Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Toughest Part of Recruiting

When I first started as a recruiter, my original premise  to clients (companies) was that I was only going to send one candidate – the right person for the job.  Within a few weeks I discovered that while it was a great sales tool and appealed to companies, it was totally impractical for me.  Candidates changed their minds, companies changed their specs, or companies neglected to tell me key aspects of their jobs which precluded my candidate from the opportunity.  Sometimes, really great candidates say or do stupid things on an interview.  So I had to abandon that practice.  However, to this day, I still send very few candidates to any given opportunity.

Because I send so few people, there is a very good chance that one of the people I send will get a job.  But that means that if I send two, I will have to tell one that he or she didn’t make it.

Like lawyers, there is an old axiom in recruiting that a headhunter should not get too close to his candidates.  But the fun and wonderful part of recruiting is getting to know people as I work with them.  So it becomes especially difficult to say no to someone I have grown fond of.

I have learned that the best way to do it is not to beat around the bush, to give bad news simply and directly.  It doesn’t make it any easier, but it insures that I give the right headline as quickly as possible.

Much of recruiting is about chemistry.  Candidates develop backgrounds which are easily discernible on their résumés.  They may be clearly qualified and interested in a job, but the key element is always going to be personality and "fit". Most people who interview and decide that they want the job believe themselves to be qualified.  Sometimes they really believe that they connected with the people that they met during interviews, so telling them no is difficult.

Saying no to people I have gotten to know well and worked with over an extended period of time is doubly difficult.  Over the years, I have had candidates who have had all kinds or reactions, including candidates who were actually angry with me when I told them they did not get the job. But, as they say, don’t shoot the messenger.  I can find the opportunity and send candidates on an interview, but I cannot get them the job.  They have to do that themselves.

So to all those people I had to say no to this year (and every year), I sincerely hope we can work together in 2012 and make something positive happen.  I would much rather say yes.


  1. You are the best recruiter there is Paul. When a candidate hears "no" from you, they know you did your best.

    That said, your advice following the "no" is what leads to an ultimate "yes". Keep it up. Thanks for caring.

  2. If one is hanging their hopes on a recruiter (even Paul, who is the "best of the best"), they should hang it up and find something else to do.

    If you want a job, make your own action! It's a lot of hard and thoughtful work, but you'll land sooner rather than later. So, get going!

    Bill Crandall

  3. Thanks Chad and thanks, Bill. I would like to remind you, and I have posted this often. In the best of times, recruiters only account for about 20% of all jobs. And when a recruiter gets an assignment, it comes with very specific background requirements; we are paid to deliver those specs.

  4. Nice piece Paul. I'm lucky; I've had the pleasure of hearing you say "yes" to me several times!


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