Why So Many Recruiters Burn-Out or Fade Away...

Here is an Irony for you: The Contingency Recruiting Industry has the Highest Turnover Rate of any industry. It is a well-kept secret because of the obvious implications. With an approximately 90% recruiter turnover within the first year, recruiting has to be one of the toughest things in the world to do, intellectually speaking. So, I’m not comparing it to the military or being a fireman or police officer, but in terms of the amount of disappointment that a person experiences at work. Many smart and capable people who attempt it end in ruin. I actually had a grown man who worked for me for 6 months run out of my office in tears due to the continual defeat that he experienced! It is not for the faint of heart. Not only are you making hundreds of “cold calls” each day, almost no one wants to talk to you on either side of the desk, company or candidate. As you dial over and over and over repeating the same pitch, which is often read from a script, your mind grows more numb with each voice-mail you leave. “Smile, because they can hear your smile.” “Don’t be too monotone.” “Don’t ramble on too much.” “Leave your phone number twice.” “Don’t unload the truck, just give them enough to whet their appetite.” and the list of thoughts goes on and on as you drone on with call after call. You already feel less like a professional recruiter and more like a “Telemarketer” in a “Boiler Room.” Is there any less respected job? Before long you feel like no one wants to talk to you, unless they’re unemployed, and those folks can’t help you reach your goals. If all you do is talk to the unemployed, before long, you’ll be one of them.

Out of every 100 calls, you hope to catch 25-35% live so you can actually have a conversation. Of those, very few will have any interest in what you’re “selling.” When you crunch the numbers, for every 100 calls you make, strikingly few are meaningful. You finally have some good things happen and get a Job Order. Now you work on your pitch so you can start recruiting! You’re so close and yet so far away… After putting together a long list of potential candidates to begin the recruiting campaign, you’re ready to start down the list. Voice-mail after voice-mail goes unanswered until you finally get someone on the phone. You’ve made 50 calls, spoken to eight living people and none show a sincere interest or are close to the mark. Day two, three, four and five of the same pitch and the same voice-mail left 200+ times with little to no results. The only people interested in the job don’t meet the minimum requirements for the role and you’re beginning to feel despair. Another week goes by and you can’t figure out why it isn’t working. You’ve changed your pitch around to see if it will produce different results and yet nothing meaningful happens. Three weeks into the search and you finally have two to three people who are qualified and somewhat interested in the role. You waste no time calling and presenting your top three candidates to the hiring authority and what happens?

A. They inform you that they already have a finalist candidate even though there was no mention of anyone in the process during your 30 minute call when you go the job order

B. They inform you that the position is now “on hold” indefinitely

C. They inform you that an “Internal Candidate” is now slated for the role

D. They never return your call

Sound familiar? All that work and you never even got to present your “body of work.” Bear in mind that you never even got to the interview stage. The interview stage has within it a myriad additional opportunities to fail. But you were Dead on Arrival and so was the last three weeks of effort on this search. This is one of the reasons that recruiters are so darn “pushy.” You have to make sure that you are not going on a wild goose chase that will cost you time and money and perhaps even their job. I have observed recruiters to be some of the most emotionally resilient people in the world. At least, the ones who survive. If you are still a recruiter after a year, then you are in the great minority. Assuming that you didn’t come into the business on the retained side as most people don’t, you are working on contingency. This means that for every successful placement you make, you were also working on another five to ten, or perhaps even more, that failed to close. That means that a whopping 80-90% of your entire daily work ends in failure. You must also have developed coping mechanisms to handle all the negativity that comes with that much failure. Sadly, I have seen people who recruited for more than 25 years hit a wall and burn out. These are people who after so long in the business shouldn’t have to work that hard. Their reputation and network should feed itself to a point that they have their pick of clients. Why then do so many come to ruin? I believe that it is the cumulative effect of the incredible amount of failure that their psyche endures.

If you cannot make the transition to retained search, you will likely become Marginalized and burn out, probably well before your 25th year. Some “burned-out” recruiters become trainers because they cannot bear the pressure of the “desk” anymore. You don’t have to end like that. If you transition your business into a “pure engagement” practice, and work exclusively on a retained basis, you will eliminate the vast majority of the failure and negativity which you currently endure. It can be Life Changing!    What have you got to lose?


Views: 14202

Comment by Motorcity on February 25, 2012 at 10:36am

Hi, can you please provide the evidence on 90% turnover, thank you. 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 25, 2012 at 4:31pm
Drue indicates that he does consulting for contingency recruiters who want to go retained. I would be interested as to what he charges for that consulting, perhaps he provides that consulting for free. If not and he charges that would be the reason for all these blogs regurgitating Drue's opinion that contingency recruiters are all failing, burning out blah, blah and blah.

Bill thinks he is spot on so maybe Drue is willing to work with Bill at no charge to assist him in transitioning to retained search.
Comment by bill josephson on February 25, 2012 at 5:48pm

I think Drue's post resonates in his depiction of the average recruit day and the changing jobs paradigm for the TPR Contingency Recruiter remaining relevant going forward.  Drue purports moving to retained, not an unreasonable tack, IMO. 

The other alternative is to keep toughing it out in Contingency taking on "broken" jobs which Corporate Recruiters such as Amy Alaa states she isn't sure are "fillable" just that she's having a tough time filling them perhaps twice a year, modernized technology giving Corporate Recruiters greater access to the visible and invisible candidate pool, tighter recruiter budget money, lack of urgency or casual looking for GOD like candidates, and offshore outsourcing.

Drue presents a case.  My question, and one I've heard from numerous long time successful recruiters whose billings have dropped precipitously, is seeing a changing far more challenging recruiting environment with a dearth of quality assignments figuring out is there a future role for TPR's where actual money can be made?  And if so, what exactly is it?  Maybe I'm just not smart enough to figure out what it is.  Or maybe we're in a professional tidal wave discovering it incrementally.  When disciplines are cold, we try others.  When times are tough, we work harder.  When knocked down, we get up.  But if we're being rendered obsolete, it becomes time for a new profession.

I'm not ready for a new profession yet.  But I'm asking the question about relevance going forward in a low jobs creating, advanced technological, tight recruit budgeted, casual urgency, and global economy.

Comment by Bill Schultz on February 25, 2012 at 11:30pm

This seems like a sales pitch.  You are presenting the worst case scenario.  My day is nothing like this. Clients and candidates take my calls and I'm mostly respected.  

I think you might be describing your typical day as a consultant.   But if the job I was hiring for was as you

described, I'd expect that bogus 90% turnover.


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