The Sad Decline of the American Recruiter

Mar 4, 2008
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

I believe that business processes of major importance should move toward excellence. Simply stated: from bad to good to better to best. I don’t think that is asking too much of something as important as recruiting.

However, I have concerns about whether this is actually happening. Allow me to illustrate three disturbing examples in this article.

Recruiting Does Not Get the Respect It Deserves

To many, it is seen as a necessary evil. Few organizational leaders understand what recruiters do, and it is hard to respect what you don’t understand. As such, they often put people in charge of recruiting who have never actually recruited. (I kid you not!) If this is not disturbing to you, then other than having your hair suddenly burst into flames, I can’t imagine what is. I can’t tell you how many times recruiters have told me that so-and-so won’t change this or get that because they don’t “really understand recruiting.”

“Why do they not understand recruiting?” I ask, with an incredulous look of concern and encroaching horror.

“Because they have never actually done any recruiting,” is the usual response. Why would any organization put a person in charge of recruiting who has never done any?

  • Has your CFO ever done any financials?
  • Has your VP Sales ever done any selling?
  • Has your Chief Scientific Officer ever done anything scientific?

They have? Interesting! So why is it ok to have a person who has never recruited managing that function?

If you have never known the pain of losing a candidate to a counteroffer, never dealt with a hiring manager who doesn’t respond, or never struggled to close a deal using only your street smarts and your ability to sell a vision, you should not be managing the function.

Sourcing Is Often Done By Others

I do not write this to offend any sourcing friends, as I know they have a role in the recruiting function. On the other hand, there was a time when recruiters used to do their own sourcing. If you could not source for yourself, you simply did not make it as a recruiter.

Now, there are many recruiters who do not know how to source candidates. Perhaps some see this as progress; I don’t. Having others doing your sourcing on a consistent basis dilutes the overall power and the effectiveness of today’s recruiter by removing an important dimension of what is required to fill a position in the first place.

Tell me, what do you say to the candidate when they ask how you got their name? That it came off of a list your sourcing department developed? That it came from a Third World country researcher who gets 90 cents per hour to use technology? Sure sounds like a great way to start that all-important recruiter/candidate relationship, doesn’t it? Kind of makes you feel all warm and tingly inside, huh? (You could tell them you got it yourself but lying is so last year?)

With technology that brings a fresh batch of new candidates each day, do you know how to reach out, connect emotionally, and start that all-important conversation? I hope so, because if recruiters no longer source, perhaps the day will come when they will no longer make the first call to the candidate either. Perhaps that too will go away and we will have a new function called “first phone callers.”

Should we continue to slice entire sections off of this profession and make others do it? Will we soon have closers as well? Specialists who just focus on closing the candidate? Assembly-line recruiting anyone?

Be careful out there; continue to butcher this noble profession and someday, it just might be neither noble nor a profession. Think about it, because for many of us, this is all we have.

Email Has Replaced the Human Touch

Recruiters seldom hand-deliver candidates. This is unfortunate. Great recruiters are usually on fire due to the thrill of the chase. When there is a new candidate who has been screened and is ready to present, this should be a really hot moment for a recruiter. I understand there are hiring managers who are too far away to hand-deliver a candidate’s resume. But if they are close by, hand-delivering is great because if not, the candidate is just another email they will get to later in the week.

Showing up unannounced with a great candidate is as good as it gets. You barge in, no appointment, and with the candidate’s resume in your hands. You exclaim, “This woman doubled sales in less than four months and reduced operating costs by 18%; signed two new strategic alliances; and flattened the entire sales organization. When can you see her? Let’s set it up now?”

The energy is palpable?

Can you see how this level of passion is contagious? Next thing you know, you have the candidate scheduled, the hiring manager is as hot on the candidate as you are, and you source for another candidate or two for backups.

Can you see the advantage to the human touch? To the sale? Candidates are not just steak; there is sizzle there as well, and if you bring both to the table, good things will happen. Who knows, you might even enhance your relationship with that hiring manager in the process. Can you see the difference between hand-delivering a candidate and merely sending another email? I hope so.

I hope you don’t think I am negative. I am just pointing out a few things that bother me from a standpoint of perspective, and experience derived over time. Recruiting is in the blood of those who do it well. There is a passion there that reaches out for the shortest ways to get things done, or the best ways to achieve an end and make real progress in terms of closing a deal and getting a great hire.

In order to make this happen, we must remain the masters of our own house, the builders of our own destiny. We must walk that thin line between being fiercely independent and following procedure. Not allowing what we do to become diluted is a great place to begin the ascent to greatness.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.