5 signs your new recruiter is destined to fail!

In just about every country that Firebrand operates, we are finding it difficult to hire great recruiters. We have pretty tightly defined criteria, so I guess that’s not a surprise. However, what is a little unusual so soon after a severe recession, is the evident rush to hire recruiters across the board.

In Australia there is such a shortage of experienced recruiters that one ‘Rec to Rec’ recruiter told me she has over 1200 vacant orders in Sydney alone! In the UK we find that there is strong competition to hire recruiters, and Asia is much the same.

So inevitability, recruitment firms (and corporates too, I imagine) will relax their criteria, maybe train more newbies into the industry, and that is no bad thing.


The biggest cost to every recruitment firm is salaries, and the primary destroyer of profits is under-performing or failed recruiters. That is a fact.

So as the recruitment industry gains momentum, we all have to make sure we hire people who can bill consistently, who can learn, and who fit our culture.

The irony is that our industry is notorious for making bad hires. We don’t train that well either as a rule, and our own staff turnover is often a disgrace. Yet there is another problem, which might at first seem counter-intuitive.

When we make a bad hire, often we are slow to put it right. We hold on to under-performing people for too long.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe in ‘Hire and Fire’. Indeed our mantra at Firebrand is to apply the utmost rigour to making the right hire, and then put huge effort into making sure that hire works out. We invest heavily, and for a long time, to bring people to full productivity.

But even so there are sometimes early signs you have made a wrong hire and it’s not going to work.

I am not suggesting you let someone go if one or even all of these signs emerge, but it should set off alarms and trigger action. Because doing nothing is the one thing you should not do.

  • Slow learners. Intelligence is a much underestimated trait when it comes to recruiting. I always look for it when hiring. A newbie who is slow to learn, repeats mistakes and just does not ‘get things’ is a potential disaster. Proceed with caution.
  • Unwilling learners. “Coachability “ is a key recruiter requirement in my opinion. Poor listeners, know-it-alls, and those who just can’t focus on learning different ways in their new environment, are likely to fail long-term.
  • Social misfits. Seriously, sometimes in the first day I know I have made a bad hire. Not because they can’t recruit. But because they can’t fit in. Inappropriate jokes, over-familiarity, too loud or too quiet. Of course you have to take into account new-starter nerves, and often people settle in over time. But sometimes, you just KNOW…this is wrong!
  • Late and lazy. I always see a red light flashing when the new recruiter starts coming in late in the first week, misses meetings, or does not follow up on simple, basic tasks you have given them. If that’s their “honeymoon” effort, just wait till a few months down the track!
  • Lack of courage. Sounds strange talking about courage in a desk job. But, in fact, you do need to be brave in recruitment. Make that cold call. Tell that candidate they are not right for a job they really covet. Negotiate a fee. Lead a client meeting with your new boss in the room. I have noticed that new recruiters show their “courage colours” early. Don’t throw a raw newbie in the deep-end. That’s not right and unlikely to help. But they do need to be given little tasks, which involve doing tricky things. How they tackle those is a strong signal of their long term success.

Please use my tips with care. Every new recruiter will show some of these faults. But on the other hand if you see them in a rookie, hone in on it. Examine it. Test it. Counsel them on it.

And look for rapid improvement.

If improvement is not forthcoming, you may have a serious issue.


For all my blog posts please see 'The Savage Truth'

Views: 180

Comment by David Jansons on February 4, 2011 at 11:40am
Great comments Greg. The last guy we fired was a good match for all of your points. We made a mistake hiring him but will not do so again. We are thinking of aptitude tests that would would include general intelligence!!
Comment by Al Merrill on February 4, 2011 at 12:35pm

Hi Greg-

     I find myself getting repetitive when responding to similar posts on these pages and LinkedIn when the subject comes up! As headhunters we need to realize that making a cold call to a candidate and enticing that person to compare their value in the market is/or can be a life-changing call...In my estimation, people who make those calls have to be very well trained, fine-tuned salespeople, not amateurs! They must understand the basic fundamentals of selling, and be able to apply them. The better they're trained, the better the "law of averages" will work in their favor, and they have to be willing to go "find their paycheck". I think as a business owner If I have salespeople/recruiters, or whatever title representing my business I have an obligation to candidates, clients, and to me to be represented by professionals. And for me that means I'm going to personally train them as a premier "big picture" presenter, and then a closer. If they can't sell me a convincing presentation in role playing, their not getting on a phone!




Comment by Dina Harding on February 4, 2011 at 9:30pm
Good points, Greg!  Smart hiring criterion is always essential to have in place (especially in our profession), but it certainly will not matter if you don't respond appropriately on any warning signs early on in the training process for new recruiters.  Thank you for taking the time to share your post with us! ~Dina


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