Why Recruiters Suck: A Confidential Memo

Sometimes the journey to greatness takes a slight detour. It doesn’t matter if you’re an internal corporate recruiter or an outside headhunter?? you know you’re a great recruiter when two things happen:

  1. Your hiring manager clients call you before they have a formal job requisition approved.
  2. Your candidate’s spouse is listening to your advice.

But neither event will happen unless you really have your act together. Let’s start this interesting journey with some in-your-face shock news. We inadvertently got our hands on the following memo. I’ve cleaned it up a bit, but it’s still pretty ugly. These managers might have gone overboard, but from what I understand it was based on surveys of hundreds of line managers across a number of industries on what they really think about us all?? HR, internal recruiters and headhunters. As a first step on the climb to greatness, it’s best to start at the bottom. Confidential Memo. DO NOT COPY OR RESEND Date: Today

To: All Recruiters

Subject: Why You Suck

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From: Your frustrated clients?? us hiring managers who have to live with your ineptitude

  1. Learn the real job. No matter how many buzzwords you use and how clever you sound, you really don’t know what we’re looking for. It’s not just a pretty face and someone with all of the credentials we’ve listed on the job description. We only tell you that because most of you can just check boxes. Why don’t you spend a day with some of the people you place and find out what the best people really do? Then you’ll stop submitting unqualified candidates for us to waste our time on.
  2. Learn how to assess competency. We might not be as good as we should be at this part, but don’t blame us for all the unqualified people you submit. And don’t ever again mention behavioral interviewing. Find out what the people you send us have done that is so great, and then compare this to what our best people now do. Remember, you just spent a day with them to find out.
  3. Find new methods to locate top candidates, and stop making excuses. We’ve heard all the reasons why you can’t deliver strong candidates?? not enough money, too many skills and requirements, not enough time, bad ads, candidates don’t want to relocate, etc. Enough already! We don’t need to pay for recruiters who can’t find top candidates. This is your #1 job! Get creative. Our best people know other great people. Call them up and get the name of every single person they’ve ever worked with who is good. Then call these people up and convince them to come work for us. If this doesn’t work, get some more names from them and keep calling. Or, try something different. Just stop making excuses.
  4. Get some guts. Stand by your decision and defend it with substance. We don’t care if the candidate has everything listed on the job description. Prove it to us that the candidate is a top player. Most of the time, you’re snowed by a pretty face and some nice experience?? and then you try to snow us. Instead, try finding people who can make it happen and tell us exactly what they did that was so significant. Stop being a wimp.
  5. Stop telling us your time to hire is down. The only thing that’s down is the time to find average people. Big deal. The time to find good people is the same as it always was?? too long. Get a pipeline of top candidates or something. If the Internet is so great, why can’t you find top people faster? Is that Monster thing just a bunch of b.s. after all?
  6. Quality is more important than quantity. We only want to see three or four top people, so stop buying time and sending us sub-par performers. We know this is just a ploy so you can work on some other assignment, or you’re afraid to get on the phone and really dig out top people. If you can’t tell these are sub-par performers you’re sending us, get into some other line of work. Sorry for the directness, but we’re really counting on you to help us get through this. We have some difficult challenges ahead, and we need some top people to help us climb the mountain. We can’t do it without your help. If you take seriously the criticism in this memo, are willing to change your ways and think you can deliver top people consistently, call us immediately. We have a few open assignments we’re trying to get approved, and we desperately need your advice and help. Signed,

    Your Hiring Managers

This memo pretty much covers it all. When your hiring managers call you before they have the requisition approved, it means they trust you to deliver. How many of us can claim this elite status? I’d suggest we take this message to heart. There is frustration, insight, and hope in the pleadings. The Other Client: Your Candidates Now on to our other class of client?? the top candidates you are now, or soon will be, presenting. Here’s a critical point to remember: the best candidates don’t make the hiring decision alone. Accepting a new job for a top candidate is not an individual contributor activity. Not only are more variables considered (things like opportunity for growth, challenges, chance to make an impact, compensation, company health, leadership skills of immediate superior), but they take more time to make it, and they consult with more people. For them a new job is a strategic decision, not a tactical one based solely on compensation, benefits, and the quality of the exercise facilities. So if you’re trying to hustle candidates through the acceptance process, most assuredly you are presenting and placing average candidates. This is the type of recruiters our hiring managers clients were referring to in the above memo. Average candidates consider a new job one of necessity, with getting back on the payroll the dominant decision criteria. For them the acceptance decision is a no-brainer, requiring neither advice nor the counsel of others. Dealing with average candidates is a volume and speed game. Your clients, however, are focusing on quality: high quality candidates and high quality jobs that match needs, abilities, and expectations. This is a different game, and if you want to play you’d better learn the rules. They are clearly spelled out in the memo. This is why the candidate’s spouse is such a good measuring stick. When the candidate’s spouse can confidently tell you why your candidate is going to accept an offer, you know you have provided them with the correct balance of quality information. This is the most important person on your candidate’s advisory team. But only a little bit of the requisite information can come from you. Most must be gleaned during the interviews with the hiring manager. Managers must be able to cover things like complete information about the challenges of the job, the growth opportunities, the team, the available resources, and how the job relates to the company vision and strategy. You need to be able to coach hiring managers through the interview, closing, and assessment process. This is another area where hiring managers desperately need our help. And this is something they didn’t even mention in their memo (boy, they really need do our help, don’t they?). Maybe you should call one right now, and take another step towards becoming a great recruiter.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).