Recruiter Chronicles: Five years, Five Lessons — Part 2

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Aug 2, 2011

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of my career in recruiting which recently passed, I am sharing with you over the coming weeks the five biggest learning lessons I’ve experienced thus far during my time at the Aureus Group. Last week, I discussed a search that took me through a full year of heartache and toil before I tossed in the towel (and by the way, the ‘client’ is still working to fill that vacancy!).

This week, I bring you…

#4: The story of the email that got me fired

I have often said that when you hit the send button on an email, there should be a pop up message that says “Dude…are you sure you want to send this?” Maybe a few stray bullets fired from my computer in the past would have been spared. Let me be clear in saying that email has forever changed the way business is done, and for the most part, has dramatically improved worldwide productivity capacity. However, the underbelly of the beast is a much uglier side to see. Email, for all its genius, has no care for the message you are intending to send. Email pays no attention to the context you desire to craft and is careless to how it is perceived by the reader. Email, in no small part, is the reason why I was fired earlier this year.

My recruiter Andrew and I were on a search for a high level analyst that started tremendously. We got together with the client for a phenomenal face-to-face meeting with all the key decision makers. We boiled the need down its most critical features, reached a total agreement on our search terms, set parameters for communication, and received exclusivity for our search. Everyone was on the same page and pointed in the right direction. This feeling of positivity proved to be fleeting though, and we started to see if a different side to this search.

Over the next few weeks, we had several extremely impressive candidates turned down without an interview. Among the few that made it through, two were noted to have very poor first interviews and were screened out from there. We made one final candidate referral which we felt was our best yet. Shortly thereafter we received, by email, a reprimand/reminder from the client that we make certain to only submit candidates that had a few very specific characteristics. It was said in this email that if we did not feel we could hold up our end off this bargain, the client needed to move on to another recruiter perhaps.

No worries; things like this happen in searches. We decided to press on and narrow our search further. A week went by, as we screened new possibilities, when I got another email from my client. I was alerted that they had decided to engage another recruiter, and they had three interviews set for that week already. The first part of the email did not surprise me too much. We thought this might be coming soon. The second part however really served notice. My team and I are proud of the work we do, and the way we do it. It was hard to believe another recruiter had three “pocket candidates” that we had not come across already and that the client would want to see. Feeling a bit shocked by this development I starved for information on these candidates.

I replied to the email regarding the new candidates, with a request for more info on these people. Surprisingly, I received an almost immediate reply with very detailed bio’s on these individuals. Reading through each description, I started to become a bit upset. Okay, that’s a lie. I was hot! These candidates did not possess the characteristics we were being demanded to present. My emotions were running really boiling over now, and I felt entitled to an explanation from the client. This emotional surge, and feeling of pride was the genesis of the ill-fated email.

I replied back to my client with an isolation of each candidate description sent to me, and pointed out what parts were not in line with the rules we had been given. At the end of these notes, I closed the email with a simple, and very direct question: What has changed? Now, to me, this seemed like a question worthy of an answer. I actually read the email a couple of times before I sent it and truly felt it was the message I wanted to send.

Then, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Two days went by with no response. Now I was concerned and confused. What was going on? Why was it taking so long to get back? Then, there it was. With bated breath, I clicked to open the email sent from the client. It was a two-paragraph message, but it was the last sentence that pulled hard on my eyes immediately. “We will no longer be accepting referrals from your team.” The rest of the email explained and justified why these other candidates were now being considered, and why they had decided to fire me. It was, as they explained, over a lack of professionalism in the way I communicated with them.

Over the next few days I left a couple voice-mails, and sent an email asking for the opportunity to talk this out, confident that we could overcome. The firing, however, was reconfirmed by another email in which my contact said these attempts were too little too late and I should have communicated by phone or requested a meeting before sending the fateful email. Acceptance of my culpability quickly followed and I realized that I was indeed wrong.

Not in the questions that I asked, but in the way I asked them.

In the final analysis of these events, here is what I learned:

  • Never, ever, send an email that desires the answers to critical questions in your search process. Additionally, don’t send an email for a business purpose that has emotion inside of it. There us just no way to know how your intended recipient is going to interpret these things. Here’s a simple rule to follow: if needing to know the answer makes you sweat a little, pick up the phone first!
  • If your client will not respond to your calls, but does to your emails — send emails to ask for phone meetings. If these requests are rebuffed, it’s time to consider if your are talking to the right person or if your search is still as hot as it once was.
  • When taking the order, set the parameters for preferred communication. This dictates the rules of engagement and allows you the opportunity to explain why you need to talk directly to them at certain junctures. Get their verbal agreement, and move forward. If there is a problem with a request to have phone time with them, then it must be considered that this search is not the urgent priority you need it to be.

The countdown continues next week…

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