Maintaining Focus in a Strong Recruiting Market

Every market, strong or weak, creates problems. The difficulties inherent in a good market are far preferable to those encountered in a poor one. Nevertheless, to proceed as though a booming market is totally free of problems is to reduce income in an excellent market and to develop habit patterns that will be very difficult to correct should the market turn sour.

While we’ll detail the Strategic Traps in a future article, the most obvious is simply a reduction of effort. Every long-tenured manager has seen this phenomenon. Transferring his observations to his staff, however, or even avoiding the trap himself may be a different matter.

In a solid market of demand for talent exceeding supply, it is (relatively) easy to produce acceptable or more than acceptable billings. However, there is an appropriate Wall Street saying that applies to our industry as well: “Don’t confuse brains with a bull market!”

While our industry actually contains its fair share of brains, there are two areas where many of us do come up short – a strong work ethic and a continuing desire to improve in good times!

It is part of a sales personality to be optimistic and confident. While this is clearly a positive in terms of tenacity during difficult times or situations, there is an accompanying negative to this trait. That negative is the belief that good times will last forever and a ten-dency to “coast” in a buoyant market.

This is no time to “coast”! Rather, it is a time to work hard, stay focused, improve skills, and reap all the rewards we deserve.

The following quiz will take less than five minutes to fill out. And it will provide a valid indicator as to whether you are maximizing your market or letting the market carry you along!

Work Ethic Daily Quiz
(To be filled out at the end
of every day)

1. Did you arrive on time at the office this morning (no later than 8:30 a.m.)?

2. Was your daily planner filled out thoroughly from the day before?

3. Did you make at least five business calls before 9:30 a.m.?

4. Do you have a slightly addictive “reward program” (example: second cup of coffee) set up for five early presentations? Did you earn the reward early today?

5. Did you accept or make no more than one nonbusiness call during office hours? (Calls under 30 seconds do not count.)

6. If business is good, did you make presentations to (and qualify) at least two new prospective accounts today? If business is only fair, did you make presentations to (and qualify) at least five new prospective accounts today?

7. Did you achieve at least 30 fairly extensive business conversations today?

8. Did you set up at least one first interview (including phone interview) today?

9. Do you have a sign/note on your phone that is less than a week old to remind you to improve habit patterns?

10. Is your daily planner thoroughly and logically filled out for tomorrow?

11. What time are you leaving the office to go home? Is it at least 5 p.m.?

12. Do you have plans to improve skills at least slightly this evening? Examples: Reading business book, critiquing previously taped call, watching part of a business video. (Should be done at least three days a week.)


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1. Did you do general reading (such as newspapers) or industry reading (such as magazines in your area of specialization, or industry books or newsletters) in the office during working hours?

2. Did you participate in nonbusiness discussions in the office during prime working hours? Did you allow yourself to be distracted by pointless “business” conversations? More than five minutes is too much!

3. Did you spend more than five minutes of nonbusiness time on the Internet?


Ten points for each yes answer. If you answered yes to any of the deduction questions, deduct 10 points each. Notice that you had 12 questions, so if one does not apply to how you do business, this is factored in.


100+ points Terrific! Combine this with good skills, and you are doing what you must to be successful.
90 points Signs of problems ahead. Long term, this will affect your productivity.
80 points Not good. This will lead to sporadic performance and more-than-occasional slumps.
70 points Poor! How serious are you about succeeding, anyway?
60 points/less Quit fooling around! This is not acceptable!

If this test seems difficult to you, or unrealistic in some ways, note that a no answer to any of the main questions, or a yes to any of the deductions, will absolutely reduce your concentration and production. Moreover, this test is more flexible than it seems. Twelve correct answers would give you 120 points. You could effectively miss two questions and still score 100 points!

How often should this quiz be taken? Daily for 30 days will be more than enough to identify long-term areas of concern. Anyone can have an occasional unproductive day. But if you find yourself missing the same questions, your productivity reduced by the same problems, for an entire month, then it’s time to realize that you are skating on thin ice.

Success in our business is not measured solely by annual produc-tion. Rather, it is measured by billings in relation to the general state of your market.

Good production combined with poor focus is an eventual recipe for disaster! You will find it very difficult to suddenly change habit patterns in a deteriorating market.

The above test will identify areas where you may have drifted away from a serious concentration on business. When combined with solid industry-specific selling skills, a consistently good score will enable you to maximize your income – in any market!

Steven Finkel is the president of the St. Louis-based firm Professional Search Seminars. For over two decades, and on four continents, he has been regarded as a leading speaker and trainer in our industry. Recruitment International magazine, Europe’s largest such publication, has referred to him as “the only major trainer in search and permanent placement in the United States.” His website is www.stevefinkel. com, or he can be reached at (314) 991-3177. Mr. Finkel is the author or co-author of a number of hardbound books for our industry, as well as a full line of other quality training products.

Acclaimed international author, speaker, and trainer Steve Finkel is a veteran of over 30 years and six recessions in our industry. Personnel Consultant Magazine, published by the National Association of Personnel Consultants, has referred to him as possessing "the most in-depth knowledge of search and placement in industry history." Recruitment International Magazine, Europe's largest industry publication, has described him as "the world's premier author and trainer in search and recruitment." His revised and up-to-date 360-page book Breakthrough! is now distributed in 25 countries and is also available on Amazon. Contact him at 314-991-3177 or