Recruiters Anonymous: I’m Living an Agency Lie, and I Need Help!

I have been living a lie. For far too long I have pretended to fit a mould, that simply is not me.

For the past seven years, I have woken up every morning, wrangled my tie around my neck, shined my shoes, put on my corporate face, and tackled the recruitment agency world. My time, my (awesome) clients and candidates, my decisions are not my own.

Working for a recruitment agency is living for a recruitment agency.

Unfortunately there are many agencies out there that know they have a bad reputation. That’s why they all describe themselves as a ‘new kind of organization‘ with a ‘different culture‘, ‘a new way of doing things‘, and where their ‘people really make the difference‘.

They have lots of names. Some call themselves “talent agencies” or “staffing agencies”, while others prefer “placement agencies”, or “employment agencies”.

Noticing a trend? Agencies are all about the whole, the power of many, not about me as the expert, experienced recruiter.

The dictionary defines ‘Agency’ as “an establishment engaged in doing business for another”. Why would I want an establishment engaged in doing business for me!?

I am an individual. I am a recruiter. I am not an agency.

There is a difference. My perseverance, tenacity, social intelligence, and mastery of relationships has made me the best that I can be.

I close deals. I place the best candidates into awesome jobs. I have that special knack for being able to match the right people into positions and companies that fit them perfectly.

So why am I starting to feel that perhaps I’m not longer a good fit for my own company?

I am a person, not just a piece of the agency puzzle. I have a life, and I know there is a world outside of my pod. I would love to escape my not one, or two, but three bosses, and if I have one more ‘meeting about a meeting’ …

Working as part of a team is great, as long as everyone pulls their weight.

My agency, like a lot of agencies, incentivises us with commissions based on how the team performs as a whole.

I work ridiculously long hours, I bring in the most new business by far, and yet I am being compensated as if I am an average performer. The model simply isn’t fair, and only benefits the agency as well as some of my underperforming colleagues.

However, if I were to ever question this model, I would be accused of not being a “team player”.

The truth is I am very frustrated, I feel alienated, and can’t help but wonder if there is a better way to use my polished recruitment skills outside of these walls.

Sorry if this entry has turned into a bit of a rant, but this is my only outlet.

There must be other recruiters that feel the same way I do, who have been silenced by the fear of being hit with the all too frequently thrown around “remember there’s no ‘i’ in ‘team” corporate speak.

If there are others out there that feel this way, it would be nice to know I’m not alone.

This post by The Anonymous Recruiter originally appeared on the RecruitLoop Blog:

Views: 1161

Comment by Mike Hayden on April 16, 2013 at 8:15am

A great business with poor leadership is far often to common in some recruitment firms. My encouragement is this, you're not stuck. Get away from the madness for a bit, quiet yourself and begin to make a plan, possibly an exit strategy. There are many firms with a variety of different models where for the same effort you could earn more and find greater satisfaction. Depending on how long you have been in the business you may desire to go out on your own. That's a big decision and breaking away can be very difficult but may be the greatest decision you could make. Don't stay stuck.. Make a plan.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on April 16, 2013 at 9:39am
I think this is why a lot of recruiters go solo. There are pros and cons to that as well.
Comment by Noel Cocca on April 16, 2013 at 9:46am

Seven years is a very long time to not start seeing the money.  It took me 3 years to get into what I considered the good earnings.  If you are successful there, you can succeed elsewhere and need to start looking.  You may find that what you have is actually pretty good or at least par for the course, or like our dear Amy...find a GREAT new job.  

I went on my own for the freedom of schedule with my two young kids.  It was hard as I did it in 2006 and well we know what happened shortly after that.  It is not for everyone.  I had about 6 different recruiters work with me that couldn't do it on their own, and all of them were experienced recruiters.  On your own is a very romantic idea, intoxicating, and like all things romantic and intoxicating....they can have big pitfalls too.  As a recruiter I have to tell you to explore the job market!  That will surely give you some very valuable insight.  

Comment by Malia Jorgensen on April 16, 2013 at 12:04pm

I know how your feel! I did 8 years in an agency.  Our compensation was individually based - and was split by who brought in the order, found the candidate and placed the candidate.  You could earn all 3 pieces of the pie or just one.  In any case, it was a great model.  I left and the company was purchased, so I don't know if that model is still in place but it was great!  I left the agency business to go into more of a corporate setting. Earning potential is not quite the same, but your quality of life is much better.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 16, 2013 at 12:19pm
There is an old joke about the good golfers who went out to play 18. On the 12th hole old Alice had a heart attack and died. When they came in on the 18th somebody asked why it took them so long and their scores were bad. One of them said, "it would have been a lot faster and better if we had not had to "hit one and drag old Alice", "hit one and drag old Alice".

It's my humble opinion that recruiting is not a team sport. It's more like a horse race, there may be several horses who finish in the money but there is always one winner. You have a decision to make. If you are as good as you think you are, hang out your own shingle and prove it. If you want to continue to"hit one and drag old Alice" because there is no "I" in team keep in mind that old Alice died on the 12th hole.

The alternative is find a "recruiting firm" who compensates recruiters like the race horses they are and not like a "team of plow horses pulling together for the benefit of whoever trained them to pull the plow."

Of course there is always or in most cases, that pesky little thing called a non compete that has sent many a good recruiter into corporate recruiting positions for a sabbatical until the terms of the non compete were satisfied.
Comment by Raphael Fang on April 16, 2013 at 12:51pm

Team work is great concept if the recruiters are working toward a common goal and help the company to achieve.  However, most recruiters don't think that way.  They think about how much money they can earn first and everything else is secondary.  That's why many of us go solo...

Comment by Mike Hayden on April 19, 2013 at 10:32am


 I love your comment! Brilliant....

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 19, 2013 at 11:58am
Don't know about brilliant, just plain old real life experience. One always faces the decision of I can either sit here, bitch and be unhappy or if I think I know a better way I best put up or shut up. :). Then one has no choice but to make it work or admit they were not that smart.
Comment by JP Sutton on April 21, 2013 at 1:24pm

Go solo and create your own wealth... I grossed 48k last month in Directs and over 12k in contracts. There is money there, believe me. You just have to go for it intelligently...

Comment by Ari Waller on April 21, 2013 at 9:20pm
Creating an agency where you can work in a team oriented environment and still ensure top performers are receiving top dollar is a fine, yet imperfect, balance. The moment your top performers are getting pretty much the same level of compensation of those who are not performing, is the moment top performers typical begin to look at other options. Sorry to hear you have three bosses too. There are some good places out there if you are not ready to make the jump on your own. You just need to ensure the compensation plan and rules of engagement amongst the other recruiters are positioning a new member of the team for success.


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