Frequently, I receive calls from government contracting leaders who are frustrated with the process of recruiting for proposals and are looking for a better solution. Many times recruiters have been spending weeks building candidate pipelines for funded roles and it can be challenging for them to suddenly shift priorities and focus on proposal recruiting. In addition, with a shorter time frame, leaders are dependent upon recruiters to produce results quickly and rarely feel that they are receiving the results they expect. As a Practice Director of Talent Acquisition leading responses to RFPs myself, I understand the how dissatisfying this can be to both recruiters and leaders. Here are the five most common problems we see during these scenarios and how to avoid them in order to successfully recruit for your next big proposal.
The 5 Biggest Problems that Interfere with Proposal Recruiting
- Quality of Information: Typically, the amount and quality of information given to recruiters for proposal recruiting is significantly lower than in a fully-funded search. Good recruiters thrive on making a match and when the information is scarce, it can be frustrating for them to find the right talent. Candidates will ask questions that they cannot answer, which puts recruiters in an awkward position.
- Juggling Multiple Priorities: Recruiters typically have funded roles that are a priority (because they produce revenue when they are filled) and squeezing in last minute, fast turn-around searches can pose a conflict for prioritizing their work. They know that their other hiring managers will not be pleased to have their searches drop to the bottom of the priority list while they focus on a proposal effort.
- Lack of Alignment with Typical Searches: Some organizations go after roles in a proposal which are significantly different than typical roles for the organization. Recruiters essentially start from scratch in these situations.
- Contingent Upon Award: This means that candidates have to be willing to allow your firm to submit their resume and with some proposals, sign a contingent offer letter for a role which has no guarantee.
- Opportunity Costs: When you ask your recruiters to focus their efforts on proposal recruiting, you are reducing or even temporarily halting their efforts on recruiting for funded roles. This shift of priority could reduce revenue in the short term. If the proposal efforts does not result in future revenue, there could be a net loss of revenue.
Now that we understand the biggest challenges in proposal recruiting, here’s some recommendations that I share with my clients to ensure success.
Best Practices for Successful Proposal Recruiting
Align Recruiting and Capture Teams
Allow recruiters to have input about go and no-go RFP decisions based on their knowledge of the labor market and talent pipelines your organization has already developed. Consider all of the variables before going after an RFP for which your company does not have a strong candidate pipeline. When proposal openings are aligned with roles the organization typically fills, recruiters can produce results much more quickly. There is also a higher chance of success when using pipelines that are already developed and leveraging existing networks for referrals. Using input from recruiters may not change the decision about going after certain work, but it will inform you about the recruiting-related challenges associated with the work and further strengthen your win rate.
Implement a Process for Making Proposal Recruiting Requests
If you decide to move forward with an RFP that requires new candidate pipeline development, plan ahead and inform the recruiters as soon as possible so that they have ample time to prepare. Your recruiters will most likely need to develop a strategy around fulfilling the work and may even require the help of an outside recruiting search firms–which will also be less successful without some advance notice. While it may not possible be to provide all of the information associated as a typical fully-funded opening, requiring certain minimum information would be helpful. For instance, this could include job title, salary range, key skill requirements, work location and clearance requirements. By including hiring managers into the planning, you can gain their buy-in on the prioritization of searches in a way that won’t put recruiters in the middle of a conflict and ensure a successful process.