5 Things to consider when building a recruitment function from scratch

Written by Dave Netley

Dave is a guy trying to make his way in this crazy world of Talent Acquisition. He’s spent the majority of his time as a grown up (not the same as turning 18) working within in-house talent teams in a variety of roles. At work he’s a fan of good recruitment marketing, and a bit of a RecTech geek. After work he’s a fan of gin. Dave is currently seeking representation so if any TA leaders out there want to get in touch, his LinkedIn profile is through the button below.

If you ever find yourself setting up an in-house recruitment or talent acquisition function, it’s safe to say that you need to consider absolutely everything. 

Sorry, but it’s true, setting up a new function is not an easy task but don’t panic! After a few personal trials and errors, here are a few pointers that I wish I knew when I first started.

1. The Big Cheese Buy In

I cannot stress this enough. You require board backing to make this work.

There’s unlikely to be a firm process, way of working, or even budget ownership of the things you’ll need to ensure your function will be successful within the business. Many initiatives you’ll want to implement could quite easily be overturned by a word in the CEO/CFO’s ear. 

Getting these people on your side to tell any wayward hiring managers that you are responsible for recruitment will set the tone for everything you need moving forward.

2. Establish a Process

Most often, you’ll find that there actually isn’t a formal process in place so, build one from scratch!

This is your chance to implement everything you’ve learnt, what works and what doesn’t from previous companies and apply it. Learn from your new hiring managers. What do they like about the current recruitment process and what problems can you solve? 

You don’t need me to tell you why a process is important but when you put a new one in place, make sure it’s consistent across the board.

3. Lay down the law with a smile

Now you’ve got your process in place and backing of the board, you need to start enforcing your new way of working which could potentially derail all this hard work you’ve already done. Managers may be set in their way of operating, so there are a few elements of the existing process for which you will have to show the benefits of your function like interview feedback, timeliness of recruitment, and agency usage, just to name a few. 

Showing how you can improve the hiring process and the knock-on effect it will have on the business will go a long way in swaying the managers to use your function. 

Trust me. Quick wins are your friend here. 

You’ll no doubt be setting the function up whilst managing all outstanding recruitment in any case, take a few roles and get them filled, quickly. They don’t need to be the most niche, or the most senior roles as you want to demonstrate how your process works, not necessarily your amazing sourcing skills.

A problem I encountered was agency usage. Each hiring manager had complete freedom when it came to choosing an agency, provided they could add them as a supplier through Procurement. I inherited a list of about 50-60 recruitment agencies, all of which had different points of contact within the business. It was a nightmare.

4. Pick an ATS that suits you, because Excel won’t cut it.

When you decided to build your own recruitment function from scratch you probably did so to solve an existing problem. Whether that be the application process itself, or something else, work out your system requirements to help your recruitment challenges not just for roles that you are recruiting for now, but pick a system that will allow you to build a database that you can use as an internal search tool in the future. You don’t want to be starting from scratch every time. 

For example, the particular challenge I faced was that we didn’t get enough applications, we weren’t advertising very broadly and whilst the system I inherited was fine to manage the candidate journey, it didn’t offer much else. I required scale and whilst the systems I looked at offered that, without any applications it would be money down the drain. The solution I found offered advertising media buying and posting, as well as a back end ATS to manage applications from a range of job boards. Yes, it was a credit purchase way of paying but it worked out a much better ROI than any system I looked at.

5. Be patient, and trust that you will see results

I made a lot of mistakes in my first few months doing this. I massively over promised on what I could deliver. Luckily, the company I worked for could see the progress I was making, and I was able to show that I was delivering. It’ll take a long time to really be able to show how you’ve delivered.

You could track every vacancy within the first 12-months and cross-reference with previous recruitment spend of the business, that’s what I did. I was able to show the CEO and CFO a saving of around £500,000. You’ll prove your worth in savings in the short term, but you can go much further by tracking retention rates, candidate experience, and a whole host of other stats we love in Talent Acquisition in the longer term. Consider what your audience needs first before you change the world.

I received advice from all over the first time I decided to build my own recruitment function and whilst the words of wisdom are still things I remember today, every organisation has its own challenges and its own requirements. You will also have your own style of recruitment, which you’ll want to bring to the table so if there is only one piece of advice you take from this article it’s this: do not take this as your absolute guide to building your own recruitment function. One size does not fit all. 

If you’ve found this article helpful, or have any questions, please connect with me and I’ll try my best to help. The journey I had building a recruitment function was the most rewarding thing, professionally, I’ve ever done and I hope it is for you as well. 

Would you add anything to this list? What’s your experience been like building your own recruitment function?  

Is there always something to worry about? 

Find out at our webinar “Building Resilience” 24 June at 12.30pm 

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