Talent Acquisition

5 Signs Your New Recruiter is Destined to Fail

Just about every recruitment business that I am associated with, as well as those I consult to, are finding it difficult to hire great recruiters.

In Australia there is such a shortage of experienced recruiters that one ‘Rec to Rec’ recruiter told me she has over 1200 vacant orders in Sydney alone! In the UK, we find that there is strong competition to hire recruiters, and Asia is much the same.

So inevitability, recruitment firms (and corporates too, I imagine) will relax their criteria, maybe train more newbies into the industry, and that is no bad thing.


The biggest cost to every recruitment firm is salaries, and the primary destroyer of profits is under-performing or failed recruiters. That is a fact.

So as the recruitment industry gains momentum, we all have to make sure we hire people who can bill consistently, who can learn, and who fit our culture.

The irony is that our industry is notorious for making bad hires. We don’t train that well either as a rule, and our own staff turnover is often a disgrace. Yet there is another problem, which might at first seem counter-intuitive.

When we make a bad hire, often we are slow to put it right. We hold on to under-performing people for too long.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe in ‘Hire and Fire’. But even so, there are sometimes early signs you have made a wrong hire and it’s not going to work.

I am not suggesting you let someone go if one or even all of these signs emerge, but it should set off alarms and trigger action. Because doing nothing is the one thing you should not do.

  1. Slow learners – Intelligence is a much underestimated trait when it comes to recruiting. I always look for it when hiring. A newbie who is slow to learn, repeats mistakes and just does not ‘get things’ is a potential disaster. Proceed with caution.
  2. Unwilling learners – “Coachability “ is a key recruiter requirement in my opinion. Poor listeners, know-it-alls, and those who just can’t focus on learning different ways in their new environment, are likely to fail long-term.
  3. Social misfits – Seriously, sometimes in the first day I know I have made a bad hire. Not because they can’t recruit. But because they can’t fit in. Inappropriate jokes, over-familiarity, too loud or too quiet. Of course you have to take into account new-starter nerves, and often people settle in over time. But sometimes, you just KNOW…this is wrong!
  4. Late and lazy – I always see a red light flashing when the new recruiter starts coming in late in the first week, misses meetings, or does not follow up on simple, basic tasks you have given them. If that’s their “honeymoon” effort, just wait till a few months down the track!
  5. Lack of courage – Sounds strange talking about courage in a desk job. But, in fact, you do need to be brave in recruitment. Make that cold call. Tell that candidate they are not right for a job they really covet. Negotiate a fee. Lead a client meeting with your new boss in the room. I have noticed that new recruiters show their “courage colours” early. Don’t throw a raw newbie in the deep-end. That’s not right and unlikely to help. But they do need to be given little tasks, which involve doing tricky things. How they tackle those is a strong signal of their long term success.

Please use my tips with care. Every new recruiter will show some of these faults. But on the other hand if you see them in a rookie, hone in on it. Examine it. Test it. Counsel them on it.

And look for rapid improvement.

If improvement is not forthcoming, you may have a serious issue.

By Greg Savage

Greg Savage is a sought-after speaker and presenter, as well as consultant and advisor to the industry. He has founded several highly successful recruitment companies and worked in recruitment all over the world. To contact Greg please email: