The Hiring Manager is Not a “Customer”

It’s simple: Using the term “customer” sets up the wrong relationship between the recruiter and the manager.

When I say “customer,” I call forth a package of presumptions and cultural expectations that immediately create a commodity relationship. A few of these:

  • The customer is always right
  • The customer is buying a product
  • The product is self-similar and therefore interchangeable
  • The customer can return the product
  • The customer can get a refund

All of these tropes are based on the exchange of goods or services and the assumption that the recruiter is trying to “sell” something to the manager. But a human is not a good or a service. And the role a recruiter plays is not that of a salesperson. The recruiter is facilitating the hire of a unique individual, and that role, simply by virtue of the human element, does not function well within a commodity model.

A better descriptor (and a better basis for a model) would be “partner.” In a high-functioning version of a partner model the recruiter and the hiring manager form a partnership and work in tandem to identify and hire the best candidate for the position. Recruiting is not about a service or a product delivered; instead it is a mutual goal that, when realized, will benefit the manager and the candidate and, by extension, the organization.

This may seem like a subtle or irrelevant distinction, but it is a crucially important one to ensuring long-term recruiting and business success.

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