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Undeniable Differences Between a Recruiter and a Talent Advisor

Let’s face it: Landing top-tier technical talent isn’t easy. The job market is fast-paced and highly competitive. On top of that, most recruiting professionals and talent advisors are relying on the wrong tools and inefficient strategies.

A big part of the problem is recruiters lack deep visibility into the talent pool beyond surface-level insights from platforms like LinkedIn Recruiter. In turn, the upper echelon of candidates tend to go undiscovered. Oftentimes, they get snapped up by competitors before they even hit the open market.

A chart showing top reasons for job change.

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What’s more, there is often a lack of communication between hiring managers and recruiters. This disconnect makes it even harder to fill important positions and often results in finger pointing and delayed hiring decisions.

When you boil it all down, you find that the root of the problem hiring teams face is that recruiters are taking the wrong approach to candidate discovery and onboarding.

In this post, you’ll discover a better approach to hiring—one that involves transitioning from a traditional recruiter into a strategic talent advisor backed by data-driven strategy.

This begs the question: What exactly is a strategic talent advisor? Let’s find out.

The difference between a recruiter and talent advisor

As Albert Einstein once said, it’s better to strive for value than success. This reigns true in the results-driven world of hiring—where recruiters are a dime a dozen, and in many cases, easily replaceable. The uncomfortable truth is that most recruiters are just a few poor decisions away from the unemployment line.

For recruiters, the best thing to do is level-up by acquiring more knowledge, developing new skills, and learning new processes. Over time, that’s how an employee can become an indispensable asset. This is precisely what happens when you transition from a run-of-the mill recruiter into a talent advisor. It’s the path to better pay, better job security, and industry-wide recognition.

So, what does a talent advisor do differently than a recruiter? Here are a five of the most important differences between the two important roles.

1. Talent advisors eliminate guesswork

If you’re a recruiter, the following situation is probably familiar: A hiring manager asks you to fill a position but only provides basic information about the role, making it difficult to sell to a candidate.

You may proceed with hiring anyway. You want to please your supervisor and avoid asking questions that could make it seem like you don’t know what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, this approach is rarely successful. It can lead to bringing in the wrong candidates for interviews, wasting everyone’s time. More often than not, this also results in negative interview reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Nobody wants to clear several hours from their schedule to come in for an interview only to learn that the recruiter wasn’t on point.

In contrast, a talent advisor arranges a formal meeting with a hiring manager early on in the hiring process—even if they already have a clear understanding of the position. The purpose of this meeting is to make sure everyone is aligned about details like compensation, qualifications, dealbreakers, goals, expectations, and reporting structure.

This meeting accomplishes a few other things, too. First, it shows hiring managers that the talent advisor values their time and is committed to finding the best possible candidate. Second, it potentially shields the talent advisor from future criticism after a bad interview.

Before sitting down with a hiring manager, it’s important to have a strategy in place. This isn’t the time or place to yes the hiring manager to death—which brings us to our next point. 

2. Talent advisors assess manager expectations—and push back when necessary  

The next step after conducting an informational interview with a hiring manager is to analyze the situation and determine whether their expectations about a candidate or position are realistic.

Every hiring manager, after all, dreams of discovering a purple squirrel—that is, a superstar candidate who won a Pulitzer Prize, is willing to relocate to the heart of Iowa, and is fine with making $20k below industry standard. However, purple squirrels are one-in-a-million at best. And waiting for one to arrive could be detrimental for the company or project at hand. Sometimes, it’s not about finding the absolutely perfect candidate. You just need someone who is talented and willing to learn.  

A chart showing the hiring managers' considerations.

Another thing to keep in mind when speaking to a hiring manager is that it might become apparent that a position is not necessary. It could make more financial sense to outsource, delegate the position to an in-house employee, or eliminate it altogether.

The best talent advisors aren’t shy about encouraging hiring managers to reassess their options. In these instances, even if they’re met with initial pushback, the talent advisor will ultimately gain credibility for doing their due diligence and leaving nothing to chance.

3. Talent advisors set clear goals with hiring managers 

After reaching common ground with a hiring manager about a position and acceptable hire, the next step is to establish clear goals for the hiring process.

Remember, the hiring process is highly measurable. As such, becoming well acquainted with hiring KPIs will improve your chances for success. Here are three essential hiring KPIs that you must be familiar with. 

1. Time-to-fill

Time to fill refers to how long it takes to find a new candidate and onboard them. Generally speaking, the average time to fill is around 40 days. However, this can vary depending on the nature of a position, geographical location, talent pool size, and time of year.

Research the job market and be honest about the amount of time that it will most likely take to fill a position. There’s no point in overpromising and hoping to find an ideal candidate overnight. 

2. Sourcing channel efficiency 

Analyzing hiring trends over time can help you understand which talent sources tend to produce the best candidates—like job boards, college campuses, or competitors. Tracking this information can help you make more informed decisions when recruiting candidates.

The traditional way to source channel efficiency is to subtract the average number of your conversions from the number of conversions from a particular channel.

Modern candidate sourcing tools like SeekOut help you drill down into your company's hiring data and identify where you have sourced from in the past. This saves tons of time because you can avoid platforms and job boards that didn’t work in the past. 

3. Quality of hire 

There’s one master KPI that trumps all others: quality of hire. In fact, this metric is so important that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) refers to it as the holy grail of recruiting.

Quality of hire refers to the total value that a new hire brings to a company. There is no single formula for measuring it. Each hiring team tends to have their own formula based on their specific needs. Quality of hire is typically comprised by taking job-specific performance reviews, retention rates, or even employee-lifetime value (ELV).

The way that quality of hire is measured often varies from position to position, too. For example, quality of hire measurements are different in marketing, sales, finance, and DevOps. Hiring teams are encouraged to spend some time thinking about the various departments in their companies and create different ways of measuring quality of hire accordingly.

As you can see, recruiting is less of an art and more of a science. Anyone can become a respected talent advisor by following these guidelines and putting them into practice.

There’s something else, though, that separates great talent advisors from average recruiters: Talent advisors are ruthless when it comes to moving candidates along in the hiring process.

A graphic of the evolution of the recruiter.

4. Talent advisors are more selective

To a recruiter, a candidate is nothing more than a possible solution to fill a job.

To a talent advisor, a candidate is a direct reflection of their reputation—an endorsement as the best possible person on the market at a given time. When a talent advisor makes a suggestion, it’s known that they have exhausted all possible outcomes and put forth the absolute best person for a particular job.

For this reason, talent advisors must be ultra-selective about who they pass along to hiring managers. It’s not as difficult as it sounds to find great candidates, either. Communicate regularly with hiring managers. Outline goals, analyze recruiting metrics, and utilize tools that give you deep visibility into the talent pool. Before you know it, you’ll be impressing hiring managers with ideal prospects.There’s one more key differentiator, too, that almost every successful talent advisor demonstrates: agility. 

5. Talent advisors are more nimble 

The job market is highly fluid. Hiring trends are constantly changing as talent pools, technologies, economic patterns, and industry conditions fluctuate.

Recruiters tend to rely on traditional hiring methodologies, sticking to what they have been taught and what they know best. Conversely, talent advisors come to work each day with a flexible mindset and a willingness to think on their feet. It takes creativity to be a talent advisor, and it also requires the ability to look ahead and see where the market is heading.

For the best results, take note of what’s working (and what isn’t) and do away with habits or strategies that are no longer effective. In doing so, you’ll stay ahead of the curve and develop a reputation as someone who is forward-thinking—and someone who every hiring manager wants to work with. 

Check out the "From Recruiter to Talent Advisor" guide to learn how you can transform your role.

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