Recruiters… Where do Nice Guys finish?

I feel ill when I find out that people don’t like me… come to think of it I’m probably lucky I’m in recruitment – a lot of the time in our game people pretend to like you even when they don’t… and that suits me fine.

Over the journey though, I have had to drink quite a few cups of concrete and harden the ‘you know what’ up.  Being too nice in recruitment – probably business in general – will inevitably come back to haunt you.  In our industry there are just too many people – recruiters, candidates and clients – who are ready to pounce on your every weakness, take liberties at your expense and contribute to making your life an emotional hell.

You’ve heard the saying ‘Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’, well I say that in recruitment you need to guard your inches…with your life.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is in it for themselves, most of the people I know in recruitment are really good people.  I mean, I met my wife in recruitment… and she is one of the nicest people I know, (surely that qualifies for a free pass to the footy on the weekend?).  It is those few rotten apples that spoil it for others, and it is the rotten apples that you need to be wary of.

Let me give you two recent examples of recruitment colleagues who have suffered through being too nice.

I met an Office Support Recruiter recently who had given their employer 4 years of service.  During that time they had grown their cold desk from scratch to average billings in the vicinity of $40k per month.  In the 4 years they have received one base pay increase of $5k.  There is no commission structure in place, no other monetary (or non-monetary) incentives and they are constantly berated by the business owner and told she is being ‘overpaid for a mediocre performance’… WOW! What the Hell is she still doing there, right?…

I ran through all of the opportunities I had for her in the market.  I explained what a good culture looked like, told her that she was being underpaid and that she should have access to a commission structure.  Finally, I tried closing the deal by asking permission to represent her to market… her reply… ‘Let me think about it.  I feel really bad leaving them in the lurch.  They really rely on me, and they gave me my start in recruitment, so I feel I owe them…’ Familiar?

I patiently went through it all again and she asked me to give her the weekend to process it all… 4 hours later I received an email, that’s right an email, thanking me for my time and letting me know – after much consideration – that she was staying where she is… I tried calling and emailing, to no avail – oh, and she blocked me on Linked In…

The other example comes from an excellent client of mine.  He told me about an experienced recruiter that he put on to start a new location for him. Within 24 hours of starting the consultant began repeatedly asking for more money, an improved commission structure (they were already on a very low threshold, great commission rate and no deficit) and a Resourcer for support.  The Consultant was holding his boss to ransom, threatening to leave and join a competitor the next day if his demands were not met.  My client gave the consultant some of what they asked, but the demands kept coming.  Text messages at all times of the day and night (I know, I saw them)… The irony was that the candidate was not performing – he billed less than a third of what he had cost the business.  My client agreed that the consultant had to go, but was hesitant… Why?  It turns out that he had been in business for over 15 years but never had to sack anyone… and he didn’t feel good pulling the trigger. In the end he did let the consultant go… and his business and sanity is all the better for it…

It’s easy to judge – isn’t it?  It’s easy to tell people to toughen up and make the hard decisions.  It’s easy to say ‘C’mon champ – grow some balls…’ But in reality – when faced with making these decisions yourself, sometimes it’s just not that easy.

I have had to sack people in the past and every time I have had to do it I feel sick… I can’t sleep the night before, my stomach ties itself in knots and I almost chicken out… for me it is not easy at all…

I have also been an employee in bad companies, yet I’ve walked the company line, taken crap from bad bosses, asked to do things I didn’t agree with… and I did them.  Why?  Because I like to be liked.  I don’t like to cause trouble – and I certainly don’t want to be the bad guy.

But, there comes a time in your professional life when being liked by everyone is not the most important thing in life.  It really doesn’t matter how many facebook friends you have, or if people laugh at your jokes… what is important is making sure you enjoy job – with a sense of achievement and happiness!

Thankfully, I really like my job, and the people I work with – and if you don’t like yours call me… now!

And don’t forget you should never let yourself get pushed around… unless you are riding in a shopping trolley – that sh*t is fun!

Oh, and in case you were wondering I have 643 facebook friends… and I really hope this post gave you a good chuckle…

Craig Watson

2 thoughts on “Recruiters… Where do Nice Guys finish?”

  1. Nice article Craig, however I think that the examples that you have highlighted aren’t about being too nice, but rather a lack of self-confidence and a lack of leadership respectively.

    Early in my career, I thought that being liked was the be all and end all as well – I went out of my way not to upset people and the thought of someone not liking me was enough to keep me up at night. What I realised quite quickly however was that success in business has nothing to do with whether someone likes you, rather it is whether someone RESPECTS you. I am not saying that the 2 can not go hand in hand, but if I was given the option of being liked by someone but not respected in my role or respected, but disliked – I know which one I would take any day.

    The most successful people I know are the ones that I respect AND like; they have built their success on respecting others and demanding respect in return – in the end this is why I think they are liked by so many.

  2. When it comes to recruitment I agree that being too nice or wanting to be liked is not a helpful trait.

    However, I’ve met quite a few in the industry who I’d describe as narcissists or sociopaths. This superficial charm leads naive people to make career (and health) damaging moves. Being “nice” and treating people with respect are too very different things.

    Anyway, karma’s a bitch and it’s good to see some of the unpleasant characters I referred to leaving the industry (albeit probably temporarily), unfortunately they tend to leave a trail of financial and emotional destruction behind them.

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