candidates other than those with “cookie cutter” qualifications.

This question was answered by the editors of Consult Carswell, a Canadian HR work solution that delivers best practices, legal compliance, news, articles and a suite of ready-to-use tools in one online service. For more information, visit

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