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*This article was originally published on 9 October, 2007 in InSight #3

I started my recruitment career in February 1989 with Accountancy Personnel (now known as Hays) in London as a fresh-faced, innocent 22 year old from Hobart.

I knew nothing about accounting jobs or qualifications, nothing about London geography, nothing about working in a corporate office (my previous work experience had been as a Mitre 10 timber and hardware casual sales clerk and as an under-employed actor) and certainly nothing at all about recruitment.

After one day’s ‘training’ I was shown to my seat at what is best described as a cluster of desks (none appeared to match). I was given three huge ring-binder folders of jobs and a slim manila folder of barely employable candidates (one page resume ‘summaries’ for each candidate – ‘summaries’, I worked out later, were used to remove any inconvenient information that was likely to get in the way of a client agreeing to an interview).

I was then told to get on the telephone and make client interviews for my candidates (a minimum of 6 per day was expected). Client visits were for wimps; only applicable for those consultants who weren’t good enough to deal with and control clients over the telephone.

I just managed to survive my probation period by somehow making 3 placements in the final 2 weeks of my 3 month probation – that’s double my placements for the preceding 10 weeks!

Looking back on all the years I have spent as a recruiter, a leader of recruiters and as a coach of recruitment owners, managers and consultants, I wish I knew then these 5 things when I started on that first day in London:

  1. Clients lie: They don’t mean to lie and they don’t maliciously lie but they lie all the same:

    “I’ll call you with feedback tomorrow”
    “of course I’m not listing this job elsewhere”
    “there aren’t any internal candidates up for this role” etc. etc. 

    I soon learned to be “optimistically sceptical’. In other words, to hope for the best but make plans and take action while expecting the worst.

  1. Candidates lie: They don’t mean to lie and they don’t maliciously lie but they lie all the same:

    “That employment gap was due to overseas travel”
    “I haven’t got any other interviews”
    “I am flexible on interview times”
    “the job is more important than the money” etc etc. 

    I quickly found that the most effective way to deal with candidates not telling me all the accurate or complete information: I had to speak to them more regularly, ask questions, and to assume NOTHING. 

  1. Actions speak louder than words: Activity, activity, activity. Thoughts and knowledge make very little difference to results. Results are caused by action, day-in and day-out action. The most effective action is seeing people face-to-face. The next best thing is talking to them. And at the bottom of the list is emailing them, talking about them or thinking about them.
  1. It’s all about me: No matter what company I represented, no matter how good my glossy brochure was or how impressive the company branding was, success in recruitment is fundamentally about me building trust and credibility on a one-on-one basis, with both candidates and clients (with a lot of them, not just a few of them!).  There are no short cuts or magic tricks. Nobody could do it on my behalf. I had to stand or fall on my own efforts.
  1. Be clear who my ideal customer is and then go find them: Early on I wasted many hours both interviewing inappropriate candidates and prospecting to clients who were a waste of my time. Once I clearly identified my target market, and the more accurately and persistently I pursued them, the more success I had. Being a generalist recruiter (as an individual) is for mugs.

Recruitment is simple but it’s not easy. There’s a big difference. Once you work out your own simple rules for success and follow them, it’s amazing how much better your results become with much less time, effort and stress.

Find yours and stick to them every day.

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Luke Collard

When you were at Hays did they remove your seat if you didn't achieve your 6 interviews ? I have a friend who worked there who attributes Hays to the development of his well defined calf muscles !

Ross Clennett

No, that wasn't a tactic that I experienced at Hays in London, Luke. But there was still plenty fo pressure. Nothing like going home with no interviews against your name to feel like a complete failure.

Rob Wise

Love it ! Love it ! Love it !
Now all we have to do is Live it !

Law Nnaji

Wow Ross,well said;distilled wisdom delivered to benefit not only rookies but for veterans.If you are in recruitment,I dare say,ignore any of these lessons at your peril.

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