Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Millennials Don't Understand Recruiters

For the past several weeks I have been trying to contact an account supervisor who was recommended by a candidate who is also a dear friend.  The AS told my friend that she really wants to meet me but is very busy. Totally understandable. 

But in three weeks she has not called back – even late after work knowing that she will get my voice mail.

I have bounced this thought off of many candidates and friends who are over 40.  When we were young in business and a recruiter called, we called back immediately - or, at the least, at the first opportunity.  Why?  Because it meant that someone might be interested in me and my career.  Maybe they just wanted to meet me; maybe they had a specific thought about my next move.

I wrote two of my first Ad Age columns about this.  The first was about what to do when a headhunter calls and the second was how to work with a recruiter.  I have also used these subjects extensively on this blog.

It occurs to me that many people in their first few years of business just don’t have a clue. Why should they?  It is just that recruiters, for the most part, have been eliminated by many ad agencies for jobs under $60k. Every ad agency corporate recruiter complains to me that they have trouble finding assistants, account executives and junior supervisors with or without recruiters.  I am not surprised.  Millennials don’t return calls and are no longer exposed to recruiters until they are well into their careers.  And of course, they hear that most of their friends got jobs through networking, which, to their mind, means recruiters are superfluous. 

Not surprisingly, recruiters have always only accounted for a small percentage of jobs.  The statistic I have heard, even years ago, was that networking actually accounts for 75-80% of all jobs.  It has always been that way.  Today, given the economy, it might be even higher.  Of course as jobs get more senior and the pyramid becomes narrower, recruiters account for a greater percentage of jobs. Recruiters are definitely necessary.

Today, when a recruiter calls a millennial returning the call gets put on the back burner.  Like every recruiter, we get calls from junior executives, especially those who have been laid off.  The longer they are out of work, the more often they call.  But when they get a job, they stop calling.  Few bother to call to tell us that they have landed.  Sometimes we get emails that read, “Hi:  Thanks for your help.  I just got a great job so I no longer need your services.”    I will always email these people back and ask where they are going, what their title will be, what their salary will be as well as who their clients will be.  Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes not. There is virtually no understanding of the long term relationship or the fact that by adding to their résumé, I might be able to find them something wonderful in a year or two.

To them, and in fact to many executives, recruiters are like job wholesalers.  We are only to be used when needed.  That part is a shame.  There are people I have never been able to place, but with whom I have had a relationship for many years.  They call me for job advice and to bounce ideas off me.  I am only too happy to oblige.

Our value to a career cannot be overstated. A relationship with a good recruiter is invaluable.  We are only too happy to help.


  1. Hi Paul,
    I agree with you. Most millennial’s don’t know how to work with recruiters; we are looked on with suspicion.

    I think part of this is due to their growing up in the digital age. They have been taught to protect their confidentiality and avoid identity theft. These facebook bloggers have been warned at an early age to beware of strangers. With the horror stories of deceptive employment agency tactics they are on their guard and do not understand what to expect from professional recruiters.

    What I've often found is when I'm recommended by a millennial’s friend their response is very open and attentive.

    Best Regards,

  2. As a millennial who has been a long time reader of yours I find this topic really interesting. I have always found your posts really intriguing because I was so unfamiliar with the world of recruiters and had very little insight into how they work.

    I totally agree with Barney, we were raised to really protect ourselves and if "something sounds too good to be true" to be very wary. The idea that someone would help us find a job seems like a dream and therefore there must be a catch. On top of that, so many job listings say "please no recruiters" which from a millennials perspective, translates to "recruiters must be a bad news."

    The idea of using recruiters wasn't even discussed in college which is interesting since the job market is SO bad in some places.

    Add in the fact that some millennials have their parents attend job interviews with them and aren't great at returning calls you have many obstacles to overcome when looking for millennials.

  3. Cassie: Thanks for your excellent and revealing insight. Please go to my website: www.gumbinnercompany.com and go to the links for my ad age articles. The first two of them are about recruiters and how to deal with them. It may be helpful for you and your friends.

    Also, it isn't just recruiters who have this issue. I have heard the same from the HR departments at companies who complain that they cannot get calls returned.

    At least now I know some of the source of these issues. Thanks.


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