The Path to Becoming the Greatest Recruiter In the World

May 11, 2010

Even when other recruiters are dropping like flies, you can easily be one who never goes out of business. Pasquale “Pat” Scopelliti, a writer for The Fordyce Letter and well-known industry consultant, says there is always a need for your service.

Optimistic, perhaps, but it’s this sort of positive thinking that landed him MRI‘s 2009 “Best-in-Class Consultant” award.

We recently chatted with him to learn more about what the MRI award means to him, his background, his views on our industry, his experience coaching recruiters over the years, and more survival strategies.

What did you do prior to becoming a full-time consultant to the recruiting industry?

I have always been an entrepreneur, and my first real experience was building a wholesale book distribution firm selling and merchandising computer books for computer retail operations. After that, I attempted the “employee path” in as close to a real job as I could, by getting a commodity broker’s license and selling Commodity Options over the phone.

That was amazing training, and it has influenced everything I’ve done since. It was also where I got what I call my real sales training. My first years as a consultant were kind of a smorgasbord of small businesses, but always focusing on improving sales performance, as well as improving the life and rewards the owner took from the business. It was actually six years after I started my practice that I sold my first recruiting client, back in 1993.

You were awarded Best-in-Class Consultant by MRI for 2009, and many of the biggest shops in the network attribute their success in large part to the guidance and support you give them. Yet you have never been a recruiter yourself. How do you help recruiters if you have never been one?

It’s funny. Back in 2002 when I was honored with inclusion in the recruiting industry’s top 100 most influential people, they got my profile wrong, assuming I’d sold a recruiting firm before I became a consultant. My ability to coach and consult is my real contribution, not my particular experience, per se.

Allow me to qualify. If I wasn’t a salesman and a businessman myself, I don’t think I’d be able to serve recruiters. In so many ways, the business of my practice and the selling of my services match the recruiting art such that no one has ever been able to challenge the relevance of my teachings.

I have always been able to help any client in any business learn more about their business and how to improve it. By teaching me their business, I help them build a completely new vision. My learning method actually improves the performance of my teacher, who is of course my client. That was true for all the businesses I served prior to finding recruiters, and was also true for all my early recruiting clients.

Interestingly, it took me six years to analyze enough of the recruiting industry itself from enough clients’ various perspectives to begin to feel I had an edge in my understanding of the business from those studies. That was in 1999, and there is a story I could share about exactly how the shift took place.

At that point I began to feel like I could see the industry as a whole, and that I was building an understanding that perhaps no one else quite shared. In the decade that’s followed, I have come to believe I have the best bird’s-eye view. Although it may sound arrogant, I believe that I’m one of the strongest analysts of the recruiting industry today.

Other than winning the Best-in-Class award, what other successes are you most proud of?

Some of my proudest moments are presented by the people I’ve served in their own words at my LinkedIn profile.

But let me tell you about two types of clients. One type of client comes to me, after many years of struggle and frustration, looking for the keys to open the treasure house that never opened up before. Typically, we focus first on his or her desk performance as a recruiter.

Then, with victories in hand, we move over into building leadership. The transformed operations of this kind of client make me smile to even think about.

The second type of client is the big producer who will do great whether they work with me or not. They often have long track records of top performance dating back years before we met. But they come to me because after having won so much, they bump their heads into glass ceilings that they can’t break. The sound of that glass shattering as we explode through previous limits is another thing that makes me excited when I get up in the morning.

How would you characterize your particular style of coaching?

I’m fast. I give each client 100% of my attention. Experiencing that alone is something everyone remembers afterward. It’s pretty rare, you know, 100% attention.

What I’m doing with all that focus is just one thing: I have to find the problem.

Well, at the same time, I have to find the strength. Sometimes you have to fight weakness; sometimes you have to target and release strength, or enhance it. In all cases, there are blocks holding clients back. I find those blocks and we overcome them. So, intense, focused conversation, white hot, really, is a very big part of the deal.

What makes it so effective?

Perhaps some context in the form of a model will help. I use three steps to might – “might” meaning your ability to explode your performance.

The three steps are simply “intellect, emotion, and decision,” but I think of these as “head, heart, and soul.”

When your head, heart, and soul are united in what you do, you’re unstoppably mighty. Let me say that one other way. Each person really does know the truth. They know who they are, and they know what they need to do, too.

But there are always things that make them miss. So our job is to find the intellectual and emotional truth that informs the best decisions and actions. My style is to zero in on those truths with a type of almost blinding speed.

The truth then guides everything else.

But maybe you’d like some pragmatics. Well, there is always something, just one thing, a truly pragmatic area of performance where immediate improvement will win improvement everywhere. We immediately search to find that area, and then we set daily targets for progress which we either win or lose. This can be executed, literally, from one day to the next. That rapid flow from discussion into action is the key to our pragmatic work.

You’ve been coaching recruiters for over 16 years. What advice would you give to someone just getting started or who is struggling in the current economy?

I have a series I am working on right now, Revolutionary Fundamentals of Recruiting. The first revolutionary bit of counsel I emphasize is recruiting in the morning, marketing in the afternoon.

This is contrary to common practice and the reason is quite compelling. It is the stories of great-performing candidates that best gets the attention of your hiring manager prospects. This requires that you pick a clear market niche to focus on, so I’d better give some quick counsel there.

The most important thing is that you be actually interested by the field of work of those you’ll place. You’re going to become the top expert in this field, and fast. But if it bores you, then that will slow or prevent your learning. Find something you’re actually truly interested in.

Are there any specific markets you recommend?

Don’t worry about the market, or market conditions. I know, that may make little sense, but it is correct. Only focus on what you’re actually interested in. Then, with that commitment in place, spend your mornings finding the best-performing, most interesting candidates you can, and make sure you build real, honest, heart-to-heart conversation.

To do that, you have to have your candidate’s best interest at the top of your concerns list. Then, in the afternoons, you’ll be presenting those stories to the executives who urgently require those very abilities. Last thing, in the afternoons, when you’re marketing, you tell stories to get attention.

But your first sales purpose is actually to shut up. That’s right. You speak only until you’re interrupted, and then your goal is to encourage your prospects to talk at least twice as much as you do.

So, by whatever means possible, you must connect, really connect with candidates and hiring managers?

Yes, any time you’re not doing that, you should be wondering whether you’ll make it as a recruiter. Every minute you are connecting with candidates and hiring managers, you should be absolutely certain you’re on the path to becoming the greatest recruiter in the world.

Timing? Market conditions? Hogwash. Pay no attention to that.

Simply be the one and only recruiter who will never go out of business, no matter what, and you’ll discover there is always need for your service, even when all the other recruiters around you are dropping like flies.

It’s the greatest job in the world, under any market conditions, if you only keep yourself constantly connecting.