Recruiting the Recruiter

Remember the glory days of the late 1990s? Friends became dot-com paper millionaires (and Friends, the TV show, was a hit). Enron and the stock market were really hot, and banner ads were all the rage. It was also a time when everyone and their mother became a recruiter. We even developed fancy names for the role at that time: talent scout, talent leader, resourcer, and so on. Some people might refer to this as the first “Golden Age” of recruiters. Unfortunately, those days disappeared quickly in the dot-com and technology correction in 2000, and in the subsequent economic downturn. Many people newly entering or being recruited into our newly sexy profession were laid off by companies and search firms. Having found jobs elsewhere, many may never enter the profession again. In the interim, organizations made do. They used HR generalists and others for recruiting issues and were very hesitant to restore the recruiting teams and infrastructure of the glory days. Or, they just left hiring managers to do whatever they needed to do to be successful. However, over the last year or so, I’ve seen a real shift.

Companies now face roles that are difficult to fill, low unemployment, a very competitive recruiting environment, and a growing U.S. economy. They are revisiting the whole idea of hiring recruiters inside the organization. Search firms and recruitment outsourcing firms are also attempting to ramp-up. As a result, I have seen the demand for great recruiting professionals increase significantly. Not only are there numerous postings, ads, and searches underway for recruiting professionals, but during this past conference season at ERE, EMA, HCI, and other functions, recruiters were in solid demand. Companies were actually buying sponsorships, booths, ads, and so on to attract recruiters. I get at least three or four calls a week from search firms asking for referrals.

The problem is that there are just so many good recruiting pros to go around; I cannot keep referring the same people. Some say we’re entering a second “Golden Age” of recruiters. The difference is that organizations are focused on doing it right this time, rather than slapping it together and hiring anyone. They’ll tap into the usual, known sources: other corporate recruiting departments, third-party recruiting vendors, recruiting outsourcers, etc. But we’ll need alternative areas from which we can get great people with the skills necessary to become great recruiters. For starters, we need to know what those skills are. I’m a big believer that if you focus on a core set of skills necessary to do a job, any number of people with varying backgrounds can fill the role (of course, you’ll have to determine if they can fit into your culture). In this instance, whereas the recruiters in the 90s (and even still today) needed great relationship, communication, sourcing, searching, and technology skills, recruiters today need to add skills in project management, enhanced teamwork, and political savviness, among others. Below is my quick-and-dirty list of the some of the core skills necessary in hiring recruiters:

  • Communications skills (written and verbal)
  • Relationship skills
  • Project management abilities
  • Ability to be a strategic partner
  • Self-starter/takes initiative
  • Political savvy
  • Computer/technology skills
  • Searching, sourcing, other technical skills
  • Creativity/innovative thinking

Thus, with this skill-set in hand, we can broaden the horizons of our profession and bring in new blood. But before we look elsewhere, let’s take a moment to look at our own backyard and the issues one might face in recruiting from other staffing environments. Some of these environments include:

  • Third-party recruiting vendors (contingency, retained search firms)
  • Human resources departments/internal recruiting and staffing teams
  • Recruitment outsourcing firms

With respect to these professionals, the most critical issue you can address is what you can do so that a good recruiter would want to leave his or her company to come work for yours. Here are two suggestions:

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  1. Ensure that the job you’re offering is one that a recruiter gets to recruit. Full life-cycle recruiters really don’t want to deal with “administrivia” ó coordinating candidate travel and interviews, running reports, dealing with applicant tracking issues, etc. All of those things are very important to the process. But they want to recruit. Thus, the more that someone has logistical and administrative support (especially compared to their current role), the more attractive the opportunity to perhaps make a move.
  2. Enable the recruiter to deal directly with the end client and be a strategic partner. Whether it’s an in-house or third-party recruiter, invariably she or he had to go through at least one other party (such as an HR generalist) before getting to the client. Enabling the recruiter to work closely with the ultimate client will be catnip to the high-quality staffing professional.

To further the profession, we need to attract and develop the next generation of great recruiters, and bring in people with the skills we need. Here are some other areas that may be attractive:

  • Sales and Marketing. Sales and marketing professionals have many of the skills we’ve mentioned above. They’re self-starters with strong relationship and project management skills. They’re not as team-oriented, typically, but the trickier issue is that you’re in a bind with salespeople in the following way: If you recruit from within your own company, you don’t want to take out the best salespeople (also if they’re true salespeople and doing great, they probably won’t want to move). Yet, you don’t want a failed salesperson. However, if anyone on your staff comes from sales, it’s often best to have salespeople recruit other salespeople.
  • Operations. Operations people may have many of the skills we seek ó in particular, project management and team- and strategic-orientation skills. But the real advantage to having operations professionals as recruiters is that they typically recruit in their area of expertise. Engineers recruit engineers, and technology experts recruit technology experts. This expertise gives them a built-in credibility with hiring managers.
  • Project Management. These would be individuals that could come from purchasing, logistics, or operations planning areas, among other areas. I actually know a company that actively recruits project managers from construction and architecture firms to become recruiters. It was worked immensely well, and this company has nothing to do with construction or architecture. These professionals have great initiative, relationship and, likely, technical skills, and could also come from engineering or design firms, or advertising agencies.
  • Management Trainee Programs. Many “academy” companies, such as consumer packaged goods, hospitality, retail, and rental car, among others, have some sort of training program, where they bring in newly-minted college graduates with promises of someday running the world and getting paid handsomely for it. The problem ó or for us, an opportunity ó is that not everyone can be a manager and often, after one or two years (the ideal time to approach someone from this area), a certain number of trainees will have realized they don’t want to be in the industry that they’re in. Perhaps they could fit into our world?
  • Professional Service Pros (legal, accounting, management consulting, etc.). It is very natural for someone from one of the service areas mentioned above to make the leap into recruiting. In fact, this is the area from which large search firms draw upon the most. People from these areas understand a service/strategic orientation, have solid communications skills, and are the ultimate project managers.
  • Stock Brokers/Real Estate Professionals. These individuals share many, if not most, of the characteristics of salespeople. Thus, if they’re solid performers, compensation issues could be a factor. However, if they have struggled in a competitive market, and the market suddenly cools, they could still have what it takes to be great recruiters. And bringing people like them in-house, especially from the real estate business, would give them the stability they wouldn’t otherwise have.
  • Journalists. Journalists are great communicators, have strong sourcing/research skills, and are innovative, self-starters. They also typically have competent interpersonal skills and are great project managers. In addition, compensation would likely be a lure to them. These include freelance and/or staff writers. Several people I have personally hired in my past experience came from simply looking at the masthead of my local weekly business journal, and just introducing myself to the poor researcher who has to call up businesses day in and day out to qualify him for the ubiquitous “book of lists.” These people have been very excited about learning about an opportunity they never considered, and have been successful. (You may need to start them out in the sourcing process, and then later move them into full-cycle recruiting.)
  • Technical Education Teachers. Teachers from a community college or business/technical institute ó they even may be part-time or adjunct faculty ó have many of the skills required. What they may lack in business experience, they make up for in substance. Communication, project management, and creativity/innovation skills are all strengths.
  • Political Campaign Workers. They are the ultimate project managers, with savvy, great sourcing capabilities and great relationship skills. A natural leap from the volatile (and not the most highly-paid) world of politics.
  • College Admissions Professionals. They read a lot about different backgrounds, they meet a lot of people, and they have lots of projects. They’re not as savvy with corporate environments. Thus, technical schools would be ideal.

If you have any ideas, thoughts on alternative pipelines, or sources for people who could be brought into our profession, please feel to post an article review to this article and share your thoughts. Ultimately what’s important is the individual’s underlying skill set. If we don’t start to develop a new generation of recruiting professionals, we’ll really pay the price in the future. If you keep that at the forefront, there are any number of areas from which to draw upon to help expand our industry, foster the next generation of recruiting professionals, and create resources to support this second “Golden Age” for recruiters.

About the Author

Jeremy is managing principal of Riviera Advisors, Inc. (www.RivieraAdvisors.com), based in Long Beach, California, a leading human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies improve their internal recruiting processes and capabilities. In addition to his more than 15 years of consulting with corporate staffing teams all over the globe, he has more than 20 years experience leading the global staffing function for companies such as Universal Studios, Idealab, and Amazon.com. He is a leading speaker to organizations on the value of the staffing function, including chairing the ERE Expos in 2006-2007. He is a professional member of the prestigious National Speakers Association and the Institute of Management Consultants; and has served on the national staffing management special expertise panel and the workforce planning standards committee of the Society for Human Resource Management. He is the author of the book “RecruitCONSULT! Leadership: The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader’s Field Book” (STARoundtable Press, 2011).

  • Kevin Logterman

    Great article Jeremy!

    I would add to your idea that brokers/real estate professionals would make good recruiting prospects. The brokerage industry spends huge amounts of money training first year brokers, especially in the areas of consultative selling, handling objections, time management and the concept of filling the pipeline with prospects. These skills, I’ve learned, are some of the skills that differentiate successful recruiters from others, at least in the third party world. The ability to get on the phone, network and build a pipeline of candidates, handle objections and/or people saying no are some of the hardest skills to find in recruiters.

    An additional challenge I see on the horizon, in addition to finding recruiting talent, is the issue of hiring experienced recruiters that are too anxious to change companies. This is likely a good sign that they are running away from something, likely their inability to make an impact. Companies need to be careful of not hiring someone else’s problem and maybe being better off to take your ideas of finding talent that could develop into succesful recruiters.

    It’s a great time to be in recruiting! Thanks for the article.

  • Peter Radloff

    Jeremy, great, great article. It really hits the heart of the state of the market today. And it is true the quality and caliber of the recruiters today needs to be more than bodies in the chair who can dial phones and ask scripted questions.

    The companies that really succeed will be the ones that identify people who can ‘chameleon’ themselves as project managers, business development professionals, politicians and most importantly, strong recruiters who develop relationships.

  • Mo Edjlali

    Funny we were just talking about this today – we have three people in our company with restaurant backgrounds. The combination of communication/relationship building, service, multitasking, high pressure in fast pace environment are traits we look for in recruiters. So now lunch outing double up as sourcing opportunties!

  • Carmela Kelly

    Great article, but I wonder, could we make a push to phase ‘direct salespeople’ out of our industry? Candidates are not objects to manipulate and/or practice sales techniques on. They only add to the image of the shady, oily recruiter who cares less about the candidate than the numbers.

    I know that we are ‘all’ salespeople to an extent, but I would rather hire someone with a conscience, e.g. someone who feels guilty that they left their candidate in the dark, someone humanely motivated to make that call, apologize and communicate the results or next step.

    I normally pale when I research what to look for in a recruiter. I find the emphasis on sales and not taking no for an answer an embarrassment and denigrating to the wizardry I do. Magic. I have worked with some truly fabulous salespeople in the consulting world but I wouldn’t hire a one to be a recruiter and I wouldn’t want to be hired to become a Sales Goddess or God.

    I have little in common with direct salespeople and is just wanting to be of service so rarified these days?

    You are right about journalists based on skilled but unmentioned is their natural curiosity about people and perhaps business. It used to be that journalism paid so poorly still many streamed into journalism slaking their thirst for knowledge, analysis, writing. I thought the job might be lonely so I pursued PR instead until I literally fell into recruiting.

    The degree has served well. PR folk are fascinated by people and they constantly think about image, e.g. the image of the company they represent, protecting the image, and what is going on in the mind of the candidate. I never knew until I began to do research how marketable I have become in an industry overwhelmed by form letters and spam.

    High tech candidates have become jaded, a PR person though can change that. For example, if I look at a person’s website I try to get into the person’s head as I qualify where they might fit in. I then design a unique pitch. I don’t mean to brag but I am something of a Master of Response. I’m not manipulative I’ve just looked into what’s our there and I’ve looked into my targets’ culture. I empathize with them. I know for example how jaded they are and how sick of recruiters they are.

    PR folk are ‘How’ people. ‘How can I turn this around? ‘How can I make this happen?’ ‘How am I going to find this person?’ ‘How am I going to ensure my e-mail gets opened?’ ‘How am I going to get this person to settle down and be at ease with me?’

    I may use techniques but if I do I don’t think about it because it would mess me up. High tech candidates are some of the most astute and weary candidates to encounter. What works is I am REAL.

    Oh. And I am one of those who went on to other things after the crash but now I am back. Blog anyone? Yep I can do that do. It is suddenly what could become an amazing vibrant market in recruiting.

    Carmela Kelly

  • Zahira Vargas

    Good for you Carmela! I really liked your post and agree with you. I’m a recruiter and don’t want to be considered a ‘salesperson’ either. I do care about the candidates and the client and want the best deal for both of them. Salespeople tend to focus too much on the money and not care too much on the individual.

  • Brian Lambert

    Hi,

    I am the President of a non-profit association for salespeople. Our organization has members in 9 countries and we’ve published the only global ethical code and universal selling framework (in use in 19 countries).

    Personally, I try to stay out conversations like Carmella and Zahira have started but one of our Association members has forwarded this thread to me as an example of the complete lack of understanding of what salespeople do for a living.

    When people don’t understand what we do, they have a tendancy to over-generalize and stereotype (which is completely ironic in a board dedicated to recruiting — an HR function — where diversity and competency should be the norm).

    I couldn’t leave this one sit without a response…

    You’re wondering if you ‘should ‘make a push to phase ‘direct salespeople’ out of your industry.” I would say, go ahead if you don’t want to have any open positions to place people into, you don’t care if you get a paycheck, or you don’t need any bills to be paid by your company.

    Believe it or not, more salespeople would actually AGREE with you that ‘candidates are not objects to manipulate and/or practice sales techniques on.’ That’s why there are over 15 million salespeople in the U.S alone and why many of them do a great job.

    What you clearly have done is highlight your perception that there are no ‘professional salespeople’. I would submit to you that there is a DIFFERENCE between a sales PERSON and a sales PROFESSIONAL. I mostly meet with and talk with Sales Professionals who have found something in common with our organization.

    I would also submit that as you outlined, there are
    ‘bad apples’ in selling. But there are ‘bad recruiters’ too….to generalize these bad recruiters as bad salespeople is a foul.

    I would also say that of the 5,000 salespeople I have personally spoken to and the thousands of members our organization has DEFINITELY DON’T ‘add to the image of the shady, oily recruiter who cares less about the candidate than the numbers’….in fact, your postings have gone much further in that regard.

    I cannot possibly believe you’re able to generalize all salespeople has having ‘no conscience.’ I’m sorry you have been so hurt by a salesperson in your past. Perhaps you can share your story with me so that I can better understand where you’re coming from? I can then discuss it as a case study when I run training and guided discussions on sales ethics and sales process.

    With over 3,000 people in our organization, I have yet to find someone who WASN’T humanely motivated to make a call, apologize and communicate the results or next step (as you say you do).

    With all that said, I must say, I do however understand why you wrote this posting….

    You really don’t have an understanding of the roles, competencies, or outputs of salespeople.

    I can tell because you ‘normally pale when you research what to look for in a recruiter’ especially when you say you are a ‘wizard’ at what you do.

    Any salesperson who has done well in the field would actually agree with your emphasis on ‘not taking no for an answer an embarrassment and denigrating’ as well (perhaps you should go to lunch with one of them. You’ll find out that they care about more than you think). If you spend time with more than one salesperson, you’ll find you have a lot in common with them.

    You say you have worked with some truly fabulous salespeople in the consulting world but you wouldn’t hire a one to be a recruiter. Is that because you are more passionate about not ‘wanting to be hired to become a Sales Goddess or God?’ or is it becuase you don’t understand what salespeople do?

    Obviously you are passionate about PR. It might surprise you to find out that the ‘the lonely job you pursued (PR)’ and the degree you received are actually apart of the same Marketing Mix component (called Placement) in which salespeople reside.

    You also said ‘if I look at a person’s website I try to get into the person’s head as I qualify where they might fit in. I then design a unique pitch. I don’t mean to brag but I am something of a Master of Response.’

    You sound like a salesperson to me. I would ask you to line up 10 ‘direct salespeople’ and ask them if they do this…..they’ll all say ‘yes’.

    Then, ask them (as you say) if they are:

    ‘not manipulative’ and if they ‘have just looked into what’s out there and looked into their targets’ culture.’ (by the way, ‘target’ is a marketing and selling word). Ask them if they ’empathize with them’ as you do.

    You say that PR folk are ‘How’ people. ‘How can I turn this around? ‘How can I make this happen?’ ‘How am I going to find this person?’ ‘How am I going to ensure my e-mail gets opened?’ ‘How am I going to get this person to settle down and be at ease with me?’

    Ask 10 marketing people if they do this. Ask 10 salespeople…. the answer will be yes.

    The promotion element of the Marketing mix is comprised of advertising, selling, sales promotion, and public relations. In other words, it is a subset of the marketing mix. Promotion is the communication function of the marketing mix, and the components of the promotion mix are used to provide information to the target buyer (or candidate). To be successful in promoting to these groups, organizations use the promotion mix, which is comprised of functions that are not tied to a specific product.

    They do the things you mentioned above.

    It may surprise you to find out that you’re actually closely related to a salesperson not only in job function but also in responsibilty and competency.

    Everyone knows:
    ? the best salespeople are able to put themselves in their customer?s shoes and provide a solution that makes the customer happy.
    ? The best salesperson is the one the customer trusts and never has to question. The best salesperson is the one who knows that with every cold call made, they are closer to helping someone.
    ? The best salesperson is the one who takes immense satisfaction from the satisfaction their customer gets.
    ? The best salesperson is the one who wakes up early every morning excited to come to the office and get on the phone and let people know exactly why they love their product, their job and their clients

    It sounds so very simple and there has yet to be a successful company that has survived with zero sales. So if selling is the most important job in a company, why is it so hard to find someone to fit within an organization and stay there? Also, why do negative stereotypes exist?

    It’s because this simple job hasn’t been defined too well (see http://www.upsa-intl.org/index-1.htm for more).

    In my book the ‘Models of Salesperson Improvement’, I highlight in depth the roles, competencies and outputs of salespeople. Below is a very brief summary.

    See if you posses some of these. For more information, you can download the free universal selling framework for how all this is put together called the ‘Compendium of Professional Selling’ at our website.

    There are Seven Roles of Highly Competent Salespeople

    ROLE 1: ‘The CLIENT-FOCUSED SOLUTION PROVIDER’

    **Knowledge Needed for this Role:
    —- Buyer Knowledge
    —-Individual knowledge
    —-Environmental Knowledge
    —-Client Market Knowledge

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Expectation Management Ability

    **Skills Necessary for this Role:
    —-Skill in understanding where buyers are in the buying cycle

    =======================================
    ROLE 2: ‘The PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATOR’

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Communication Management Ability
    —-Opportunity Management Ability

    **Knowledge Needed for this Role:
    —-Business Knowledge

    **Skills necessary:
    —-Intrapreneurial Skill, skill with Supervisors with Co-workers and with customers and people in general

    =======================================
    ROLE 3: ‘The FOCUSED CATALYST’

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Personal Management Ability

    **Skills necessary:
    —-Purposeful Skill
    —-Understanding of Needs
    —-Goals

    **Knowledge Needed for this Role:
    —-Solution Knowledge

    =======================================

    Role 4: ‘The CONCERTED FACILITATOR’

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Relationship Management Ability

    **Knowledge Needed for this Role:
    —-Personal Knowledge

    **Skills necessary:
    —-Emotional Intelligence Skill
    —-Social Skill

    =======================================
    Role 5: ‘The EFFECTIVE MANAGER’

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Technology Management Ability
    —-Selling Interaction Management Ability

    **Knowledge Needed for this Role:
    —-Technical knowledge

    **Skills necessary:
    —-Procedural Skill

    =======================================
    Role 6: ‘The VALUE DRIVEN GUARDIAN’

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Ability to understand Character and personality

    **Knowledge Needed for this Role:
    —-Ethics

    **Skills necessary:
    —-Procedural Skill

    =======================================

    Role 7: ‘The STRATEGIC PLANNER ‘

    **Abilities Needed for this Role:
    —-Priority Management Ability

    **knowledge needed for this role
    —-Strategic Knowledge
    —-Competitive Knowledge

    I would encourage all business professionals to look internally at themselves and what they are saying when the feel like throwing salespeople under a bus. I would also submit that you should know what you’re talking about before making unprofesional comments about what salespeople do and the role they serve — especially if you’re in a position that is so closely related to selling.

    Finally, if you took the word ‘salesperson’ out of this list you would probably agree that it’s a complicated and far reaching list of competencies. Nowhere will you find the convergence of so many fields within one profession (purchasing, marketing, HR, PR, economics, finance, law, etc). If you don’t believe me, spend a day with a salesperson on sales calls.

    Not a sermon, just a thought.

  • Jeremy Eskenazi

    Thanks to all of you for your comments and your feedback. This article has sparked lots of good debate and thought. As for weighing in on the whole sales topic… here it is.

    First of all, let me first remind you to take a look at my ‘quick and dirty’ list of core skills that recruiters should have within my original article. Nowhere in that list is the ‘skill’ of sales. That being said, part of my article was to prompt those of us looking for alternative sources for recruiters, with some suggestions. I offered a few suggestions (some fairly in the box and some outside of the box) on some other pools to fish for some raw talent for us as a profession.

    Sales and Marketing (these are actually two separate functions, but for the purposes of my article, I grouped them together) is absolutely a great place to fish for raw talent that potentially we could mold and develop as recruitment pros, as an alternative source. Look, I agree with some perceptions of ‘slimy salespeople’, but, in almost 20 years of being a and managing recruiting pros…I have to tell you: Sales is part of the picture of recruiting.

    Here’s the deal: ‘sales’ involves overcoming objections and managing relationships at its core. If you dont think that being a corporate recruiter involves these things…think again. We have to ‘sell’ to our internal constituents (hiring managers, senior leaders, even our colleagues inside of HR) about our expertise, our knowledge, and even our value every moment of the day. As for candidates, heck yeah do we sell…we better. We sell the opportunities available to the best candidates within our organizations. (of course, part of our job is as an expert consultant…thus we must have assessed those candidates to ensure that they in fact are an appropriate fit for our organization).

    If we did not sell, we would not be needed or required. I have had to sell candidates on the reasons why they should even take my call, come in for an interview, and finally why the various parts of our offer are winning propositions for us mutually. I also have had to constantly sell the reasons why, I as an expert, believe that the people I am presenting are the best candidates for the job… I am adding value by overcoming objections. The deal is this…sales is part of the overall picture. I never said our role is that of a ‘sales person’. I do not believe it is. But ‘sales’ is totally, a part of the picture.

    Thanks again for all of your comments.

  • Carmela Kelly

    Dear Mr. Lambert, Sir,

    I see you are as passionate as myself and some others in defending your professional role and image to the public.

    Sir. I am not salesperson, I am a recruiter. I am not engaged in selling goods and services. I am not a headhunter so I can say that.

    You and I do share things in common, of course we do. You and I are both in professions that get alot of jokes. You at least have never been likened to a pimp that I would imagine.

    You have minimal recruiting experience at a university hiring what I would imagine were consistently young people. I appreciate your Service years, I have never fought in battles such as you. I hope you might respect that you have never been in the same battle field as me, save protecting our image and gaining respect.

    If you would like some data, Google for ‘clueless recruiters’ -military. Read through the experience of candidates and how predominantly they view recruiters as ‘nothing but salespeople.’

    Today I walk the road as a candidate and recruiter advocate. I would like to change the experience of candidates overall and I would like to achieve a higher standard of recognition for recruiters.

    It is my humble opinion based on your interests and passions that you may believe recruiters should report to HR rather than to engineering. I wonder if you view us as HR salespeople. Gretchen Ledyard, formerly of Microsoft recruiting makes the case thus,

    ‘Well, besides the fact I despise being called anything HR (I know, I know ? I work in HR, so I should get over it), I resent the connotation that comes long with it. And I resent the way people say it ? as if it is beneath them or just a silly, meaningless hoop they must jump through. (?Oooh, it was just the HR Interview. I thought you were talking about a real interview!?)I HATE it!’

    http://blogs.msdn.com/jobsblog/archive/2004/03/29/102175.aspx

    Sir? It I believe was worth our time to clarify what we do for a living and how we would like to be viewed. I would not by the way wish to be a Sales God or Goddess because I am extremely passionate about recruiting. See?

    In recruiting we talk about recruiting cycles. When we try to bolster each other or understand something we might say, ‘It’s like a sales cycle.’

  • Carmela Kelly

    Maybe it is just semantics, but I don’t do any of the below, in-house unless people are ‘goods.’

    Main Entry: sale
    Pronunciation: ‘sA(&)l
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Old English sala, from Old Norse — more at SELL
    1 : the act of selling; specifically : the transfer of ownership of and title to property from one person to another for a price
    2 a : opportunity of selling or being sold : DEMAND b : distribution by selling
    3 : public disposal to the highest bidder : AUCTION
    4 : a selling of goods at bargain prices
    5 plural a : operations and activities involved in promoting and selling goods or services b : gross receipts
    – for sale : available for purchase
    – on sale 1 : for sale 2 : available for purchase at a reduced price

    Source: online Merriam-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus, King County Library

  • Carmela Kelly

    Over lunch a friend, colleague, former co-worker who is an independent recruiter, debated the topic.

    We addressed our different roles. We could agree on the parts of her job which required real sales.

    We differed otherwise in my version of service, but we again agreed on how we treat candidates. We united as candidate advocates.

    I relayed to her an early story, when I still had a 30 day fee guarantee period. My candidate quit on the 28th day. Consulting was not at all what she thought it would be.

    Myself I was in a quandary. I knew it was a bad place to work, so I couldn’t ‘sell’ it or talk it up. Instead I said, ‘This place isn’t just for anyone. This is a sink or swim environment.’ Oddly people bit at this like a challenge.

    We then had a guest sales instructor. He told me I was using a ‘negative sales technique.’ That week and the next I sounded fake to myself in interviews. I got over it by realizing I had never invented it as a technique I was just being sincere.

    It’s true I present candidates to hiring authorities but it’s almost like we’re assessing the candidate together rather than me pushing. When my candidate is attacked, I go to battle. I just say what I know, what I’ve see, or have seen. I might close thus, ‘If it’s a concern, I check on it through the references, but I don’t think he is like that.’

    Is this service or sales? Am I offering information or am ‘selling’ something? If I am selling, I am doing it by offering information about what I believe in. In turn others trust and believe in me.

    It’s more than that. It’s grinning ear to ear enthusiasm and it’s contagious. ‘What are you so happy about, Carm?’

    ‘Oh forgive me, John. You know me. I just talked to this candidate and he-was platinum.’

    ‘Where is he in the process?’ Beautiful. I’ve got my hiring authority’s interest and he has way more power than I. Keep the process moving.

    So tell me. By just being myself and understanding politics and process enough to push the process, am I a salesperson?

    My friend and I debated. She said, ‘Well how do you pitch the job then if you don’t sell?’

    ‘I ‘offer’ it to them as an opportunity if they are interested. I don’t sell the company, I tell them what I like and dislike. Then I tell them, but when you are here, use your eyes, ears, intuition. Make your own judgement.’

    Jaded candidates are used to sales. They are surprised when I joke, ‘Well you know I am supposed to sell you, right? So why don’t I just give you my own impressions.’

    Is being genuine a sales technique? I believe caring about a candidate and a hiring authority are more important than a paycheck. It has panned out rather well with employee referrals and job references cowabunga. It will again.

  • Bill Wager

    Carmella:

    The thing that disturbs me most about this thread is the a prior definition of sales as deception.

    How can a useful discussion take place when I’m lying and your being genuine?
    As a long time sales manager, I can tell you that sales consists mostly of aggressive truth telling :
    ‘fish for sale !’
    No matter what particular technique you use, You are selling every time you call a customer and you can get anyone to do that.
    Where people get hung up is in closing.
    Good closers recognize that buyers are frequently afraid to buy, It’s a decision, and a decision may be wrong. Ever wonder why you see a job order open for 6, 9, 12 months? ; consider fear as a possible reason.
    From a reluctant recruiters perspective, as well as a reluctant hiring manager, these can be golden opportunities for failure without responsibility.
    I’ve never had a successful recruiter that was contemptuous of selling–they all left the industry at the first sign of a slowdown, their expert consultative skills were no doubt needed elsewhere.

  • Carmela Kelly

    Bill:

    I reviewed my comments and did a CNTRL F to ensure I did not pen ‘deception.’

    I wrote: ‘Candidates are not objects to manipulate and/or practice sales techniques on. They only add to the image of the shady, oily recruiter who cares less about the candidate than the numbers. They only add to the image of the shady, oily recruiter who cares less about the candidate than the numbers.’

    Perhaps I should have added, ‘You know who you are,’fess up.’ Perhaps I should have inserted, ‘Obvious sales techniques and greed are at the root of the image of the shady…’ Would you have felt better thinking well I may sell but at least I am not obvious and I do have a family to feed.

    I also never wrote you were a liar.

    You and I it seems operate on a different level. We may both get high numbers? But one person might go home thinking, ‘Dang, I am the best closer. I got Bill over his fear.’ and the other? ‘Wow I am so happy for Bill. He won’t have to travel anymore, he can spend time with his kids and I know the client, George, is thrilled. He’ll get his project out alright and on time! Gosh this feels good. I love this job!’

    I am not saying a ‘direct salesperson’ doesn’t share some of these thoughts? But I suspect we are incented by different motivations.

    Mind you, I love numbers as much as the next person. I look at my white board of candidates with great attraction. I am motivated by the steps in the process as well, ticking them off as I make them happen. Big thrill, I know, but I love efficiency and making even the slowest process work. It’s all about obstacles right?

    Otherwise, I genuinely have a will to help others and to be ‘of service.’ It continues to be my biggest motivation. That is not to suggest, Bill, that you and other salespeople don’t share in some of these same thoughts, but I query the difference in our daily thought process and mission.

  • Josie Erent

    I am responding to this article because I think there are two sides to this discussion.

    In any profession there are unethical or indifferent agency recruiters who mistreat and
    manipulate candidates. The reality is that most
    3rd party agencies are unregulated. However, over the years great people with industry experience have set a higher bar of standard
    and choose to work with people who go the extra mile. We certainly do not want government intervention which unfortunately can make things worse rather than better. The unethical and manipulative recruiters are a small percentage however, its been my experience that most of their operators are well established and continue to do business because their corporate clients continue to do business with them.

    There are also issues with corporate recruiters.
    I have seen corporate mistreat recruiters and candidates. I have heard stories where bribes are being taken and in some cases business provided to friends and relatives in the business. There are also the issues of hiring very junior level people with no business experience at all which without proper training can lead to negative reputation of company and worse lawsuits. There seems to be a lack of
    interpersonal skills,business experience, and communications skills that only further highlight the risk of having an inexperienced corporate recruiter in a staffing function.

    Good candidates tell other candidates both good and bad experiences of a company. Bad experiences are conveyed to many colleagues and business associates. Passive candidates want to work with great companies that have career opportunities with a collaborative, empowering culture. They do not generally respond to job boards.

    I tell my candidates that finding a good recruiter is as difficult as finding a husband or wife. People need to identify with people who share their thoughts, goals and have a genuine interest in assistance.

    I feel very fortunate to be in a great industry.
    Its too bad that most companies fail to understand that great recruiters are indispensible and can find great talent that normally to not respond to passive job boards. By using one agency, these companies are compromising ethics and in most cases the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace. I have spoken to many hiring managers who are very frustrated with their HR departments that are not responsive to their talent needs and reach a point where they themselves consider the possibility of leaving their employer.

    People are people. As for candidates, they should all ask questions and avoid recruiters or companies that do not respect or value talent.
    As for myself, if a company does not want to deal with me, I simply call their competitors.

    Josie Erent
    Talented Minds
    416-232-0600
    josie.erent@talented-minds.

  • Corrie Waarum

    This is a terrific article. As a former pre Y2K Recruiter, I totally agree that a new talent pool continually needs to be formed. I have had great success in hiring operations candidates as well as sales professionals for Recruiter openings. Other areas where I have had luck is prior service candidates, recruiters from difficult industries and technologists who recruit technologists. Thank you!

  • Martin Burns

    Useful information, thank you for your thoughts on this. We have actually had great success with recruiters who were trained in consultative selling from a national car-rental chain. I know, odd, but the mix of service & sales (yes, I know sales has become a dirty word in this thread, but) training they are put through allow these talents to be very effective for our organization.

    Happy to hear that the majority of the posters in this thread feel that a good salesperson is someone who provides the right solution at the right time, and helps the candidate and/ or client understand why it makes sense. We dont employ any ‘oily’ sales people here. Just professionals who enjoy the pursuit, and the mix of tangible & intangible rewards this unique career offers.