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Professional Recruiter and Other Oxymorons

If you have been with us since the beginning of “The Human System”, you could view this as the beginning of a third overall section. As you can see this is the 16th issue of “The Human System.” Issue 1-4 were an introduction and logical validation of strategic recruitment as the foundation of your organization’s human system 5-15 have been spent with the introduction of “Recruiting is Marketing” and the journey through the 3M’s of marketing as it applies to recruitment. More specifically, we have spent the last several issues with an overview of comparative dynamics of different mediums you have to choose from to get your recruitment message to your target market. As we have now come to the conclusion of the overview of medium dynamics, it is time to get more in depth, to get to more of the “meat” of some of these choices.

As I mentioned last week, we are now going to start diving deeper into different dynamics, really getting to the meat of building MOST EFFECTIVE human systems. We left off with phone recruitment and are going to pick up there again. What I am referring to is taking a researched list of potential candidates and making cold calls to them to present your employment opportunity. I don’t personally know of any hospitals that actually do direct phone recruitment and sourcing beyond basic networking. Thus, we will consider this the world of “outsourced direct recruitment and sourcing beyond basic networking. Thus, we will consider this the world of “outsourced direct phone recruitment resources.” Every heard of that industry? Maybe not by this name, but you know them better as the wonderful world of recruiters or headhunters. Oh, I’m sure you have some cuter adjectives and coined phrases…

Aside: It will be really easy here to lose sight of what we talked about last week. This is a very good, and can be the most effective recruitment medium available to you. Though the right firms and individuals may be endangered species, they do exist. The purpose here is to probe and understand the answer to your question: “Why, if it is so good, does it feel so bad?”

Before you get too negative, we have to look at and appreciate the nature of these gifted individuals. No professional gene pool has ever produced such a line of inherently psychic offspring. What am I talking about? Surely you have seen them on HRCN, the HR Cable Network, the commercials for the “Psychic Recruiter Hotline.” You get calls from these psychic/gifted people all the time; don’t you realize their immediate value? Tell me if you have ever heard these words, “I have the perfect person…”

Let’s dissect this a little bit. First of all, the only perfect person walked the earth 2000 years ago. Second, how do they know what the ‘perfect person’ is without knowing the specific dynamics of your organization’s culture and unique issues/dynamics of that department?

See, the reality of that conversation rests in the second, unspoken half of that sentence: “I have the perfect person…now tell me what you are looking for.”

Now, is this the entire recruitment industry? NO, just the part I think you experience most often and thus, the way your constructs and paradigms get formed and cemented. I believe that 85% in this group are contingency recruiters.

Aside: I need to be fair and make a distinction here. As we talk about direct phone recruitment, this is really geared at management level individuals. There are not many types of staff or individual contributors in a hospital environment that are accessible via the phone. So, understand that we are not addressing a specific job family here as much as we are an organizational level; department manager/director level and above.

I have asked the following question of probably hundreds of human resources leaders in the level several years. It is exactly this: “Given your experiences with outside recruiters, out of 10, how many would you contend understand recruitment and how it relates to your human system?” I will wait for a minute and let you reflect on that…tick…tok...tick…tock…BEEEEP. What is your answer? If I throw out one or two anomalies, the greatest answer has been 2. Most say none, zero, nada, zilch, it just isn’t happening. Let’s reflect on that for a minute. Can you think of a more pitiful commentary on any “professional” services industry this to be the view of the constituency it sells its service to? Can you imagine an accountant that didn’t understand math? A lawyer that didn’t understand the law? A doctor that didn’t understand anatomy? So, what is it that allows an industry to exist that doesn’t understand the dynamic of the “service” it provides? This is what we are going to explore.

Aside: At this point, you either think this is going to be a cool insightful trip or a waste of your time. I will challenge you this way. If you think this is a waste of time, keep doing exactly what you have always done and be exactly what you and who you are. For those that want to continue….remember the above average phenomenon…you just passed that group and are on your way to the top. The medium has value, great value, even if most that practice it doesn’t provide it. You don’t need a lot. Honestly, a great part of why you have had such ad experiences with outside recruiters is that you don’t understand enough about the industry to know how to choose the type of firm to work with, how to evaluate different firms, and how to frame your relationships so that you have the right expectations and results. THAT is why this whole thing is truly of golden value to you. OK, that was a soapbox, but if I’m not direct, I’m afraid you will miss the value of this thing. In case you missed that…I’m blaming you for 1/ of what is wrong with the executive search industry. The rest is their fault, but if you were better consumers, you could/would run enough of them out of business that it would only help you.

Is it going to be better? I wish I could tell you that it would. There are several reasons for this. First of all, you can be a sloppy recruiter working out of your house and make as much money as you might doing a lot of other things. You know what the industry standard range of fees is. If you had no staff, no overhead, etc. to support, it is a healthy margin business. However, while this person is making a placement every month, making ends meet, what is the tremendous amount of ineffective activity they leave in their wake? That is the stuff that strains you…and me.

I subscribe to the ERE, the electronic recruiting exchange. There are articles and a discussion board that gives information and the ability to interact and ask questions of this e-community. The following is just one example of several like it that will just give you an aneurysm:

“I’m starting my own recruiting service and I’m fairly new at it. Is there anyone out here that can lead me in the right direction? Is there any software or books that can get me started? I would really appreciate it. Thank you.”

Guess what, this person is now the president of her own company, XYZ staffing. And yes, the XYZ is a healthcare related name. She may be calling on you soon.

Another “Oh, gee, not more“ thing you are going to be dealing with is the high-tech overflow. Obviously, this needs some explanation. During the blitz growth of the dot com world in the last several years, there has been a large growth in the recruiting industry. There was such a shortage of “mission critical” staff IT people; very similar to the nursing shortage. The difference is that these high-tech firms readily paid recruiter fees without blinking if you could just produce resumes that were “close”. These people did very well financially from this. With the crunch of that industry, and all of the new people that got into recruiting as a result of it, they are now looking for a “new industry”. There was an article just this last week that suggested these people look at healthcare as an industry to switch to. Just wait until this group starts calling you. The high-tech world works in a very different culture and mentality than hospitals. I won’t take the time right now to overly explain those dynamics, but let’s just say there is a very heightened sense of, “You have to be responsible to me because I have what you are looking for.” It’s coming to a voice mail near you.

Both of these dynamics are only in addition to the already “professional recruiters” that you have become accustomed to.

So, what is it about this “recruiter world” anyway? Where do these people come from, and can we send them back to Cluelessia? Well, understand, have you ever talked to a recruiter that said, “Yep, right of college, I wanted to be a recruiter.” I don’t know of any. 98% of recruiters get in the business by mistake or accident. It isn’t something they sought out to do. Many have “industry experience” in whatever field they decide to recruit in. However, look at that dynamic. What it says is this:

                “If I know what it is like to be a hospital CEO, or a nurse, a lab director, etc. I could be a great recruiter of these people.”

That is the logic. However, what they lack is the very fundamental understanding that being a good recruiter is a specific and developed skill. If you reverse the logic:

                “I’m a great healthcare recruiter, have found many CFO’s, pharmacists, nurses, etc., I could be a pharmacist, nurse, CFO, etc.”

This is the point that we make everyone pee in a cup, because someone is smokin’ something! It doesn’t work like that. Truly, being a good recruiter is a learned and developed skill. The problem is there aren’t enough really good ones to let you see and understand this.

What happens? Why arean’t they all “developed”? Well, my explanation is this: When recruiters join a firm or start XYZ staffing, they can get a book, or they go through a training program that gives them “the formula” for making placements. What do I mean? (I’m going to use their jargon here) If you make X# calls, you will get X# of job orders, or X# of candidates. Of these X# of candidates, you get X# of send-outs, yielding X# of interviews. If you have X# of interviews, we know you will make a placement. Thus, you need to just make X# of calls per day and keep working the process. People, this is not absolutely not an exaggeration. It is all about numbers and traffic; quantity vs quality. Did you notice, there is nothing mentioned here about the principles of recruitment, human nature, your human system; nothing about organizational dynamics and assessment. Thus, going back to comments above, you can understand why most recruiters don’t understand recruitment, the understand a mechanical process.

Have I adequately discouraged you from using another recruiter? I hope not. Remember, I told you that direct phone recruitment gives you the very best probability to find the very best people for your organization. This medium is done mostly by outside recruiters. However, for you to be able to be a prudent and less frustrated consumer of this service, you need to understand it better than you do today, more than you may want to. Only then can you glean the value of this medium and truly make yours a more effective human system.

As a preview, the next issues of the Human System will be:

  • “A Behind the Curtain View of the Executive Search Industry.” This will teach you the different operational and motivational dynamics of different types of search firms.

  • “One Size Does Not Fit All.” This issue will teach you what type of firm to use in what type of circumstance and how to work with search firms most effectively.

  • “From Vultures to Strategic Partners.” This issue will help you select in or out the right firms to build relationships with and work with.


I’ll apologize if you have to go take some aspirin. However, I’m having fun, so you choose to too. I hope you can recognize the pearls before you.

Choose to make it a great week!

Don Rottman

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