Recruiter Retention

Apr 1, 2008

In the past year Next Level Recruiting Training did workshops in the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Belgium, Spain and the good ole USA. While the languages, customs and scenery were different; every organization, from the 30 to 3 person firm, was struggling with retaining successful recruiters. How do we become an employer of choice? How do we win our own war for talent? How do we create a “best place to work” environment? I believe that there are no secret sauces or silver bullets for retention success. I also believe that there are best practices, programs, policies and philosophies that strengthen an organization’s ability to create a strong enough value proposition keep successful recruiters versus them joining another firm or starting one themselves.

Instead of spending too much time on esoteric issues like vision and values, I would like to share ten practices that can be immediately implemented to address this area. Remember, what makes a painting a masterpiece is not any one brush stroke but rather many different and complementary ones. The retention “canvass” is never a complete work of art and needs continuous attention. Here are a few strokes that just might make a difference:

1. Corporate Surveys – Whether you have one associate or 100, a survey can provide you with great insight. Ask questions related to every dimension of your business/team and get feedback. Technology, training, tools, culture, leadership, operations, marketing/branding, hiring, compensation, etc. are all facets of a firm that can be improved. By giving people a chance to weigh in, you get an opportunity to see potential problems and solutions. Too many people won’t ask questions because they subscribe to the Ostrich Theory of “If I do not ask then I won’t have to consider fixing anything.” Remember, recruiters are trained to explore what people don’t like about their companies, leaders, etc. so to think that recruiters do not do this to themselves or each other is, in and of itself, the ostrich theory. Oh, and by the way, ostriches burying their heads in the sand is a myth!

2. “If I were a CEO” sessions – Dedicate a morning meeting, lunch, etc. with your team, company, division, etc. and ask what changes they would make if they were CEO. The answers to this question will give great insight into what they think needs to be changed, as well as what opportunities they think are being missed. It is important to listen to their feedback without judgment and share your opinion at a later date.

3. Retention interviews – Conduct a meeting, once per year, with each team member and ask why they like being there and what may cause them to leave. This is a tough question but it is imperative to uncovering someone’s unhappiness before it is too late.

4. Buddy program – Establish a program where every hire has someone else that is their accountability partner. Each partner shares with each other what they can count on from one another and what they need from the other person. If one of the people is off track or feeling disconnected, the buddy can step in to help course-correct or get those involved who can.

5. Retreats, celebrations, trips – While this may sound obvious, not enough can be said about the importance of togetherness and camaraderie. Contests not only motivate a change in behavior but can also simply be a way of saying “thank you” for the contributions and creating deeper bonds. It does not matter if it is pizza and bowling or a trip to Europe, the key is to create opportunities for togetherness with your team members and their families.

6. Career path – What career path is available at your firm? If a person bills $200k one year by getting job orders, finding candidates and making quality matches that results in placements, then what opportunities for advancement will they have the next year? If the answer is to work harder and get better to bill $300k then what’s next – bill $400k or $500k? Then what? The act of not creating a true career path is the equivalent of saying in order to advance you’ll have to join another firm or start your own. This may require significant changes but as Einstein said, “We cannot solve the significant problems we face at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

7. Wellness program – Start a wellness program because healthy people are happier and more productive. CPR and first aid courses, blood drives, 5k runs, fitness assessments, dietician presentations, screenings, etc. all encourage health and wellness. They demonstrate caring about the whole of the person and not just their production. Plus they just may save or extend a person’s life in the process!

8. Corporate charity – Adopt a local charity. Have a casino night, golf tournament, bake sale or maybe even a “jean day” each week (if you don’t already have one every day!) that requires a small donation. By getting people involved in a common cause you can not only give back to the community but also create or enhance a sense of community within your office or team.

9. Common vision – Create a vision that is a compelling description of a future desired state (an imagined future). It should be tangible and realistic. It should be based on a sense of meaning. Meaning drives people’s thinking, decisions, behaviors and, ultimately, impacts bottom line results. Satisfaction comes from meeting values, not achieving goals. Only goals that reflect deeply held values are fulfilling. By the group co-creating a vision that reflects these deeply held values, you ensure a sense of purpose and meaning. When the team is aligned in their attitudes, priorities and shared values, they become self-policing. Plus, as alignment increases, turnover decreases.

10. Equity – This is the one that makes many owners nauseous or uncomfortable at the least. The argument usually goes something like, “I started this and took all the risk and now I am supposed to give this producer some of my business just because he/she bills a lot? I won’t be pressured!” This is usually followed by a resignation letter. The firm’s revenues drop by 20% as the person leaves which, of course, means a larger proportionate drop in profit as fixed expenses remain the same. This in turn means that the value of the firm drops by greater than 20%. The owner now owns 100% of an amount that is 70% of what is was. If the owner figured out a way for that producer to own, let’s say, 15%, the owner would have greater value in his/her 85% and would have provided a vehicle to prevent this in the future. Can you imagine telling a doctor, lawyer, management consultant or CPA, in any privately or even publicly held partnership, that no matter how successful they are they will never be a partner and own any of the firm? There are programs out there called phantom stock programs. defines them as “an appearance or illusion without material substance, as a dream image, mirage, or optical illusion.” So why not the illusion stock plan? How about a phantom placement? These plans are simply a way of paying more commission when the firm performs. Great! So call it a profit or revenue sharing plan and offer those too!

Again, there are no magic potions or quick fixes. Some changes can be easily implemented and others will require great study and careful design and implementation. The key question for anyone reading this is, “what do you want to create?” If you are a leader, owner, producer or some combination thereof then the responsibility is YOURS! YOU are the sole and uncontested author of your life and YOU decide what happens next. You are writing a chapter as you read this and what you chose to do when you turn the page is up to you. Building a search practice is hard and building a search firm is even harder. If it wasn’t, recruiters would not get paid what we do. Study, select, implement, review, reflect and, of course, correct. Do this over and over again in every facet of your practice and your firm every day and don’t ever expect to get it all right! If you want to spend a couple of intense days of study on your business then check out our May event at We also look forward to seeing you at the Fordyce Forum in June!

This month’s tip from the trenches comes from Dave Schermer. Dave joined Kaye/Bassman 10 years ago this month and has helped build one of the most successful teams billing in excess of $1.6M in 2007! He was recently named a Managing Director in the firm. He has established great long-term client relationships that value the role he and his team play in the placement process. In my opinion, the most important call in the placement process is the client prep call yet it is usually the most frequently overlooked call. It is usually not because of forgetfulness but because of the inability to actually have the call with the client. The greatest way to end that problem is to ensure that you create true value in the call. The greatest way to do that is to read, study and apply what Dave shares below!

Client Interview Prep

Presentation of Candidate

– Send the candidate’s updated resume, project list and Candidate Profile.
– Review the candidate’s motivation for change – Professional, Personal and Financial
– Present candidate’s timetable and suggest interview dates/times.

Follow-up call w/ Hiring Manager

– Contact Hiring Manager within 24 hours of presenting candidate.

Information Exchange

– Give an overview of the candidate’s background, motivations, Hot Buttons and why you believe they should move forward with the candidate.
– Why is the candidate interested in this opportunity – Company, position, location, etc?
– Discuss candidate’s personal information such as family issues, relocation issues, etc.
– Give the Hiring Manager an overview of the candidate’s compensation.
– Discuss the candidate’s alternatives – other opportunities, counter-offers.
– Potential concerns.
– Candidate’s timetable.

Interview information – Client

– Who will the candidate interview with? Their background, title and styles to be aware of.
– Are there specific questions that will be asked? Describe the flow of the interview?
– Are there any tests or paperwork that the candidate needs to complete?
– How long do you anticipate the interview to be?
– What is the appropriate dress attire? Any specific directions?

Re-confirm Hiring Process

– Timeframe for decisions and who makes them. Stress the urgency for prompt feedback.
– What should be conveyed to the candidate in terms of when a decision and/or offer will be made?


– Candidate’s motivations, hot buttons, interests and experience.
– Compensation – state where the candidate is, their expectations and get feedback from Hiring Manager.
– Benefits/other – vacation, profit sharing, 401K, etc. Again, discuss where the candidate is, their expectations and get feedback for Hiring Manager.
– Availability – start date. Client and candidate desires/expectations.
– Set-up time for client feedback.


– You must balance the interview by creating a compelling overview of the Company, Position and Career opportunity, while interviewing/ qualifying the candidate, thus creating enough interest that the candidate will want to leave their current employer and/or choose your firm over the competitors.
– Don’t make promises to the candidate that you can or won’t follow-up with.

Interview Confirmation

– Send the Hiring Manager(s) confirmation of the candidate’s interview date, time and location. Include the candidate’s resume, projects and Profile.

Jeff Kaye is President and CEO of Kaye/Bassman International and Next Level Recruiting Training. This former Management Recruiter National Recruiter of the year has helped build the largest single site search firm in the country with annual search revenue in excess of $18M. His firm has won national awards for philanthropy and workplace flexibility as well as having been named the best company to work for in the state of Texas in 2006, 2007, and for a third time in 2008! Kaye/Bassman has retained over 30 search professionals whose annual production exceeds $400k. The same training that helped build this successful firm is now available through Next Level Recruiting Training. They are making a series of DVDs for training. The first series was on the candidate side, and the four hours were dedicated to recruiting. The new series, on the client side, is dedicated to marketing, effective search assignments, and fee clearing. It is over seven hours in length. To learn how to take your practice and business to the NEXT LEVEL, please visit to view their product and service offerings. You can also email Jeff a thought or question at

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