Talent Acquisition

Is Recruiting a Business of Failure?

So, I had an article already to post, all about why “Hard Closes” never work. Then, as is the nature of our business and life in general, things change…

I haven’t been able to get some thoughts out of my brain as I watched situations unfold. I said maybe writing about it for The Undercover Recruiter will get me to have some process. Also, I forgot to take my Lexapro last night, so maybe that is contributing? Who cares, we’re all going to die anyway. (Wait, that was 100% missing the Lexapro).

In my last article I gave you 10 phrases that were very trite and very true. I promised you I had many more, so without further ado, try this one on for size:

Recruiting is a business of failure.

When I think about that line, I think about baseball players. (Man, I hope this analogy rings true for my mates across the pond but I’m going to roll with it…)

Buster Posey had the highest batting average of every single full time Baseball player in 2012. It was a very strong .336. That means for every 10 pitches thrown his way, he hit the ball a little more than 3 times. I wish I had a placement for every 10 candidates I submitted. I’d be the best recruiter out there and they’d call me King of the Head Hunters with the “Greg Savage Trophy of Excellence in Achievement”. As recruiters, we fail a heck of a lot more than we succeed. If you can’t take failure, then go home or go Corporate (Just kidding. A bit).

Any Head Hunter worth their salt will admit, at the end of the day, there is no way to know exactly why someone got an offer for their new opportunity. We can match resumes to a job description. We can find that passive candidate with a left hand monkey wrench skill set and build their resume to perfection. From there, we can get them excited about the opportunity and to where it will lead. We can impart interview skills learned by witnessing why others have failed, both in the specific and the general. We may know our clients to the point that the HR manager came to our wedding, and while we expense that lunch, it was more pleasure then business. We know every hot button on both sides of the aisle and offer perfection on a platter…. And it still falls to shit.

Sometime we think we know why, but I promise, it is an illusion. People are not products, though in a way, it is what we sell. More often than not, there is simply nothing that makes sense. That’s what it means to be in a business of failure.

I wish I could tell you that if you read every article on The Undercover Recruiter, you’d be guaranteed to be El Numero Uno. I wish I could tell you all the expensive training and webinars and certifications can help. Most of all, I wish I could tell you that Hard Work is all it takes.

I’d be a liar, though, and I will not do that.

It is all about luck. Skill and Hard Work play 98% of the game. If you do not work on improving your skills, if you do not manage your time, make connections, which become submittals, which then lead to interviews which then become “THE PLACEMENT”, you will fail. You might also fail if you do all those things, too. That’s the luck part. That elusive uncontrollable 2% that makes people think they are good recruiters. They should remember that luck is as fickle as a 15 year old Justin Bieber fan.

We have all had our ups and downs, and seen fellow recruiters and sales people come and go. I’ll often hum to myself The Wheel by the Grateful Dead, when I get melancholy about it. My buddy Steve Levy and I once had a Twitter convo. He tweeted:

I just read an ad for a “permanent agency recruiter”, There is no such thing!

I replied asking him what would make an agency recruiter permanent. His answer did not have to be made shorter for Twitter. It was simple, sweet and to the point:

A positive revenue stream.

I get up, come in every day and I am still working on that lottery moment. The big 100k+ Fee placement, that client who throws job orders so fast and hard that I think his last job was in the adult entertainment industry, that level of success that I become the Buster Posey, maybe even the Babe Ruth, or, if I dare to dream, the Jorgen Sundberg of recruiting. The key phrase is that I am Still Working, and working hard. Every excellent recruiter worked to get that break. They earned that luck by using their box of tools, techniques, and tricks. Most of all, they never stopped pounding out calls and emails. They never stopped going after new business or sending out candidates. I could fill 20 pages with stories of failure, of people (me included) who worked very hard, had a crap run of luck and ended up jumping ship, or being made to walk the proverbial plank.

Personally, I allow myself what I call “5 minutes of Anger” when I lose something I thought was going to happen. The candidate who vanishes, the client about to make an offer who then tells me they filled it internally, the scheduled interview that never happens, the person fired 89 days into a 90 day guarantee – we know them all!

If I get fired, I give myself a “Day of Rage”. I have no illusions about the fact that I am only as good as my last deal, or in the words of Mr. Levy, my revenue stream. That is it, though. I pick myself up, dust off and move into whatever is next. If you can’t handle that, you need to find another line of work.

Anyway, I’d like to dedicate this article, if I may, to every deal that didn’t happen but should have. To every frozen job order and everyone who had a client who decided a VMO was more efficient then a personal touch. I offer it to every email that said, “After budget cuts, all your contractors bill rates are hereby reduced by 20% across the board”. Most of all, I’d like this to dedicate to the hardworking recruiter and salesperson, that cog in the machine, who toils day in and day out, who makes night calls and Sunday coffee dates chasing an elusive dream that they have no idea if this one will be, THE ONE. For everyone who knows the sad and simple truth that you are only as valuable as your last deal.

By Jeffrey Newman

Jeff Newman a.k.a. The People's Recruiter, has been a Full Life Cycle IT Recruiter and Full Desk Placement expert for over 14 years. He prides himself on always making sure that what he is offering a candidate is an Opportunity and not just another job. He is a Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Mobiquity. Watch Jeff live on stage: "Recruiters: The Good, The Bad, and the Devious."