Recruiter Chronicles: Three Resolutions for 2012

What is it about the promise of a new year that generates hope? To me, it’s always seemed a bit ridiculous to send these promises to the god of resolutions, somewhere out there in the starry firmament. Nevertheless, it is hard to doubt the cultural or historical significance of this custom.

New year’s resolutions date back to 153 BC, where the mythical King Janus of Rome was placed at the head of the calendar with two faces. One looking forward, and one looking back. Janus became an ancient symbol of resolutions and is the namesake of our first month of the year. More than two thousand years later, health clubs and fad exercise DVD’s across the world pay homage at the altar of Janus every winter as they count their money. At least they should be.

But even if you are as cynical as I am about New Year’s resolutions, we all should make them in the sprit of being better recruiters. At the Aureus Group we call it our Accountability Plan. For lack of a better way to describe it, it’s what we each resolve to do that will make us better. It is a comprehensive action plan that details every action we will take to reach our goals.

In making my plan this year, I realized that there were three themes of self improvement I intend to make in 2012. I hope they speak to you too and help you to reach your max potential in 2012.

1. I resolve to shut up and listen.

There is this corporate recruiter I talk to a few times a month, and I swear this person is less listening to me and more thinking about what she is going to say next. It’s phenomenally annoying and while I actually like this person quite a bit, talking to her can be pure drudgery. There is no more selfish an act of communication than to interrupt. It’s a signal to the person you are talking to that you really don’t care about what they are saying. Interrupting is really unbecoming of anyone, especially someone in the recruiting business where listening and understanding are paramount.

I find myself guilty of this evil trait on occasion in very important scenarios. It normally happens when something my counterpart says triggers a reactionary thought that seemingly disconnects my ears from my brain. In other words, I go brain dead. There is nothing brilliant about not listening to the person you are having dialogue with in favor of conjuring something brilliant to say. My secret to overcome in 2012: try really, really hard to put myself in the eyes and ears of my counterpart. Imagine what they are thinking of me while we are communicating, and be certain I understand what they are trying to say. Empathy may just be the secret to great listening.

2. I resolve to engage in more exclusive and retained searches.

Growing up in this business as a contingent search professional has institutionalized me. A colleague of mine within our Executive Search team said to me recently, “Nate, you are a retained search recruiter. You just don’t know it yet.” Hmmm. Can it be just that easy? I think it’s worth finding out for sure.

The bottom line is this: Retained/Exclusive searches are good for me — and for you. They are a powerful indicator of our client’s resolve to find the right person, and they preclude us from wasting time on candidates that may not be a fit. You know, the ones we spend time on only because we fear they may be presented for our job by a competitor. Retained/Exclusive searches are an advantage for both our clients and for us. What’s more, pushing for more will help us weed out crappy job orders.

When we pitch a retainer to our client and they say no, we ask them, “Why not?” What should follow are all the reasons why this not a search we should accept on a contingent basis, either:

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Our internal recruiters are working it.

We are engaged with 2 other firms.

Our company doesn’t do retainers.

All of these are indicative of a client that isn’t fully committed to us — or to our process. I’m not saying we need to go 100% retained/exclusive, but knowing why our clients can’t/won’t do it will test the strength of our relationships and our searches. And you never know, some — perhaps many — will understand why it’s an advantage to make that commitment to you. This will only make us both stronger at what we do.

3. I resolve to ask for feedback from every client engagement — good outcome or bad — and to not let my pride get in the way of making the right changes to my approach.

Asking the tough questions is what this job is all about. It is a must before, during, and after successful and failed searches. In my opinion, one of the toughest phone calls in recruitment goes something like this.

You pick up the phone with high anxiety to call your client or prospect. During the search process you dropped the ball big time. Perhaps it was forgetting to check references until too late, and they come back bad enough that an offer was rescinded. Or, maybe it was failing to close your candidate on compensation appropriately and a good offer was turned down. Maybe it was not knowing critical information about a candidate at key points in the process, such as other interviews or offers they were entertaining. After several rings, your client answers and you deliver the bad news, and now you must pay the piper.

All of these things happen to us, but sometimes we fail to fully accept responsibility for our part in these breakdowns. After all, it is easier to blame the candidate or client, isn’t it? Bottom line is this, ‘CYA’ and saving face are actions taken by the weak in our business. Accountability and sincere desire to learn from our mistakes are traits found in real leaders in the recruiting game. To truly know where we made those mistakes requires us to ask for genuine feedback from our clients. Put pride aside and be sincere in your approach of asking where things could have gone better. Or, if we recognize your mistakes, admit your faults and commit to improvement for the next go-around. I promise that you will stand out as a pro, even in the face of failure. Nobody is immune to error, and the vast majority of the people you will work with will gladly forgive. Even more, they will admit their own mistakes along the way, too.

A big thank-you to everyone who read this today, and any of the Recruiter Chronicles throughout 2011. It been fun, and I look forward to what 2012 will bring. Happy New Year to you all!

Nate Elgert is a Senior Account Manager at Aureus Group, a Division of C&A Industries, located in Omaha, Nebraska. C&A Industries is a former Inc. 500 company and is one of the largest privately owned Staffing and Recruitment firms in the United States. C&A Industries currently places candidates in every state. Nate focuses his recruitment in Accounting, Finance, and Banking, primarily across Nebraska and Iowa. Nate joined the Aureus Group in 2006 and during that time has run both a dual desk, and has focused on Account Management. Nate is former Golf Professional and still enjoys the occasional round with his friends and family as time allows. Nate is married to his wife Angie, and has two girls, Sofia and Cecilia.

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