The Best of Both (In-House & Agency) Worlds: Q&A with Bryce Murray
What does effective recruiting look like? Bryce Murray, VP of talent acquisition for a global brand and founder of a search firm, will tell you.
Photo: Bryce Murray
Bryce Murray is a veteran of both in-house and agency recruiting. He serves as the VP of talent acquisition at Red Bull and as managing director of the Talent Acquisition Group, an executive search firm he founded. We got on the phone to discuss what in-house and agency recruiters can learn from one another, the role hiring managers need to play in the recruitment process, and what it takes to establish an effective talent acquisition function.
“Even if you are a major, successful brand, if you want the best talent, you have to go out and hunt it.”
What should in-house recruiters learn or steal from how agency recruiters work?
The fundamental things that search firm experience teaches you are a sense of urgency and attention to detail. Everything has to line up correctly to get the search closed. If you only have recruiting experience on the internal side, then you’ve never felt the pain of thinking, “I might not make my commission this month.” There’s nothing more clarifying for a recruiter than knowing that if you can’t manage to pull everything together and get the role filled, you’re not going to get paid.
I’m always biased towards hiring recruiters who have worked at a search agency. They have that sense of urgency and a true appreciation for successful headhunting practices – and that’s critical because even if you are a major, successful brand, if you want the best talent, you have to go out and hunt it. It’s rarely going to come knocking on your door, applying for a job.
On the flip side, is there anything that agency recruiters should learn from in-house recruiters?
In many ways, I believe agency recruiting is the purest and simplest form of recruiting; you eat what you kill. There’s a lot more you deal with when you’re in-house. There’s a lot of complexity: budget, politics, logistics, background checks, new-hire paperwork, onboarding – things you may never see if you’re on the agency side.
There’s also a lot more relationship management. When you’re in-house, you can’t just quit if your client is difficult – if they have unreasonable or unrealistic expectations. You have to find a way to success. You have to work with the business to create a solution, and you have to make sure that it’s not only the right person who gets the job, it’s the right person who will grow in the role and do what’s in the best interest of the company.
How much of a role should hiring managers play in the recruitment process? How do recruiters need to guide or manage hiring manager involvement?
Hiring managers should be deeply involved. In my view, the dynamic should be:
- hiring manager owning the hiring decision, getting into their network and cultivating the people who would be best for the roles; and
- recruiter project managing, driving the process forward day by day, and providing proactive headhunting and sourcing that the manager just doesn’t have time to do.
The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with is this: the recruiter is like a personal trainer. A trainer can tell you to eat a healthy diet, drink enough water, and follow a specific exercise regimen to accomplish your fitness goals. But you have to put in the work to accomplish those goals every single day. Just like a trainer, a recruiter can coach, suggest, recommend, and advise, but the hiring manager has to put in the work to achieve his or her hiring goals.
“A recruiter can coach, suggest, recommend, and advise, but the hiring manager has to put in the work to achieve his or her hiring goals.”
Why do managers need to be so involved? Can’t much of that networking be accomplished by dedicated recruiters?
I’ve found that the most successful hires are the people who are already inside your company with a proven track record of performance. If you can’t find someone internally like that, then the next best thing is what I would call an “endorsement.” An endorsement is a referral to somebody that the hiring manager, or one of his or her team members, worked with previously and knows well enough to say, “This person can succeed in this role, in this environment, because I’ve directly observed his/her work.” If you can’t get someone internally, or an endorsement, then that’s when you rely on recruiters to headhunt the talent you need.
Do hiring managers need interview training? If they do, what should interview training cover?
I absolutely believe that managers need training on the mechanics of the recruiting process, in particular:
- how to cultivate their network to find candidates; and
- how to approach interviewing so they can make well-informed selection decisions.
There are a lot of canned interview methodologies out there, and they’re all good for understanding experience, skills, and knowledge. But what I’ve found to be most successful is to equip managers with the ability to drill down to what really motivates the candidate. If you can understand what those motivations are, and if you believe you can create an opportunity that aligns with those motivations – as long as they have the correct experience, skills, and potential to perform – they’re going to knock it out of the park for you.
What one piece of advice would you offer to talent acquisition leaders on building an effective recruiting function?
One of the things the business needs to decide at an early stage is, what role will talent acquisition play in the future of the company? What is the hiring philosophy and approach? Is it, we place an order and you fill it? Or is it, let’s have a strategic conversation about what we’re building, and how to hire the talent we need to build it? Is it, we’re willing to pay more for great people even if that means lower headcount? Or is it, we need as many bodies as we possibly can have?
For many companies, the tendency is to think, “We don’t have time to do that – we need to hire people right now.” But this is about setting the tone that will be carried forward for the foreseeable future. The sooner you do it, the easier it is to scale. If you don’t take the time to do it, and things go wrong, eventually you’re going to have to tear it all apart and replumb everything. That’s really painful.
My advice is to work with your organization’s stakeholders to confirm what the approach to talent acquisition is going to be – the role and purpose it plays within the company – and hold those stakeholders accountable to it, day in and day out. It’s one of the most important things you can do as a talent acquisition leader.
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