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This lead story appeared in Issue 33 of my Newsletter, InSight  
Published 21 May 2008  
The end of the 2007/08 financial year is less than six weeks away and most recruiters are working hard to make the final weeks of the year count in terms of converting jobs into placements to exceed their annual target.  
Another financial year is nearly upon us so naturally our thoughts start to turn to a financial target for the 2008/09 year.  
Given the current market sentiment, there is a temptation for some recruiters to be conservative with their targets. I would urge you not to be.  
When you comfort yourself with a ‘realistic’ target, research on goal setting and performance on work tasks suggests you are making the first fatal step towards under-performance.  
In 1996 Edwin Locke at the University of Maryland reviewed 30 years of research into the relationship between goal setting and performance on work tasks and reached a number of  
conclusions. I will highlight two of his conclusions as being especially relevant for recruiters:  
1. Goals that are specific and difficult lead to the highest performance  
The temptation is to set a goal that you know you can reach. You look at the current year expected result (let’s say $350k) and add, say, 10% to make a 2008/09 target of $385k. Nothing especially wrong with $385k – it’s just not an increase that you gave a lot of thought to or could honestly say was difficult to achieve. It’s more of a prediction than a target.  
By doing the same sort of things that you have been doing this year, you only need to generate a very small increase in “jobs filled” to make next year’s target.  
Here’s a hypothetical Perm Consultant example of creating a much more challenging goal by being more specific  :  
On the surface this appears to be an “unrealistic” fee target increase of $175k (50%).  
However, by becoming more specific,   we see that there is only a targeted increase of 5 extra jobs generated (from 65 to 70) with our key goal to increase both the number of exclusive jobs generated (from 15 to 25) and filled (from 11 to 20). We expect to increase our average fee from $12.5k to $15k.  
For a recruiter with a further year’s market experience, these goals are challenging but not unrealistic.  
2  . Goal setting mediates the effect of knowledge of past performance on subsequent performance  
 In other words, when we set a challenging goal our focus shifts towards what is required to accomplish our new goal.  
If we don’t set a challenging goal, our benchmarking remains focused on past results, so we default to what we believe is ‘realistic’ rather than what is possible.  
The best way to demonstrate this concept is to provide two real   examples of recruiters I was coaching around annual performance goals over a two year time frame.  
The first was an experienced recruiter with a benchmark of solid success and the second was a rookie recruiter about to enter her first full (financial) year.  
I coached each of them from self-set ‘realistic’ targets to coach-stretched targets. The results speak for themselves:  
Consultant A – Experienced Recruiter    
Consultant B – Rookie Recruiter    
I am often asked about what constitutes high, average and low performance with respect to annual fees for a recruiter. There is no simple answer as it depends upon many things including:  

  • temp or perm
  • started a cold desk or inherited a warm desk
  • executive v middle management v clerical v technical v industrial
  • PSA with set prices, or not
  • major city v regional v rural/country
  • retained v cont

However, what I can offer you for your 2008/09 fee target is that it should fulfill the following criteria:  

  • it should make you nervous (preferably excited)
  • it should seem “unrealistic” based on your results this year
  • you understand what changes in your high pay-off activities (quantity and/or type) you will need to make to reach your target
  • when you accomplish this target you know you will have gone to a whole new level as a recruiter

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.”  
(Orison Swett Marden – Founder of Success Magazine)  
Good luck!  

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