Recruiter Chronicles: Five Years, Five Mistakes — Part 5

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Sep 8, 2011

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of my career in recruiting which recently passed, I have shared with you over the past several weeks the five biggest learning lessons I’ve experienced thus far during my time at the Aureus Group. Last week, I shared the story of how I forgot about the relationships that really matter, and how that cost me countless placements. This week, I bring you….

#1 – Story of Losing Faith in an Old Customer

It never fails. Every single time I talk to a prospective member of our esteemed recruitment team here at Aureus Group, I am asked the same question.

“What does it take to be successful at recruiting?”

I have fumbled, mumbled, rambled, and stuttered senseless responses to that questions dozens of times. Andrew, my current recruiting partner and teammate, makes good fun of me because when he asked me this question during his interview, I actually told him, “I have no idea.”

Sorry Andrew, let’s just assume I was having a bad day. After all, when have I ever not had an opinion about anything?

Bottom line, it’s a tough question for me to answer, as you could reach for dozens of legitimate answers that make sense and can be proved true on some level. That being said, there is one possession that I now believe to be of greater value than any other; and It was my lack of this that led to my biggest mistake in five years as a recruiter. It is the virtue of persistence.

We’ve all seen one of those semi-lame motivational posters. You know, there’s the one with the J.R.R. Tolkien quote and the footprints in the sand. Persistence…..”Little by little, one travels far.” Leave it to the creator of “Middle-Earth” to dispense profound wisdom for our usage. He is right though. Persistence=very good.

In our business one must be judicious as to not let persistence become stalking, but there is no real way to teach the difference. If you don’t know it, you are probably a stalker. We all must toe that line in order to be remembered.  If the juice is worth the squeeze, eventually the chase will be rewarded.

This all seems obvious enough though. When has “not giving up” ever failed anyone? Criminals, and miscreants aside, likely nobody. Which is why I always cringe in rehashing my “not so great” moment in giving up on an old key account.

Late in my second year of recruiting I came to a crossroads, though I didn’t really know it at the time, with a former client of ours. I had been calling on this business since I started and had literally nothing to show for it but some good phone time. With a unified front, this organization had denied all my advances to penetrate their defenses. Calling on no less than a dozen hiring managers for nearly two years had amounted to nothing. Nada. Nil. Resigned to defeat I gradually stopped calling entirely.

Several months later, a call came in from the HR Manager of this former client. They needed a payroll manager. Finally! At last, my hard work is going to be rewarded! This former client was now going to be a current client once again! The only problem was that the call was not for me. It was for my teammate. The one that had been calling on this client before me. You see, once I stopped calling this particular hiring manager I was easily forgotten. Meanwhile, my teammate smartly picked up the ball that I had dropped and kept the relationship warm.

The client gave my teammate an order for a payroll manager and we successfully placed not one, but two payroll managers. I watched idly by as this happened, burning inside that I had not stuck with this client. I even had some displaced anger toward my teammate that really had no merit at all. It was not her fault that she did her job and I didn’t. This all occurred at a time when I was teetering on the edge of success and failure in this business, and this was a move in the wrong direction for me.

This situation resulted in plenty of internal thought about whether or not I had what it took to be successful in this business. Gradually, I began to own my mistake a bit more, at least to the point where I realized that I controlled what happened to me. Simply put, I lost faith that the calls I was making were moving the needle towards something positive.

Later that same year, my teammate went on to make two more, higher level placements at this company. We had billed them almost $100k and I was not a part of that at all. Perhaps I was never meant to get those placements and my teammate was. Perhaps this client simply worked better with her and I was not going to convert with these hiring managers anyway. Any of those possible realities are tough pills to swallow, but what hurts the most is that I will never really know. I didn’t stick around long enough with them to find out.

As much as I was happy for my teammate to convert on the placements, I was upset that it was not me. My competitive nature would not allow any other emotion to prevail.

On the outside, I know I have certainly made mistakes that have had larger and more negative ripple effects. After all, my team made the placements in this case. I was the only person affected negatively. I value teamwork and a “sum of all parts” ideology very much, but you must convert on your own opportunities to be successful in this business. I preach to the newbies in our office that “controlling the controllables” is paramount. Have a plan, put forth good effort, have strong ethics, have good follow-through, and you are likely to be good at this. Add in some natural ability to create real rapport and you can be great. Within that is the virtue of persistence. The road in recruiting is not paved in gold, and even within the most successful times we are bound to encounter great challenges to our faith and resolve to get the job done right. The only way through that is by pressing on.

As a matter of poetic justice, this client is now under my supervision once again, and we have not billed them since I took over. One thing I know for certain is that I will keep calling this time around. Additionally, I have an answer locked and loaded for every time I get the question of, “What does it take to be successful at recruiting?”

In summary, here are lessons I learned from mistake #1:

  • Persistence in combination with solid ethics is the greatest determinant to success in our business, and maybe any other as well
  • Never stop calling on past clients unless they go out of business. Even if you are not getting job orders, those relationships will matter at some point for you.
  • Finally, know the difference between persistence and stalking. But if you must, err on the side of stalking. Just not the creepy kind.

Here is a recap of this very humbling Top 5:

#5 – Story of the “One Year Search”

#4 – Story of the Email that Got Me Fired

#3 – Story of the Botched Salary Negotiation

#2 – Story of Forgetting about the Relationships that Really Matter

#1 – Story of Losing Faith in an Old Customer

This list is bound to look different a year from now as I will continue to forge boldly ahead into new missteps. I pray my mistakes continue to be vastly outnumbered by proper execution of my job. I hope that this mini-series has helped you to avoid some pitfalls in our profession that are all too common.

The Recruiter Chronicles will return shortly with perspectives from two “Million Dollar Producers” that you will not want to miss.  Stay tuned…

image source: Zach Klein

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