I started my recruitment career when I was 22 years old.
In my early twenties I experienced many consequences of the slow development of my prefrontal cortex. In other words, I did some dumb shit (DS). Some of that DS was at work where the consequences were greater than the DS I did outside of work.
It would be great if every other twenty-something recruiter could learn something from my (many) regrettable mistakes.
Here are six of those regrettable mistakes(well, the ones I am prepared to be public about) that I still carry the scars from.
- Don’t get smashed the night before you have an early interview. One Thursday night I stayed too long at some Sydney bar drinking tequila. The next morning I interviewed a very senior candidate at 8 am. The lingering effects of my previous evening were unmistakable to anybody with even half the normal sense of smell. Unsurprisingly that candidate did not return any of my subsequent calls.
- Don’t date your temps: My former boss, Bronwyn, gently pulled me up on my ‘long’ temp interviews. “Err, Ross, it’s obvious that your long interviews seem to only occur with pretty girls. You need to remember that candidates are, or could be a temp working for you. It’s not appropriate to ask them out on dates.” This was after I had publicly expressed I had a big crush on one English traveller and then, the next year, dated a New Zealander, subsequent to placing her in a long-term assignment. (I also remember my married client, when slightly drunk at a function, referring to his “hot” temp i.e. my then-girlfriend, and making some comment that I recall as being slightly creepy given she was 25 and he would have been at least ten years older than her).
- No matter what original or witty thing you think to say to a candidate who shares their name with a famous person it won’t impress them, only piss them off. My candidate Michael Jackson hung up when I called him to say I had a “thriller” of a temp job for him (ask your parents if you don’t understand).
- Never underestimate anybody: I went to work the day of the very early morning announcement of Sydney’s successful bid for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. I had, maybe, two hours sleep. Later that day I made a scheduled visit to a client to negotiate a temp-to-perm fee. I had built a great relationship with this client and had given no great thought to the negotiation, assuming (wrongly) that my very reasonable explanation about why there was no discount would placate him (and I could then go home and crawl into bed). That’s not what happened. For reasons I cannot now recall my client went nuclear and the unprepared and sleep-deprived me had no comeback. I just sat there gaping, unable to muster any justification for my position and, to stop the humiliation, meekly agreed to his version of a reasonable fee. I had confused my client’s friendly nature with a person who was a weak or disinterested negotiator – big mistake.
- Don’t leave interviews and fail to return: I interviewed a temp and asked her to wait in the interview room while I checked whether a specific vacancy was still available. I returned to my desk, the phone rang and I picked it up. I completed the call. Another call came in. I answered that call and by the time I hung up I had completely forgotten about my candidate. It was about an hour before I realised, with horror, what I had done. The candidate, no doubt sick of waiting for me, had simply walked out without saying anything to the receptionist. My calls offering a grovelling apology were not returned.
- Do your research, ignorance can be incredibly embarrassing: As a twenty-something male I had no clue about the world of fashion and knew even less about the likely gender of a person with a non-Anglo name. I made a prospect call to the Financial Controller of Yves Saint Laurent. He agreed to meet with me. The YSL reception was dominated by four very large photos of (what I was to quickly learn was) the eponymous founder. My prospect greeted me in reception and to make small talk as we walked to his office I commented “I love the photos in reception”. To which my prospect responded “Oh, you mean the photos of Yves?”, “No; the photos of the man in the great suit” I answered. “Yves is a man” was the slightly incredulous response from my prospect. I doubt I have turned a deeper shade of red in my life, either before or since.
Please learn from my DS – it’s easier and less embarrassing than learning it yourself.