The Hard Lessons in Recruiting

The life of recruiting: I still remember my first placement – a day-shift Computer Operator at a large Insurance Company – He worked the graveyard at a major Telecommunications Company for $25,000 a year and told me he was quitting his night job and taking mine to a) get out of the city and b) get off night shift. I celebrated my successful hire – second week on the job! Bought a round of drinks for my co-workers with my future commission… He lied – he was taking a second job to make ends meet. His new employer terminated him for lying about the second job. Ended their relationship with my firm – assuming we were in cahoots… And so began a hard lesson about honesty and forthrightness in the real world and the life of recruiting.

Experienced recruiters I know walk a fine line on the edge of becoming distrustful, cynical of everyone they deal with. One office had a large banner emblazoned “they all lie”. Spend enough time as an agency recruiter and you can easily come to believe this is true – the irony of this is that RECRUITERS are vilified and mistrusted – think used car sales. To be fair – some recruiters and agencies have earned this reputation. They lie, under-train their recruiters, it’s a commission based world and some people with short-term attitudes will do what they can to make a buck BUT there are many a recruiter out there who just want to do their jobs. And that’s the life of recruiting.


I’ve seen it all – been lied to by ‘clients’ and candidates alike. Some are simple and obvious = some needs or wants a job so they embellish their skills or hide gaps in history. Others more devious – I’ve had a candidate get a job via phone screen and a totally different person show up for work! Clients? Last minute fee changes, lack of transparency about urgency, reasons for an opening, have us work a job to justify/learn market rates. Senior candidates will mock or try and intimidate a recruiter. People lie about what opportunities are on their plate, what they earn, background checks, you name it.

Contingency recruiters work long hard hours for FREE! We don’t get paid unless we actually fill a job. Meanwhile we offer free career advice, resume improvements, market knowledge and more. For clients we provide insights into competitors, pricing, current trends in technology, a smattering of free psychological sessions, you get the idea.

Balance Sales and Partnerships

So how can we best do our jobs and not project our cynicism to the people we must be assisting. My advice on the ‘sales’ side is to choose your clients wisely and be selective. Find a client that truly wishes to be a partner. Avoid cattle call, large volume buyers – the brass ring (volume) is tempting but the margins are lower, access to knowledgeable and caring hiring managers is limited, competition is greater and the ‘fill ratio’ is lower, forcing you to be less discriminating in a time to market volume recruiting effort. On the recruitment side – build a real network. Get to know people, meet your candidates, and show a genuine interest in their goals and dreams. Educate yourself about industries and technologies you are dealing with and become an expert. Be value add in everything you do. Develop a solid effective interview routine and hone it, then use it consistently. FOLLOW UP with people.

Will all this eliminate the bad experiences – NO. It will however lessen the volume and you will enjoy yourself more and feel better about what you do. The life of recruiting; it’s why I love it.