How to solve the Onboarding conundrum of Enthusiastic new hires but Reluctant mentors

March 8, 2023

Onboarding is important. It absolutely is! Its purpose is to help new hires become productive as quickly as possible.  And the steps are pretty well understood – you provide orientation on the company’s culture, values, mission, policies and procedures. You train them in how to do their job as well as the tools or software they’ll be using. You assign them to a buddy or mentor so that they can shadow them and learn about the day-to-day aspects of the job and to ask questions and learn about the industry or domain, and you have regular feedback and check in sessions to make sure everything is on track. 

For new Technical Recruiters the training step includes teaching the recruiting process and everything that it entails, as well as training on the tools such as ATS, Job Boards, LinkedIn etc. And then they are assigned a senior technical recruiter who will teach them how to recruit for technical positions and answer questions such as what a software developer is, what is a DevOps engineer, what is Kubernetes, Terraform, Java and JavaScript, what is Agile, endless questions about the domain. To make this even more challenging, most new technical recruiters do not have a technical background. Trying to understand the Technology domain in those circumstances is daunting, it’s complex, it’s overwhelming, it’s frustrating and it can take months to get up to speed.  


Months of time where the senior recruiter has to support the new recruiter, answer questions they thought they answered previously, answer new questions, correct understanding because they thought the new recruiter understood what you taught them, but in fact they didn’t, continue to teach them new concepts the new recruiter is discovering, being a buddy to a new technical recruiter can be demanding. 

Of course, the new technical recruiter begins enthusiastic and eager to learn, but there’s so much to learn, they know they’ve asked this question before, should they ask it again or will it make them appear as if they don’t understand or aren’t learning, will they ask for help when they aren’t sure what the role is or the technical requirements for the role? or will they just wing it and hope they are targeting the right profiles? If they contact enough people, hopefully there’s a few who are a match, and that way their buddy need not know they don’t know – it’s exhausting. 

But isn’t the purpose of onboarding to help the new recruiter be productive as quickly as possible? And to be productive means to be able to achieve results in as efficient as means as possible. The reality is that being a mentor to a new technical recruiter is incredibly inefficient – inefficient for the new recruiter, inefficient for the senior recruiter, inefficient for the company.  

There are unintended bad consequences brought about by the good intentions of buddying.  

Firstly, time and effort are taken away from the senior recruiter, and that is time and effort taken away from their day-to-day responsibilities. And with less time, in the world of staffing companies, that means less time to place candidates, which means less fees. Less fees mean a reduction in billing, which leads to unhappy managers. Less fees means a reduction in the senior recruiter’s commission. The prospect of less money means the senior recruiters become reluctant and even resentful of the buddying process and pull back and engage less with the new recruiter. Less engagement with the new recruiter means more mistakes, less learning, reluctance to ask questions, less responses, more anxiety, leading to more time needed to ramp up, it goes on and on.  

So, what to do – how can you solve this conundrum? 

To solve this, you need to give the senior recruiter back a large portion of the time taken to mentor the new recruiter. And you need to give the new recruiter an avenue where they can freely ask questions so they can properly learn the role.  

The solution is to provide a triage system that is the first port of call for any new recruiter’s question.  This triage system ought to be a comprehensive technical recruiting knowledge base where the answers to questions can be easily found, supported by access to technical experts who can provide support and coaching to the new recruiter when they need additional assistance.  

For the senior recruiter, their role becomes more about helping understand the client companies, their preferences, the key contacts, strategies and tactics, rather than teaching the new recruiter the technology domain. 

Staffing companies who have adopted a triage system have achieved accelerated time to bill for new recruits of up to 50% while also preserving the productivity (and the sanity) of the senior recruiter. 

It’s time to rethink the onboarding process. 

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