It’s not a new saying, but whenever it’s used now everyone instantly agrees, it should be a resourcing mantra, particularly in tougher times.

As recruiters we spend most of our time looking for people with a skillset, with a historical CV that ticks the boxes that clients want.

It’s changing.

Job description tick lists are no good, because you will rarely find the people who tick every box, and if you do there is no guarantee that they will succeed.

Past performance can be a very unreliable indicator of future achievement.

I was intrigued to read a blog from Katie McNab – Customers Aren’t Always Right.

Read it! Because she is UK Recruitment Manager for one of the largest FMCG brands on the planet. And she wants her team to challenge hiring managers, forget what may suit them and start looking at what the business needs.

My favourite part is:

A line manager with a team of 5-6 people might recruit once a year.  He or she will have a very short-term goal in mind.  They want someone to fill the “empty chair”. And while they don’t recruit very often, they usually still have some very firm views about what “good” looks like.


But we recruit all the time.  We live and breathe this stuff.   We know our markets, our industries and our legal obligations.  And that gives us the right and the responsibility to challenge line managers on their requirements.

How many 3rd party recruiters challenge a client? We also live and breathe this stuff, but how many of us push back and really help the client to be creative?

Very few I guess.

Are we too scared of losing the brief? Scared of missing a fee? Do we want to just fill empty chairs?

Have we lost the bottle to invest time in building credibility with the client by bringing some real INSIGHT to the process? Because that’s how long-term relationships are developed.

Ah yes, INSIGHT.

If you read my last blog you’ll know that the good people from LinkedIn said that the number one priority for a 3rd party recruiter focusing on maintaining some form of market position is Insight over Data.

I would grab this as an opportunity to forget searching for historical CVs and start looking for real talent, with real potential and real attitude.

Clients use us because we can give them an insight to the market, a window onto the world of potential talent that is available, either actively or passively.

So stop giving them what they can find themselves…and start finding people that they can’t.

Rarely a day goes by without talk of a skill shortage…and most recruiters nod compliantly and see this as an opportunity…but an opportunity for what?

If the skills aren’t there, then they aren’t there. So instead of acquiescing, and firing out dozens of headhunt calls, and placing numerous online job ads, just STOP!

Remember Katie’s hypothetical example?

Given the choice of a solid Brand Manager from a global competitor or the owner of a small start up who has managed to launch a fantastic product with limited resources, and really creative solutions…  I think the managers would instinctively lean towards one option.  And I think the business as a whole would lean in the other direction.


3rd party recruiters need to be able to offer the same approach, the same confidence…and the same INSIGHT.

Stop looking for skills and start looking for attitude…then let the best companies take care of the upskilling.

Views: 488

Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 18, 2011 at 1:31pm

So how does this presentation go?


Hi John, I have a great candidate for your sales position.  He doesn't have any experience in your industry, he wouldn't know a medical device from a toothbrush but, he has a great attitude.  I think he could sell sand in the middle of the desert.  He's smart and could learn your product line with some training.  How about you take a few minutes and speak with him?


Uh no the only thing he has ever sold was his 87 ford but he has broken five company records in retail sales, he is high energy, will travel 100% and never met a stranger, work ethic is superb and attitude is better than almost any candidate i have spoken with in years.


Yes i do have several candidates with medical device sales expr who have sold for your competition, know the industry, who the players are and have existing relationships with customers you know but they don't have the attitude and drive that my guy i mentioned has exhibited.


No he is not my cousin.  Ok i will send the experienced candidates first.  Sure i will tell him he needs to get started in medical sales with non ethical products then come back around.  Thanks.

Comment by Mervyn Dinnen on January 18, 2011 at 5:46pm

A real range of views and opinions here. It seems that most feel that attitude and desire should be a key factor. I do understand that there are some roles where you will want to see some track record but I have to say that most entrepreneurs and very successful business creators that I have met (and I have worked for some in recruitment) look for attitude, energy and passion.

As recruiters there is nothing wrong with challenging the client if you really know them and their business and believe that you have someone who could be successful there.

I did a follow up blog oin the UK 'Past Performance is Relative'...I'll post it here tonight.

And Sandra, I like the was you make the point, but not sure that someone who's sold for the competition and is hawking relationships from one to the other is always a guarentee of success. Why move? Why won't they move again? What motivates them to do it again? Where's the hunger? I have also spent some time in sales recruitment and saw many 'big hitters' struggle in new surroundings with different support, expectations and challenges.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 18, 2011 at 6:50pm

Let me say this, in recruiting perhaps more than any other industry i agree 100% that attitude and desire have more to do with success.  Background and experience in recruiting many times dies on the vine next to someone with any kind of sales background, customer service background who has drive and a go getem attitude.


In response to my example and your counterpoints.

A candidate who has the experience calling on docs is 10 times more likely to be a star than someone who has to learn how to get to the hiring doc.  The reason to move is higher base, higher comish and higher quality products.  The hunger is for a stronger company to rep, a better product and the opportunity for more money or comish.  They may move again for the same reasons , that's the name of the game.  Sometimes the big hitters do struggle in a new environment but they struggle less than someone who has never been up to bat before in my experience.

Comment by Jerry Albright on January 21, 2011 at 1:33pm

The original post mentions the skills check box.  (or tick box?)  so why don't we start there?


I don't begin my search with the list HR has generated to get the req. approved.  It's usually a fine list.  Quite lengthy - especially when you get to "Must be able to lift 40 lbs." or "Use of computer related equipment" etc.  Who actually pays attention to that stuff?  I start with an understanding of the work.

My conversation begins with "What will this person do?"  The answer(s) to that question tell me who I'm looking for.  And yes - I'm going to find someone who has done that.  Not "wants to - wishes they could - should be able to..." but HAS DONE.

Why?  Because I'll find someone who has done it.

Is past performance an indicator of future performance?  Well, I guess, scientifically speaking, no.  It is not.  is a past performer "quite likely able to repeat"?  I'd say so.  That's what I'm banking on.

Comment by Martin H.Snyder on January 21, 2011 at 10:59pm


A mind-numbing thread on the subject on ERE comes down firmly on the side of validated job profies and assessments.  I say humbug to testing individuals (for leadership and creative jobs) because the group dynamics can overwhelm any single member of a team.  

Skills change quickly, character far less quickly, but it still all turns on the people and situation at-hand.....  


Comment by Paul Basile on January 22, 2011 at 10:17am
Denial of facts - and I mean studied, professionally assessed facts not anecdotes - may be comforting but not productive. Attitude is more important because IT IS - because the results overall (not in every single case) verify that. And it's not only attitude, it's a whole hose of competencies including cognitive ability that are different for each job and are known. Group dynamics enter the proof, too, as they should but they do not - and this is provable - overwhelm any single member of a team.

The thread in ERE is hardly mind-numbing, any more than oncologists arguing about things I don't understand is mind-numbing. Validated job profiles, assessments and cultural fit instruments work.


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