An Open Letter To Recruiters (With Love)

An Open Letter To Recruiters (With Love)

Posted March 20, 2011 - By Hung | 13 Comments

My Fellow Recruiters,

How are you?

It’s been a while and I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch. You may remember me as the guy who always did enough not to get fired in the bad years, yet never quite enough to make it to the company sponsored all expenses, holiday-for-the-top-billers in the great years.

I’ve been away. On a deep dive into the social unknown. On my way down, I encountered many strange things. I have witnessed the horrors of Chatroulette and seen the wonders of Augmented Reality. I have lost hours and days throwing cartoon pigs at cartoon walls, and I have moved from apprentice, to evangelist, to cynic and back again more times than I can remember. But I want to you know one thing. Throughout it all, I never forgot about you.

I have returned and instead of bearing gifts, I bring a letter. For the time I’ve spent away from recruitment has given me thoughts enough to write one. And it’s also made me poor, so this is best I can afford.

Here’s what I think I’ve found out.

1. We’ve Got To Move To Vertical Markets

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Yeah, I know. It’s hard to turn away business. It’s not…………natural for us Natural Born Salespeople. But here’s the thing: employers and candidates have all these new ways of talking to each other, and increasingly, they’re doing it before reaching for the phone and talking to you. Don’t take this the wrong way – they still like you – but you cost money, we’re in a recession and they need to cut budget. So the generalist, do-everything-because-I-can kind of recruiter is on his way out. Your business will shrink if you depend only on relationships. So, over to the vertical you go – become a specialist in the impossible-to-find, trade on a unique skillset, get to know that market better than any social network and you’ll be just fine. In fact, become the super connector of that market and you’ll be more than just fine. You’ll be fucking rich, my friend.

2. Stop Cold Calling

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I’ve made you angry now. I can feel it in my water. But before you scroll down to the comment’s section and tell me that I only say that because I’m a loser who could never cold call in the first place, let me first say this: I get it that it’s a telephone based job. And I absolutely get it that you’re better at it than me. But see, this is not about you and me. This about what’s going on out there. And out there, is too much information, competing for not enough time. That’s forcing people to choose what types of interruption they deal with, and which ones they don’t. Taking a phone call from an unsolicited and unidentified caller – as thrilling as it once was – is now a high risk move for a person who already does not enough time in the day. And so she either won’t pick up, or will be pissed off with you when she does. Eerily reminiscent of my last girlfriend, as it happens. Understand this: I’m not saying ‘don’t use the phone’ – that would be like saying ‘stop using porn’. What I am saying, is, use it in a different way (kind of like porn) – to deepen relationships already initiated by other means. Which brings me onto

3. Initiating Relationships By Other Means.

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Someone in a uniform once taught me that stalking is bad. But the uniform, his buddies, and Her Majesty’s legal system don’t know recruitment like I do. You see, stalking is good so long as it’s online and you’re in recruitment. And social media has been an information bonanza for us recruiter/stalkers. It’s like God went to our community and said, ‘Guys, I’ve been too hard on you all these years, I’m sorry. Here, have some compensation. Its called social media. You’ll love it’. This is personal information that people have voluntarily put online so that their friends can search for it and find it. It’s recruitment gold. Now here’s the thing: most of the time we find this stuff out, we reach for the phone and try to parlay some of those social nuggets into a sales pitch delivered over the phone. Which is a shame, because you could have just contacted that person on the network where you found that information in the first place. Or better still, parlay that information from one social network, say Twitter, into a communication trope on another, say, LinkedIn. They usually don’t know what hit them. Trust me: it’s like you really are their friend. So, if you’re good at dialing 9, there’s a good chance you’ll be good at sending a tweet. It’s really the same thing, but you’re playing with better percentages, and this time, you’ve got their ego on your side.

4. We’ve Got To Dual Desk

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Ah, the happy days of being a generalist recruiter on a booming permanent market. Sit tight on a few great relationships and watch those requirements come rolling in, £10K at a time. Been a couple years since that happened though, right? Contract is trending against Permanent everywhere, as companies get edgy about overheads and employees get comfortable with being flexible with their working time. Run a single desk and you are putting all your eggs in one basket; running a single, permanent-only desk, and your eggs are already cooked. I’m not saying that Permanent is dead, only that you soon will be if that’s the only thing you do. Unless, of course, you’re already a specialist super connector of the impossible-to-find, in which case, you’re on a yacht somewhere and only doing this for the shits and giggles

5. Get Away From The Big Boys

l13 300x225 An Open Letter To Recruiters (With Love)

As my mother used to say……no wait, that’s a different story. Big companies. Big Brands. It’s getting tough to make money from those guys. Sure, it’s sexier to be recruiting for Zappos than it is for McCompany Insurance Ltd, but the truth is, the bigger the brand, the bigger the pressure it is for them to go direct. This is because recruitment is now more than just recruitment; it’s about marketing, and ideas like ‘candidate experience’ and ‘employer branding’ are topics du jour for HR looking to earn brownie points from the corporate masters who dole them out. Someone must have realised that bad press really does travel a lot farther these days. Something bad happens and before you know it, some little mo-fo’s tweeting about this or posting about that. And companies that depend on brand can’t afford to have bad recruitment giving them bad press. So it’s goodbye big boys, hello everyone else. Mother would be proud.

awesome ss letter in the bottle 287x300 An Open Letter To Recruiters (With Love)

I could go on, but I think I’ve written enough to show that I care. It’s been tough for me these last two years – I’ve missed you and I’ve been concerned for you and your number. I really hope you make it, get to go on that holiday, and maybe – in between the hookers and the cocaine – find the time to write back one day.

Your friend

Wise Man Say

This post was written in homage to the No27 educational resource on the Internets,


Wise Man Say helps agency & in-house recruiters understand how to use social media to find candidates & acquire clients. Strategy, Implementation, Support & Training. Call on 020 7 739 9358 or email on

Views: 492

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 4, 2011 at 1:44pm

Dear Wise Man,

It is good to hear from you again.  Your dive into the social sewer seems to have left you with some great truths albeit broke.  Wisdom is perhaps more important at times than wordly goods however.


I would make this a longer reply but let me just mention that while you were gone a lot of us generalist recruiters figured out how to contact people without using the phone for the initial call.  Having had several good years, exceptionally good in fact, while many of our bretheren watched their niche turn into a barren wasteland and had no place else to go, we find ourselves, as always, making permanent placements.  Unfortunately  or fortunately, as the case may be, many of our colleagues who were in a very narrow verticle , experienced death by lack of feeding during the recession.

Fortunately they seem to be coming back into the industry as social media strategists and career coaches creating a lot of traffic on tweet chats and twitter to let us know how we are going to die if we don't pay them.  It's great to see them trying to make a comeback.  I worry that there are so many of them but then there are a lot of generalist recruiters too.  We seem to be doing well so perhaps the SM strategists and coaches will be able to make a living helping those other niche recruiters who struggled so valiantly, have survived and see their niche beginning to come back.


I would make this longer but my phone is ringing off the wall with candidates who are demanding to speak with me on the phone rather than in 140 characters, email or secret code throuth linkedin.  A lot of them have taken the same dive you did into social and found it somewhat lacking so now rather than emailing or engaging on SM simply want to speak to me.


Thank you for your letter promoting your business.  I wish you as much success as we are having.

Be careful of the hookers.  There are a multitude of them on twitter and other social sites pretending to be recruiters.  On second thought i guess they really are and might need your services.  Think of it as a virgin market although i guess that would be an oxymoron.  You do seem to be a very caring person so perhaps you will be able to identify the ones who have a heart of gold.

Comment by Ken Forrester on April 4, 2011 at 6:12pm

@ Sandra

I must admit that I too fell into the trap by reading this letter from the edge-it took me on a downward spiral into the dept of despair. Thank you for saving me and bringing me back to reality with your comments of inspiration and humor.

I only have one question and one comment:  

My question-How do you come up with this stuff?

My comment-Why are you recruiting when it is obvious that you are a professional entertainer?


Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 4, 2011 at 7:34pm

LOL, LOL.  @ Ken i needed a good laugh today.  I spend so much damn time trying to make everybody else laugh that other than laughing at myself i seldom get as hard a laugh out loud as your post just offered.


How do i come up with stuff?  I have no clue, other than i just see the world as totally funny and most of the people in it totally full of shit including this ole girl right here.   I am funny but hey, looks aren't everything.


Re:  Your comment.  You have no idea how fun it is to be a professionally entertaining recruiter.  Everybody is making all this noise about how to differ themselves from other recruiters, you should read some of the cover letters i write when i present a candidate.  Some of my clients just keep me around because i am such a curiosity. 

Don't stay too long in reality.  Look what happened to television with all those reality shows starring nasty, ugly, stupid people doing disgusting, crazy things.  Think of cross breeding Snooki with that bounty hunter.  The product would be a junk yard dawg.  Or a real housewife of Orange county.

I could never leave recruiting.  Along with the guy who cleans up after the elephants at the circus, it would be like leaving show business.



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