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Jan 9, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

I read recently in a random article that there were 6,900 open jobs within Talent Acquisition in the United States currently. Wow. For the people that think AI (artificial intelligence for those living under a rock) will take over the recruiting industry, might want to consider again. The silver lining for many out there, even the worst recruiters probably have a great chance at being employed. As I have mentioned in other articles, my LinkedIn news feed seems to have become the comment section for a Reddit thread about bad recruiting. Trust me, every single person in the world can come up with the most insane situation in which they had a terrible experience dealing with a recruiter. After all, we are human, and there is little barrier to entry for this profession.

Seeing this over and over again, it got me thinking a bit more about the “why?”

Why are there so many bad recruiters that ignore candidates, don’t get back in touch with them, or even lie to them? There has to be something that stems this type of behavior because I refuse to believe that there are THAT many recruiters out there that would purposely ignore people or just not have the human decency to do the right thing.

So here is an interesting theory that I came up with; maybe we created this monster ourselves? I will start by stating the obvious; everyone knows that you don’t go to college to become a recruiter. There is no “degree” you can obtain (although psychiatrist is probably the closest.) There are a plethora of interesting stories of “How did you become a recruiter” that are amazing and the sheer fact that we are STILL recruiters is even crazier. But I digress back to the theory of why.

Think about this for a moment. There is a vast majority of recruiters that started their career in the staffing industry. I was one of them. You have a meager base salary that barely pays your bills and the day-to-day metrics that you are held to are not geared toward candidate experience or building a brand. There is zero reward for letting someone know via phone promptly that they did not get the job. The staffing industry is very cut-throat, and the metrics you are held to are steep. Until you make a name for yourself, you better be hitting your metrics! Let’s break these down a bit more.

Submittals. Many agencies will judge you on the number of candidates that you submit to your “open reqs” throughout the week. Scenario: Your submittal goal for a week is seven submittals. It is Friday afternoon, and you only have five submittals for the week so far but you have two candidates that you are 99% sure will not get the job or even an interview but hey, “Let’s just throw them over the fence and see if it sticks.” If you have done your job and know they are not going to get the job, the additional submittals have created a mess. Now you have a hiring manager wasting their time looking at profiles that are not correct, and that reflects back on your brand. The entire industry could benefit by getting out of this “quantity” is better philosophy. Those two additional candidates are most likely the ones that will sprint to social media to bash recruiters, and I honestly can’t blame them, especially if they did not get a call back or email letting them know.

Reach Outs. Explaining this to a more junior recruiter is like explaining the floppy disk to my ten-year-old niece. Over a decade ago when I got into the staffing world, I simply had to just reach out to a certain number of people per day. No guidelines around their skills or if they are even qualified to watch your dog, just call (not email) them. I imagine that they are still plenty of organizations that use this as a metric. Don’t get me wrong; there are still scenarios that this may work. If you work in a call center and already have a qualified list of people to reach out to, this can still be a useful metric. But in my weird little technology world, it doesn’t.

This metric goes back to the submittal theory. If I need to call 50 people in a day, it’s 4 pm and I am at 40, take a wild guess what the quality of those last ten people look like? You might as well just call Domino’s ten times. Just like submittals, this metric is rewarding bad behavior. 1. You are leaving a half-assed voicemail for ten people, making yourself and your company look incompetent. 2. Even if they do get back to you, you are probably not even doing them the courtesy of answering/returning their call because they can’t make you a buck that day.

Speaking of $$$…

All About the Benjamins. Staffing firms may have changed their compensation models by now, but it’s been about six years since I was a part of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that many of us grew up and got our feet wet learning a particular way. The compensation model in staffing was this mystery algorithm that no one fully understood, just accepted.

I think my starting salary was somewhere around $30,000 a year. The only way to make commission was to simply place candidates with clients (I ran a full desk but just looking at the recruiting side.) Sounds easy.

Your salary was designed to basically allow you to eat three meals a day and have a roof over your head. If you wanted anything above that, you needed a commission! Think of all the touch points that a recruiter has throughout a process to get a candidate to their first day of work. Actually placing a candidate and having them start is the only point in which you get rewarded. That particular commission model has basically created greedy and nonempathetic behavior. If at any point someone falls out of the funnel before the goal line, you are forced to move on quickly to the next. It encourages you to view candidates as a commodity and not a human. Please think of it from the recruiter’s side too; it is like the Hunger Games in there. Often, we do what we need to survive.

Hunting vs. Farming. I imagine like many recruiters, when I got into this industry, I had zero idea if I would like it or not (or even what the hell recruiting was). It was a job/paycheck, not a career. I actually got into recruiting by going to a recruiting agency for a sales gig, and they flipped the script on me.

My first three years or so in recruiting was just keeping my head above water and trying to figure all of this out. It was all about the metrics and hitting those numbers. All of the metrics were strictly focused on “hunting” though so again, no reward for “farming.” I was still at a point where I did not fully understand the industry or even if I wanted to stay in it. If someone sent me a referral and they couldn’t make me a dollar right away, that paper resume just got put in some folder, and I was probably never going to look at it again. Yes, before ATS’s it was paper resumes and a filing cabinet that is what you worked with. About 4-5 years ago, all of the dots started to connect, and that is when I realized this is something I wanted to do as a career. Once that clicked, that referral that got sent to me, I took the time to jump on the phone with them to have a chat. Even if they were not right for something I needed at the moment, I would try to provide some value to them. It can be as simple as resume advice, introducing them to someone else in your network, or letting them know about an event that may interest them. This was when the “farming” aspect became more clear, and it is also when I got out of a system that only rewarded “hunting” goals.

Final Thoughts. I love feedback and would love to hear other thoughts but keep in mind; I fully understand that this just a theory and one that came about based on my particular upbringing in the recruiting world.

You can see the similarities above though. The reward system was not designed for candidate experience. It wasn’t even designed to do the right thing. I imagine I am not the only one that learned on this type of model (and hopefully it’s changed some). Many of us are managers, directors, or VP’s now. It’s hard not to take some of that thought process with you that was drilled into your head for years. I mean, look at the differences between baby boomers and millennials. A lot is the product of how you learned something early on.


This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.