Why are a majority of recruiters not able to succeed in their 2nd recruitment job?

A LinkedIn discussion, Why are a majority of recruiters not able to succeed in their 2nd recruitment job, having performed reasonably well at their 1st? attracted hundreds of comments from fellow recruiters across the globe. This blog is a summarisation of what I think are the top 10 reasons. Credit however to recruiters who have found success in their second, third and are still recruiting………

1. Weak to begin with - More than likely they were weak to begin with. Got into the business during boom times, tapped into a hot vertical market and made a few placements. When the vertical dried up so did their commissions; so instead of rolling up their sleeves and pounding the phones, they changed companies. Easier to change locations than look in the mirror!

2. Bar set low - In a recruiter’s first job, the bar is generally set low. In their second however expectations are naturally higher and recruiters are not able to meet them. Many so called ‘recruiters’ are screeners / interviewers and get the processing down, but when asked to be strategic or consultative, it's a struggle.

3. Stopped cold calling - The reason recruiters don't last or fail in their second job is simple - they don’t want to cold call, pound the phone and do the grunt work to develop new clients. They have this notion that they’ve become ‘Account Managers’ or ‘Seniors’ when the reality is far from the truth.

4. Burn out - Not every recruiter has the shelf life to last long in the industry. Most recruiters quit their first job because they are burnt out and leave thinking the next company will be less stressful and demanding but alas, it isn’t so, and naturally their performance at company # 2 drops as they would have reached the end of their "Recruit by" date.

5. “I know it all” – This over confident mindset that a recruiter carries from their first to second job is the biggest killer in itself and prime reason for failure. Closing a few deals doesn't make you a successful recruiter.

6. Micro management – Recruiters who typically leave a micro managed environment to one that is more entrepreneurial or less structured often fail. With a year or two of success, these recruiters feel they have all the tools and relationships necessary to manage themselves. When in reality, it was perhaps the micro management that kept them on course.

7. Stopped learning - Market dynamics and demands keep changing and so do talent and methodologies. Once successful with a pattern, most recruiters just follow their previously tested methods and do not apply change, find new platform avenues or adapt to new dynamic trends hence, often fail in their next assignment. You never stop learning in recruitment.

8. Metrics – Moving from a heavily KPI driven environment to one that is not, sounds great on paper but rarely works, because the recruiter isn't able to manage their activity. Managed metrics especially in quality, time, cost and satisfaction are a key indicator of future performance and show exactly where recruiters need to tighten their game.

9. Lack of ability to adapt – The feeling is they did well before by doing it a certain way so why change it. Not realizing that each position and company is different and you need to adapt yourself to the culture and style of where you are. Moreover recruitment skills, the market, tools & technology are also ever changing hence you are on the high road to failure if you do not adapt or keep pace.

10. Left to their own - 1st time recruiters often perform well because they are trained, coached, given clear goals & targets etc. At their next employer they are often left to their own devices as they are normally paid more and are expected to "know what to do". I would squarely blame the second hiring manager / company for this recruiter’s failure.

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Comment by Andy Young on March 3, 2011 at 3:54am
I love the fact that you indicate that "pounding the phones and making loads of cold calls" is a genuine way to build client relationships. Nor is "pounding the phones" particularly strategic or consultative. Building relationships on a platform of expertise, knowledge, integrity and having the clients and candidates interest at heart is. If recruiters in the main were rewarded based on relationships and client and candidate feedback and commission structures a thing of the past, I passionately believe that the industry would begin to take the kind of steps forward to being a bit more progressive. I wonder what the view of clients in general is in having their end of the phone "pounded" with cold callers?
Comment by Rebecca B. Sargeant on March 3, 2011 at 6:19am

This is a great blog!!!!  

Your discussion on Micro management worries me just a little bit.   "When in reality, it was perhaps the micro management that kept them on course."  From my perspective as Recruiter’s Coach if you Micro Manage a Recruiter you will surly blow them up.  BUT!! By implementing the other aspects from your list would defiantly by a great start.  


Especially setting the bar correctly, following the metrics and pushing the cold call.  Creating an environment for a Recruiter to succeed can be difficult. You have done a nice job here with your blog addressing what it takes create the start of that kind of environment.


Again GREAT information!  Keep it coming!!!





Comment by Jerry Albright on March 3, 2011 at 8:34am

#4 - Recruiters quit their first job due to burnout?  I don't think so.  Not from what I've seen. 


I think a new recruiter gets into an agency, is partnered with a sales/account manager and is more or less a sourcer - a part of your blog that I agree with.  What I think happens though is they don't "burn out" - rather they find themself thinking "Man!  I've billed $183,000 and only got 32,000 in commissions.  I'm tired of being ripped off.  I can go out on my own and keep all the money!"


Yet they've never learned the true nature of our business which can only come from moving into account management and honing their "full life cycle" skills.  You're just not going to master these things in your first year or so.


They get hired by their 2nd employer based on touting their big billings at agency #1 by an owner/manager that thinks "Hey - this person's going to give it hell for at least the first 4 or 6 months.  I'm going to cash in on that ambition!"


Yet the person they've hired - to come into this more "entrepreneurial" environment is not capable of success.  And the person that hired them wants to "see all these placements you talked about" and doesn't quite have the skill to help their new hire make that happen.

Comment by Ken Forrester on March 3, 2011 at 8:51am
Very good points Alban...thanks for breaking down so many comments into one neat blog post.  This is important information not just for recruiter tenure, but insight into what goes through a candidate's mind when he/she tell you they are happy.  Now you have the ammunition to challenge them on their own fears in leveraging their skills by going to a new employer.  Also, from a on-boarding and retention perspective, HR can be more proactive in generating more positive outcomes form new hires with this information.
Comment by Alex Putman on March 3, 2011 at 9:15am
Great points and conversation. I believe recruiters should really evaluate what they desire out of this business both professionally and personally. Continuous learning and self evaluation are key to this business, it is more than just "putting feet in the seat". I believe in having a career roadmap and identifying the critical path of success....and following the path. Easy to say, harder to do especially your first few years in the business....
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on March 3, 2011 at 9:50am

my very first recruiting job i was Micro managed fromn the time i went to work, bathroon breaks, luch hr etc....


I lasted a year and it got me into the habits of building relationships, making calls and being sussessful. So when i went to the 2nd job I did great but did not have someone yelliong at me all the time 15 years later I continue to be a top proformer.

Comment by Jerry Albright on March 3, 2011 at 10:44am
C.B.  -- Your style intrigues me.  Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of recruiting you do?  Are you independent?  Contract?  Your profile doesn't really share much and I'd like to know more.
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on March 3, 2011 at 10:48am
Jerry I will share offline in some meetings will be in touch Soon
Comment by Alison Elmer on March 3, 2011 at 11:49am
Great article and comments. As a recruiter in my 2nd "recruiting" position- I can relate to a few of the top 10 reasons! I came from a VERY structured recruiting position to a more "you know what to do" environment. It has been a change but I feel a good one as I have good recruiting practices already developed and have set me up for succes at my new position.
Comment by Chuck McLoughlin on March 3, 2011 at 11:58am
What I've seen in the recruiters that I've hired on the 2nd job is that they have this feeling of "i know what's going on, I don't need your help" I'm not the micro manager type so i give the recruiters enough room to succeed. Unfortunately in those cases where they aren't performing and I have to starting managing tighter or have them use my "forumula". That's when they run for the doors.

The business isn't that hard - find people and place them with companies. Work hard at it, use all sources, follow up and you will make placements. Just have to focus and want to be succesful.

My 2 cents. Thanks!


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