A View from the Desk of a Talent Acquisition Manager

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Desk of a TA Manager


Agency Recruiters, before you start reading this I need you to know that this isn’t an Agency bashing article. I’ve been there, I’ve had the KPI’s, I’ve Recruited in really tough markets. I like to think I have a handle on some of the stresses you are going through. I respect what you do and the continued resilience you need to show to be able to still perform in a market such as this. The goal of this post is to hopefully give you a small understanding of what is happening at the other end of the phone or InMail. I want this to be constructive not destructive. 


You’ve just sat down for dinner. You exhale, breathe, pick up your wine. You catch the wafting of its fragrant essence as you start to raise the glass to taste your reward for a hard days work. “Brrrrrrriiiiiiiiiing.” “Brrrrrrrriiiiiiiiing” Begrudgingly you trudge over to the phone. 

“Hi, it’s Graham here from XYZ energy company. I’d like to talk to you about your rates and how we can better them.” sigh………

You know that feeling right? Do you hang up? Are you polite? Are you really keen on listening to the pitch that is coming your way? Do you care? Your wine is waiting, your meal is waiting. You have better things to do. But it may be a great money saver.

OK, swap out dinner for 2 open roles (300 plus new applicants to sift through) and lots of other burning issues, making redundancies, managing skittish stakeholders, questions over JobKeeper etc and exchange the energy company for an Agency calling with a “candidate who is perfect for your company and role” that you’d recently advertised on Seek. 

From someone who has sat in the chair as a Head of Talent Acquisition, I’m telling you, it’s a similar feeling. The feeling when that phone rings. Perhaps you know the number. Perhaps you don’t. But you have a thousand things on your mind. 

If a Head of Talent Acquisition could tell you a few things about their life at the moment. Here’s what you would probably hear.

“Dear Agency Recruiter,

I get the fact that it’s your job to call me. I get that you may have KPI’s to make x amount of calls in a day and I’m a number you just need to dial to hit a KPI and thus your job. I get that fact that you think you’re doing me a favour by bringing to my attention the best candidate in the market. I get it. But please try to understand my frustration too. 

As I know you know the market is tough. But things are tenuous in my organisation too. Costs are being scrutinised everywhere. Cuts are happening everywhere. I’m involved in these high level discussions about people’s livelihoods, I’m fighting for people’s jobs, I’m the giver of bad news to those whom I have lost those fights for. Have you sat across the table from someone armed with only a notepad and a box of tissues to tell them they don’t have a job? As the sole breadwinner for their family, you are the messenger giving this news? Looked into their eyes as the penny drops of the reality of what you’re saying computes in their mind and the ramifications it will have? It sucks (as does hearing this, I’ve been there too). How about having a conversation with someone you classify as a friend, you’ve gone to birthday parties, kids christenings etc and now you’re telling them you couldn’t save their job.

I’m clutching on hard to the floating debris like Jack in the Titanic for my own job, it seems like it is only a matter of time before Rose casts me free. Life isn’t a lot of fun. And yet I feel guilty for feeling this way, because I have a job right? Heaps of my contemporaries do not. I should be grateful for it. Right? I’m gripped by guilt and fear consistently. This is the person you’ll get answering your calls or InMails. I’m sorry, I’m probably not myself at the moment. 

That said, I’m still an ambassador for the company, I’m preaching to prospective employees about the awesome job and career prospects they will have if they join us. I’m trying to deliver a positive and memorable candidate experience. I’m managing stakeholder expectations of “There’s people everywhere, everyone is looking for a job! Why can’t you find me my purple, left handed, cyclops who is 7 foot 2 has green eyes and speaks Swahili? Just post an ad and give me my shortlist in a hour!” Sure you may have someone who fits the bill, but my CFO is screaming at me to reduce costs. I can’t go out to agencies, well I could, but I don’t think the CFO will pay an invoice. That helps no one.

I’m trying to focus on the light. This market will change, they always do. I understand the importance of partnerships and want to be prepared for the future. But I’m probably going to be wary of your advances. One day soon I may be in a position to do business with you, but, if you’re aggressively calling me, putting the hard word on and not listening then perhaps I won’t. I was told by a Recruiter once that I was either a client or a source, so “I’d better be careful or I’ll clean out your carpark”, guessing you can guess how much business he got from me. 

I feel that now is the time to build relationships, not based on transactions, but based on connection. Give me a reason to catch up. Share industry insights, share innovations, show me how you can be different not just tell me. Try to understand our situation. I had an agency once say to me “so, you won’t use me because you think I’ll do a better job than you and make you look bad?” talk about misreading the room. 

I’m sorry if this sounds like whining, but it is reality for a lot of TA Managers at the moment. We have a high level understanding  of your business and your job. Trust me we know the pain in the market, we saw the Greg Savage blog about the rate at which Recruiters are losing their jobs and the hustle required to keep jobs. But to build a relationship at the moment you need to realise the life of a TA Manager at the moment is a little different in this CoVid world. Come to us with some understanding, some empathy, you’ll be surprised, the odds are we probably really do need that coffee!

PS, I am well, thanks for asking.

Best Regards

TA Managers.”

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