PSL= Preferred Supplier List or Professional Suicide Likely

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Aug 24, 2015
This article is part of a series about Jeff's On Call.

ask-jeff4Hi Jeff,

Here’s a situation:

I left a voicemail detailing a MPC I was marketing to one of the heads of service of the Big 4 consulting firms. Within 15 minutes, he called me straight back saying he was interested in my candidate and would like to arrange an interview. This was fantastic news and a great starter for getting in with the big boys. However, the killer blow was when he said this:  “email me and I’ll connect you with my internal recruiters who will get you on the PSL.”

Firstly, being on the PSL means ‘yes’ I can do business with them, but I’m in with the rest of the pack on a contingency basis. Secondly, after speaking with the internal recruitment team, it turns out that they have outsourced all roles up to senior manager level to a large recruitment firm, therefore I would have to work through them.

I can live with the 25% fee as the average salary will be £85K-£110K but if this goes the way things often do when dealing with 3rd party suppliers then 25% of nothing is nothing!

My question is: How can I create the value to deal with them direct or if I must or if I chose to give it a go with the 3rd party, how do I set myself up so that I’m not wasting my time.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Warm regards


PS – I love reading your articles as they’ve really helped me during my first 5 years in the business. Prior to setting up on my own in 2010,  I’d never even done recruitment before so reading your news letter/advice articles has been a real help.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Scott Sherriden
Red Shrine International

 Jeff Says: Place somewhere Legitimate

Hi Scott,

Delighted to assist!

Before we get started, Fordycers need to know that PSL supposedly means “Preferred Supplier List.”

However, amongst corporate purchasing agents, it stands for “pay suckers less.” This is your sitch, except that you’re already figuring out that PSL should mean “please stop listening.”

The two obvious reasons are:

1. You are competing with the prepaid gatekeeper (other recruiter) for placements.

No prepaid “recruiter” – employee or independent contractor (looks like both here) — is going to let you get the credit for a placement he should be making. In fact, the motivation is to either claim the referral as his or sabotage the one that’s not.

I was an HR manager for almost a decade, and watched this nonsense occur in every form. You watch it too, only from afar.

2. You are playing “resume roulette.”

In Casinospeak, PSL means “player success low.”

The players (definitely not placers) who are lured into to this cyberspace casino aren’t even really recruiters. They’re passive, roll-the-dice resume roulette gamblers. Volume telemarketers motivated to indiscriminately forward resumes to people misnamed “recruiters.”

I’ll get into this in a few, but first:

  1. Click here
  2. Click the Placement Fee Collection Quiz button at the bottom.
  3. Take the PFCQ.
  4. Click the Placement Law Language Quiz button on the bottom row.
  5. Take the PLLQ.
  6. Click the Answers to Placement Law Quizzes button at the end of the bottom row.
  7. Grade yourself on the PFCQ and PLLQ.
  8. Return here.

The PSL model minimizes the fee – the consideration – the value — of the placer and the placement.

There’s a reason the process is called “making a placement.” This causes those who’ve never done it to think it’s “easy.” But if you’ve done it and take the bait of PSL “certification,” you deserve the angst. You’re a certified “partially sane lunatic.”


You must:

  1. Agree to the employer’s low fee ceiling.
  2. Agree to some goofy guarantee.
  3. Take the “job order” literally, as though it’s seriously real.
  4. Call around or surf the net to find anyone who can do that “ordered” job.
  5. Sell the candidate on the job.
  6. Get the candidate’s background and contact information, and
  7. Email it to the prepaid competitor-recruiter, nibbling at that lowest possible fee with the goofiest possible guarantee.

Just pick up the phone or click the icon. Just go through the motions. Smile and dial enough times and placements happen.

Only not in any job jungle you’ve ever inhabited.

So PSL can ultimately mean “professional suicide likely.”

My take on “making a placement?” More valuable than most administrative “recruiters” can ever understand. In fact, you really have to work a desk to comprehend why a well-sourced, cold-call recruit (like your MPC, Scott) is so valuable to a competitor. (Oh, sorry rookies. MPC means “most placeable candidate.”)

There’s nothing more difficult, yet more valuable to any business than what a real recruiter does. If I wasn’t a new grad who had no idea what an “executive recruiter” was, and the only jobs around required experience I didn’t have, I’d never have survived long enough to figure it out.

Rough, though. Solitary confinement, pushing up against pessimism, negativism, ostracism. And every form of egotism.

That’s why I got into something easy.

Why would you throw away a golden-nugget MPC like that?

The PSL model starts with a fallacy, so no wonder it stands for “pretty silly looking.” It assumes that a “job” is a definable, tangible “thing.” Yet we know employers haven’t got a clue about who they want – let alone need. How can an army of talking-point tellersellers “fill” some “opening” that doesn’t exist?

Am I wrong here, skullseekers? Did the last warmblood you placed resemble the “job order”? At all? Isn’t it likely that the recruiter’s “order” is really a wish list that has probably changed several times since it was posted?

I’m not blaming prepaid “recruiters” for this. Doing so would be like blaming real recruiters for employee turnover.

To be on the PSL, the employer sets the rate you will receive, the terms you must meet, and then the employer subjectively defines whether you have performed. Do you sell well when you feel like you’re selling out? Can you really identify with the wonder of that employer as you Gatorade up for the close?

Of course, we’re really not concerned about the viability of the PSL model to employers. We’re concerned about the viability of your business model to you. The P stands for “preferred” not because you’re the best. The P stands for “preferred” because they “prefer” that you think there’s an L (“list”). You qualify by agreeing to S (“supply”).

Short-sighted employer Einsteins like this never have the privilege of working with search superstars. In exchange for telling all comers what to charge, they take longer to hire, get a less qualified candidate, make less profit, and get to do it again because their new hire doesn’t last. Duh.

Scott – Go place that MPC where you and he are appreciated.

In fact, this JOC can be summed up by one final PSL: “Place somewhere legitimate!”

Best for continued success,


This article is part of a series about Jeff's On Call.
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