Boohoo Recruiters… Here’s a Kleenex…

Usually, I jump to the defence of the berated and down-trodden recruitment consultant… Usually, I sympathise with the plight of the overworked and underpaid exponents of our craft… Usually, I acknowledge that what we do on a day-to-day basis is bloody hard, and stressful… Usually… but not today…

Today, I am sick to death of the Recruitment Consultant with a questionable billings history, more roles than a French bakery (I know, it should be rolls, or petit pain – but then it just wouldn’t be funny – would it?) and a list of excuses for a failed recruitment career that would give a politician a run for their money…

And then… I’m even more sick of the same recruitment consultants coming to see me – and expecting me to find them a cushy job with no sales responsibility and no KPI’s!

I have one piece of advice for those Recruitment Consultants… Get the hell out of the industry!

OK… rant over, time for some context…

You do know that the Recruitment industry in Australia is going through a flat patch and the moment right? You understand that the earnings warnings and profit downgrades we read about every other day mean that businesses are looking to cut costs and increase productivity wherever possible?? You are aware that the owners of these businesses have a break-even point that dictates whether, or not they remain solvent???

Simple fact is – if you are not contributing to top line revenue, in excess of your cost to the business you are living on borrowed time… and… if you are not completing the levels of activity required to hit that point you quite simply don’t deserve to keep your job… (I know I said rant over… I lied…)

I met with a client of mine last week. This client has a reputation for bringing in experienced recruitment consultants with existing networks and basically letting them run their own show… They have been very successful with this model, but market conditions have changed – and they have changed with them.

‘Craig,’ My Client told me, ‘we are still very much in growth mode. We want to see the best Consultants in the market… but we have minimum activity expectations, KPI’s if you like. It is this level of activity that will see us through this flat period and come out the other side stronger… You need to make sure your candidates are aware of these expectations. If they won’t do the work, the marketing, the visits – then we don’t want them…’

It’s a common theme I’m afraid. In this market ordinary recruitment consultants are being found out. It will get better again… and soon… but right now It’s time to suck it up, work the numbers and get back to basics.

You made good… no… you made great money during the easy times… are you committed enough to have the same success during testing times?

And, if you think you can do it without sales activity and some structured KPI’s you are probably kidding yourself…

I don’t expect too much love from this post, and it scares me because hell hath no fury like a Recruitment Consultant scorned… but there are other careers… careers not reliant on increased, structured sales activity during the tougher times… easier careers… Question is… do you want the easy option?

(P.S. Rant is officially over…)

Craig Watson

27 thoughts on “Boohoo Recruiters… Here’s a Kleenex…”

  1. BOOM, great read Craig! Your blog posts are always amusing, but this one ‘hits the nail on the head’. In April next year I will have been in recruitment for 10 years, sure you would get less time for murder, but I hate the fact that our industry is full of underperforming, wide-boy and excuse prone jobhoppers. That said, it’s not just consultants but recruitment business owners that are to blame. A ‘consultant’ title with less than two years experience or training? A great consultant because they have had one quarter of good billings by luck alone and then they think they can move on for a bigger role and more money, a complete joke. Rec to Rec’s pushing the same consultant around every six months?!?!?!?! Who is to blame for this ‘excuse culture’? All of us for letting it get this bad…..

  2. Surely your not suggesting that the world of Agency Recruitment is all about Sales are you?? And then suggesting that Sales is a numbers game? (just incase, I’ll add the subtitle to insert sarcastic tone when reading this reply)

  3. GREAT blog guys! There is nothing more painful than a phone call from a consultant wanting a new job with ‘no BD’ ,’No sales’ ,shorter hours yet more pay….they are fed up with the ‘stress’, I have only one thing to respond with…’Go and work at Macdonalds then!!’ Too many people want the easy option with as little input as possible, yet the most rewarding financial gain… not going to happen. There is only one thing that dictates the outcome in this game and it is what you put in.

    As for a jumpy resume, we all have the odd move due to wanting more money / being within the wrong cultural fit / having a pervert boss etc etc we hear them all…. But when you feel that the consultant is making excuse after excuse for every single move and it is never their fault, they never made the wrong choice, you can guarantee that they will be blaming YOU when they decide that this move was ‘misold’ to them.

    With all of this being said, I do think that there is a fine balance between the company that you discussed whom put KPIS in order to sustain a certain amount of activity versus an organisation which is so KPI obsessed it may as well be being run by Hitler. All in all, if the consultant is happy with their management, with their culture, and with their market without the feeling of having a boss who’s breathing over their shoulder, this in itself will sustain the momentum of activity.

  4. I wouldn’t need to do any sales now if I had a penny for every time a Recruiter said they don’t like sales, want account management, don’t like kpis. We all have times, lets be honest here, when we would prefer a nice non sales role but recruitment is sales, right, not HR! Enjoying reading your articles Craig.

  5. It seems that KPI’s and activities and measures have become dirty words, filthy even. Now whilst I dont knwo anyone that actually LIKES being measured purely on numbers, we all know why its important. Ownership, seems to be a mentality that is dropping away – owning and undrstanding your business or your desk. If you dont understand your desk, you cant control it and your life career will be run on “hopefully” and “if” which isnt fun for anyone. Basics 101

  6. Good shout indeed, however, people that are reading this and aren’t on the phones won’t last. They’ll have plenty of time to read every blog, or even write a blog while i’m out taking their clients! So keep writing and keep reading. The only formula for success in recruitment: outwork, outlearn, and outlast the competition. See you at the top!

      1. I have been recruiting for 16 years I have owned business in the UK. I have recently moved back down under to be closer to the family. Yes recruitment is based around numbers however from my point of view having witness massive changes in the UK recruitment market over the last few years with many process driven recruitment businesses making loads of process KPI driven consultants redundant.

        Recruitment is changing gone are they days when recruitment company can provide an average service charge 20% on base salary’s for what a 23 year old consultant who is pressured by their manager to get fee’s on the board what ever the situation.

        Businesses are looking for recruitment partnerships that ad value to the process consultants with strong market knowledge and a great network. London 07 the recruitment tape turned off Clients are receiving 20 calls a day from consultants that they have never heard from before, these are the consultants who did not build strong relationships with clients and provided a great service. I still work with Clients in the UK they use me because I have a great global network of clients and candidates and provide a great service. For all of you young energetic consultants starting out be smart don’t just accept KPI as a numbers game quality not quantity get out meet your clients if you can, be different have something to talk to your clients about not just recruitment if you know the client is not recruiting, take them out for coffee get to know them and their business When they do recruit they will call you, not some process driven KPI monkey who provides what ? leave the process monkeys to the internal guys ? if you can’t pick up that phone and be smart about it and able to provide an honest relationship driven service I suggest to find a new profession.

  7. So “the flat patch” is the reason so many recruitment consultants I know have requested to Link In with me to view my connections. Maybe they’re making an attempt at prospecting. Good read, Craig. I hope business picks up for the industry soon.

  8. Love it…yip, it’s almost hard to believe that’s it’s just that simple. However, KPI’s are worth nothing if done by stressed out and/or unskilled recruiters…so it’s team effort. Right now the pressure is on quality/inspirational managers getting the best from their teams…through positive engagement.

    1. Agree with that Rob, and its for managers to now look at adapting their own plan/approach to their team, to meet the needs of the business, whislt doing the right thing by their people (note – people, not clients or employees, but people) Now more than ever, our recruiters need our time and energy and care – they are an extension and reflection of how much of those things we dedicate to them.

  9. Hi Craig. Wow, it’s impressive to find someone who still thinks being successful in a recruitment agency is about making sales calls. And especially impressive to think making sales calls is the way to survive through a downturn. Your post fundamentally fails to recognise those who survive down turns are the consultants with the strongest networks, reputation and tenure recruiting a certain discipline. In addition, if you are one of those ‘downturn survivors’ you are probably very happy in your current role as you will be rewarded financially off the back of your relationships and delivery and if you are not, then you have probably got the initiative to map out the types of agencies you would like to work for and would be proactive in approaching them. The only reason I can see a recruitment consultant coming to you for a new role is if they are one of the consultants you are referring to who have failed to build a reputation or network and are too lazy to find their own next gig. Clients are increasingly moving to a direct sourcing model because recruitment agencies are stuck in 1989 when all being successful about was making calls. Evolve your message Craig, if you don’t, you will be left behind.

    1. John, couldn’t agree more. Whilst the recruitment industry is solidly stuck in, as you said, a 1989 mindset, the rest of the business world has moved on. They demand a relationship developed over mutual benefit and thorough understanding…you do not get that by making a cold sales call – you just don’t! This is why more and more businesses ARE bypassing recruiters and opting for a more in-house model and why candidates prefer more direct methods. The industry as a whole has failed wholly to adapt to changing demands, and it has done so at it’s own peril. KPI’s of 100 sales calls a day are not the way to improve one’s lot when the clients on the other side of the line have heard exactly the same spiel from 100 different recruiters that day. Illogically, though, recruiters are measured on how well they can be a pain in the arse, and are churned and burned on the same. How is that a way to run a business? Is it any wonder why firms are downsizing, whole divisions closing and the industry is shrinking? You burn consultants with interchangeable KPIs, structured in such away as to essentially punish success, you will surely find that the 45-49% turnover in the industry is merely a starting point…and those consultants are not changing roles within the industry, they are leaving it entirely.

      How then do we continue to claim to be a service to businesses when we can’t even fix up our own backyard?

    2. Thank you for your reply John. You are so right !! I have clients contacting me on my personal mobile advising they are upset at not being taken care of by their Consultant nor their Agency. Recruitment is taking care of your Clients and Candidates, not just the Sales aspect. Most Recruiters do their job very well and when reference checking I have brought on many new businesses, however most employers are requiring the Recruiter does more and more in the role, which does not allow for client and candidate care, its all about being fast and placing a match, not the best person for the role. Most of the agencies I have worked at are ALL about the Sales and forget that without SERVICE, clients and candidates will look elsewhere.

  10. Craig – All the successful agency recruiters I know would never use a rec to rec. They don’t need to. They have a reputation for delivery that means that they are always being courted by other agencies wanting to benefit from their network. If a recruitment consultant can’t find him or herself a new role in an agency, when a major part of their skill set is finding roles for other people, it’s almost laughable! But this post isn’t about rec to rec’s or how relevant your business model is, the point I am trying to make is that sales calls do not build client relationships. They might have once, but it just doesn’t cut it anymore, especially when clients are becoming smarter at recruiting talent directly. Agencies need to recognise that making a sales call is just lazy, as they are often poor quality when made under the guidance of ‘your KPI this week is 20 calls per day’. We need to spend time in ensuring we offer clients something very different or highly specialised that they can’t do themselves. What that is, will depend on how smart the recruiter is and the sector they specialise within. Which rock have you been hiding under? It must be lovely under there 😉

  11. Good read and I keep hearing the same from people, of whom I think I am meeting to catch up and instead all they want to do is see if I can offer them a job.

    I for one am a bit guilty of feeling under pressure during tough times, but its a matter of dealing with it and also the challenge will make you stronger, great read.

  12. You misunderstand me Craig, I’m not saying don’t ever make calls, I’m arguing that being measured on the KPI of no. of calls made does not beat a downturn and that recruitment consultants need to be smarter and more inventive with how they reinforce their positioning to clients.

  13. Hi John and Craig,

    Let me start by saying i have worked through 2 recessions in this industry and come out the other side smiling and all because i made those sales calls either face to face or Telephone. i stayed in touch knowing that when he was once again in recruitment mode all my contact calls would ensure he thought of me when an opportunity presented itself.
    Not all of us are HR professionals or profess to be, i am a experienced Recruiter with a strong sales approach and a voracious appetite for B/D i might add the client i am referring to ended up being a 25 year relationship, i wonder how successful i would have been if i had not made those follow up sales calls. in the bad times.

  14. Actually there is nothing too stressful about understanding a client’s business, knowing what the drivers are, getting in tune with their value proposition, being clear headed about the make up of the team, working out which jobs there create, sustain and support value, giving advice that’s in their best interests and then being really thorough about role requirements. Trouble is, if you want to work like this, you need to understand business. Stress comes from knowing that you have to flick faster than the next “consultant” to achieve a “stick”….and clients exposed to that are ducking for cover!

  15. I am no longer in the industry, however I agree with this article having been a successful widely recommended recruiter for half a decade on The Strand in central London during the global financial crisis. It’s all about hard work!

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