Get Rid of These 10 Undercover Time-Wasting Over-Workers

Recruiters are always wondering how we’re able to respond so quickly on a national basis. Believe it or not, we work regular hours. I learned the techniques when I was managing a recruiting office.

You can too, if you:

  • Understand where your non-productive time is spent and;
  • Overhaul your procedures.

All the time-management seminars, workshops, books, calendars, timers, alarms, buzzers and electronic voices in the world won’t help you. They’re just pea-shooters in the war against time. Your problem isn’t on the battlefield, it’s in the war room — right there in your office.

Here are the 10 biggest undercover over-workers:

1. Over-committing

Saying “Yes” too often.

It’s a habit that served a purpose the first day you dialed, but soon results in trying to please every “client.” Of course, they’re not really clients. You’re not bound to do anything for them, and they’re not bound to “accept” your referrals. In fact, they’re not even bound to tell you if the job order is filled, pulled or changed. And worst of all, they’re not even bound to pay you to search for that “perfect” candidate to fit that “ideal” description to take their possible position.

I’m convinced that success in recruiting is tied more to declining searches than to accepting them. Wrong clients with wrong jobs at the wrong time are the reason 20% of the recruiters make 80% of the placements.

That “80-20” rule means you should be declining 80% of the very same JO’s you are soliciting. Not by “We’ll get back to you in a few days,” but by “I’m sorry, it’s just not possible for us to assist you in filling that opening because ___________________.” Or if you must, by “Good luck, but the answer is ‘No’.”

As my Grandma Allen used to say, “Better a quick pain.”

2. Over-scheduling

You already know what happens if you overload a hiring authority with too many candidates. He becomes confused and doesn’t sell the company well in interviews. It’s like over-committing with your calendar.

Using quotas (number of JO’s, recruits, sendouts, etc.) subjects you to the law of diminishing returns – the higher the quantity, the lower the quality.

More JO’s, recruits and sendouts will result in more placements if the quality remains constant. But it doesn’t.

3. Over-recruiting

Not overplacing. There’s an oversized difference.

Many offices build up their candidate base far beyond what they can ever use. This can often be traced to a consultant who’s trying to hold onto his draw. When you divide the number of calls into the amount of the fees billed, you can see how time really is money.

Over-recruiting wastes valuable search time and fills your files with unplaceables. It requires coding, filing (and possibly data processing) time, continued updating, responses to inquiries (unplaceables are notoriously motivated), and time, time, TIME. Overtime time.

4. Over-training

There’s no limit to the amount of time and money you can spend training your consultants. If it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted both. The time you’ll never regain, the money you’ll only regain if you work harder (back to the overtime treadmill). If it does work, you may have trained your biggest competitor. Then you’ll really be working overtime:

I’m not saying you shouldn’t train your staff – only that you should be careful about whom you train and selective about the training they receive.

Even the training time takes them away from production, so they should be taught specific placement techniques (how to take job specs, cold call, close deals, etc.).

Training can make a good consultant better, but don’t overtrain those who’ll just place and race.

5. Over-delegating

Delegating is revered in our management folklore: “Don’t do it yourself if someone else can do it.”

Not so, particularly in a small office where you get to spend all the time explaining, suggesting, advising, praying, supervising, reviewing, agonizing, and very possibly redoing.

It’s no coincidence that the most successful recruiters are the ones who work by themselves. It’s no mystery why either. They’re so much more efficient.

6. Over-ruling

It’s not the same as overseeing. More like overriding, overreacting and overpowering. The opposite of over-delegating, but will have you working just as many hours.

If you’re one of the overrulers, you should accept the psychological fact that most people stop listening to others around the age of 12. Parents know the actual age is much lower.

“Constructive criticism” isn’t. It’s just destructive criticism between two slices of excuse.

Either you’re paying recruiters for effort (number of hours worked, calls made, ads written, etc.), or you’re paying for results (placements). If you’re paying for effort, you’re destined to be there until dawn. If you focus on paying for results, you won’t waste time with matters of personal preference.

Article Continues Below

7. Over-paying

There’s a natural tendency to want to reward high production and even extraordinary effort with more pay or perks. People generally accept these graciously, too.

Just try to take them away, though. You’ll discover an exception to the law of gravity: “What goes up does not come down.” You can increase the pay but you can’t reduce it. Explanations – even good ones – don’t pay the higher bills the recruiters incur for their higher standard of living.

If you don’t work harder to keep them in the style to which they’ve become accustomed, you’ll lose them. That should cause you to work overtime in worrying alone.

8. Over-staffing

Hiring those walking wounded who should be hospitalized for an acute case of rejection shock.

It’s easy to diagnose them — answering phones, reactivating old JO’s or resumes, looking up names, ordering trade publications, filing, fiddling and diddling. Anything but one-on-one conversations with live clients about hot jobs, and motivating cold but qualified candidates to accept them.

Then there are those you don’t even hire to make placements: The anesthetized army of administrators, secretaries, clerks, receptionists and other non-producers. They not only drain your profits, they interfere with producers and make additional work for them.

The first time a storm hits, you’re gasping for air day and night as your overstuffed, inefficient ship sinks.

9. Overlooking Overhead

This is easy to do. As John Gardner stated in his classic, Self-Renewal: “We don’t know that we’ve been imprisoned until we’ve broken out.”

A good exercise is to list as many overhead items as you can. Include monthly averages for fixed expenses like office space, phone system, computer, copy machine, service agreements, etc. Then average monthly variables like meetings, training seminars, publications, travel and entertainment, etc.

You’ll be overwhelmed.

10. Over-optimism

We all know the value of a positive attitude — you can’t make a placement without it. But being too optimistic is just overdosing.

Positive thinking is sometimes confused with positive doing. It’s a seductive idea – that we have complete control over our environment. So seductive that it haunts us long after experience has taught us that commissioned consultants, cranky clients and crazy candidates don’t care one cry about our cranial convolutions.

Then there’s the job market. If positive thinking could control that, we’d have a placer in the White House for sure.

So optimism is fine, as long as it doesn’t interfere with you finding and solving the inevitable problems in your office. lf it does, you’ll be looking for them into the swing shift,

No matter what you do, you’ll always work hard for your placement fees. But overwork can be overcome by watching these 10 items.

Do it and you’ll be overjoyed at the results!

More than thirty-five years ago, Jeffrey G. Allen, J.D., C.P.C. turned a decade of recruiting and human resources management into the legal specialty of placement law. Since 1975, Jeff has collected more placement fees, litigated more trade secrets cases, and assisted more placement practitioners than anyone else. From individuals to multinational corporations in every phase of staffing, his name is synonymous with competent legal representation. Jeff holds four certifications in placement and is the author of 24 popular books in the career field, including bestsellers How to Turn an Interview into a Job, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book and the revolutionary Instant Interviews. As the world?s leading placement lawyer, Jeff?s experience includes: Thirty-five years of law practice specializing in representation of staffing businesses and practitioners; Author of ?The Allen Law?--the only placement information trade secrets law in the United States; Expert witness on employment and placement matters; Recruiter and staffing service office manager; Human resources manager for major employers; Certified Personnel Consultant, Certified Placement Counselor, Certified Employment Specialist and Certified Search Specialist designations; Cofounder of the national Certified Search Specialist program; Special Advisor to the American Employment Association; General Counsel to the California Association of Personnel Consultants (honorary lifetime membership conferred); Founder and Director of the National Placement Law Center; Recipient of the Staffing Industry Lifetime Achievement Award; Advisor to national, regional and state trade associations on legal, ethics and legislative matters; Author of The Placement Strategy Handbook, Placement Management, The National Placement Law Center Fee Collection Guide and The Best of Jeff Allen, published by Search Research Institute exclusively for the staffing industry; and Producer of the EMPLAW Audio Series on employment law matters. Email him at