Do Your Own Job: I’m Not Your Researcher, Sourcer or Contact Database

Quite frequently I get contacted by people searching for something or someone. Normally, I don’t mind that. Actually sometimes it is flattering that a random stranger or casual acquaintance found something about me intriguing enough to think I’d be a good person to contact to get help with their situation.

In posting this I realize I may ruffle some feathers and raise some eyebrows.  My intent is not to come across as someone unwilling to lend a hand or offer assistance. The opposite is probably more my problem.

I have an unfortunate and inconvenient habit of going out of my way to respond to practically every request that comes along, even to my own detriment. It is a tough pattern to break, but I’m trying to create more balance.

Earlier this week I received an email from a person at an executive search firm. They wanted to set up a call or have me call them. I replied with my number and within an hour they called me.

Not being able to tell from the initial email what they were interested in, I was curious to find that out. After a brief intro of who they were, what their firm does and the type of client and candidate they deal with, they proceeded to ask for names of people that might be interested in an opportunity.

So far, nothing wrong with that. As I probed for some basic understanding of logistics, location, travel, and other standard details of the opportunity, the person seemed cagey and evasive.

First of all, they admitted that the search was brand new and they didn’t have that information. OK. Fine. But, those are the kind of things that ANYONE would ask and you are totally unprepared to be calling and expecting a stranger to help without having done your research and due diligence first.

They only gave a very generic description of the type of professional they were seeking. It was so vague that it could have been interpreted differently depending on the context, industry and organization. I was cut off a couple of times when trying to ask for clarification of their candidate criteria.

They said I could review their website to see their 20+ years in the search industry. Yeah, I’ll get right on that because you sound so credible, knowledgeable and experienced already.

The main point I was trying to make was that geography and work-life balance is an important consideration for most people in my network. Living and working in Southern California, we have dramatic traffic and commuting issues to deal with and everyone has different tolerance levels for what is acceptable related to frequency of travel, main office location and working conditions.

They went as far as telling me that I shouldn’t let those items get in the way or be a distraction at this stage. Huh? So, your client’s expectations and prospective candidates’ understanding of what the opportunity entails is an insignificant matter that no one needs to bother discussing?  

By now I was losing patience and suggested that they email me a synopsis of their search criteria and I would give some thought to who I knew that might be interested and qualified. They were not at all in favor of doing that. In fact they acted as if (and even lectured me) that was a waste of their time.

Never mind, that they were asking for significant investment of my time to scan my contact list for leads. And, for me to just hand over names as if they were entitled to that access to my network.

Wanting to wrap up the call, I inquired about how they found me. Again, they reacted as if that was none of my business or it was an unreasonable question. They said, “Oh, I have my team, my sources and my researchers and we find people using various methods. Most of the time I don’t know the exact way someone was identified and passed on to me. “

As you can imagine, that last comment struck me as entirely unprofessional! So, you have no idea who you are finding, where you are finding them and don’t need to worry about answering their questions as long as you can take advantage of them and get what you are looking for with minimal effort?

Furthermore, I wondered if they have all of those capabilities and resources why on earth they were wasting time calling someone like me. Why would you expect me or anyone else to do YOUR job or the job of your researchers, sourcers or database?

What do you think? Is this a proper representation of the executive search profession?


Views: 596

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 2, 2014 at 5:59am


I can see from your picture you are a nice person so believe me when I mention the following only as something you might want to consider for your own long term best interests. If your feathers get ruffled, keep in mind what you said above and what they say about being in the kitchen.

If I may, please:

1.  "...What do you think? Is this a proper representation of the executive search profession?..."

What do I think? I think you need to focus. I don't know anyone credible in the business of executive search who would have spent any more time on this then it would have taken to delete the first email message sent to you.

But then, you do say, "I have an unfortunate and inconvenient habit of going out of my way to respond to practically every request that comes along, even to my own detriment. It is a tough pattern to break, but I’m trying to create more balance..."

"10-14 years" in the business [don't you know which it is?] and you are still not in 'balance'?

Why not?

2.  Here's something that's telling and is always a source of 'concern' when I see the following:

From your RB Profile: 

What recruiting tools can you not live without?

"LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+"

You'll forgive me when I suggest a "Talent Management: HR, Recruiting & Organization Development" person who cannot recruit without the phenomenon of the Internet and who lacks focus could find oneself in a pinch if ever your computer were to decide to run away and join the circus.

A 'recruiter' was at one time generally considered to be someone who can source candidates using the telephone. This was way back before you were putting milk in your cereal.

Then Employment Agency staff began calling themselves 'recruiters' when in fact they were/are [?] no such thing.

Now we have Internet 'detectives' who live off the yield of search engines in their various forms and faces who consider themselves 'recruiters'.

I am not picking on you, just making some observations.

Now, after your either ten or fourteen years of experience (are you sure you don't know which it is?) I'm guessing you must be reasonably successful in bringing in a pay check.

Whether you call yourself "Talent Management" or another 'recruiter' is of no consequence to me but I would like to offer that you would be even more -measurably- effective if you would quit reading junk email and then posting about the details of how you spend your day here.

Everything you described, above, is old news.

The only thing anyone can learn from your post here is to be more rigorous in time management.

Just Sayin'...

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on March 6, 2014 at 1:32am

Well, Paul, I guess I should first thank you for resurrecting a two-year old post from the bowels of RBC. I find it quite amusing that you claim the ability to tell from my picture that I am a nice person. Sounds like a special super-hero type of power you must possess.

Nice person or not, my feathers are not easily ruffled in or out of a heated kitchen. However, for a complete stranger to take time to offer advice for MY long term best interests seems either mighty generous or incredibly presumptuous.

Perhaps a “credible person in the business of executive search” would have responded differently under the circumstances depicted here…  If the point of that comment was intended as an assessment of my professional credibility, thank you for alerting me that it is being perceived as inadequate.

In the example I wrote about from my own perspective (rather than whatever type of person you are referring to), I chose to reply to the email and take the call as I often do in similar situations. Sometimes something interesting and mutually beneficial comes from these types of interactions. Provided I can spare a few moments here and there I don’t really see much of a downside to treating any initial outreach effort as if it might have that potential.

In general, I don’t believe that habit pertains to my ability to focus or create balance. There are however times when requests go beyond what I would consider reasonable. That’s where the issue lies, not the fact that I am willing to communicate with or assist others in the first place.

As far as content found on my RBC profile goes, I don’t believe I stated any ability to do anything using any particular tools, Internet or otherwise. I do view those sites listed as communication channels related to my occupation and I find them valuable for various reasons, including professional networking.

Again, you seem to imply an ability to interpret and form an impression based on limited data. As far as I know the range of years is formatted into the site in the drop down menu for that field. Not sure what difference it makes if someone has 2,3, 4… 8, 9, 10, 11. 12, 13, 14, 15… 22… 39 years of experience.

While the general and broad description of my type of blended and generalist work experience and modest career stature may prompt a person like yourself to trivialize and mock, THAT is of no consequence to me.

Similarly, your suggestion that I might be more “measurably” effective doing or not doing whatever it is you believe I do with my time reeks of hypocrisy. Is digging up and dissecting an old discussion topic as well and critiquing the author through a series of unfounded assumptions YOUR ideal example of rigorous time management?

As a person who routinely produces and posts original content and commentary in the realm of my personal encounters and in the course of professional activities, I fully embrace the concept that doing so invites assorted opinions, disagreement, debate AND criticism - constructive or not.

Regardless of whether you call it picking or observing, I found the overall tone of your message to be indicative of someone who gets their jollies patronizing and condescending others for no apparent reason.

Back before I was putting milk in my cereal, the online vernacular to describe this type was troll. Just sayin’… 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. ~KB @TalentTalks 

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 6, 2014 at 9:08am

LOL, Good Morning, Kelly.

I am new here and am going through blogs, old and new. I don't need to justify this; if your blog was bloggable then it is bloggable now.

I call it like it is/as it seems to me. If I were your manager I would have suggested you stop wasting time as you described you did with the example above.

You asked for an opinion/assessment and I gave you mine. That it is months later is irrelevant.

As for reading your face- you have to be kidding. Anyone who cannot read people should not be in this business.

I happen to have a very special ability, yes. I can, very often, from a glance, tell you more about someone than their own neighbors know about that person but in your case, one hardly need be a psychic to see you are a 'people person'.

My arrogance is hardly pardonable and I apologize; I've been in the executive search business for some time and frankly, being old school, we were trained to do what any of you do now using your banners and job boards with just a telephone, pen and paper.

That we now have all these great bells and whistles (yes, I use them as necessary) does not obviate the fact I can do my work from a telephone booth, if necessary.

So being new here, I get a kick out of seeing so many people here who indicate on their profile they would be totally f....ked if they lost the use of their computer and access to all those job boards, etc.

That someone says they 'need' these Internet-based tools to do their job seems to me what it might look like to an explorer scout who can start a fire using two sticks.

So I apologize, I should have kept my snickering to myself.

Part of my problem, I'm finding, is that this forum is not really a forum for executive search consultants who are used to sourcing without the bells and whistles of banners and job boards.

'Patronizing' is a very hard assessment not to fall into around here so please forgive.

Anyway, quit reading all that junk email, Kelly.

Thanks and I apologize again for my tone.

Best Regards,


Comment by Will Thomson on March 6, 2014 at 1:31pm

Hey Kelly- there are some awful recruiters out there aren't they?  To Sandra's point- this is what gives recruiters a bad name.  To Brian's point- keep the faith!  I love this group because it keeps things real.  Thanks for writing Kelly!

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on March 7, 2014 at 5:02pm

So true, Will. Obviously some of them behave as if they are entitled to act however they see fit to serve their own over-inflated egos without any regard for the impression they give others through their negative actions and arrogant attitudes. Indeed, that does create a bad "recruiter/recruiting" reputation, even for others that are professional, respectful and competent. And, I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing we'd see A LOT more of Sandra around here... Hope you have a great weekend! ~KB


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