In the Placement Race, Placing is Winning

JeffOnCall_logoIn horse racing, coming in second is called “placing.” In our business, it’s called “nothing.” In our business, if you place, you’ve won. If you don’t, you might as well have been pulling a buggy around Central Park. No “runner ups,” “also rans,” or “second placers.”

The way to be a champion is to stay in shape. Physically, sure. But emotionally, too. It’s turf with holes, detours and roadblocks. If you don’t take it personally, you’re just not sensitive enough to be in the race. But if you do, you’ll be lowering your production. Maybe even think you’re “depressed,” “burned out,” or “stressed out.”

This is no small problem, but we’ve been helping placers overcome it for a few decades. Here’s a checkup from the neck up, and what we recommend to keep you on the track, trotting along.

Keep Alert

Would you be surprised to find a letter like the one in the box on your desk Monday morning?

Letters like that (and much worse) aren’t written because a consultant likes the new unemployment insurance rates. Did you see the signals? Things like: a drop in production, excessive personal calls, change in work hours, or improvement in appearance?

PTL recruiter resign letterThat’s the alertness part of winning.

Direct Your Energy

Energy level is relative Everyone has horsepower when they’re motivated. Would you have to consciously bring yourself to pick up the phone and call the candidate after the client has just asked you to convey a super offer?

Some of the most unsuccessful people are bundles of energy. Nervous energy. They gallop like a fire horse every time the bell rings, unable to differentiate between a four-alarm emergency and the chief’s alarm clock. Unable to harness that horsepower. Then when a real blaze occurs, they’re not ready. There’s only a limited amount of energy available to anyone.

We’ve had many clients who suspected a high-biller was planning to leave, but were preoccupied with some routine “crisis.” Then when it happened, they were unable to handle it properly. A pro would take the recruiter out to lunch, listen carefully to the reasons, attempt to save the relationship, state his position with regard to pending placements, and reiterate his rights to contact information. That takes energy. Without it, there would be no dialogue at all.

Be Determined

Determination is essential to winning, since it’s so easy to internalize rejection in the placement field. You can’t blame a substandard product for some hiring authority hanging up the phone on you. Or for not returning your calls, telling you your fee isn’t worth what you charge, and otherwise abusing you. These and a hundred others are personal attacks. Even the constant rejection of candidates is a reflection on your ability to recruit the right ones.

The winners recognize that they’re in a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” business, where gratitude is about as fleeting as insults. They press on. The best evidence of this is that the most successful owners look for consistent billers. They know the difference between a “hunter” and a “jumper.” Jumpers have a small client base supporting a big ego.

When they receive a letter like the one we’re discussing, they make up their mind how they’ll handle it, and do so decisively.

Tommy Lasorda, the well-known former Dodger manager, said it right:

I’m used to working with winners. They’re competitive, disciplined and determined to be the best.

Deep down in your soul you must feel “Get outa my way.  I’m comin’ through!” Only then do you have the belief in yourself and the blinders to charge down the lane.

Use Organizational Stress Management Techniques

Organizational stress management has become big psychological business, but few owners of placement services use it. Then they find themselves hobbling around the track and can’t figure out why.

Stress management consultant Robert Pater suggests two ways to reduce its handicap:

1. Listen to employee concerns.

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Major office problems can usually be traced to low morale. This is a direct result of not listening to employees. If you don’t follow their suggestions, give them the reasons. This sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how few owners do it without making the employee feel threatened or foolish.

2. Respond to the specific stresses in your office.

First, isolate them. For example:

  • Changes in job requirements.
  • Non-exclusive job orders.
  • Cold-call rejection.

Then, discuss strategies with your staff for coping with them.

You may not be totally able to keep the reins on organizational stress, but you can at least isolate the most stressful situations and show your pack that you’re the leader, wire to wire.

Use Time Management Techniques

You’d think that since it’s a race, everyone would be conscious of time. But if you’ve ever sat in a meeting with owners discussing time management, you’d see how little they watch the clock.

The biggest waste is on the phone. Things like:

  • Not having information available on clients and candidates.
  • Making or accepting low-priority calls during peak periods.
  • Debating with an unreasonable employer or recruit.
  • Engaging in idle non-business conversation.
  • Allowing interruptions to interfere with making placements.

I recommend keeping staff meetings short, too. No more than 15 minutes per recruiter for a Monday morning staff meeting. If you’ve reviewed the sendout sheets and other reports over the weekend, this should be no problem. Your employees must know that you are concerned with their time utilization as well.

Organizing or computerizing your files, developing more efficient paper flow, changing your office arrangement, and a myriad of other timesavers can be implemented. Consciously look for them.The stopwatch is ticking.

That’s how to win, not place in the placement race. May you go the distance!

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