When Expedience Trumps Excellence In Recruiting

Jan 10, 2011

A few weeks ago, some friends and I went out to dinner. and when we left we agreed: “It was OK.” Translation: we were slightly disappointed. There wasn’t anything wrong. Just nothing noteworthy or exceptional. Just little things like the fact that the table wasn’t clean when we sat down, that we had to summon the waiter several times, and we weren’t attended to as frequently as we’d like, etc. Nothing singularly mind-blowing, just a combination of mediocre events.

Since there are many other restaurants to choose from we probably won’t go back there. On the other hand there is a restaurant I frequent and take different friends to all the time. Why? The food is pretty good, but the service is exceptional. If the owner is working he makes a point to come out to all the tables, he remembers his regulars by name, and he sometimes buys us a round of drinks or gets us a dessert in appreciation. Do we get free drinks every trip? No — that’s not the point. His manner and appreciation combined with the service orientation of his wait staff enhance the dining “experience.” You feel special. You come back — again and again!

Do your clients feel special? How about your employees? Clients can choose from hundreds of recruiters to fill their needs; why should they choose you? What do you do for them that they do NOT expect? What do you do that makes them feel good about themselves? Where are you excellent? 

This can be applied to your office culture as well. We all know it’s difficult to attract recruiters at our entry level pay scales. You can easily ask the same questions as above about why prospective recruiters should choose you and stay with you.

From my experience, many recruiting firm owners simply “chase deals.” The only things they are aware of are “deals in progress,” not what it takes to keep their clients happy, their pipeline smoothed out, and their revenues consistent. Furthermore, they get so wrapped up in closing these placements that often customer service suffers. You see, excellent customer service isn’t required in the closing process, it is required in the RETENTION process.

We are all busy. No one has time for anything anymore. Excellence and mastery of one’s craft are not required to close this month’s placement. We are so caught up in the short term we sacrifice excellence for the expedience of this month’s revenue.

There’s a phrase I like to use: client CARE. It’s a good phrase that says we shouldn’t just sell to our clients; we should care about them, and care FOR them. There is no substitute for that—not even extraordinary expertise.

The free drinks I cited above; handwritten thank you notes (not emailed); the oral surgeon’s concerned call I received the day after my wisdom teeth were pulled; the call from the car dealer a few days after they fixed a problem with my car; these are all examples of good client care and they cost almost nothing. Client care is a by-product of both attitude and aptitude.

You see, I didn’t pay for any of the above, but I remember them all. The restaurateur, the oral surgeon, and the car dealer all probably had more urgent things they could be doing when they attended to me, and yet, they chose excellence of service over expedience. I challenge you to identify where you sacrifice excellence for expediency – where you work on the “urgent” and sacrifice the “important” work that needs to be done in your firm.

Investment in mastery of our craft and its details, combined with the determination to see that represented in what we deliver to our clients, is unfortunately not often witnessed in our profession (or most professions for that matter). Ambition is fine. However, ambition for money de-linked from the ambition of actually earning it is disreputable.

I know of owners struggling right now after being in business more than 15-20 years. These owners have very little if any repeat business and/or clients after such a prolonged tenure in this profession. When I dig into how they conduct their business I find they are all ethical and honest people. However, their attitude boils down to, “I earned the fee when I made the placement.” OK, that’s technically true; however, like the restaurant I went to from the beginning of the article, they/we didn’t come back. These owners, while not conscious of it, were only interested in getting, not how they were being. They were expedient, but they were not excellent in their delivery.

Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle was interviewed on PBS last year, and one of the things she referred to many times was the importance of craft, of technique, of mastery – of getting good and achieving excellence as an actor. At the end of the interview, some drama and theatre students were allowed to ask questions. None asked about this. All asked about expediency, about shortcuts — how to audition more cleverly, how to promote themselves immediately, how to get parts – or about the means of handling the emotional angst of rejection. To me, it was telling. I heard her speak thoughtfully and passionately about one thing, then heard questions that ignored this thing altogether. Heaton spoke of excellence. The questioners asked only about expedience. Most endangered recruiters and recruiting firms suffer the same problem from my experience talking with them — diminished interest on the leaders’ part in excellence, interest only in expedience.

I challenge every reader of this to pause and reflect on how they can be better, how they can achieve excellence in this area. Write the ideas down and implement just one or two a month. Execute on these ideas and the “expedience” will come naturally.

this article is from the October 2010 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.

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