Recruiters: Stop Thinking About Yourselves & Put Your Relationships First

  As a recruiter, you’ve chosen a career around helping people find jobs. You tap your network for job leads, introduce clients to their dream candidates, and guide hungry professionals to the opportunities of a lifetime. But you have goals and dreams, too. You’re seeking your own promotions and growth opportunities – and you should be. You typically don’t find yourself in this career without a fair amount of drive and motivation to succeed. Unfortunately, some recruiters become so focused on their own ambitions, their service offering slips. Because they fixate so much on their numbers, they fail to treat each candidate and client with the respect and attention they deserve.

A Candidate’s View

Let’s look at this from a candidate’s perspective. We’ll call her Mary. Mary contacted a recruiter to help her identify her next career prospect. She feels she’s risen as high as she can with her current employer and she’s eager for a new challenge. The recruiter, who we’ll call Frank, messages Mary a day later and claims to have found her dream job. But Frank misspelled Mary’s last name, and the job description isn’t at all what they talked about. When Mary shares her concerns with Frank, he half-heartedly apologizes and glosses over the discrepancies. “This job is a great stepping stone, even though it looks like a detour,” he assures Mary. “But you’ve got to move on it right away, so let’s present your resume to them today.” Mary gets the sinking feeling that Frank doesn’t care much about her career goals at all. Frank’s lack of attentiveness and hurried approach belie his promise to “take care” of Mary, and she suspects that he wants to rush her into a job — any job — so he can collect a paycheck. I wish I could say this story was entirely fictional, but I’ve seen interactions like this many times. A self-absorbed recruiter sacrifices their clients’ and candidates’ well-being for the sake of the commission. Meanwhile, the clients struggle with the fallout of having made the wrong hire and the candidates question whether to start the job search all over again. Everyone loses time, money, and morale — everyone except the recruiter, that is.

Recruiters as Advisors

Unfortunately, there are too many recruiters like Frank. Everyone knows someone who has had a “bad experience” with a recruiter. These are the people who give the profession a bad name. But not all bad recruiters are bad people. Maybe they’re in an environment where the only thing that is rewarded is “the close, no matter what.” There are plenty of recruiting firms around who only focus on metrics and not on candidate experience. This philosophy is enforced from the top down. If previously well-intentioned recruiters are only judged on numbers, they could rush people into seats in order to save their own seat at their firm.

Every candidate carries their own set of experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and long-term goals. You can’t just sell them what you have and consider that a job well done.

However, recruiting is a people-centric career and a reputation-based business. Every candidate carries their own set of experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and long-term goals. You can’t just sell them what you have and consider that a job well done. You must learn who they are so you can find the best opportunities for their specific needs. At BVOH Finance & Accounting Search, we believe in cultivating meaningful relationships so we can pair the right candidates with the right clients. We take a long-term approach by getting to know our candidates and understanding their goals. The better we know them, the greater our chances of finding them the perfect opportunity. Recruiters who take the time to get to know their candidates become advisors and career coaches. They build relationships by offering insights on how job seekers can make themselves more attractive to employers. They counsel on internal opportunities their candidates are considering. Instead of calling only when they have a hot prospect, they offer feedback and insight to candidates based on their interests, and help them map out the steps toward their ultimate goals.

Play for the End Game

I always tell my team that we’re playing for the end game. When we meet with candidates or hiring managers, our top priority is building a trusting, long-term relationship. The goal is never, “Place them as fast as possible,” or “Send them whatever candidates you have immediately.” Ultimately, we are driven to find candidates excellent opportunities and help clients hire great talent on their timelines. But that only happens while we are providing other value-added services, offering advice, and investing in the relationship. To do that successfully, we need to know them and they need to trust us. Some recruiters are too impatient for the long game. They want to place people quickly so they can get paid quickly. Of course, you have to make placements to be successful, but building a relationship can take months, even years. You might not see a financial benefit for 24 months or more. In one instance, I worked with a candidate for 14 years before I placed him in a job. He wasn’t actively searching most of that time, but we kept in touch and built a trusting, friendly rapport. When the time came to make a big move, I helped him land a VP of Finance role at one of the hottest startups in the Bay Area.

There is nothing more gratifying than watching someone in your network progress from a relatively junior position to that of an executive, while you are advising along the way.

That example is somewhat extreme, but not completely unheard of for people who are committed to this career and their relationships for the long haul. There is nothing more gratifying than watching someone in your network progress from a relatively junior position to that of an executive, while you are advising along the way.

Value-Added Services Yield the Best Results

When you serve as a coach and advisor, clients and candidates refer your business. A single strong relationship might lead to 30 more placements through referrals over the next five years. Instead of cold-calling hundreds or thousands of people, you receive a steady stream of high-quality individuals who are eager to work with you and only you. The value-based approach is far more lucrative (and rewarding) in the long term than a transactional one will ever be. No matter how many deals you close month to month, you’ll come nowhere near the success that results from being known as a trusted advisor who always puts the best interests of their candidates and clients ahead of their own.

Put Your Clients’ and Candidates’ Interests First

Financial gains aren’t the only incentive for providing client-centric recruiting services. When you prioritize your clients’ and candidates’ interests over your own, you develop a rewarding and meaningful career. One of BVOH’s core values is “High Road: We put the best interests of our clients and candidates first, every time.” We hire people who share this value and train on this concept all the time. This, along with our other core values, is illustrated in a graphic on the wall in our office to remind everyone on the team why we do what we do, and how we do it. When faced with a decision, our first question is, “What would your client or candidate want you to do in this situation?” Whatever that is is the right answer. Recruiters have a unique opportunity to touch many lives. Helping a recent college graduate land their first job or guiding a mid-career professional into their dream position is an experience unlike any other. Finding the right job and building a career changes the course of people’s lives, and you get to play an integral role in that. When you treat candidates and clients as people, results will follow. The person you place in a staff level position today might become CFO 15 years down the road, and they’ll count on you to help them get there. Good recruiters positively impact lives and enjoy extremely rewarding careers, so begin building a value-based practice today.  

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