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The only thing harder than hiring recruitment consultants is knowing when to say goodbye.

The category of recruiter I am talking about here is the new recruiter where there isn’t a history of financial results to provide some surety that you are making the right decision. This is the person who has typically been working for you for between four and ten months. There may have been some strong billing months, they are probably delivering an inconsistent level of high pay-off activities but no pattern of above-acceptable billings or activity levels has yet emerged. The jury is out, and you’re the jury foreman.

Here are the things to look for as almost sure-fire signs that it’s time to say goodbye and start your search for a replacement.

1. Lateness:  As any of my former team will attest, I wasn’t very tolerant of lateness. We all get held up from time-to-time but it’s the pattern of lateness and the throw-away excuses (‘bloody traffic’ – lots of traffic in the CBD during peak hour, who knew?) that are clinchers.

Any under-performing recruiter should be one of the first in the office each day, not one of the last. If they are consistently late they clearly don’t care whether they succeed or fail, so why should you?

2. Earliness: Like lateness, except at the other end of the day. Hey, we all have another life to lead but if a recruiter is not meeting activity or billing targets consistently yet is promptly out of the office at 5 pm then I suggest you give them a lot more time to have that ‘other life’ that’s clearly a priority for them right now.

3. Lots of credits/bomb outs: No recruiter is perfect; we all have credits or bomb outs for various (sometimes bizarre) reasons. However, a consistent pattern of candidates not sticking in their new jobs indicates your new recruiter lacks rapport, judgment or a sufficient care factor. All things that training is unlikely to shift quickly. Time to rack up another credit for you.

4. Won’t take direction from people who know better: Recruiters who insist on continuing to work on junk jobs or ‘social worker’ candidates, despite specific coaching/suggestions/orders not to, are people convinced of their own superior judgement. Your superior judgment is to fire them – quickly.

5. Colleagues don’t rate them: When I finally realised, it was embarrassing to admit to myself that I was often the last person in the team to work out that I had hired a dud. The moment of awakening came after I had finally exited an under-performing rookie and one of the other rookies said to me (after a couple of Friday night drinks) ‘I can’t believe you hadn’t noticed that absolutely nobody on the team liked him or rated him’.

6. Too dumb:  You don’t need a degree or a specific type of education to become a successful recruiter but you do need a base level of commercial intelligence and street smarts. Some people, regardless of their education level, just never seem to get it. If you find yourself saying something to your rookie for the fourth time it’s probably a sign they have failed the necessary intelligence test and it’s time you readjusted their employment expectations.

7. Over-complicating the job: Recruitment is simple, but it’s not easy. These wise words were spoken to me many years ago and they still ring true today. Find clients, find candidates, put them together. Please don’t over-think this formula Mr Junior Burger Recruiter. If you find Mr Burger consistently wants to create marvelously complex spreadsheets, or spend hours researching before making prospecting calls or nags you about their 28 suggestions for improvements to your website … then flick ‘em. Junior recruiters who over-think recruitment always fail because they value thoughts and ideas ahead of action – big   mistake.

8. Emotional wrecking ball: Yes, recruitment can be frustrating and emotional and yes, people lie and yes, people let you down but that’s life as a recruiter – build a bridge and get over it. If your rookie recruiter spends too much time in the toilet in floods of tears or insists on describing in boring detail his ‘terrible’ day then it’s a fair chance their lack of emotional control is impacting everyone around them as well as themselves. It’s time they took their drama and enrolled at NIDA or auditioned for The Shire.

I made plenty of hiring mistakes in my time. I also made plenty of not-firing mistakes as well.  The benefit of hindsight reveals that there were quite a few people who I kept on too long, to the detriment of them, me and my team.

Once the consultant had departed, my inevitable thought was ‘why didn’t I do that sooner?’

As one of my ex-bosses said to me when I was procrastinating about firing an under-performing recruiter of five months standing; “Ross, it’s not fair to let him keep failing in a job he doesn’t have a reasonable chance of succeeding at. If you are not prepared to invest in more training and coaching for him then the right thing to do is to exit him quickly and respectfully. He wins and you win. It’s much better that he finds a job he will be successful at. Currently, you are preventing that from happening”.

Wise words, that I have often reflected on, and used, in the 17 years since I first heard them.

Make the decision you know you need to make, today.

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Brett Iredale

Great article Ross. I'd extend most of those points to just about any other industry too. I particularly liked points 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.

Adam Brown

Excellent article!

Marian Smith

A simple quote from the late, great Val Swanson, whom
some of you may remember: Its a comment, as a new
consultant I heard many times,

– "If this was an easy job, everyone would be doing it".
Too true!

Matt Sampson

A great article, thanks Ross. Absolutely agree with all of your points as well as the comments of your ex-boss. Thanks for sharing.

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