From Order Takers to Phenomenal Hire Makers – Rackspace’s 4 Steps for Success

September 13th, 2018
Richie Valadez, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, Rackspace
Recruiting Teams

For the past couple years there’s been a shift in the way we talk about recruiters.

In the past, most companies treated recruiters like internal contractors. Hiring managers outsourced the responsibility of attracting, screening, and scheduling to another party in the organization. Recruiters acted primarily as order-fillers and coordinators.

Today that’s all changing. The idea is that technology - namely AI, analytics, and other automation - gives recruiters the agency and freedom to tackle really high-quality problems that have a large impact on their organization.

At Rackspace, we’ve taken steps to give our recruiters the skills and tools they need to take the recruiter-hiring manager relationship to the next level. For some roles, the partnership between the recruiter and the hiring manager is so in sync, our hiring managers will accept a face to face interview with a candidate their recruiter recommends, no context needed.

These are the lessons we’ve learned while empowering our recruiters to become strategic talent advisors to the business.

1) Streamline the Hiring Process

If your recruiters are overwhelmed with order-taking type tasks, they probably won’t have time for the high-value activities we’ll look at later in this piece. Streamlining the hiring process - optimizing process steps and taking advantage of automation where available - is key to empowering your recruiters. To illustrate, this is the typical hiring process for our Customer Support Specialists:

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Scheduling is only necessary at the very last step of the process, when candidates arrive for their final day of interviews.

While there’s a lot TA leaders can do to streamline the process for their recruiters, it goes both ways. Your recruiters can also play a role. When you give them the tools and agency to make great decisions and build relationships, they can streamline the process themselves.

At Rackspace, our recruiters made the conscious effort to build very strong relationships with hiring managers in Mid-Market and Small Business Sales. Those hiring managers don’t require the additional step of a hiring manager screen. They trust the quality of candidate is aligned with the need of the business and simply bring them in for the face to face interview.

The process simplicity frees up time for our recruiters to focus on high-quality problems and build advising relationships with hiring managers.

2) Design a Winning Team

There are a three organizational design steps you can take to put your recruiters in a better position to build these types of relationships:

Organize Recruiting Teams According to Function

In the same way salespeople target different areas of the market, we’ve had great success organizing our recruiting team into “pods.” Each pod is dedicated to a different area of the business. Hiring managers aren’t constantly introduced to new recruiters; they have a vested interest in building a productive relationship.

Build a Capacity Model

At Rackspace we have four levels of recruiter (Level 1 - Level 4). In the past, we had no rules to dictate what level of recruiter was needed based on hiring demand form the business. Not incidentally, we had an imbalance in the makeup of the recruiting team against the hiring demand from the business.

To address this, we created the TA capacity model to help TA leadership understand how best to staff our team given a forecasted hiring plan. It examines the output of past recruiting teams, uses this to estimate the output of the current team, and then compares this output to near-term hiring needs. One of the key features of this model is that it accounts for the complexity of each req rather than treating all of them equally under a blanket measure like “open reqs. This also means hiring managers with “hard to hire” roles know they are receiving the necessary level of experience and expertise.

Adopt a Promote-First Approach

Most high-value, empowered recruiting activities become very difficult in an environment of high attrition. It takes time to build relationships with hiring managers. Previously, when we had an open spot on the TA team, we thought the best approach was to hire the most experienced recruiter on the market.

The challenge was we did not have the demand to support the level of complexity desired by an experienced Level 4 recruiter and they ended up working on lower level roles. Unfortunately, there are also only so many TA management jobs available. The combination of these two factors was major a contributor to our attrition of our Level 4 recruiters.

We’ve since stopped hiring for the highest level recruiter when we have an opening, and instead, only promote from within to a Level 4. Our existing recruiters know we value their experience, insight, and company knowledge they’ve built up over the years and know they won’t lose a promotion opportunity to an outside hire. A promote-first approach keeps their talent and knowledge in your organization so you don’t need to start from zero when filling a high-level recruiting role.

3) Empower Recruiters with Robust, Contextual Data

At a typical intake meeting following a hiring manager’s job request, the hiring manager will outline what they’re looking for in the hire and any specific preferences they have.

Understanding these preferences is important, but this is a unique opportunity for recruiters to take the recruiter-manager relationship beyond order-taking. You should empower them to set expectations, give advice, and provide crucial context. The goal shouldn’t just be to listen, but to listen, teach them something new, and change their frame of mind. Recruiters can teach their hiring managers and change their mindset with robust contextual data.

At Rackspace, we have implemented a talent analytics tool called Talent Neuron to arm our recruiters with deep insight into the jobs they’ll be recruiting for. For example, if a hiring manager needed a field sales executive in Austin, TX, the recruiter would walk into the intake meeting armed with:

  • The role’s supply and demand in that area;
  • The total addressable market for the role in that area;
  • Likely competitors;
  • Local unemployment rate;
  • Average time to fill.

With this data, the conversation moves beyond a “here’s what I want” from the hiring manager. It becomes a consultative conversation where the recruiter and hiring manager set expectations and determine the right recruiting strategy.

We might also have candidates somewhere in the pipeline that could be good fits for the role. When the recruiter brings that candidate data into the intake meeting, they either:

  1. Greatly expedite the hiring process, since the candidates are a good fit and ready to interview; or
  2. Get crucial insight into what the hiring manager wants, since the hiring manager did not think those candidates were a fit.

All these activities - teaching the hiring manager with location-specific job data, setting expectations with location-specific benchmarks, and understanding what the hiring manager needs based on existing candidates in pipeline - gain credibility with the hiring manager.

Which is very important when it’s necessary to reset expectation with the hiring manager on a recruiting strategy.

4) Give Permission to Challenge Hiring Managers

Relationship-building isn’t just about making everyone happy. Tension is healthy. Your recruiters live and breathe talent decisions while hiring is just one portion of a hiring manager’s responsibilities. Recruiters should have a data-backed point of view, and know they are free (and expected) to challenge in order to drive the right outcomes. Hiring manager ultimately own the decision on whom to hire. Our recruiters own driving to that decision and creating a world class experience for the hiring manager and candidate along the way.

Challenging doesn’t mean risking the relationship; it strengthens it. At Rackspace we survey hiring managers every year to benchmark our Net Promoter Score. Last year our Net Promoter Score was 86.

When your recruiters are experts - and a lot of this has to do with arming them with data, and building robust relationships over time - they’ll know when to challenge. They know when a timeframe expectation is unrealistic, or when a hiring manager’s preferred qualifications will exclude more great candidates than they attract. They just need permission to engage.

About the Author:

richie valadezRichie leads Global Talent Acquisition for Rackspace and is responsible for attracting, engaging, and hiring the right Rackers, in the right roles, at the right time. Richie fully embraces the fact that we live in a candidate’s market and works tirelessly to create an amazing candidate experience to find the talent required to support Rackspace’s customers in an everchanging, technology driven world. Richie started his Rackspace career in November of 2007 and has led teams in Support, Operations, Talent Development and Talent Acquisition. Find him on LinkedIn.