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strategic talent advisor

5 Undeniable Differences Between a Recruiter and a Talent Advisor

As a recruiter, you know that today’s fast-paced, competitive talent market makes it hard to land top-tier candidates.

To get the best-of-the-best, you and your hiring manager need to be on the same page. Expectations need to be set ahead of time, candidates need to move fast through the interview process, and decisions need to be made quickly.

But, as I’m sure you’ll agree:

It rarely happens that way.

And that usually leads to a frustrated hiring manager blaming you when it takes a long time to fill open requisitions. But here’s the good news:

You have the power to solve your hiring manager’s problems while also turning yourself into a valuable resource and employer-of-choice for your candidates.


By transforming yourself from a recruiter…into a strategic talent advisor.

guy saying awesome

As a talent advisor, you can improve the quality of your candidate pipeline, strengthen relationships with hiring managers, and increase your own value to your company and candidates alike.

But, before we go any further, let’s answer an important question:

What’s The Difference Between a Talent Advisor vs Recruiter?

I’ll admit: there are lots of little things you can do to differentiate yourself from a run-of-the-mill recruiter.

But, these five factors are the big ones that really make a difference:

#1. Talent Advisors Insist on a Kick-Off Meeting

We’ve all experienced this before:

A hiring manager gives you a new job to fill, but the job description doesn’t have nearly enough information to really “sell” the position to a candidate.

Maybe it looks something like this:

talent advisors job description

(image source)


So, what do you do?

Your typical recruiter probably starts that search with what they have (which is pretty much nothing).

And as a result, they end up submitting candidates who are either unqualified or not excited about the opportunity. Of course, that leads to wasted time (for both you, the hiring manager, and the candidate), which can hurt your brand internally and your company’s brand, too.

But talent advisors insist on learning more.

They want to sit down with the hiring manager before starting their search to understand:

  • “Must-have” qualifications vs “nice-to-haves”
  • Compensation details (salary, bonus, benefit incentives, perks, etc.)
  • Career path(s) from this position
  • Team and reporting structure
  • Team culture

And while it’s true that 45 percent of people who change jobs do it for better compensation, there are plenty of other factors you can highlight to lure top talent toward your company:

reasons people change jobs

(image source)

It’s your job as a talent advisor to make strategic recommendations to your hiring manager.

But, of course, not every hiring manager will be immediately enthusiastic about spending time talking through recruitment strategy with you.

So, that’s why you need to break down how a quick meeting will help them fill the role faster and avoid the steep cost of leaving a position vacant for too long.

And if they continue to drag their feet, you need to step up like a true talent advisor and push back:

#2. Talent Advisors Aren’t Afraid to Push Back on Hiring Manager Expectations

I’m sure you’ve worked with a hiring manager that has unrealistic expectations.

They want that purple squirrel: a superstar candidate who won a Pulitzer for work in your field, is willing to relocate to the heart of Iowa, and is fine with making $20k below industry standard.  

And when they tell you all this, I’m sure this is how you feel on the inside:

gif of man laughing

But again, here’s where the difference between a talent advisor vs recruiter shines through:

Recruiters are hesitant to push back on unrealistic expectations. But talent advisors welcome the conversation and use the opportunity to leverage data insights to reset hiring manager expectations.

Talent advisors come to the table armed with data that demonstrates exactly why a hiring manager’s expectations may not be realistic.

Wondering where to start?

Take a look three parts to a successful hire:

  • Quality. Finding a candidate who aligns with all of your hiring manager’s “must-haves” and as many “nice-to-haves” as possible.
  • Speed. How quickly you can get from the initial search to an offer accepted.
  • Cost. The salary allocated to this hire.

talent advisor hiring manager tradeoffs

(image source)

As you probably know, you typically only get to have two of the three.

You can deliver a quality candidate quickly, but you’ll probably need to offer a very competitive salary to get them. Or, you may be able to find a good candidate on the cheap, but it’ll likely take you considerable time to do so.

This is why it’s so important to sit down with your hiring manager and look at their priorities.

Ask questions like:

  • Is the salary flexible at all?
  • Are you willing to wait longer for the perfect candidate?
  • Are you flexible on degree requirements, years of experience, or other variables that might automatically disqualify an otherwise great candidate?

Having these conversations up front can pay huge dividends when managing expectations down the road. And so can this next defining attribute of true talent advisors:

#3. Talent Advisors Set Goals in Partnership with Hiring Managers

Once you set these expectations, you can get to work on establishing goals with your hiring manager around the speed of the hiring process.

That’s because talent advisors understand important KPIs— like the time between a candidate’s submission and their first interview and turnaround time for feedback — should be set and agreed upon before any searching starts.


First, because goals make it easier to communicate if you’re ahead of or behind schedule for any reason.

(And don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back when you’re ahead of schedule.)

Second, because setting goals helps get buy-in from the hiring manager on the recruitment process.

I’m sure you’ve experienced what it’s like when you have a disengaged hiring manager. Scheduling interviews becomes almost impossible, getting feedback on candidates takes forever, and you end up losing quality people through the process.

That’s why goal-setting is so important for you as a talent advisor: it means shared accountability when it comes to getting the right candidate hired.

But once you have that buy-in, it becomes your responsibility to make sure you deliver. Which is why this is the next big difference when evaluating a talent advisor vs recruiter:

#4. Recruiters Submit Candidates; Talent Advisors Present Potential Hires

We all know recruiters who take the “throw it against a wall and see what sticks” approach.

They blast out messages to candidates…

Gather up anyone with a halfway decent resume…

And then cross their fingers that someone makes it to the finish line.

Needless to say: don’t do that if you want to be seen as a true strategic partner to your hiring managers.

Here’s a simple fact for you: In 2016, 20% of interviews led to job offers.

Which naturally leads to the question:

Are you placing one out of every five candidates you talk to?

If you’re playing the numbers game, chances are the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

Which means your wasting your own time running more searches, contacting more candidates, and conducting more phone screens…

And wasting your hiring manager’s time by scheduling interviews with unqualified candidates.

If you want to be a true talent advisor, think back to that kick-off call and make sure you understand how the open job fits into the greater good of the business.

That means candidates with backgrounds and experience that help solve current business needs, and as Dr. John Sullivan explains over on ERE, set the company up for future success, too:

“Rather than simply focusing on current job needs, talent advisors educate their managers so that they hire talent that can meet both current and future talent needs. And that means that more new hires will have “future skills,” a steeper career trajectory, and the ability to transition into new roles as the firm changes and grows. In order to understand future needs, advisors must become experts in workforce planning and on advising managers on upcoming talent problems and opportunities.”

In short: understand your business and what it needs. That will ensure you’re only presenting top talent with real potential to succeed at your company..

#5. Talent Advisors Measure Results and Adjust Their Strategy

Here’s the hard truth about being a talent advisor: Placing candidates is only half the job.

The other half is all about refining your recruiting process to improve speed, quality, and candidate experience.

Think about it: if your true goal is to help your company navigate the competitive talent marketplace and make the best possible hires, it makes sense that optimizing your recruitment strategy would be a key part of the job.

That’s why talent advisors want to know the numbers behind their recruiting process —they want to be able to measure their effectiveness and find opportunities for improvement..

You can start by tracking these fundamental metrics:

  • Time to fill: days in between posting a job and hiring the candidate
  • Source of hire: tracking the effectiveness of recruiting channels
  • First year attrition: percentage of candidates that leave within the first year
  • Selection ratio: number of hired candidates compared to number of candidate interviews

Bottom line: take note of what’s working (and what’s not). That way you’ll be able to spend more time on the good stuff, and less on the bad.

And now that you know what separates a talent advisor from a recruiter, it’s time to take action:

3 Ways You Can Become a Strategic Talent Advisor Starting Today

#1. Start By Engaging Your Hiring Manager

As soon as you finish reading this article: Go.

Ask your hiring manager to coffee, schedule a recurring monthly catch up, host a roundtable discussion. If you work remotely, set up a video-conference so it is more of a face-to-face interaction.

For now, it doesn’t necessarily matter what you do. Just plant the seed and create a partnership.

Commit to the idea that the days of taking a job order from your hiring manager and not speaking to them until you have a pipeline of candidates in two weeks are over.

Instead, involve them throughout the entirety of the process. They’ll see you as an invaluable resource and it will help to ensure your partnership results in the perfect hire.

#2. Make Data King of Your Recruitment Process

Simply put: data makes you undeniable.

When you backup your insights with numbers and use stats to explain the “why” behind the recommendations you make, hiring managers will start to listen.

And that applies to data around your recruitment process and candidate data, too. Ian Cook explains it well over on the Visier blog,

“The recruitment process is a treasure trove of data that… reveals important information on whether or not a candidate will be the high performing employee your organization is looking for. It’s the difference between making decisions on gut feeling and making them based on facts.”

Those fact-based decisions are what ultimately sets you apart from a recruiter who just wants to fill the job and get on with their day, versus a talent advisor that wants to set their company up for long-term success.

And it’s that long-term perspective that will lead you to this last bit for transitioning to a talent advisor:

#3. Transform Yourself into an Influencer

Recruiters are valuable. Talent advisors are invaluable.

As John Vlastelica showed in his presentation at the 2017 NWRA December Luncheon the evolution from a recruiter to a talent advisor takes you along a road of increasing value to your hiring managers and business as a whole:

recruiter vs talent advisor

(image source)

From someone who just chases feedback to the “true influencer” that earns a seat at the table for talent acquisition decisions, the road to becoming a talent advisor isn’t an easy one.

But with the right goals, mindset, and data in hand, you can change the way your company’s recruitment process to help them compete for best-in-class talent with the power to transform your organization.

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