Anatomy of a Failed Recruiter

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May 16, 2011

Other than writing pithy blog posts and tweeting, a big part of what I do to pay the rent is consult. Over the years I’ve become a lot better at it and have, through trial an error, gathered a few nuggets of wisdom that have helped me become not quite as awful at my job. The following is part of my Living in the 21st Century series, this time dedicated to shedding a little light on how consultants can fail. At one time or another I’ve done (or seen) most of these things, which is why it gives me such great joy to shine a spotlight on them.

A recruiting colleague recently suggested that many of the following items apply directly to recruiters as well as consultants, specifically in the area of business development, and that I should adapt this list as a cautionary note for recruiters, and particularly for the business owners who manage them.

So without further ado, you know you have a bad recruiter when:

  1. He absolutely, positively cannot say no to a client request, especially the most mind-numbingly outrageous ones.
  2. He believes that pleasing the client is far more important than doing whatever it is that client hired him for.
  3. He is convinced that contingent work is a volume business, so he competes on price to the exclusion of everything else.
  4. He thinks that working very, very hard for insane hours is roughly equivalent to doing a good job.
  5. He is willing to sell any service that the client is willing to buy, even if everything he knows about that service was derived from a blog post he read one time.
  6. He doesn’t understand that many of his client’s problems are as much about internal politics as they are about business process.
  7. He doesn’t really understand his clients much at all.
  8. He generates piles and piles of dense documentation in an effort to appear to be working.
  9. He makes certain that these documents are utterly incomprehensible and unlikely to be read by anyone past the executive summary.
  10. He’s kind of unwilling to charge what he’s worth.
  11. He’s mostly unwilling to set boundaries.
  12. He’s totally unwilling to make certain that these boundaries align with what he’s charging, and thus spends most of his time feeling burnt out and abused.
  13. He’ll never critically analyze why he feels this way, and will instead blame his clients.
  14. He thinks it’s a badge of honor that he has never taken a vacation.
  15. He thinks that all the perspective he needs can be found in his feed reader.
  16. He’s convinced that you can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without the slightest drop in efficiency.
  17. He feels that if the facts are on his side he shouldn’t need to be able to communicate them, that it’s not his fault if the client is blind to the “truth.”
  18. He doesn’t understand that clients are human beings with fears and hopes and biases that are often completely external to business and always color what they do.
  19. When he absolutely must communicate he laces his speech with so much jargon that most people wish he’d just kept sending those reports.
  20. He walks into every meeting convinced that knows the right answer, and spends most of the rest of his time wondering when it will be his turn to speak.
  21. When his mouth opens his ears close.
  22. His mouth opens far too often.
  23. His conversations can be described by the following proportion: 45% jargon, 35% ego-stroking, 10% lies and 10% marginally useful trivia.
  24. He treats his clients like they were very little more than signatures on the bottom of his paycheck.
  25. He ignores any and all evidence that a solution he provided might be incorrect.
  26. He considers anyone who changes his mind to be an utter failure.
  27. Almost as big a failure as anyone who says, “I don’t know.”
  28. He is deeply and philosophically opposed to failure.
  29. He makes a habit of undermining every other member of staff for no reason greater than the fact that he can.
  30. All of his best ideas are marked most notably by the fact that they are utterly impossible to implement.
  31. He doesn’t believe that budget and manpower should be a concern, unless it’s his budget and his manpower.
  32. He gets unnecessarily defensive when anyone questions one of his ideas.
  33. He gets downright hostile when anyone points out one of his faults.

As a result of all this, he thinks I’m a big, fat jerk for writing this and considers everything in it to be a mindless assault directly on him.

image source: Hans Gerwitz

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