Originally posted 19 June 2007, on LinkedIn Answers:
There are multiple components to motivating recruiters. Here's my take:
1. Hire only high performing and/or high potential recruiters as they will self-motivate and help motivate each other. Poor performing recruiters pose the risk of demotivating others, so coach them as best you can; and, if that fails, manage them out as soon as possible.
2. Respect the recruiter's strengths, established relationships with hiring managers, and total workload, when it comes to assigning new reqs. One-to-one recruiter-to-hiring manager relationships are far more important than letting any one recruiter own all the reqs from a whole department.
3. Never take the reassignment of a live req from one recruiter to another recruiter lightly - do it infrequently and only when there are deep and serious issues with performance, workload, or per the explicit demand of a hiring manager (especially if you're charging back costs).
4. During one-on-one and team meetings, ask status questions at least once or twice a week about every req, listen carefully, offer suggestions, but don't micromanage. Great recruiters work best when they feel total ownership of their reqs.
5. Measure hiring manager satisfaction, new hire satisfaction, and measure targeted feedback from rejected candidates and declined offer candidates; and then publish aggregate survey data to the recruiters to show them how their service levels are being measured.
6. Carefully structure compensation. Different comp models accentuate different priorities. Contract recruiters paid hourly will work differently than a staff recruiter paid on salary with benefits. Contract recruiters paid some sort of per hire bonus/spiff may try to fill a job faster, but it may be harder to manage for quality of hire and also recruiters may lose the incentive to share candidates with other recruiters. Recruiters paid primarily on contingency may neglect the searches of lower level, lower paying jobs. Recruiters compensated for candidates they originally source may neglect to help an employee referral candidate make it through the hiring process.
7. Having good jobs at a good company with a good recruitment brand (these days known as an "EVP: employment value proposition") and a good location and good compensation helps. Similarly, regularly discuss how the open positions relate to the success of the business, and how the executives recognize how important staffing is to the business.
8. Having well trained, responsive, and decisive hiring managers helps a lot.
9. Having the right recruitment resources, such as professional accounts on LinkedIn and various career websites, and an effective employee referral program, and an effective college recruitment program, helps.
10. Enjoy good food and drinks together with the recruiters. Nearly every recruiter I know appreciates being treated to a social cocktail now and then.
Update 12 March 2010:
It's been two subsequent jobs and nearly three years since I originally wrote those 10 points and I still stand by every word. Some additional thoughts come to mind on motivating and effectively managing corporate recruiters.
Full cycle recruiting. Great recruiters usually prefer to take full ownership of the search, from serving as the trusted, single point of contact for the hiring manager, to sourcing for candidates, to facilitating the interview process, to helping negotiate the offer, and securing an offer acceptance. Motivate the recruiters by fostering a service oriented process that encourages such ownership. Don't unnecessarily fracture the process, such as only allowing dedicated sourcers to source, or only allowing hiring managers to interview or negotiate.
Segment transactional steps. Allow great recruiters to focus on their high value service-oriented activities by taking low value chores off their plate. Don't make recruiters have to worry about whether the budgeted headcount for a req is really approved. Delegate posting jobs to frequently used sites to either a reliable coordinator or an automated posting distribution system. Whoever is the strongest at writing job postings should help those on the team who are not as adept. Assign a coordinator to assist with interview scheduling, at least the more complicated arrangements with multiple interviewers. Establish an efficient process for generating approved offers without having the recruiter chase down anyone.
Pair up for projects. For more challenging reqs, especially multiple searches for identical reqs, pair up recruiters to tackle the project. The strengths of each recruiter will complement and motivate their paired partner and directly benefit the search. Pairs prevent fatigue and frustration. They may willingly segment certain steps without losing their sense of ownership. One may be more experienced than the other, creating an ad hoc mentor-apprentice dynamic.
Shield from distractions. Every workplace has its office politics, and certainly the hiring process generates its fair share of stress and consternation. While great recruiters should always receive constructive feedback directly from their internal clients, they are best kept behind a buffer from undeserved complaints and non-productive diatribes from managers and even executives with unrealistic expectations. A recruiter's manager should be the one to receive and filter such distractions, and in most cases, should stand firmly behind the recruiter's reputation and productivity.
Let them vent. I've learned over the years that the best recruiters are often not the easiest to manage. They are passionate and intense about finding great people, but more importantly, when the right candidate has finally been identified, that passion and intensity is focused on encouraging a timely decision to hire, and an enthusiastic acceptance of the offer. These are not easy tasks, with an entire universe of potential human drama to get in the way and to be overcome by the recruiter. As a result, great recruiters occasionally seek an emotional outlet to vent their recent challenging experiences, including both professional and sometimes personal ones. I've found it's best to hear them out and offer measured guidance, even if it takes more time and energy than needed to manage other recruiters. It may not rise to the level of professional therapy, but certainly a key method to keeping a great recruiter on track and motivated.
Take the work seriously, but not yourself too seriously. This is simply a matter of leading by example. Allow a good laugh or just some levity during meetings. Foster a connected, understanding, and genuine tone during one-on-one discussions with each recruiter. Acknowledge true accomplishments and extraordinary effort. At the end of the day, you can be the respected boss while still recognizing the recruiters as human beings who hopefully have meaningful lives to enjoy outside of work.