Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The More Recruiters Know, The Better They Can Perform

There is an us against them mentality in all business.  Ad agencies feel that way about clients.  Clients feel that way their suppliers; and candidates as well as hiring companies feel that way about their recruiters. 

I am not sure why this is, but it is.  Most candidates tell me they have never gotten a job through a recruiter.  This is absolutely true and always has been.  Even in the best of times, recruiters only accounted for 20% of job placements.  Today, with the internet, I am guessing that is down to about 15%.  But because of the lack of experience with headhunters, there is a commensurate ignorance of how to deal with us.  Same thing happens with corporate HR.

Corporations have hired their own in-recruiters to save money.  They reluctantly turn to outside recruiters when those internal recruiters strike out. Many actually don't know how to deal with us either

This doesn't mean that either companies or candidates should inadvertently actually work against their recruiters, but this often happens..

As a result, clients,  instead of partnering, keep us at arm’s length.  HR people and hiring managers think it is appropriate not to give us feedback or accurate status during the interviewing process – most won’t tell us whether a candidate is doing well or poorly, for that matter.  They think that that knowledge will somehow effect the outcome or, perhaps, my (our) attitude.  And the truth is, it will: if we know what the issues are we can often use that knowledge to find a more appropriate candidate, but that requires that we get accurate feedback.  And if we know a candidate is liked, we can begin to "pre-close" long before the process is over.

The better recruiters can partner and work with candidates and clients, the better we can perform for them both. 

Over the years, I have had many clients who truly partner with my firm.  They tell us their internal politics, they share the issues that affect hiring.  They tell us up front when there are internal candidates.  They tell us at the beginning that there are people they have already met and why they have reached out to us; if the candidates they have already seen have issues or there are questions about them, they tell us so we can recruit accordingly.  There are no surprises.

Those clients who trust us and partner with us get the best candidates, not because we choose to send others less good people, but because the more we know the better we can perform.  

We have the same issues with candidates.  They don’t share and partner enough with us.  All too often candidates leave us in a lurch by not confiding that they are close to obtaining another job or that they have issues with the company we have sent them to.  Many times those issues can be resolved – if we know what they are.  But without us knowing, we cannot help or address their problems. And, sometimes, candidates tell us how excited they are about an opportunity and in the middle of interviewing they take another job, which they never told us about. This leaves us blind-sided and is unfair to us and the company.  It happens all the time.

I had a candidate who received a job offer but only after she received it did he tell me what his issue was. The issue had nothing to do with the job, which he liked, but had to do with the type of company it was.  If I had known, I might have either withdrawn him or had the company address the issues early in the interviewing process.  I was made to feel almost like an outsider rather than a partner.
I recently had another candidate interviewing for a “C” level job – an EVP of an ad agency.  While he did tell me that he was talking to other companies, he never told me that all those jobs were for far more money and for a bigger title.  The job he eventually took was as a President.  All the while, he let both my client and I think that he was interested in the EVP job, even though he was not going to take it.  It was unfair to us both.

Like most good recruiters, the challenge for me is to become an extension of my client’s company while at the same time partnering with my candidates.  A good recruiter works for his or her clients – they are who pays the recruiter.  But a headhunter must do a good job for his candidates or neither the applicant nor the company will be happy.

I know that there are many poor recruiters out there – they are defined by their inability to send the right people to the right jobs; their sole interest is making a placement, no matter what the cost to either candidates or clients.  Those recruiters should be avoided by both companies and job seekers.  Although, in a high volume business like advertising, unscrupulous recruiters are allowed to flourish by companies with low standards that only want to fill jobs at any cost.  Candidates, especially those out of work, feel the same way: they just want to be sent out, whether the opportunity is right for them or not.

A good recruiter can partner with a candidate for many years.  Ditto the company.  Partnering is for the long run.


  1. I suspect a large part of the problem is that it's never been clear whom the recruiter is really working for. Real estate agents have a similar problem - but they've "solved" it by pretending they're working for the buyers, even though the reality is that they're sellers' agents.

    Recruiters, on the other hand, have never clarified their relationship with either party. Even the word, "headhunter," evokes imagery of independent tribesmen prowling the forest in search of prey. (And, certainly, the movie "Headhunters" hasn't helped your profession any.) I can think of only a rare few who have broken through this confusion and developed a reputation - good or bad - for serving both sides of the equation. Rita Sue Siegel and Judy Wald (OMG am I dating myself?) come to mind.

    1. Your analogy about real estate agents is fair. As stated above, I work for the clients who pay me but I must do a good job for my candidates. And a good recruiter never recruits candidates they have placed out of the company where they placed them. Many creative recruiters, especially, earned a reputation for doing that; they merely drove up the price of creative talent and in the long run did not earn the respect of their candidates.

  2. Weird! I was totally surprised by your article this time. I have only worked with a very few recruiters - 3 in total - and felt it was a privilege to be given the money from headquarters to afford them. The time and frustration that was saved, the high quality of candidates, as well as having an expert with whom to think things over were priceless. I thought everyone felt that way. I still don't really understand why they wouldn't...

    1. Thanks, Rachel. I totally agree. One of the great surprises when I started recruiting one of the antipathy between us and many of our clients. It also exists with some candidates. A good friend of mine wants ask me how many hundreds of Christmas cards I got every year? When I told him very few, he couldn't believe that people would take us for granted. But that is the way it is. I appreciate your support.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License