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Some friends of mine who sold their house last year were underwhelmed with the price they were offered compared to what they thought the house was worth. They had invested a lot of money in renovating the house (it looks fabulous, by the way) and were looking to get that money ‘returned’ (plus some) in the sale price.

They were disappointed but accepted the offer anyway. They had committed to the move.

Potential buyers didn’t care how much money had been spent on the renovations; all they were interested in was comparing how much the property was worth (in their eyes) compared to other comparable properties in the area.

The rather unpleasant truth was that my friends had overcapitalised. Their inputs (money and inconvenience) were not adequately (in their view) returned by the market by way of output (sale price).

This overcapitalisation also happens every day in another, completely different sector; recruitment.

Yes, all over the country, recruitment consultants are overcapitalising, but not with money, with time. These recruitment consultants are investing too much time attempting to fill a job. This input (time) is, in most cases, not going to be returned to them by way of a higher fee or a greater probability of said consultant receiving any fee at all.

Overworking jobs is one of the most common mistakes I see in the training and coaching work I undertake within recruitment agencies.

Overworking jobs occurs when the client’s commitment to fill the job through the recruiter is less than the recruiter’s commitment to fill the client’s job.

How do you know the client’s commitment is less than yours? Easy: here are a few obvious tell-tale signs:

  • The client won’t sign the terms of business
  • The client won’t meet the recruiter (or have a detailed discussion about the job brief)
  • The client won’t provide useful feedback on resumes submitted
  • The client won’t commit to interviews
  • The client won’t commit to a firm next step after interviews have occurred
  • The status of the job doesn’t change week after week

These tell-tale signs indicate that one of the following three things is happening:

  • The vacancy is not live or authorised
  • The client is running their own parallel recruitment process
  • The client is using another (favoured) recruiter

Like any astute investor (or gambler, which is really what you are if you are recruiting on a contingent basis), you need to make an informed decision about the maximum investment (of time) you are prepared to make before you stop making that investment.

Every minute of your time has an opportunity cost. In other words, if you are spending an extra hour on a job where one or more of the above six tell-tale signs of your client’s ill-matching commitment are present then that’s an hour you could have spent doing something else more productive (like prospecting for a committed client’s job to work on, for example).

Just like overcapitalising on a house, any time invested in an overworked job is now a sunk cost; it’s gone and cannot be recovered.

Overworked jobs are especially prevalent in a slowing market where recruiters are typically not working on as many jobs as they have been. Instead of investing that freed-up time productively (eg finding more jobs to work on) they squander it by overworking jobs that don’t justify any extra hours of investment. The risk is that the recruiter becomes like the gambler endlessly chasing their losses back (‘I’m sure the client will definitely want to interview this candidate if I send them across’) by desperately or delusionally having ‘one last go’.

A client not communicating with you or not matching their words with action is not ‘busy’ or ‘hard to get hold of’ they are not sufficiently committed to filling the job through you, so stop overworking their job and go and find a better job to work on!

I promise you that those extra hours you are investing make exactly zero difference to the client’s commitment level.

Take a good hard look at your job list today and only invest more time in those jobs where the client’s commitment matches your commitment. And then start prospecting for more committed clients.

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