The Six Greatest Fallacies About Hiring Authorities

Apr 27, 2011
image source: Bruno Covas

When I went from recruiter to human resourcer, I was amazed by how little I understood about the psychological makeup of hiring authorities. I thought they were like me. When I went back to working a desk, the realization that they weren’t enabled me to make placements much more successfully.

This article is designed to show you the six greatest fallacies about these important folks, so you won’t have to change careers to correct them. 


Since your ability to recruit depends on aligning with the preferences of the hiring authority, it’s natural for you to fall into this fallacy. However, it’s a long way down.

Hiring authorities are usually salaried employees. Even if they were you, this would make their likes and dislikes different. Regardless of whether the individual is an HR staffer, a technical manager, or a vice president of finance, Priority Number 1 is always se-cu-ri-ty. You are much more likely to take risks, since you’re not paid unless you do.

So you present a marginal candidate: he’s articulate, has a good work history, and even speaks English. The only problem is that he’s a circuit designer with no systems experience. The job order requires systems experience, but it’s not necessary for the job. You’re sure the hiring authority will elope with the candidate. You present the candidate’s qualifications, but don’t mention the lack of systems experience. You’re not being slick, it’s just not necessary for the job.

But you call the hiring authority after the interview (that’s a clue), and he tells you the interview was a colossal waste of time. Systems experience is required. This is because the requisition that authorized the hire contained it. The hiring authority likes security. If the candidate doesn’t work out, he’ll he blamed. You may be blamed too, but there’s a difference. . . You’ve been paid and are secure.

This is only one of hundreds of examples of why you see things differently. Identify with hiring authorities all you like, but recognize that’s what you’re doing.

It’s ludicrous, but not everybody sees things the way you do.


Since your mental computer looks at the world from its database, you probably don’t realize the hiring authority’s doesn’t.

Even the most active employers are unable to match your market intelligence. The job market changes constantly. New candidates are identified and recruited. Or old candidates become qualified. Jobs open or change. It’s like investing in the stock market by reading the newspaper. An advisor is essential.

That’s his problem. Yours is that you lack information on the hot buttons to make the placement. There’s only a 20% chance they appear on your JO. If you doubt it, check your last one against the person who was hired.

You can see by this how you’re really on the outside looking in. You’ll always be there, but concentrate on listening for the right combination.

It’s so frustrating when you’re standing outside pushing buttons randomly.


Just ask any of your associates why employers use contingency-fee recruiters. The Pavlovian response is, “I don’t owe a fee unless they hire one of our candidates.” It’s true, but any hiring authority will reply, “They present candidates we can’t find through other sources.”

Even with the same market information, the hiring authority doesn’t have the guts to cold-call into competitors, rout out their best employees, and wrench them into the chair across his desk. Whether you call it “business ethics,” “fear of prosecution” or “the third-party role of the recruiter,” they pay you five-figure fees because they can’t do it themselves.

They know it. You should too.


If hiring authorities really hired, they’d be called “hirers.”

You can’t blame them. Anyone who calls soliciting job orders encourages a lot of noise. And that’s what most often comes out of the receiver. “Courtesy JO’s” to get you off the phone or keep you away from the troops, fishing expeditions, wishful thinking, sneezes, etc. The pressure on recruiters to turn them in makes it even less likely that the employer is serious. We were always so proud we were on the “preferred list” too. Then we discovered why it was called that . . . they “preferred” we believe there was a list.

Statistically, around 30% of the “live” JO’s in your files qualified for their last rites as soon as they were taken. Another 20% gasped for 10 days or less, then went to that great budget committee in the sky. Of the 50% that remain, you’re competing with everyone in the yellow pages.

In Choosing Success, Dorothy Jongeward and Philip Seyer call this an “ulterior transaction”:

[These] happen when a person appears to be sending one kind of message but is secretly sending another. The real message is disguised. . . [T]ransactions take place in a larger setting. To be accurate, we need to consider . . . what has just happened.

The best piece of advice I ever received was “Don’t kid yourself.”

Try calling your hottest client and asking for the “hirer.”


Recruiters are talkers. Hiring authorities who are serious are too busy to rap. If you confuse courtesy with interest, here’s a quote from my first book, How To Turn An Interview Into A Job:

[T]he average interviewer who is hiring is so busy trying to place job orders, run advertisements, review resumes, arrange for interviews, interview, verify employment data, check references, rationalize why the position hasn’t been filled, and justify exceeding the hiring budget, that there is no time to [engage in idle chatter].

It’s amazing how long a hiring authority can sit there doing something else while you’re hyperventilating. After all, he doesn’t want you raiding the company, complaining to his boss, or saying anything derogatory to a competitor. A little courtesy goes a long way.

If you’re spending any words about how hard you recruited, why rejected candidates are qualified, other sources the employer is using, or anything personal, get yourself a timer and use it. The average JO can be taken thoroughly in 30 minutes; the average candidate presented in 5; the average client debriefing in 15.


There are two ways this fallacy arises:

First, by the use of buzzwords. . . the insider language that has existed in every subculture since Adam presented his qualifications to Eve. Employers have them. Recruiters have them. And everyone assumes that everyone else knows what they mean. It’s a variation of the “database” fallacy we discussed in Item 2.

Listen for slang and ask what it means if you’re not sure. Write the words in quotation marks on the JO and use them with that client. Eliminate words like “SODDING,” “POEJO,” “EIO,” “send-out” and “fall-off” from your conversations (unless you want to take the time to give away your trade secrets).

Second, recruiters reflect their high-stress lives by cursing. As noted by Henry Calero and Robert Oskam in Negotiate The Deal You Want:

There are otherwise skilled negotiators who habitually fall into an informal pattern of speech that is regularly punctuated and amplified by the use of vulgarities or curses. They probably feel this gives them the advantage of the common touch — of being one of the boys. Except sometimes it doesn’t. Instead of acting as a lubricant to open discussion, the rough language takes on the quality of an abrasive.

If hiring authorities wanted you to curse, they would start out doing so. But they don’t. They want the relationship to be professional.

Maybe you do have something in common after all!

This should help you to recognize the six greatest fallacies about hiring authorities. May you never be fooled by them again.

This article is from the March 2011 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.

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