Recruiters have significant organizational power, if you actually stop to think about it.
They’re the gatekeepers for who gets hired by an organization in almost every role leaders
are trying to fill, as the initial contact for all responses to job postings – and the initial
screeners of resumes and other application materials submitted by job candidates. And yet
many recruiters may lack the support, tools, and resources they need to help make
effective decisions about which candidates ought to make it into the interviewing
process, and ultimately onto the organizational team.
One challenge for job seekers is that recruiters are often really just looking for a candidate
they can close. This means they’re primarily looking for people whom they deem a fit for the
organizational culture and who are motivated to become a part of that culture. They’re often
looking for candidates who look and talk like other employees already in the organization,
instead of those with skill sets who will help grow the organization – or make it even more
successful than it already is.
The expectation of recruiters generally looks like this: recruiters fill the jobs but aren’t
ultimately responsible for the success of the candidate in their job or the success of the
business based on who is in the job.
In point of fact, recruiters should really be prioritizing candidates who will close or fill a gap in
the organization's skills ecosystem. Culture is important; but really understanding which skill
sets are necessary for open positions and making those the primary consideration is where
recruiters often aren’t given the necessary tools nor supported sufficiently.
Shift has found that the organizations whose recruiters are most open to hiring those with
military backgrounds for their open positions are those who already are – or want to be –
doing business with the government; those who are in strong need of skilled cybersecurity
experts (a category of expertise that’s very difficult to fill); those who are smaller businesses
seeking SkillBridge interns; or, those who have specific veteran hiring goals as part of their
diversity, equity, and inclusiveness strategy.
Truthfully, however, all organizations could benefit from a candidate pool that includes
veterans when they have an open position. And if skills and acumen are prioritized in the
search process, many more organizations would find and retain more veterans in their
candidate pool, and advance them to the interviewing process.
One of Shift’s first Talent Tool partners, now employing a team of 45 people, has 10 regular
users, actively sourcing job candidates with military backgrounds through Shift. The Talent
Tool users range from the founder of the company, who was the very first to try Talent Tool
in the organization, to its recruiters and hiring managers. The company has successfully
brought on five SkillBridge interns – and they are not stopping there. But this active seeking
out of military and post-military personnel is the product of a collaboration between who’s
sourcing the talent – and who’s making the hiring decisions. The focus on diverse veteran
talent starts at the top of this company, and it’s executed at all levels.
The success this organization has found using Talent Tool is due, in part, to there being no
gatekeepers filtering out military and veteran talent from the job candidate pool. The
question organizational leaders, hiring managers, and recruiters should be asking
themselves is “what is appropriate gatekeeping, and what is not?” In other words, how can
recruiters more easily partner with hiring managers to conduct searches based on skills and
talents – rather than on cookie cutter requirements that have been in place for years?
Reframing the gatekeeper mentality is the path to broadening the candidate pool for open
positions; and having more options among the available talent from which to choose.
Organizations sometimes take a sales approach to recruiting, and define the success of
recruiters by their time to fill open positions or by the number of qualified phone screens
they’ve conducted (the theory being recruitment is just a numbers game). This is where the
great fault lies in the “recruitment is sales” mentality. Judging success by these metrics
encourages recruiters to work on short-term individual wins instead of long-term
An organization that positions its recruiters as trusted talent advisors to the business doesn’t
just see them as resume seekers and screeners. Recruiters in such an organization learn
significant content about the jobs they’re trying to fill, and become mini-experts in the
various organizational roles across the board. They have the organizational credibility and
gravitas to become trusted partners of hiring managers, and are considered experts not only
on company culture and values, but on the mission and vision and products and services
the organization represents.
A company can create purpose for its recruiters by connecting them to the larger
organizational goals and by facilitating their ability to conduct searches for all kinds of
people with all kinds of backgrounds, including military backgrounds, who may serve the
organization with their talents, competencies, and skills.
As a result, the gatekeeper’s job isn’t just to fill an open position – but to improve the
organization and to contribute to its growth and success. Their job is to help drive the
company’s strategy by referring truly top candidates based on needed skills and abilities,
and by recommending the best people to reflect the organization’s values, who are
intrinsically aligned with whom the organization is right now – and with whom it ultimately
wants to be.