From Good to Great

Sep 1, 2007

What’s keeping you from your greatness in recruiting? It could be your originality.

Recruiters often ask me, “How do I break through my billings from $_____ per year to $_____ per year? What’s the key?” The question is a variation on Jim Collins’ great book, Good to Great. “How do I go from good to great in the recruiting business? I’m already doing well,” they say. “But what do I need to do to become great?”

I remember when I first started my company, Joseph Michaels, Inc., we hired Bob Marshall, one of the great trainers in our business, and I asked him that same question with regard to my recruiters. He said to me something I’ll never forget. He said, “The problem with hiring recruiters is that in order to make it in our business, they have to be two things. Very smart and very creative. So, Joe, we hire very intelligent, very creative people and then we ask them to not think – for about six months.”

You’re laughing now because you know it’s true! Think about all the dumb things you did in your first six months in the recruiting business. I’m laughing now myself, thinking about my own major-league blunders, and let me tell you, they were aplenty. I remember one time calling in a bunch of my high school dropout friends for some of the jobs for which we were recruiting. Boy, as I look back on it, 21 years ago, thinking that they might actually get hired for some of those positions, it was like thinking that they could flap their arms and fly around our office. As if they weren’t high already!

So anyway . . .

We hire these smart, creative people and we try to teach them the business, but because they are smart and creative, they keep thinking up new ways to do the business.

The great ones stick with what works. They add in new things periodically and they are always learning new techniques, but for the most part, they stick with what works. I have a great script I use for recruiting. It works a HUGE percentage of the time. So I use it EVERY TIME. One of the things that befuddles me is that so many recruiters are smart and creative to a fault. As soon as they find something that really works great, they reinvent it!

Watch Tiger Woods address a ball – notice that he does the same thing every single time. Watch a pro basketball player shoot a free throw – same thing, every time. Watch a great recruiter call a new recruit; he does the same thing every time. Watch a good recruiter – he’s really smart and really creative, so he’s always changing his approach rather than perfecting his script. Don’t get me wrong; Tiger takes time to work on his game – he’s devoted to self-improvement – but he works with what works.

Like a lot of great ball players, I’m superstitious. When I have a good client visit, I wear the same suit to the next client visit. If I win again, guess what, same suit next time. I’ll wear the same suit to every meeting as long as I’m winning. Then I start a new streak. I have number of quarter-million-dollar suits.

Oh, come on, Joe. Next thing you know, you’ll tell me that if I have a good day eating a certain breakfast, I should eat the same breakfast every day. Why not?

Listen, creativity is very important in recruiting, but sometimes you gotta go with what you know works! Sit next to someone in your office who’s billing like they are starting a new bank next month. Write down some of the key phrases they say. Now, don’t use the script your way, yet. Try it their way first. And, if it works, use their script, assuming that’s OK with them. But, you say, “Oh, Joe, I want to be original.” Or “Oh, I want to do it my own way.” What would you rather be, original-broke or copycat rich? You don’t have to do everything your way. Listen, I’ve been original-broke and I can tell you from experience it’s better to be copycat rich! People who say that money isn’t important to them will probably lie about other things as well. Rita Davenport said, “Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen.” I used to be so broke I could walk by a bank and the alarm might go off! But the reason I’m successful now in the recruiting business is that God gave me the gift of humility when I started out. How could I be anything but humble after making about six weeks’ income in my first six months on the job?

I set my ego aside. I used other people’s scripts and ideas, and I found a few good mentors. I studied what the great recruiters were doing and what they were saying and I copied it, the same way they did it. I studied every great recruiter I could find. I bought every book, video, and audiotape ever produced on recruiting, and when I found a script I liked I used it. Jim Rohn says, “You don’t have to be original; you just have to be good.”

So I hope you’ll take this the right way. What’s keeping you from your greatness in recruiting? It could be your originality. Think about it. More next issue . . .

Joe Pelayo is a true self-made man. He began in the recruiting business in 1986 at the ripe old age of 17, when he says he “found every way to fail in the recruiting business.” After finally finding success with two recruiting firms, he started his own in 1990. As CEO of Joseph Michaels, Inc., Joe works an active desk recruiting CFOs and related financial and accounting executives. He is a longtime member of the Pinnacle Society, an organization consisting of 75 of the top recruiters in the United States.

Joe is also author of the new book “Work Your Network!” which has received excellent reviews from Les Brown, Brian Tracy, and industry leaders, speakers, and trainers, including Terry Petra, Bill Radin, Paul Hawkinson, and others. He writes a monthly newsletter, “The Network,” sent to 50,000 recruiters and executives, and is the author of several motivational DVD training programs, including the soon-to-be-released training system 21 Ways to Increase Your Billings!

Joe is past resident of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, a group of million-dollar-business owners under age 40. Joe is available for speaking and training recruiters worldwide, and can be reached through email at His website is