Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Recruiting: Why Recruiters May Not Get You A Job

For all time, companies have relied on networking to hire the majority of employees – best guess is 80% of employees have traditionally come through networking.  Someone known to a trusted employee is generally a reliable reference.  But recruiters always played a considerable role – maybe 10-15% or more of jobs, particularly for senior employees.  About a decade ago, companies began incentivizing employees to make referrals to insure an inexpensive flow of talent. And then along came the internet.

However there is a big problem with this kind of recruiting.  I learned years ago that people send their friends - people in the next office, people they see for lunch, friends of friends - without any real knowledge of their skills or abilities or even if they are a good cultural fit.  They just know each other, sometimes not even well.

Effective recruiters learn how to dig into personalities and strengths to take these things into account when sending candidates.

The best recruiters always had a solid relationship with their client agencies and the HR people who were responsible for hiring.  I can remember having a candidate who I thought would be fabulous for one of my agency clients.  When I called the agency, without a specific assignment, the Human Resources person told me he did not have an opening but would be happy to meet my candidate.  After talking to each other for half an hour, the HR person came up with several possible jobs.  Two weeks later my candidate was working there; that was twenty years ago and he is still there.

Not so much any more. In fact, many of my old clients won’t even return my calls because the holding companies have forbidden them to deal with recruiters.  There are several reasons.

First, the holding companies and the financial people decided that recruiter fees were too high so they eliminated placement people from all but the most difficult searches.  I said to one CFO that I could find them better, more suitable people than those they were hiring. He told me that, especially at junior levels, it no longer mattered – “One kid is like another. If they do well, great.  If not, we will just find another.  It doesn’t really matter.”

Then along came LinkedIn and other placement programs.  My experience is that many of these programs provide résumés based on key word searches.  Some, like LinkedIn, require the candidate to provide enough data in their background for the listing to be useful, which is rare; more often than not, people merely list where they have worked, but not what they have worked on or what they have actually accomplished).  Then, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, either keywords or junior HR people take over screening résumés.

The problem is that people have become fungible. And, especially at junior levels, companies have no loyalty.

There is minimal out-of-pocket cost for companies to use LinkedIn Recruiter, Siftly, Monster, Indeed or any of a dozen other programs.  Mostly those costs are just an affordable monthly fee. But companies get what they pay for; I have tried these programs and they don’t provide much value added service and they certainly do not include any reference to personality or passion.  They simply provide a list of candidates, often unqualified.  In fact, with two of the biggest recruiting sites, I spent time on the net sharing with their managers positions which I had open.  In both cases, they were going to show me how to do it "right" so they could sell me their service.  In both cases, we worked together for about an hour. And, guess what? Neither of them developed a viable candidate equal to the specs of the jobs. Their programs were just not finite enough to produce candidates.  In both cases these spokespeople for their companies told me they would get back to me to figure it out why they were unsuccessful.  I never heard back from either because internet recruiting just isn't fully functional.

That is because, as I have said frequently, the key to recruiting is not business worked on (resumes) but rather the ability to do a job – and that requires that the hiring company define the problems that have to be solved or resolved.  And this information simply doesn’t show up on job listings or on people's resumes as they are put on the web.  In fact, most candidates have no idea how to properly program their own backgrounds for maximum effectiveness.  That is the reason why so many hiring managers complain about the quality of the candidates that they are seeing.

The issue is that it all really comes down to money.  Why pay a recruiter who is familiar with your company and its people (and its problems) if you can get a résumé for free?

As they say, penny wise and pound foolish.

This does not mean that you should not see recruiters or accept their calls.  What it means is that you have to know the limitations imposed on them in this climate.  


  1. I couldn't agree more Paul.
    The key for recruiters like us is to continue to add value, to provide the service that clients cannot get from the internet. If we do that, then hopefully our agency clients will work with us in the way they would like to work with their clients, as partners.

  2. Hey Paul, great posts. I'm doing a PhD in advertising and had some questions about the advertising industry in the UK. Couldn't find a personal email address to reach you. If you could share a private email where I could send some questions that'd be immensely helpful.
    Thanks in anticipation.

  3. Wise thoughts as always. Never expect anything less.


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