Empathy for the HR Vendor

Yesterday, I read a great post by Kris Dunn on his blog, The HR Capitalist.  In this particular post, he highlights an email from a Chief HR Officer (CHRO) who is a little chapped at the amount of HR vendor pitches he receives and the aggressive nature at which they are delivered. I feel his pain and I’m not even a CHRO so I can only imagine the amount of calls he receives from all types of HR vendors. It comes with the territory. And yet, I’m a little torn about this outrage because of the very nature of the HR function. A big part of what we are responsible for is Talent Acquisition aka Recruiting. This function’s core competency is sales. HR professionals should be the most empathetic to any vendor calls.

I started my long illustrious HR career as an IT recruiter for one of the largest staffing firms in the world. From day one, we were taught all about the ratio of the number of calls to the number of starts. More calls equals more jobs filled. Sales 101. This Education major caught on pretty quick. 

Everywhere you turn, HR pros are talking about how recruiting is marketing and sales. Many advocate that the talent acquisition function should reside in Marketing. (I personally think it belongs in HR, but I really don’t lose that much sleep over it.) Find the best person for the job. The point is, HR pushes the sales mentality into recruiting and builds in sales-type metrics for its staff because it should.

We create catchy phrases like the “war for talent” (which is just awful, by the way) to describe how tough it is to contact a person to fill a job. We reward “the hustle” and “the grind” of those recruiting warriors who overcome all odds to find that purple unicorn. We have conferences that glorify the chase for the elusive candidate and applaud all of the intrusive ways we can get to a candidate.

I recently attended a TA conference and one panelist talked about the use of the same tools Trump used to target voters to reach top talent. I’m not talking about other foreign governments, I’m referring to IP targeting. IP targeting can send an advertisement or message directly to a candidate while they are in their home on their personal computer based on their internet protocol. But can’t believe someone in the HR space would have the audacity to get their hustle on?

Staffing and recruiting firms love to talk about “the hunt” and their relentless passion to never take no for an answer. They wear the insane amount of calls they make like a badge of honor. They humbly brag about the patience and persistence needed to finally land that perfect candidate. And I’m sure it was accomplished by a shady tactic or two, or more than 2 phone calls or direct messages. Who cares. They start on Monday! 

We gripe about the number of HR tech vendor calls we receive while signing the LinkedIn invoice for multiple Recruiter licenses to spam the hell out of potential candidates. We are a little put off by the aggressiveness of HR vendors while demanding our recruiters make 300 contacts per week or hold them to silly “time to fill” metrics. 

Look, I totally get the frustration. I have 10 emails this week from one person that I just need to get back to. I’m not in the market for their fabulous solution, so I’m choosing to ignore it, at this time, but I will get back to him with some feedback. 

I also remember what it was like when I was that Millennial, 20 years ago, in the chair with the phone taped to my head, banging out calls. I remember calling and calling and calling a candidate until they finally returned my call. I remember getting yelled at, hung up on, threatened, and ignored. Yet, I still made the calls because I knew the sales game. I knew my firm rewarded the hustlers and the ballers. I had some game back then. 

HR is surrounded by the sales process. We have it in our own department under the name of “Talent Acquisition.” More than likely, we work for an organization that has some sort of sales and account management department. We should be the most open and empathetic to the drive and determination of a vendor trying to reach us in some conventional, and not so conventional, way because we encourage it in our own departments. 

If you don’t like the approach, or you see a person struggling a bit with the pitch, take a few minutes to either provide some constructive feedback or give a little coaching. Even if you aren’t buying, maybe you can help that person make their first sale with another CHRO. Tell them how you like to be approached and what just ruffles your feathers. 

One day, you may just need to be a buyer and you want that to be a pleasant experience. Or you will have to get in touch with that CFO and she just won’t return your calls or emails. Why not show someone how? It’s how we do it in HR. 





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