NB - This blog was originally posted on Posterous on April 18th 2011.  At the last count it's had over 11,000 hits.  Someone suggested I post it here...


I returned from holiday today to 42 voicemails.  26 of them were sales calls from agencies.  The quality varied from “Brisk and Professional”, to “Are You Kidding Me?”  Rather than call them all back, I thought I’d write them an open letter.

Dear Recruitment Agencies,

Thanks for all the calls.  Yes, I had a lovely holiday. 


Listen… we have to talk.  I’ve been thinking.  I don’t think things are working out between us.  We’ve been growing apart for a few years now.  I’ve been busy with work, and we’ve been seeing less and less of each other.  We both know it.  I’ve been wondering whether it’s time to call it a day.


I’m just not looking to be in a relationship right now.  You need more than I’m able to give.  My recruitment budget is so precious, and there is only so much to go around. When I stop to think about it, I’d rather spend it on Networking, Social Media, Referrals and Google – they’re fun to be around, and they make my life so much easier.  They give me freedom and independence.  I’ve found I can get what I need without your help.


It’s not you, it’s me.  OK, that’s a lie.  It’s a little bit you… The world has changed, and yet it feels like you are still living in the past. 


When you call me out of the blue, it feels like you just want something from me.  I don’t get the impression that you’re really interested in being my partner.  You seem to be more interested in carving another notch in your monthly targets.  You try and tell me you have exactly what I need, but you don’t understand what my situation is and what I’m really looking for. 


I think the only possible future for us would depend on you abandoning your relentless quest to sell yourself, and instead focus on giving a great service.  There are times when you can be so knowledgeable and helpful, but it’s easy to forget about that when I’m faced with relentless blagging.  I know I've been susceptible to that in the past.  It was so easy to be seduced.  But now I’m older and wiser, and I’m tired of being let down and left unsatisfied.


I hope we can stay friends.  Let’s still hang out from time to time.  I don’t doubt that there will be time in the future when I’ll need your advice and help.  And perhaps there will come a time when I can be useful for you too.


Good luck.

Love Katie xxx


Views: 687

Comment by Gary Franklin on April 26, 2011 at 10:21am

I think you know where I stand on this issue Katie, you and I have been offering an opinion about what we think of cold calls for quite a while now, but this is inspired.

Hopefully it will get the message across to agencies and other suppliers that every time they call they cause an unwelcome interruption and distraction, one that in this day and age is not needed. I have never dealt with a company as a result of a cold call, ever, irrespective of what they are selling, at home or at work! If I need a new agency supplier I will ask my network. A network of their customers or candidates; a network that will actually tell me which company or which so called consultant provides the best level of service; a network that will give me an honest balanced collective opinion. Who should I believe a network of respected and known people or a half aware and ill equipped sales person who can just about use the phone let alone sell. I am not sure why the message hasn't got out yet.

I expect that there will be many that will not read your letter properly or understand its meaning and defend the relevance of cold calling you.  They are of course allowed, but for us it is definately a case of "dont call us, we'll call you......................... or not."


Well said Katie and very well written.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 27, 2011 at 1:37pm

I have a question for Katie and Gary.

Suppose a recruiter, instead of pounding your voice mail like a lunatic, sent you are resume unsolicited of a candidate who was clearly a fit for your industry and a job you have open.  The candidate was in the salary range you wanted to pay.  The resume had full contact information on it and a note from the recruiter giving you detail about the candidate, their fee schedule and guarantee.  You did not have the candidate on file and the recruiter did not start calling you every five minutes to see if they could cram the candidate down your throat, just sent the info in and left you alone. 

 Would you consider the candidate and the referral from the recruiter?  If not due to no budget for fees would you at some time in the future be more likely to reach out to that recruiter ?  Would you send a snippy email back indicating that you did not accept unsolicited resumes or resumes from recruiters who were not on your preferred vendor list or what would your response be to that form of contact?

Comment by Gary Franklin on April 27, 2011 at 2:11pm

Sandra I suspect the rules are different country to country. In the UK unsolicited CV's are as unwelcome as cold calls.  I know that to be true in many companies and in many countries.

Personally if I get any unsolicited CVs from any agency I reply telling them that as policy we do not accept unsolicited CVs and to refrain from sending any more.  I also point out that we cannot deal with any company who have not signed our Terms. I also point out that if they chose to then continue to send unsolicited CVs they will be considered a gift and fees will not be payable under any circumstances. This then conforms to decency and legislation that the agency was supposed to have adhered to in the first place.

Agencies are permitted to submit CV's ONLY for a specific position and not on a general “hope and pray” and only if they are authorised to do so.


If a candidate is so keen to work for my company they know to get in touch with my colleagues and I by appropriate means


There are now so many online platforms, forums, conferences, communities and networks where agencies and recruiters can mix socially and communicate with out selling. Having the social skills to engage to be build up an understanding of how each other work is the challenge, unfortunately many agencies get “fee blind” and miss so many opportunities to make friends. Who needs cold calls? in-house recruiter definitely don’t.



Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 27, 2011 at 2:24pm
Interesting, we do not have such stringent rules with many companies in the U. S.  Some do of course but we have developed several good clients by asking if we can submit resumes from time to time that may be a fit for their company or by sending a resume with a note indicating this is the type of candidate that we represent.  Many times well received and much more so than cold calls.
Comment by Katie McNab on April 27, 2011 at 2:31pm

Hi Sandra - Gary is right.  In the UK we take a fairly hard line with speculative CVs.  PepsiCo sends every agency that contacts us a document that outlines our approach, to try and prevent it happening in the first place.  In it, we're very clear that unless a member of my team has briefed them on a specific role, and they have signed a PepsiCo Supplier Agreement, that any CVs or profiles sent into the business are considered speculative, and that we won't be held liable for any fees should we go on to hire that candidate in the future.


But it does still happen occasionally - so we take the same kind of approach as Gary.  We also contact the candidate to explain that the agency in question isn't actually an approved PepsiCo supplier.  What disturbs me is that 80% of the time, the candidate has no idea their details have been submitted or are being "shopped about".  The other 20% of the time, they tell us that the agency had claimed to have an existing relationship with us.   If the candidate chooses to engage with us directly at that point, we're quite relaxed about it.  


A few months ago, we received a blind CV and I immediately recognised the candidate as someone I know.  The information was 18 months out of date.  The candidate had actually started working in his "dream job" about 3 months previously.  He definitely wasn't on the job market, and when I called him to ask if he knew Agency X was sending out his out-of-date CV - to people in his own network - he hit the roof.  And rightly so, I think.


There are lots of good agency folk out there.  But their voices are drowned out by the huge number of "cowboys".  The UK market desperately needs higher standards, and candidates, consultants and in-house teams all have a part to play to make that happen. 



Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 27, 2011 at 2:49pm

I suppose we have those same kind of sling it against the wall types here.  Being from Texas, cowboys are some what more respected so we don't call them that, it's actually a much worse term.  :) 

If we send an unsolicited resume it is always with the candidates permission and we let them know that we do not have a listing with that company but would like to send their resume for review.  It will go to HR or to the business owner with a note that the candidate knows we are submitting for their review.


Large companies who have full HR staff would likely react the same way you and Gary have responded but smaller ones to mid size seem more receptive to review of resumes as opposed to being hammered by cold calls asking for business which do not seem to be well received by anyone i talk to at this point.


I wonder why agency owners are beating their recruiters to death to hammer the phones with cold calls when everybody seems to hate them with a passion.  They must be working somewhere or people would just stop it.  Perhaps it would be interesting to hear from someone who is pounding the phones making cold calls that do work.

Comment by pam claughton on April 27, 2011 at 3:14pm

I don't make many cold calls to clients, but I do on occasion make very targeted and strategic introductory calls. I follow industry news and saw a local company was looking to expand their marketing group, so I put a call in to a high level executive and left a short voice message letting them know that I have a niche focus in marketing. 4 days later I received a call from head of HR with three high level marketing searches.  Why did it work here? Because there was a need, and the timing was right and it matched up with what I do.  :)

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 27, 2011 at 4:47pm
Pam's comment poses another question here.  What do Katie and Gary do if a recruiter can not get any traction with them so goes to a high level executive who is interested in using that recruiter.  I suspect if Pam had called HR direct she would have gotten the "we hate cold calls and only work with approved vendors speech".
Comment by Gary Franklin on April 27, 2011 at 5:54pm

You call them recrutiers but they are only telesales people if thats what they do.  Sadly with a fee orientated industry it happens all too often. Agencies think that they can undermine the Recruiting Team by going to an Exec or Senior Manager. When it happens the agency is barred from dealing with the company again. 

In many companies where Specialist Recruitment Teams exist there is usually a level of process and agreed-to policy that governs how suppliers are selected and evaluated.  In these circumstances a PSL typically exists which cannot be overruled on a whim; we would need procurement and legal departments getting involved before we could engage.  An Exec may try and influence us but we would simply walk them through the policy, why it exists, who sanctioned it, why we work with certain suppliers and the risk to our business in using a non-approved speculative supplier that adds no relative value.  If they push the issue I would certainly want to know why they were so interested in that agency that it would require us to go outside of policy and request all the authorisations needed, especially when we might have respected and approved suppliers working with us.  Thankfully the Execs in my current company and in my former company do tend to refer any such approaches to us.  They really haven’t got the time to deal with it in any other way.

I do find it disturbing that you think this type of disrespectful behaviour is acceptable and will do anyone any long term favours.  Would it not be better to spend more of your time and energy building relationships so that you can offer a credible recruitment service than trying to undermine those responsible for managing the process in a company and just trying to sell a single deal?  It seems that you are more interested in a sale than you are in providing a long terms sustained quality service. 

Comment by pam claughton on April 27, 2011 at 6:26pm



Gary, if one had first talked with hr and been turned away, then yes, I would agree it could be disrespectful to then go above their heads. However, in my situation, I did not 'undermine' anyone. I simply chose to start at the top. I offer a specialized service, the CMO agreed and referred me to head of hr who was quite pleasant and we've since established a wonderful relationship. Of those three high level searches they gave me, one has an offer going out tomorrow, another hopefully on Friday and the third may wrap up next week. So, the company has found a partner that helped them fill three critical needs. How is that not a good thing? Perhaps HR should take a look at the bigger picture at times, and think out of the box instead of being so territorial and automatically saying 'no'. The goal should always be what is best for the company, yes?


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