You’ve Heard of Being Good at Recruiting — How About Being Good to Recruiting?

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Mar 15, 2012

Recruiting is about making calls, setting up interviews, and of course making offers. Where most recruiters get lost in the weeds is not failing to understand the mechanics. It’s the mindset. Let’s face it: we use mind tricks, subliminal messages, and pop psychology to get into the heads of clients and candidates. Well, at least I do. But how many of us turn that inward? Below are some illustrations of the mind games we play on ourselves that keep us from the success that should be at every recruiter’s fingertips.

It’s Not the Money — It’s the Stuff

In the 1979 movie “ The Jerk,” Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters are a married couple who are filthy rich. One day, he comes home to tell her he has lost all of their money and they are poor. She isn’t upset about losing the money – but all the “stuff.”

How does this relate to recruiting?

We often counsel our candidates to avoid the money question and when discussing fees many recruiters proudly recite all the amazing things that they will do for that potential client. However, when discussing the issue of money they slink into the darkness and, from behind a rock, quietly and timidly name their price. I have heard other recruiters speak with certain disgust in their voices about those other money-grubbing recruiters who are all about the dollars.

If money or the things that it can provide for you, your family, and your community doesn’t motivate you, then why the disgust? Because society, religion, and the actions of the filthy rich have embedded in us that to embrace money and allthat it brings is superficial or immoral. Even the affluent turn up their noses at the new rich who flaunt their wealth. We are all inspired by the person who comes from “humble” beginnings, but imagine if someone were to profess that they have more money than they could ever spend. That person would be met with contempt.

The most successful recruiters I know have embraced the ideathat making money and creating a lifestyle filled with all that life has to offer is something that is a great gift to be enjoyed. Recruiters who have an aversion to money have given themselves a built-in excuse for not producing. Some even profess with pride that they don’t need all the toys or excesses that seems to drive those “other” recruiters. Psychologists have explained that most people have a comfort zone with a selected set of circumstances and problems and that they will even self-sabotage to accomplish something beyond that. If a person’s financial needs center around paying for a new fridge and saving for a family vacation — well, imagine if those problems then shifted to which security systems to use to secure all their valuables or moving to a zip code where the residents drove expensive cars, take expensive vacations, and have experiences that are completely foreign. Being uncomfortable is not generally something many strive to accomplish.

As recruiters, we have an opportunity to create a great lifestyle filled with all sorts of stuff. Nurses and firemen work as hard if not harder than recruiters do, but they will never have the opportunity to earn what we do. The stuff that money can provide does not have to be cars or houses. It can be learning, getting to travel, and expanding your understanding of the world, or simply assisting charities or causes that are important to you. Not capitalizing on the opportunity to make money is like having a beautiful voice and staying quiet when you have a chance to sing.

Our job is to scope out the very best candidates to work for the very best companies so they can create better lives for themselves and their families. That generally involves more earning potential. How can we encourage others toward that end if we don’t do the same for ourselves? We would all love to be without problems; what if you made a list of every problem you had from the knocking in your car that you pray to the car gods is minor, to the really serious ones? What if you erased all the ones that could be solved with money? What areas of your life could you focus on?

What Zip Code Is Life In?

The richest man I have ever met told me the issues with our economy could be summed up with one word: zombies. He said he had heard a lot about work/life balance. What exactly is this distinction between being alive and being at work? If you aren’t alive until you leave work, what does that make you while you are at work? A zombie — which means we basically have a bunch of walking dead working and running our businesses, and that is pretty scary. Maybe that accounts for the reason the 80/20 rule is still alive and kicking. Twenty percent of the workers are doing 80% of the work – and this is why recruiters will never be without work. He cited the Bible by saying the first thing the Almighty does is work: He builds a universe. And when humans come on the scene God tells them to have some kids then get to work. My wealthy colleague said if God isn’t too good to work, then neither was he; when God was done he had a universe. God only took off one day — most of us get off two, not counting vacations, sick days, and holidays.

Recruiters who make a mental distinction between work and life are making associations with work as the place to have to go, and the rest where you want to go. How can any person be fully engaged when life is what happens outside their doors, while “work” is what keeps them from experiencing life.

Successful recruiters always seem to be pegged as workaholics who have essentially abandoned their families and communities for work; their work is their life. But you can’t commit 8-10 hours a day to anything that is not at least part of your life. “Life” and work are like air: where does the air in your kitchen begin and the air in your living room begin? It all blends together, merging together. Successful recruiters understand this; while they take a personal call at work, a long lunch or surf the Internet for new “toys,” they also don’t resent the calls at home or weekends. They realize that like a doctor, they are professionals as much as they are parents, friends, or citizens of the community. They don’t react like Pavlov’s dog because the clock has hit 5:01 and  “work” is over.

In the last few years, while recruiting has had its challenges, people are having to do more — make more calls, get more interviews, do more marketing, and do all of it faster than before. Despite all the amazing tools that recruiters have, the amount of output really hasn’t changed. The industry average for phone time is still a goal of three hours per day. Three out of eight? The average fill rate is 30-45%? If you look up the word “work,” it says, “Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.” In nearly every definition, the word “work” is associated with effort and accomplishment. Recruiters should challenge themselves to answer the question as to how they view work; is it that thing that keeps them from life, or the tool for achievement and accomplishment? 

Self-Reflection Is Important

One of the most critical skills a recruiter can have is the ability to be introspective, to look clearly into the mirror and see the positive and the negative. No matter how long a recruiter has been at it and no matter how successful, looking into that mirror is a must. In addition, you must do what all self-help books tell you not to do: compare yourself to others. If you are standing next to the friend who never exercises and thinks eating deep fried butter is a way to get calcium, you might look pretty good. But stand next to the friend who frequents the gym and believes you are what you eat — that image staring back at you could scare you to Weight Watchers.

Making the comparison between becoming physically fit and “recruiting fit” is an easy one, as most people at some time or another have made a conscious decision to get in better health. Upon further inspection we can find prime examples of how recruiters lie to themselves about their recruiting health in the same way many do about their physical health. The first obstacle to get past is that we don’t think we look as bad as we really do. A gym membership won’t convince anyone you are in shape any more than simply having activity reflects recruiting health. As unfair as it is, fitness of any sort requires a lifelong commitment. If you are a recruiter and you aren’t making deals, then you are out of shape; if you aren’t working out on a daily basis you will not get results.

Much like a physically fit person, a fit recruiter has to examine their workout routine. Nutritionists insist on food diaries as a way for a person to truly see what they eat, and a trainer will ensure that you are pushed to produce a successful outcome. Recruiters have “workouts” as well that consist of calls to viable candidates and clients, follow-ups, orders, submissions, and placements. Recruiters need to evaluate their workouts to limit non-essential duties that do not push toward results. The key is to get moving as fast as you can and as much as you can; the same applies to recruiting. You can fine tune as you go along but the key is to get moving and then you will achieve results.

We get out of shape because we continue behavior over a long period of time that has made us unhealthy. One bad recruiting day won’t destroy your production; however, unchecked bad days turn into bad months. A bad month, quarter, or year all started with a bad day that became the standard. We have all heard, “You didn’t gain that weight overnight, so you won’t lose it overnight.”

The truth is that in recruiting, if a person changes their habits immediately, they can often significantly change within the course of a month.

Most people fit into two categories: the ones who seek community or the ones who seek exclusivity. Good recruiters don’t look for the number of people like them or worse off to reinforce their results. I once had a recruiter in my office tell me how he didn’t feel so bad for producing poorly when it was revealed at an awards ceremony that a top producer had a very poor year. The recruiter felt comfortable in the pack. Top producers hate the pack. They generally have one person in their sight — someone who stands alone as the best with numbers and accomplishments that are intimidating. So do you breathe a sigh of relief when you see more people who produce at your level or do your juices flow when you see someone hit numbers that are amazing and no one is close to?

“This is not Oprah, This is CNN.”

A friend of mine went to see an episode of Oprah. She said it was great because it was one of the episodes where Oprah gave away cars, trips, and even houses. Even those who didn’t score the big prizes got incredible goodie bags. She said everyone was happy and excited; then it was back to real life, aka an episode of CNN — the sad and the bad.

Danny Cahill coined our profession as “social workers who like money.” Anyone who knows anything about social work knows that it is a heavy dose of daily heartache, with more going wrong than right. Recruiting often consists of phrases like: No, you didn’t get the job,” “No interview, background check failed,” “They filled position on their own,” “Didn’t meet the guarantee so lost the fee,” “Won’t pay your fee,” “Counteroffer,” “Layoffs,” “Found their resume on their own,” “No openings for you,” “Not enough experience,” “Candidate backing out,” and so forth.

Amongst all of that is the light that is an offer, an acceptance, and a placement (that sticks). But many recruiters are under the impression that we “get people jobs” or that every candidate is one we can place. When our company was reviewing our mission statement some of the recruiters said, “we help people.” I had to disagree — we help certain people. We are more like doctors on a battlefield. Our job is to evaluate, assess, size up, and dissect both our clients and candidates. Like a doctor, we must assess the ones who are worth our time and leave the others behind to fend for themselves. This activity of assessing other humans for their “worthiness” can be somewhat dehumanizing and counter to why many of us chose this profession.

Mental toughness is critical to being a successful recruiter and dealing with the sad and the bad is essential.  Recruiters who think that life is like field day in elementary school — where everyone is a winner — have missed the mark. It’s more like a major league sports team where everyone is fighting over the same guy, while some guy is over in the corner unnoticed who just wants to play. Most of us place about 3-5% total of all the people we speak to in a year, and some less. Break yourself of spending time with candidates that you just can’t help or you are deluding yourself that you can. Temp staffing might be an option.

In recruiting you can meet a lot of interesting people and your job is to get to know them as quickly as possible. This entails probing their personal life without them feeling that you are being intrusive. The relationship progresses like something on the Internet. It’s fast and intense and you get to get your god complex fed. Recruiters who reject the whole “I can make a lot of money doing this” mindset are getting paid the most. They feel powerful and important. However, I recognize that I am in a position to do good things for those on job searches. So I take a note from the Bible and tithe 10% of my time at work to good deeds.

Think of it this way. The Bible suggests tithing 10% of your income to those in need. Do the same with your time recruiting. If I am at work eight hours a day, which is 480 minutes — then 48 minutes per day can be spent with candidates helping them on their search with absolutely no expectation of payment of any sort. The rest of my time is solely for clients and candidates that I am prospecting or placing.

The key is to help them in whatever way you can, within reason. I suggest having email templates with interview tips, websites, and information that can assist them with a job search. Explain your job and how you are paid and be respectful.  My job is to assess talent and make matches.

One of my favorite quotes is “Let it not be said that life was good to me but that I was good to life.” Perhaps we should change it up and say “Let it not be said that recruiting was good to me but that I was good to recruiting.”

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