Simply The Best?...What Makes a Great Recruiter

Years ago I worked in sales recruitment. Every Friday we finished at 5pm and then sat in a circle and took it in turns to review our week. We gave ourselves a score out of 10 and then we each voted for our ‘Consultant of the Week’. Inevitably the most votes always went to the consultant who had made the most fees. Very occasionally the group would recognise the closing of a particularly difficult assignment, or the winning of a retainer against the odds, but those occasions were rare.

The biggest biller was always the best recruiter.

If someone said ‘he’s a good recruiter’ you knew they meant ‘he’s a big biller’

Times sales recruitment experience was before e-mail, job boards, unprecedented boom and bust, and social media... so now I wonder

What makes a good recruiter in 2010?

Maybe it’s still the biggest biller? Other recruiters, managers and directors will still recognise the bottom line, the recruiter that not just hits their targets but surpasses them. During my years in recruitment to recruitment I often heard these people referred to as ‘billing machines’. I always found this an odd description, somehow dehumanised as if great recruiters are mechanical without compassion or emotion.

How about the most contacts or the biggest network...the Largest Community? Making placements historically pays the bills, but moving forward might we need to find other ways to monetise our networks? Great recruiters should build great relationships and it may well be that focusing on closing individual deals somehow turns attention away from the value of the wider network. A lot of effort goes in to developing relationships that may or may not result in a deal...information, knowledge, ideas, networking, introductions and referrals. If we cling to the traditional billing model are we in danger of giving away what we should monetize and trying to monetize what we should give away?

Perhaps it will be the best feedback, which should give rise to the most referrals? I’ve written at length how I am rewarded on feedback, and it would appear that a number of other recruitment businesses are adopting an element of client/candidate feedback in their incentive schemes. There’s little doubt that giving a consultative, positively different experience to candidates and clients, transparent and honest, managing expectations and delivering what you promise to the timescale you agreed, will result in recommendations and referrals...and there is no better client or candidate than one that has been recommended to you.

So who would you now salute now as being a great recruiter...?

The big biller....

The networking community builder....

The deliverer who gets the best referrals and recommendations...

There are those who would say that all 3 go together, that big billers will automatically be good networkers and deliverers, but I’m not so sure. During my time working in recruitment, especially when placing recruiters, I have met and worked with quite a few contingency ‘big billers’ and I have to say that often they aren’t the most engaging of people. Usually they are motivated by the deal, the commission, and their methodology can be quite transactional…many times I have referenced someone to be told that their relationship skills are somewhat lacking but they display a determination that pulls them through, often to the detriment of colleagues.

Interestingly, the recruiters who make the best matches, whose candidates succeed most in their new roles, aren’t always the biggest billers precisely because their placements stick. They get recommendations and referrals but their success often negates recurring business.

My view is that networking, community building and reputation will drive success in the future, as the traditional transactional sales model gets squeezed. For now, we still monetise what we do in the same way we always have however I believe that this will change.

Let me know what you think? Shoot me down or give me your own view…as recruiters and HR professional one thing I know we aren’t is shy!!

Views: 910

Comment by Stephen ODonnell on April 16, 2010 at 9:25am
Great article Mervyn.
I was never what I would call a Big Biller (by industry standards), but I was always very competitive, and did take it personally if I wasn't the top biller in my company each month. Even as an agency owner, I would want to lead from the front, so that my instructions to my recruiters had more credibility.
Judging the best recruiter can depend entirely upon your perspective, whether you are the employer, candidate, agency owner or a colleague.
As an agency owner, my focus was primarily on the size and consistency of the fees, but I'd also be keen to see new clients acquired, new sectors established, and exclusivity secured with customers. I much preferred a recruiter who billed consistently to one who interspersed blank months with enormous fees. These recruiters would often also be a drain on office morale too.
In footballing terms, it's just not enough though to play expansive entertaining football, if you're stuck in the relegation zone. Winning is much more important than losing with style.
Value is the key word I consider. How much extra value (short and long term) is this recruiter adding to my firm? Modern networks have added to the ways in which a recruiter can show their worth, but the bottom line remains the same.
Comment by Simon Lewis on April 16, 2010 at 9:55am

Good post, Mervyn. It resonates.
To build on Stephen's footballing analogy, here's a quote borrowed from Danny Blanchflower, a hero from the bygone Spurs era: “Football is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom”.

Big biller or networking chief, this is the stuff of today: especially in today's social-savvy society.

I think that's why our clients like us.
Comment by Paul Alfred on April 16, 2010 at 11:16am
Great Post Mervyn ... This is tricky so tricky Value, Integrity, Delivery, Great Reputation over I am God's Gift to the Big Biller Club.... We need them both... The goal is to pass some of those values over to the Big Biller... Making an investment in teaching those values over the long term to the Big Biller is immeasurable ....
Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 16, 2010 at 11:50am
A big biller without a reputation for integrity and consistancy is called a HELAR recruiter. (Hit em' a lick and Run). They don't last, they are selling phone services, insurance, or non ethical pharmaceuticals while still talking about the time they billed over a million.

A networker, community builder who does not generate revenue or is low man on the totem pole is the first to go when times get tough and often ends up in social work or politics.

We provide a service for a fee, it's called sales. Without the service there is no fee, ergo, without the fee there is no service. Whatever sales style it takes to consistantly deliver the product or service with integrity is what works. Uh, networking and community building is thinks.
Comment by Lesley Hardy on April 17, 2010 at 11:47pm
You definitely have a point I think. In this day and age, recruitment is not always about sales, but is always about delivery. Delivery is often about who you know and how well you can influence. This is particularly true in an internal recruitment role where you focus more on long term relationships and building up a pool of valuable candidates for the future.

Having said that, without the drive to knock em in the park and close the deal, you are waffling. This is why recruitment is more of an art than a science in my view.


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