Talent Acquisition

Sales vs. Recruiting: The Eternal Battle

I do not like confrontation. I do not feel that anything can be solved by yelling and accusations and mean faces. I believe in discussions, dialogue and deal making. I know that negotiation will bring resolution even if everyone walks away unsatisfied. In the 15 years I have been a head hunter, I have noticed that the most common, and most inexplicable, is the WAR of Sales VS. Recruiting.

This is the most incomprehensible conflict. You’ll find this battle to be more common in a “split shop” where there are recruiters and sales people, and less common in full desk environments, but it is always there. I say it is bizarre as both want the same goal: placements and commission. So, why and where is the disconnect? Bottom line: sales doesn’t want to lose their clients by pushing too hard and recruiters don’t want to waste their time on bullsh*t jobs. How can we fix it and make compromise?

Who’s to blame?

Things are slow. Open jobs have been sitting for 8 weeks and more without fills. Submittals and interviews have dropped off. Your manager will gather the whole team together (sales and recruiting) in her office…

Everyone is getting ready for her to start yelling…

Before it begins, Sales looks at Recruiting… Recruiting looks at Sales, and they yell at the same time, fingers pointing:

“It’s your fault”

I know we can come up with plenty more specific complaints but at the end of the day they boil down to these two from each side:


  1. You haven’t given me enough candidates to send
  2. Your candidates STINK, they bomb, they don’t fit and my manager is getting their panties in a terrible bunch


  1. Your job spec is weak, pulled from the client’s site, or is unreasonable
  2. I have sent you people, and there has been no response, or the response does not give enough detail for me to refine my search

How can we fix it? Each side needs to help the other, hand in hand:

Just be honest and open

Those are simple solutions with specific fixes. At the end of the day though, it boils down to honest and open communication between sales and recruiting. It needs to be recognized by everyone involved. The ultimate goal of a recruiter should be to have such a relationship with sales that no phone call to a candidate is needed! That sales sends your resume without even looking at it. Sales’ goal is to have recruiters with that level of trust, who know your connections and jobs are real and not black holes.

If a sales person says to me:

Jeff, I am trying to establish a relationship. Can you get me 3 people to show Mrs. Manager so I can generate dialogue?

I am more than happy to do it. However, if they say:

ERMEGEHERD this is so HOT I need people RIGHT NOW!!!

and I find out they have never spoken to the line manager let alone Human Resources? It destroys the trust level.

On the other side, when I present a candidate to Sales, I give the information with warts and all:

Oh, he has 7 years doing [X Skill]… but that gap was 6 months in the clink for a DUI.

Or more realistically:

She is a passive candidate and she is not closed… but she wants to see the environment and meet the manager.

You should never sell your candidate to your sales manager. You will be found out. No candidate is ever a perfect match. You need to explain why the manager needs to see them:

I know the manager wanted to see no gaps, but in 2002 he had a 3 month gap trying to find work. I checked the references and I feel comfortable that this should not be a negative.

An answer like that will help Sales take it to the next level.

Bottom line of what I am getting at here is that Sales and Recruiters need to work on working together. They cannot lay blame at each other’s feet when the blame usually lies not in lack of work but in work not fully completed. Our livelihoods are tied together and we shouldn’t be afraid to help each other do our jobs, because in the end, we cannot be successful unless we are in symbiosis.

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."