Is Recruiting Becoming an Unhealthy Profession?

If you took a photograph of the recruiting Industry, it would look like most people you'd see on the streets every day!

Instead of making it better, technology has bloated the recruitment process.  Its a process that now lumber around in HR departments all across corporate America—where the objective of hiring the best talent has been replaced by fast, cheap & easy tactics-with tools that are designed mostly for collecting resumes-administered by recruiters who do not know the fundamentals or have the passion for the work-for organizations that no longer care about their most important asset.

This is an alarming trend and the perfect example of what was predicted back in 1954.  Well, it wasn't exactly about the recruiting Industry; it was about the food Industry-but the same thing has happened to the recruiting Industry!


An individual wrote a newspaper article which in today's standard-went viral.   He was very upset that the quality in foods was declining because production objectives had shifted from taste to saving money.   He said that "science has spoiled my supper" and predicted that this trend of eating low quality foods would eventually lead to an unhealthy American culture.


So, how does the food Industry relates to an unhealthy recruiting Industry?


Back in high school, one of our English class assignments was to read this particular story, formulate our thoughts and participate in a classroom discussion.


After what was written in 1954, discussed in high school and after 20 years of experience recruiting healthcare executives, I have the unique experience to connect our current healthcare crisis to the trend in the recruitment Industry.

Let’s first take a quick look at what was said about foods or you can read the original newspaper article here.  The author stated that food is nutritious and very tasty when prepared with fresh and natural ingredients and by someone who knows what he/she is doing.  The problems with preparing delicious meals however are higher costs; fresh and natural ingredients aren't cheap and have very limited shelf life.  He also pointed out that because humans will accept a lesser taste if it was the only choice available, science played a role in extending the shelf life of the natural ingredients. The products were very appealing to the eye; they came in neat packages with beautiful pictures, but on the inside they lacked quality and taste.   Why?  Because, they were produced with artificial ingredients & flavors, chemicals and freezing methods for easy transportation & storage and to a greater extent-generate larger profits from a longer shelf life.


Why did people buy crappy tasting food that was loaded of harmful chemicals?

Because it was cheap, easy and fast- it didn't require the knowledge of a culinary genius and meals could be prepared by anyone, in little or no time.   When food lacked quality in taste, you’d need to eat way more to satisfy your cravings, was his concern. "A slice of my mother-in-law’s apple pie will satiate you far better than a whole bakery pie" he explained. 

So here we are, after decades of eating unhealthy foods, it has taken a toll on the health of many.  As a result, our current healthcare system is in shambles and in desperate need of reform, just as he predicted in 1954.

The motivation that transformed the food Industry has also taken place within the recruitment Industry,

Recruiting is a $100 billion Industry with lots of unhappy campers.  Over the past 15 years, it too has been transformed by technology to become more efficient, but cost-of-hire has not decreased and quality-of-hire has not increased.   Why? Because most of the recruitment vendors are selling the same solutions-that doesn't deliver on quality hires-are bought for the wrong reasons-used by the wrong people-has frustrated job seekers and discouraged the best talents from engaging in the hiring process.


Also, recruitment strategies are far too often marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution.  For example, if social media was successfully used by employers such as Apple or Pepsi; then just like magic social media would become the universal best practice recruitment solution for everyone.  Vendors are well aware that no two job applicants are alike, no two companies are exactly the same or what works for a large company might not work for a small one or a nationally recognized brand is totally different from a no-name brand; yet they promote social media as the silver bullet solution.  Think about it; what would be the competitive advantage to one employer if all employers were using the same vendor/tactics/tools to steal employees away from each other?

Another reason the Industry is bloated is because the products do not satisfy the need.  The need is to recruit the best talent, but these products are marketed for hiring talent fast, cheap and easy.  Very rarely good is the result when you add fast, easy & cheap to the equation. So why would HR decision makers continue to invest corporate dollars in such products?


Self interest!  Humans make buying decisions based on emotions and are later supported by logic.  In this case the buying emotions are personal gains through internal recognition that leads to faster career advancement. The logic is buying a recognized solution from a reputable vendor that will save a bundle; specifically dollars saved by hiring internally compared to the amount it would have cost if outside agencies were utilized.


At the end of the day, a dollar saved is a dollar earned; but the hidden cost of hiring marginal talent greatly out-weighs the savings and will ultimately deteriorate the health of that organization in the long run.

And one more thing: With more reliance on technology, most of the skilled human interactions have been replaced with automation, so the need for skilled recruiters has diminished.   As a result, the engine now behind these recruitment tools are junior recruiters-managing heavy req. loads-with very little time for the warm and fuzzy interactions (which is of very little interest to them) that job applicants demand. So basically recruiting today consists of robot-like recruiters-using robotic type tools-to process a bunch of faceless robots-to select & hire one robot.


We are included in the group that is adversely affected from the shift in food production from quality & taste to costs & profits.  That’s because our choices are limited; we must buy whatever the food manufactures are selling.  The end result is the bloating of a healthcare system and the poor health of the people who rely on the system.

The shift from quality hires to fast, easy and cheap recruitment strategies has caused the bloating of the recruiting Industry by building employers with not the strongest, fittest and the brightest employees, but with the most active job seekers who may not be the best. And with billions of dollars spent to fight this war for talent, it is unfortunate that what is considered an organizations’ most important asset is treated like a commodity-brokered at the cheapest cost.


Fast, easy & cheap is not just about food or recruiting-it has become our expectation and the culture that we live.

If this is so, the process may well begin, like most human behavior, in the home—in those homes where a good meal has been replaced by something-to-eat-in-a-hurry. By something not very good to eat, prepared by a mother without very much to do, for a family that doesn’t feel it amounts to much anyhow”  Philip Wylie, 1954


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Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on May 18, 2012 at 9:16am

Bill -- What Sandra said - multiply by 100! Recruiters stop whining and get to work. Pissing and moaning here isn't getting anything done. If your so-called clients could hear you now! You're an embarrassment to our industry!


I have only been recruiting 22 years - since 1989 - but my clients have no problems paying my fees, don't scam me on resumes in their data base - even two years later.  After 30+ years you haven't developed a great reputation with your clients?  Get out of recruiting - you lost a long time ago. Your fear and whining comes through here and most likely on every telephone call.


I work in DETROIT AREA (where the auto industry went belly up) with no loss for assignments and no loss in fees, even in the last four years. I work with the auto companies, large suppliers, smaller suppliers, manufacturing firms, start-up companies and financial services firms. I work accounting and finance - not too much of a niche - and I have nothing to whine about.  I have a client that uses an RPO but still uses my services for important and higher level assignments. (I love the needle-in-the-haystack search!)  I have a client that pays my retainer and then also uses two other recruiters (silly!) and still ends up hiring my person.  I only present/send one or two candidates for any search and at least one gets hired – sometimes both do.  I use technology to help me but have never placed an ad for a position anywhere.  


Bill, I think you checked out of recruiting a long time ago and are using technology as an enabler.  You’re the problem. – find a new profession.  You’ve lost your way in recruiting.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 18, 2012 at 9:51am
Hi Bill, thanks for the mention. I've been following along and to some degree, you're all correct. :) TPRs will never go away. In my view companies have 2 choices with plenty of gray area. Invest in internal recruiters who ideally "get it" because they've cut their teeth in agency, or have a third party partner who functions as an extension of your organization. Either way, recruiters are not cheap. As a TPR my best clients were those who didn't have full time recruiters- small to mid sized businesses where HR was tasked with recruiting and frankly wanted nothing more than to pass it off on someone like me. 30% fee was a bargain for getting it off their plate.

As an internal now, I typically go outside to a couple of partners I trust and it's almost always for contract to hire roles. Sometimes they are low level admin roles and giving it to an agency frees me up from reviewing hundreds of applications and lets me get to the harder stuff (java developers, for example). Other times as you mentioned Bill, it's for an exceptionally tough role. This is where experienced TPRs win- if you've got a deep network of scrum masters why wouldn't I let you woo one for me instead of blinding cold calling them from an Internet list?
Comment by Jerry Albright on May 18, 2012 at 9:55am

Bill - please accept this reply as some anonymous voice in the wilderness you seem to be stuck in.  I don't want to pile on here - so hopefully adding another "it might be you Bill" perspective will only underline a few thoughts the ladies have had.

How in the world can you pick up the phone loaded with the mental baggage you have?  I couldn't do it.  My clients would hear it.  While we've never spoken personally - reading some of your thoughts has me picturing a client hearing a sales pitch from Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh fame.

"I know you don't need me - and most likely will try to screw me even if you do say you need me - but can I have a shot at the crappiest job you have - whatever req you may have long forgotten about but might hire if I can drag up a 100% fit that you then will not be able to find on the internet?"

Of course this isn't what you're really saying.  But it might be what they're hearing.  Perhaps not the first call - but I bet they can pick it up over a few connections with you.

Bill - life is OFF THE HOOK crazy in my recruiting world right now.  And I recruit in IT.  IT - where technology starts!  So if anyone should be concerned with all the tools and tricks the technology brings to recruiting it would be me.  But to the contrary - it's made my life simpler.

I never have and never will claim to provide a service my clients are incapable of doing for themselves.  Who in the world gives that much credit to themselves?  When I have my oil changed - it's not because I am unable to do it.  You just unscrew the drainplug, drain your oil and then pour more in.  I also go to a car wash.  From time to time I'll let GreenGrow fertilize my lawn - even though we have the "technology" for me to do it myself.

It's just this simple:  You need to shake the mentality I see. 

Lovingly submitted in the spirit of helping a fellow recruiting veteran,

Jerry in Indiana (Not screwed IT recruiter still kicking ass after 25 years!)

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 18, 2012 at 9:55am

Technology has made it easier for ALL recruiters. Many whined that we were dead when Monster came on, but here we are. Using lawyers as a good example(it's one of the areas we specialized in for 15 years). Every law firm has a set of Martindale, Hubble in their office. It lists all lawyers, the firm they work at and area of specialization. So why would they pay fees (and big ones). It's because someone has to "pick up the phone" and call them and sell them on taking a look.     @ Sandra - I disagree with your phone call bashing. The members of the Pinnacle Society (Big Billers) will tell you that's what separates the producers from the rest of the pack. By all means do your research before and if you can fill it by sending emails good for you. But if you aren't billing $300-600k + I suggest getting on the phone. I have a call accounting system in our office and have for 25 yr (technology again) so I know how many calls and how much time each person has each day. I can tell you that the folks in our office that have billed $400 to $565K are on the phone more than anyone else and that's what I have seen ( I have had as many as 20 recruiters at a time). So in 42 yr I have seen lots of recruiters who failed who were call reluctant. @ Bill F- Sorry sir, but you are dead wrong on finding opportunities for talent. That's what we do in addition to filling clients needs. We work nationally. Give me a great candidate in my market who wants a position in wherever and I have a good chance to find them the right opportunity. How? It's that nasty phone again. :)

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 18, 2012 at 11:08am

Again not debating who is better, internal or TPR's. But ask yourself why the internals came from the agency side. It's not because they were making too much money in the agency. No, money is not everything but it's way ahead of what's in 2nd place. Folks go that way because $ is more stable than the ups and downs of our business and they don't have to make marketing calls. They have built in clients. The most successful recruiters I know are marketers and recruiters. My folks do both and partner on placements with each other.

Comment by bill josephson on May 18, 2012 at 11:17am

@Cora--Thanks for sharing your perspective on my question/thoughts of technology's impact on recruiting.

@Jerry--I'm sharing the feedback I receive, reasons given due to their cost savings.  I appreciate all the feedback received.  I execute my plan, and keep these questions for downtimes

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 18, 2012 at 12:17pm
Bill, I am not miffed, I simply hate to see somebody in a spiral of self defeating behavior. I have watched you post the same discouraged , self deprecating posts over and over as if you want someone to agree with you and reinforce an end of the world, "it can't be done" "it doesn't work" blaming everything from internal recruiter to technology to being in the wrong industry.

Over and over many of us have made suggestions to you to try and help you pick yourself up, get over the negative vibes that you are putting out like a tidal wave of poor me I can't.
Every time positive suggestions are made to you they are met with, "YES, BUT" and you launch into the same reasons for failure, the end of the TPR'S industry.

There comes a time when all of us have to quit coming up with reasons why we can't that don't have a basis in external forces beyond our control or the world is ending so I'll keep doing what I have been doing, it's all going down in flames.

You are an experienced recruiter. You didn't get that experience by whining because something didn't work. Positive suggestions don't seem to have helped so ,as I do with friends, family, candidates and recruiters who have gotten into a spiral of self defeating behavior. It's time to kick your butt, tell you to grab your ass, pick yourself up, get over it and go. If you simply can't then perhaps it's time for a motivational seminar, professional career counseling where you can be coached, motivated, redirected whatever will work. Make some changes, mostly in your attitude. Don't reinforce a loser mentality by continually looking for any opportunity to predict the end of the world.

All of us cause to happen what we fear the most. So all I am saying to you at this point is ,"quit it!". Quit with the negative, quit with the whining, quit making 100 calls a day if it isn't working, quit working for companies with internals who are screwing you, quit worrying about what is going to happen in five years. Any of us can get run over by a Bus tomorrow so worry about finding a company with a job they need to fill and go fill it. Make a placement. So what if it's harder, so what if it isn't the same as it used to be.

Sitting around convincing yourself that companies don't have to, don't need to and won't pay recruiting fees is wrong. They do, they are and they will. You are hearing from recruiter after recruiter who are telling you we are busy, making money, picking up new clients. You are an experienced recruiter there is no reason you can't do the the same if you will force yourself to reevaluate what and how and with whom you are working. I think it's always a choice to fail or not.

@steve I am not bashing the phone or being on it. All I am saying to Bill is if making 100 cold calls a day like a trained monkey is not working make 10 quality calls a day. If a client wants an engineer from one of five companies and none of those will move, there is another engineer just like one of those from another company somewhere that the client will consider if they need an engineer.
Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 18, 2012 at 12:42pm

Or ask an internal why they went inside... the answers would probably surprise you.

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 18, 2012 at 12:54pm

I have interviewed 100's who have told me why they made the switch to internal. Many who were laid off. And there are many good/valid reasons why they chose that route. We do what makes us happy. We are all wired differently and that's what makes the world interesting. The main reason I do what I do is because I alone am in charge of my future and income. My job security comes from within.

Comment by Russ Recruits on May 18, 2012 at 1:17pm

@ Amy - fair do's.

I get told I must be a "burnt out recruiter" to make the switch to internal. But as you can vouch, being an Internal is no easy ride.....

@ Steve, My security comes now from seeing the very staff I hired overtaking those that were there before in number...


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