Why recruiters get it wrong: 7 tips for nailing the client brief, from the industry’s experts



With everything from a dream holiday to the love of your life just a mouse click away, the internet is now a major competitor for industries like recruitment that can theoretically be replaced by clever algorithms.


Artificial Intelligence is now smarter than people, according to Google and Facebook. Their AI has more sway than humans when it comes to determining what users see every day.

So in this brave new world of cyber-matching, getting the brief right has never been more crucial for recruiters to demonstrate their value to employers. Rob Davidson, Founder and Director of Growth at Davidson, agrees that the brief is critical to success.

“This is where most clients and recruiters get it wrong – they put about 90% of their energy on the back end and 10% into the front end. A good process puts 90% of the effort up front.”

We picked the brains of some of the leading experts in the recruitment industry on how to deliver a killer brief:

1.       Develop a structure – Tony Pownall, General Manager of Hudson Auckland, says it’s important to have a structure in mind when sitting down to your first meeting to ensure vital elements are not missed. “There are four main aspects to any brief: skills and experience; competencies – the four to five most critical behaviours for success in the role; fit – both rational and emotional; and process – which is about things like timing, decision makers, commitment and communication channels.” Pownall uses these categories as a guide for developing his brief.

Jason Downes, Manager of Engineering, Construction and Operations at Hudson Melbourne, takes a slightly different approach. “Imagine you’re writing the job ad during the interview and use that to structure your questions,” he says. “This will help you ensure you don't miss any key aspects. Ask questions around the context, company, role, person and benefits.”

2.       Harness the power of face-time – Adam Shapley, Senior Regional Director of recruiting experts at Hays says,“You have to go on-site and meet. You can’t take a job briefing over the phone – not unless you know the client really well or the client is on an oil rig.”

Lack of face time can also be the kiss of death, as Downes recalls; “One client could never take time to meet me. We had 16 interviews before the first hire. I visited the contractor in their first week and quickly learnt from that visit why I wasn't getting it right – which was a mixture of culture fit and attitude, coupled with critical skills not mentioned in the position description. We had five successful hires in the following weeks with a 1:2 average hit rate.”

3.       Identify the influencer/s – the hiring manager is not always the person in charge of the decision-making, advises Davidson. “I consult the hiring manager but 50% of the time I also talk to other people involved in the hiring decision. Personal fit can be enormously important – whether you’re dealing with an entrepreneurial business or a board – so it’s important to consult key internal clients and ensure they are aligned on what the role is.”

4.       Get the basics right – Mark Jones, National Director of Sales, Marketing, Communications and Digital at Randstad Australia says it’s often overlooked but vitally important to get the basics right. “Clarifying money, hours, experience and degree qualification may seem obvious but it’s often forgotten. You can hit everything else and find out that they don’t hire unless they have got a degree.”

5.       Understand the business context – know what you’re hiring into, says Shapley. “The priority is to seek to understand what’s going on with the client’s organisation or department. Why is this role vacant? Why is it needed? What purpose does the role serve? What’s the team context? What are the people like? The diversity of the team... The ideal job brief is as exhaustive as it can be. Don’t assume. Understand the context of the role. Start broad and narrow in.”

6.       Don’t be afraid to direct your client – Dave Conaghan, Director of Evolution Group NZ says, “I had a hard time working with a client recently who didn’t really know what he wanted. What he really wanted was an exit strategy, which to him meant finding another him to take some of his day-to-day responsibilities off him. He refused to acknowledge he needed a sales person as the word ‘sales’ had a massive stereotype associated to it.”

7.        Qualify the candidate – Jones warns about making assumptions and being lulled into a false sense of security by job titles and industry jargon. “The candidate may well read ‘brand       management’ or ‘salesperson’ or ‘front end developer’ and will say, ‘Yes, I have done that before’. But the client might mean something different by it. You can’t make assumptions – you must qualify the candidate every time.”

 
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Heather Potter

Heather Potter has been a communications professional for 20 years. She started her career as a newspaper journalist before moving into public relations, media and crisis management, and brand strategy. She has worked for a variety of brands,...

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