Like many of us, I stumbled into recruiting (I was a golf professional teaching some of these “headhunters”). Two years later I was sitting at a desk, staring at a phone, terrified I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I worked for a large, successful company with a few of “those guys” in the environment. You know the ones I’m talking about – the Bobby Big Wheels and the Johnny Shooters who knew it all.

Bobby and Johnny would walk around the office doing the wink and the gun…talking about how “money” they were and what great “control” they had over their candidates and clients and how they just “hard closed” a candidate. New to the business of recruiting – but NOT to the business of people – I truly wondered why and how “these guys” could control a human being. I was pretty sure – scratch that - 100% certain that nobody could control me.

In the Canadian golf industry – it’s tough to make a living let alone a lot of money. However, the people we taught and serviced – did. Over the years I was able to pick the brains of business professionals who were more than happy to share a nugget or two of business and life advice.

I learned a lesson about negotiating and business relationships early in my golf career from a successful businessperson. It was simple – relationships and negotiations are two way streets. There has to be something in it for both parties. If it’s one sided – the deal falls apart. It’s that simple.

Peter Leffkowitz uses the phrase “leading the witness”. It goes something like this: “You’re okay with that 2 hour commute right? You’re okay with a smaller company right? You’re okay with less money, right?” This is obviously not a 2 way dialogue or two way street. This is a one way dictation.

The next time you are calling a candidate, discussing an opportunity, inviting them in for a meeting - expect them to be asking themselves “what’s in it for me” at every step of the process.
First contact – “What’s in it for me to call this recruiter back”?
Office Invite – “What’s in it for me to meet with this person face to face”?
Job Presentation – “What’s in it for me to move forward with this job”?
Job Offer – “What’s in it for me to take this job”?

Your job is to have answers at each step to help lead the candidate to a destination that benefits THEM. Once you have this mentality – selling becomes easier, business relationships become more productive, you will waste less time, have fewer turndowns and a heck of a lot less frustration in this business.

Views: 2519

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on November 4, 2011 at 4:35pm


So true!  It is too bad that many recruiters feel a need to "control" the candidates' career choices by controlling the candidate. 

I like to remind myself who is going to go to work at that company everyday - it's not me, I have a great job! 

But if my candidate is considering it I want to make sure he makes his OWN choice as he will have to go to work there everyday.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 6, 2011 at 5:01am

@Scott— Your advice on how to interface rather than control a candidate is sound but I think it is more often the opposite of your example of the recruiter leading the candidate (re: your leading the witness metaphor). Sometimes it’s the candidate trying to lead the recruiter to co-sign their wild ideas or approach on how to proceed in a job interview or negotiate a job offer for example. 

@Cora--I don't think many recruiters are trying to control candidate career choices. It's more like some recruiters may try, but most fail.  And it only really works with some inexperienced new grads who are desperate enough to trust anyone who sounds like they know what their talking about. 

I think the recruiter will have those unforgettable experiences where they have to talk a candidate off-of-the-ledge and into some needs assessments and common sense thinking relative to jobs, job offers, interview approaches and career choices to name a few issues.  Some candidates are foolish enough to ignore our counsel and stumble into bad outcomes, e.g., blowing a job offer over some trivial issue or perk they must have; or blowing the interview by appearing aggressive, even hostile, rather than firm but reasonable.  Candidates will often ask for our advice but do the opposite with regrets later.

We remember those candidates who ignore our recommendations, walk off into the sunset--only to return with hat-in-hand asking for our advice and help once again.

Comment by pam claughton on November 6, 2011 at 11:55am



I think you may be misunderstanding what Peter is saying in his training. In general the term 'candidate control' is a bit controversial because it implies that candidates have no free will and that the recruiter is in the driver's seat. That approach might occasionally make a placement happen, but it will also likely result in a no-start or falloff.


Peter's questions are about gathering information and pre-closing. These are things you have to do. You do need to find out if the candidate is really okay with a 2 hour commute....if they are not, you need to stop the process before they decline an offer because of long commute. Same with company size and the other questions.


Basically every time you talk to a candidate you need to ask them 'what has changed since we last spoke?' All kinds of things change, including what they originally said they wanted, suddenly a smaller company might be okay, and so you can tell them about other searches, or maybe they just got a raise, so now they are no longer closed at 95k...and if you didn't ask the questions, you'd never know...

Candidate 'control' should mean you're doing your job as a recruiter in asking key questions and gathering feedback so that there are no surprises when you get to an offer stage. Often new recruiters take the 'extend the offer and pray approach'....where they haven't done any pre-closing, and don't have any idea if an offer will be accepted but they really hope it will.

Another way to look at candidate 'control' is that it is what you owe your client. Almost always, an offer should not be extended unless it is going to be accepted.

Comment by Scott Burgess on November 7, 2011 at 8:07am

Pam...thanks for the note.  Perhaps I didn't word that correctly - what I meant was Peter using leading the witness as an example of how NOT to do things...(meaning leading the witness is the worst thing you can do as a recruiter)....not as an actual recruiting technique.  Meaning Peter would never ask a candidate "you are okay with that right"? ...

Again  -I really appreciate the feedback and thank you for your comments




Comment by Eric R. Derby on November 7, 2011 at 10:01am

Excellent topic Scott, great response Pam.

I have long seen candidate "control" as a joke.  For the recruiter to think that he/she is in control is ridiculous.  The problem is that there are many "old school" recruiters that still teach this.  It is a way to manipulate people, and sometimes it does work, which is why they keep doing it.  In my opinion it will create more harm in the long run. Those recruiters that work this way have to keep moving to new candidates and clients, as after a while people will no longer work with them.

My approach is just the opposite.  I spend a lot of time getting to know a candidate up front.  My goal is to know that a candidate will accept the offer, based on their own goals, before the offer goes out.  If I do not know that then I may have failed (sometimes I can succeed anyway, but it is not something I can bet on).

Every person I speak with is important.  Their goals are important.  It is a different approach.  It is slower but highly effective.  Most of my clients are repeat clients or referrals.  Better than 96% of my placements stay in their jobs two years or more.  Let's see a control freak match that.


Comment by Wendy on November 7, 2011 at 12:15pm

I think it's less about "control" than it is about the ability to anticipate possible points of derailment. Experience teaches us that, in recruiting, the information is ALWAYS changing. The cardinal sin in this business is not losing a deal, it's being shocked that it falls apart. By asking the right questions and managing expectations effectively,  a good recruiter appears to "control" the process because they appear to be one step ahead of the curve. But control is an illusion when you're dealing with human beings so keeping your head up and listening to your instincts will go a long way to having a better grasp of the recruitment process. 

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 7, 2011 at 12:24pm


You're wrong to label "old school" recruiters as a negative when you actually mean to say "wrong school" recruiters don't you?  Or are you saying that old recruiters still in the business somehow missed the "new school" course on doing recruitment better?

The foundation of recruitment as a profession happens to be as old as dirt itself.  I’ve been in the business going on forty-one years now and I continue to be a student in the profession—still learning—still staying current as I look ahead to what’s coming.  The difference between you and I may be that I don’t forget that I stand on the shoulders of professionals who paved the way in the profession and I would never denigrate their contributions as “old school” suggesting that therefore they must be out-of-date as you seem to imply.  New technologies aside—the core values of integrity, ethics and an honest days’ work are very “old school”.

Apologies to you if I’m wrong here, but don’t be too quick to dismiss old school players like myself. 

Comment by Eric R. Derby on November 7, 2011 at 1:51pm


The apology is mine not yours.  I generalized and put down an entire group of people based on my experience in my area.  It is likely that anyone reading this post does not fall under that.  You clearly do not fall under my generalization.  I apologize.

I will continue to say that the man who taught me (Murray) the business was highly ethical and hard-working.  He taught control of candidates as part of that, though it was also more about being informed.  When he retired and I went off on my own, I dropped the "control" aspects and kept the "informed" parts.  I held tightly to his values of integrity and hard work.

My problem is that I am constantly fighting against the perception that our industry is unethical. I had the impression, reinforced (taught?) by Murray, that honesty and integrity were uncommon among recruiters. My boss seemed to be the maverick, and occasionally had to reign in his own people.

To most of the (local) senior recruiters I know, money trumps people and often ethics.   Lying and control are still taught in some of the local agencies.  It has taken me 14 years in this work to find half a local dozen people that I can trust in this field.

Of course, maybe my opinions and generalizations are what keep me from finding more recruiters that are ethical and that I can trust.  ;)


Comment by Brian Christopher on November 7, 2011 at 2:56pm

I d mos of my recruitin o the phone sinc the jobs are al ove the US. Not able ot have them in for avisit but I stilhavecotrol over them....

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 7, 2011 at 3:33pm


You confirmed what I thought about you and now I'm impressed even more, but I had to make sure.  There is a pervading view with some that the older generation of professionals, regardless of profession, are stuck in some limbo of old thinking.  That they (we elders) are out of touch with the challenges of the present.  And yes, there are old idiots--just as there is a crop of new idiots ready to take their place.

And I do apologize for not giving you the full benefit of the doubt.  It's the old school in me that expects and hopes for the best but prepares for the worst.


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