How HR should work with recruiters, an article from both sides.

After spending more than 10 years as an HR freelancer, Frederik Boterberg reveals some valuable lessons regarding recruitment and working with providers.

I’ve spent more than 10 years as an HR freelancer. A very interesting period where I learnt very much how to tackle HR problems in an efficient way: salary structures, policies, learning and development, org charts, HR plans, budgeting,…  Although,  I forgot one thing along the way, something that disappeared from view: the fact that of being very focused within the company box. Within these limits we often work together with external providers, often in recruitment. It is when we call the recruiter and give them instructions over the phone about the profile we want to hire. Often followed by a quick email to supply the necessary documents. That’s it, move on to the next subject.

Then I was asked to work on a project for Batenborch International. Since I had to change viewpoint by doing this, I’ve learnt some very valuable lessons which I would like to share with you.

Imagine that you are no longer within the company walls. You are outside, not a candidate nor an employee. You are somewhere in the middle, having a network of candidates and a network of people you know within the company walls and it is your mission to link both worlds with the ability to change the lives of so many people. Candidates who fill in a decade of their life with an employer or the success of a company. Quite a responsibility, isn’t it?

Listen to recruiters

Always looking for that special chemistry? Well, if you won’t receive calls or do not reply to emails from recruiters who offer their specialties, how can you make that happen then? My advice: give them 5 minutes of your time. I learned that recruiters have their specific specialties concerning profiles and sectors. Next to knowing who is moving and who is open to move, they know how the market for your candidates currently is. They know that way better than I expected. Give them 5 minutes to explain what their specialty is. You might need it badly one day and  you’ll be happy you took that call.

Exclusivity means dedication which equals quality

During my time in working on projects in HR, I was often over-solicited with people who wanted to drop their HR issues on my desk. I learnt how to cope with that by dedicating my time very specifically. You all know time management and prioritizing. Working this way I could keep my focus, work faster and more profound. The simple truth is that this applies to recruiters too.  Let’s say you have a leak in the bathroom. Do you call 5 plumbers and let them all have a go at once? That would make some interesting experiment, right? Dare to dedicate a vacancy to a specialized recruiter. This way, you create focus and higher quality recruiting.

Forget about provider, think partner.

Let’s say that you want to start your own coffee business. You’ll need suppliers of coffee beans. If it is your own company, you will explain the whole context of which atmosphere you wish to create, which client experience you want to offer, which specific ‘mélange’ you want,… You’ll probably explain more than your supplier wants to hear. You’ll even invite him or her to make sure that they perfectly understand what you want. You are making your supplier an engaged partner. Do the same thing with recruiters. Let them breathe the atmosphere of the company, explain how things work, it will make recruitment so much better.

Perfection does not exist.

For those who have read “Utopia” you will understand that the perfect world has its dark sides. Do not expect the absolute perfect match, it is a very rare thing. Probably the recruiter will propose you the best the market has to offer at that moment. Honestly, if you took an exam and you scored 8/10, I guess you had a reason to celebrate?

Paranoid clichés

I was absolutely shocked by the paranoid clichés I encountered in the in-between world of recruitment. We are active in Human Resources, aren’t we? Humans tend to have their strengths and off course, some minor points too. Then why is feedback on candidates so often based on that one detail that does not match. It determines the complete recruitment process.

“Dear Mr. Boterberg, we are not proceeding with this candidate because his experience dates from a year ago.” That’s it, all I got. The rest of the three profile pages where neglected. Then I had to call the candidate with that feedback. My point is that recruiters are looking for experience, knowledge, attitude, the whole 3D profile but it often turns to dust because of just one small thing … This touches a deeper issue in HR than merely recruiting. Balance the plusses and the minuses. Don’t go looking for an only minus.

Recruiters are living in a fast lane, are you prepared to jump that train?

You need an external recruiter, because you are too busy, there is simply too much going on or you don’t have the network? True, been there, done that. You gave the message “the sooner” the better, ended the communication and worked on. Well, you just jolted the speed of the recruiter into sixth gear: database search, phone calls, emails, follow-up calls, screenings till late in the evening, profile proposals,… and then… nothing. I can’t even begin to explain how many reminders I sent out. I can’t remember how many phone calls I took from candidates asking me why there is still no feedback. So, if you want to partner with your recruiter, give them time and space to let them into your world. Partners work together.


I am now back in an HRM role and I can say the time at Batenborch International was a very interesting one. Having met some wonderful people, true specialists in their domain and all of them people I miss daily. I made friendships for life and mostly I will treat recruiters with more respect by giving them the time to dedicate focus and see them much more as a partner than I ever did before. As so many times in life, it is a matter of perspective to understand it.


Written by Frederik Boterberg 

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