Wanna-be consultants: Making the right call with your admin staff

One of the Top Influencers in the Australian
recruitment industry over the past 60 years, Julia Ross  , started
her working life as a clerical assistant at British construction
company, Taylor Woodrow. Her subsequent ascent to the top of the
Australian recruitment industry is a demonstration that it doesn’t
matter where you start it’s what you learn along the way, that makes all
the difference.

 

The history of administrative workers crossing over
to ‘the other side’ is long, and littered with just as many failures as
successes.

 

The major challenge occurs with a wanna-be-recruiter
administrator who is already working within your recruitment agency. My
experience is that these employees are rarely ambivalent about trying
their hand as a recruiter; they are either enthusiastic about the
possibility, or dead set against it.

 

Mostly these administrators are young, friendly,
competent at their current job, enthusiastic and fit your culture.
There’s no obvious reason to say ‘no’ to a promotion to a recruitment
role, and many owners don’t want to say ‘no’ either. However, as many
agency owners have found to their cost; administrators who are young,
friendly, competent at their current job, enthusiastic and a culture
match, aren’t necessarily going to succeed as an agency recruiter.

 

The difficult decision occurs when a point is reached
that unless the enthusiastic administrator is given an opportunity to
become a recruiter with you, they will most likely leave to take up a
recruiter consultant role with another recruitment agency that is
prepared to give them a go.

 

Once a successful administrator has failed as a
recruiter, it’s very hard for them to eat humble pie and return to an
admin role with that same agency. They inevitably feel they want to, or
have to, leave. This is avoidable, if the administrator is given an
opportunity to prove they have what it takes to be a recruiter, while
they are still in their admin role.

 

Of course the big advantage of assessing an internal
candidate is that you already possess evidence of fundamentals such as
reliability, optimism and cognitive ability.

 

However this basic information is not enough to make
an informed decision. I strongly suggest you go looking for additional
evidence that will help you, and them, make the right call.

 

Here are four tips for that evidence-seeking to help
you navigate this potentially tricky path as objectively as possible:

 

  1. Test their understanding of what the job
    actually involves:  
     Have the administrator shadow a
    consultant for a day (ideally one who is doing lots of business
    development and/or managing difficult or emotional candidates and/or
    clients) then ask the administrator to summarise, in less than one
    page, the three biggest differences  between their current
    admin job and the job of a recruitment consultant, and what
    skills   they would need to improve the most to be able to
    successfully make the transition.  
     
    An alternative task to this is to ask them to shadow your highest
    performers in the team/company and then write a brief report on what
    core skills and behaviours make that person a high performer
    (ideally with a couple of specific examples).  
     
  2. Test how proactive they are:    
    The job of an administrator is predominantly predictable and
    reactive. The job of a recruitment consultant is predominantly
    unpredictable and proactive. The demonstration of forward thinking,
    planning and initiative is critical for success in a recruitment
    consultant role.  
     
    Give your administrator a moderately challenging small project that
    requires them to search for information or find and organise
    resources to successfully complete the project. What initiative do
    they demonstrate in completing the task? How proactive were they in
    asking for help?  
     
  3. Test their Achievement Drive:    
    Set them a straight forward consultant-type task with a specific
    goal to be accomplished within a specific time frame (eg ‘Search the
    database and call all the ‘A’ graded candidates who registered with
    us between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013 and we haven’t spoken
    to since 31 December, 2013 to see whether they are looking for work.
    Your goal is to re-activate at least 6 candidates by the last Friday
    of the month’).  
     
    Watch how far they are prepared to go to accomplish the goal (ie do
    they stay back past their official working hours to catch candidates
    after they have left work for the day) or do they fail to accomplish
    their goal and give you a bunch of excuses and reasons instead.  
     
  4. Test their coachability:  
     After some very basic training (say,
    30 minutes) challenge the administrator with  a role play focusing
    on a very specific skill (eg talking a candidate around when he
    calls to cancel an interview or asking a candidate about their
    reason for leaving in a phone screen).  
     
    Make the role play challenging. Stop the role play if it’s going
    badly and return to the start (after giving feedback). Run through
    five or six different variations on the same role play. Provide
    immediate and direct feedback. Note how the feedback is taken and
    acted on.
 

Of course no amount of evidence-seeking will
guarantee   that you will make the right call but you owe it to
yourself and your wanna-be-recruiter administrator to put in place a
number of steps that will give you clear-headed evidence that you are
making the right call.

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