My Final Blog Post to the Recruiting Industry.

A short time ago, I received a notification from WordPress that my recruiting blog that has been largely neglected has reached 10,000 views. I’m not sure what to think about that since I’ve moved away from blogging about the recruitment industry and began serving my niche within recruiting instead.  Some time ago, I began the process of attempting to help people, who like me, were tired and frustrated with recruiting. I set out on a mission to show them how I went from a self-loathing contingency recruiter to a self-respecting Retained Search Consultant. I truly believed that there would be many people eager to learn how to move from frustration and failure to fulfillment and success. What I learned through this well-meaning yet naive endeavor is that many of the people in the industry are perfectly content with this way of working and defend it with venom and malice.

Far be it from me to tell someone that there is a more rewarding and effective way to earn a living than what they’re doing now. The irony is that they vehemently defend the very practices that undermine their own professional existence. Much to my surprise after running a few blog pieces extolling the virtues of Retained Search and highlighting some of the many pitfalls and failures of contingency search, I received aggressive ad hominem attacks against me. I haven’t been called some of these pearls since I was in middle school. Classy bunch these folks are!  Apparently, a handful people were deeply offended by some of my assertions and rather than prove me wrong, they resorted to all sorts of slurs and slanders. I welcome criticism as long as it is coming from a place of honesty and its intent is constructive. That wasn’t the case. It became a “mob mentality” of heaping insults and ridiculous assumptions. It became clear to me that most of the people were not trying to learn or grow, but to defend a practice that I was calling out as deeply flawed and needing be abandoned. These people seem to have convinced themselves that contingency recruiting is good for them and their clients. They have drunk the Kool-aid and have been drawn down a self destructive path where neither they nor their clients gain what is truly in everyone’s best interests. Either I failed to make my point, or they weren’t ready for the truth.

You can read some of my posts and determine for yourself. Some of what I said was intended to get people to think critically. I spoke about the only metric that matters being the ongoing value the “placed” professional has on the company you place them and some were very adamant that this is outside of their control and therefore they are not to be held responsible for what happens after the check is cashed and their 30 day guarantee expired. I wrote on the pitfalls of contingency search carrying very negative “unintended consequences,” and was told that I must have been an abject failure if I was drawing such conclusions. It became obvious to me that my time was being wasted on the likes of these.

The only conclusion that I am left to draw is that many tenured recruiters simply don’t care or aren’t willing to take any responsibility for their actions. In their minds, they did their job and were done as soon as the candidate was hired and that’s all that matters. All else happened apart from their influence and they are not culpable for any mis-hire. However, if you are a true partner with your clients, you cannot hold yourself harmless from your client’s bad hire. Shall we use the “But For” clause to demonstrate this? But for the actions of the recruiter, the company never would have made the bad hire. You see it can work for or against you. I guess no matter how much I may try to elevate our industry, well known for its questionable ethical standards, change requires one’s admission that they are doing something wrong. We all know that this is impossible for some to actualize.

I heard from some angry people via Recruiting Blogs who claimed to fill 20% – 70% of their searches. While that might impress some, it still means that around 50% of their activity ends without any reward or fulfillment. That still means that the majority of your work ends up on the “cutting room floor.”

My advice to younger recruiters is to learn the art of retained search and leave the garbage for those dinosaurs who need it to survive.

So this will be my last Recruiting Blog Post. I have begun another blog focusing on the industry that I serve and in a very short time, the feedback from people has been very positive. You see, I am passionate about helping others. Yet the recruiting industry is not a very nice place to offer to help. Perhaps some people just are defensive and fight back rather than look for ways to grow. Maybe they don’t want to work as hard as it takes to move over to Retained Search. Or maybe they can’t imagine anything could be better than the scraps from the dumpster. Whatever the reason, it is time to put my writing efforts toward a more receptive arena.

I’ll continue blogging on more interesting topics at

I leave you with a compelling piece on the subject by Marcus Cauchi entitled “Contingency Recruitment is Dead. Long Live Retainers!”

God bless!

Breaking Free from Contingency Search into Retained.

Here is a three minute excerpt from the Big Biller presentation on Next Level Recruiter Training.

In this video, I share the process I went through taking my contingency recruiting firm to a full retained firm.  It is not for every recruiter, but those who move into this way of doing business always find it to be more fulfilling and rewarding. What have you got to lose?

Why I Don’t “Prep” My Candidates for Interviews


I had an interesting experience recently that reminded me why I don’t “prep” my candidates prior to them having an interview with my clients. I’ve been doing senior level searches over the past several years, but as I have recently been working on some Sales Consultant searches for a dear friend, I am once again reminded of the incredible power of a Candidate Prep Call. Vice President and CEO level people generally don’t need to be coached or prepped for an interview. In most cases,  I prep my clients on what they must do to capture the imagination of the senior level candidate.  However, in lower level searches the Prep Call before an interview can seem a lot more like “insider trading” than simple prep call.

As part of the standard Recruiter training protocol, “Prepping a Candidate for a client interview” is as routine an aspect of the recruiting process as the “Candidate Debrief Call.” So, then why do I say that I don’t prep my candidates before an interview? I have long-held the view that by preparing a candidate for an interview with your client, you introduce bias into the process and make the job of vetting the candidates by your client far more difficult. In fact, by doing so, you introduce a profound conundrum which enhances the candidates’ ability to tailor their approach and directly address precisely what your clients are looking for. Why is this bad? It actually undermines the process by giving your candidates an unreasonable advantage in the interview process enabling them to misrepresent their actual abilities with their “super human intelligence” provided by an insider. With preparation from an insider, they can become a better version of themselves. You may think that if you prep “all” of your candidates the same way, then you have “evened the score” making it equal, but while that may be true as it relates to your candidates having equal access to the information, it fails to recognize that what your client needs most from you is an accurate representation of the candidates’ real and natural talent. And this directly undermines this exposure.  In another blog, entitled, “Why Contingency Recruiters’ Candidates So Stinking Good?” I point out that recruiters greatly bias the interview process toward their own candidates when they prepare their candidates prior to an interview by telling them all of the nuances and details that the hiring manager is looking for. For example: “display fire in the belly passion” “make sure you ask for the job” “demonstrate your ability to ____________,” and other such things. It is as if the Recruiter gives a script to the candidates to perform in a play. The very things that the hiring manager told the recruiter he/she was looking for in a candidate gets spelled out in vivid detail. Irrespective of their actual talent, behaviors, and communication, they will follow the lead of the Recruiter who gave them the “insider’s view” of what the manager is actually looking for in explicit detail.  It’s as if an insider in a prospective target sales account gave your Sales Rep the exact road map to the hidden motivations and desires of the decision-maker. What Sales Rep wouldn’t be effective in selling to a prospect whom they have been carefully and meticulously informed of all their hot-buttons, likes and dislikes?  Any Sales Rep worth their salt would give a compelling presentation given such “insider” information. Why then is this bad? Because this is not a “real life” scenario. A competent Sales professional needs to qualify their prospect and elegantly ascertain the wants and needs that are most important to them in assessing a product or service. The Sales Rep must then present their product or service offering to the prospect and ensure that there is adequate disclosure and that any questions or concerns are appropriately overcome with information or demonstrations to dispel doubt and bring about a positive agreement that their products/services meet their prospect’s needs effectively. Then they must close the sale. However if a Recruiter carefully crafts all the objections and concerns for the prospective candidate in advance of the interview, how is that really giving the hiring manager an accurate representation of their true sales abilities? This is what I mean by saying that Prepping Candidates always biases the hiring process and actually undermines the objective of finding the best possible talent and fit.

So let’s consider why “Prepping Candidates” is such a widely accepted behavior of Recruiters everywhere.  First, this makes YOU look good!  When all your candidates perform well in their first interview, it reflects upon you as each of your candidates is well prepared in advance and their polish is a testament to your thoroughness. At the surface, this is true. However, what is the true objective of the search in the first place?  Is it to make you look good or earn a fee quickly?  Maybe it is for you. If you are a recruiter and you know that the only way you will be compensated for all your time and effort, you must take advantage of every means necessary to ensure that your candidate gets hired. If you’re like me, you notice that there is a subtle, yet profound conflict of interests if the Recruiter ever does anything that is not in the best interests of the client. Why is this conflict of interest present you may ask? It is my belief that in part it is due to the prevalence of Contingency Search. Contingency Search has several unintended consequences that elevate the risk of a company making a bad hire. By removing the Contingency terms, recruiters are able to operate as an extension of the company and not out of fear of being “stiffed” out of their fee.  Contingency Search has many potential pitfalls that recruiters must attempt to avoid. (backdoor hire, candidates who circumvent them, resume timing, active candidates etc.) But I also believe that recruiters tend to be transient and not terribly interested in the long-term success of their clients. One of the most bizarre ironies in recruiting industry is the incredibly high turnover and short tenure. I know of no other industry with such difficulty keeping people in the industry. The failure rate of rookie recruiters is over 90% by most accounts. So one might assume that if someone makes it past their first year, they do it right. Right? Wrong!

I’ve been accused of being heretical in my stance on Candidate Prepping. I guess I don’t get it.  All I ever want to do is what is truly in the best interests of my clients to mitigate as much risk of a bad hire that I possibly can. And what better way than to find the best people I possibly can attract given the company’s value proposition and introduce them to the company and later to the hiring manager. The rest is up to the candidate to conduct their own due diligence, research the company, its products and opportunity. It is up to them to manage their own performance in the way that comes to them naturally. Because that is exactly how they will perform on the job. So, whether it is prepping them by telling them to make sure they scour the client’s website and study the products to reading the last three or four press releases so that can be more prepared or advising them how to follow-up after the interview with an email to the hiring manager.  These are things that the Top Performers should do without the need of a recruiter coaching them.

Some Recruiters have laughed out-loud at me and told me that if I don’t prep my candidates, all my work is in vain and that I need to protect my investment of time. They’ve told me that I won’t be able to make a living and that they will run circles around me while I go out of business. Yet after 14 years in the business and the last 10 plus working on retainer this way, I remain convinced that what I am doing and more importantly NOT doing is in the best interests of my clients. And they keep calling me when they have new searches. In the last year, over 80% of our new searches have come from repeat customers. Keep in mind, we are not the “low-cost provider” in the market. While others settle for flat fees and lower percentages, we hold firmly to our rates, because  I believe that in the end, it isn’t about “Cost” but “Value.” The greatest value we can provide is helping our clients hire the absolute best person they possibly can. We believe the best way that they can make an educated decision and discern which candidate is best is through allowing our candidates to come as they are rather than how someone wants them to be. Unless you remove the contingency factor from this scenario, I don’t believe you can properly align your recruiter’s priorities with the company. At the same time, merely removing the contingency factor does not ensure you that your recruiter will not Prep their candidates and bias the process. Every hiring manager should work with someone who they trust to have their best interests at heart and be committed to their success beyond making a hire and earning their fee.

Back to my recent experience conducting the Sales Consultant searches; a few of the candidates came in less than armed to the T with all the preparation that one would hope for. My friend and client saw the shortcomings of a few of my candidates. While it would have made me look better to prep them, in the end he had an accurate representation of each candidate which equipped him to make the best informed decision relative to who best fit the role and had the talent to represent his company in the designated territories. However tempting it might have been to make myself look better by prepping the candidates, that isn’t the highest goal when retained by a client who trusts me to help them hire the best.

“Over-qualified” or Too Old?

old man

It seems to be a common assumption today that if someone says “You’re overqualified” for a job, it’s merely code for “you’re too old.” In my experience, this is a possibility, however, don’t assume that is their true motivation in rejecting you for the position you’ve applied for. There are legitimate reasons for deeming a person “overqualified” for a position regardless of age. Yet, too often, people make this assumption and it can negatively impact their future prospects as they attribute false motives to anyone who might be younger than them.

I learned this the hard way early in my search career. While doing a search for a Regional Manager for an orthopedic company, I happened to be contacted by a former colleague who had been at the national level in sales management. He was gainfully employed, yet he wanted to have a smaller area of responsibility. He had a young family and felt he was missing too much his children’s lives while traveling up to 80% of the time and often cross country.  All of his reasons for demoting himself seemed reasonable, even honorable for this father of two young boys. Like many professionals,he was in his early 40’s and had experienced significant success early in his career and believed that this season of his life was more about his kids than his career and he was taking the initiative and making the professional sacrifice for his family. 

This all made perfect sense to me as a father of four kids who made the similar decision to have a local job with minimal travel so I could be a dad first. Here is what happened in this scenario that informed me about the legitimate argument for someone being overqualified.

I presented this talented sales leader to my client company. During the interview process, it was obvious to all parties that this was a considerable step back in his career. Since his situation was self-imposed and everyone felt that they adequately vetted him to be as sure as you can be that he really felt strongly enough to keep himself there long term. However, it didn’t take more than six months for him to begin to see that he was in fact a much better leader than his boss who was about his same age. After all, he had excelled to the national stage before, and his boss hadn’t. Once he began to sense his bosses comparative weaknesses, he became more and more frustrated with the way his boss would manage him and his leadership role. He began to see every flaw in strategy and execution that his boss had and it began to undermine their relationship.  At first, he was able to shrug it off and remind himself that he was in this role for a higher purpose than his own career and that seemed to work, briefly. 

Within nine months, he was no longer able to be gracious to his boss about his perceived “ineptness.” He had become aggressive and critical and it came down to which man would remain and which one would have to leave the company. My candidate didn’t go down without a fight, but he eventually lost the “war” and his job. As you might imagine, he realized that he was a much better leader than a follower, particularly of people who he felt more capable than and rightly so, perhaps.

I considered that placement as a missed opportunity to deliver the right solution to my client and through it I have learned that even when someone tells you that they want to take a “step back” with great passion and commitment, in a high percentage of the cases, they simply cannot sustain the transition. Their ego and high achievement drive cannot be constrained without great difficulty. To this day, I am reticent to ever place anyone in less a role than they previously enjoyed. There is great risk to the hiring company and managers.

In all reality, if you are applying for a job that is below your prior experience level, you ARE an increased flight risk. This doesn’t mean it you can’t do the job or that it never works, but search professionals are in the business of mitigating their client’s risk so if they won’t present you on a job that you really want, but is a step back, this is likely why. If this happens to you, you’ll likely hear that you’re “over qualified.”

The most common reason for calling someone “overqualified” is actually not based upon the candidate’s age in my experience. That is not to say that age is never a factor. I have had conversations with a hiring manager who essentially told me the approximate age of the “ideal candidate.” As an ethical search professional, you would dismiss that comment as it is irrelevant to one’s ability to execute the duties and it is “age discrimination,” which is frowned upon by certain people in the US Government. So, although age discrimination exists, don’t be too quick to assume this to be the case if you’re overlooked for a role. There are legitimate reasons one might be eliminated from consideration. Ultimately, those making the decision are going attempt to do what they think is in the best interests of their company. (Well, at least almost always.)

Quantity vs. Quality Reason #1 to Reject Contingency Search

There are many good reasons to reject Contingency Search in any form, but for today’s post, I’ll deal with only one reason.  Quantity vs Quality. In most cases, by no fault of their own, recruiters are forced to produce poor quality work or get left in the dust by other recruiters with a quicker trigger finger. The inherent weakness of Contingency Search lies in this conundrum: The more you endeavor to vet and qualify your candidates, the less likely you are to get paid for your work.  The take home is that if you want to get paid, you had better not take too long in skimming those online resumes and be late to the party.

A basic rule of Contingency is: If the same candidate is referred to the a client by different recruiters, only the recruiter who was FIRST to send the resume to the client gets paid for the referral. Therefore, the most conscientious recruiter will far too often lose out and not get paid for their referral. Why? Because they were too thorough in doing the job of a recruiter. Even if you want to do well on behalf of your clients, you are put in the position to have to race to the resume submission before you should. I am convinced that this is the reason that the best recruiters don’t stay in Contingency Search for long.  They either convert their business to a Retained model or leave the business altogether.

Why would a client want a flurry of resumes filling their inbox only to have to spend time sorting them to determine who sourced them only to then begin the arduous task of vetting and qualifying the new resumes?  Furthermore, because of the race to the bottom, they have been flooded with all the “low hanging fruit.”  These are essentially two kinds of candidates; Physically Unemployed or Emotionally Unemployed. In either case, they are motivated to escape a bad situation giving them an impure motive in many cases.  That severe motive can compel such people to embellish their experience and worse, misrepresent who they are in order to meet a basic need they have. If you’ve hired much, you know who this is.  Its the guy who turns out to be a very different person than the one you interviewed.

I’ve spoken to many different recruiters who suffer burnout and mental and emotional fatigue from trying to balance doing the right thing on behalf of their clients and getting paid. Okay, money isn’t everything, but its right up there with air. So the problem for many is that they desperately desire to be a good recruiter who does excellent vetting of the people they present to their clients yet they simply cannot accomplish this and thrive or in many cases survive.

The irony in all of this is that usually the FEE that a client is willing to pay  for contingency is the same as it would be on retainer. The only difference is the terms of payment. Yet the key benefit to working on retainer is the ability to gain a commitment from one firm with a good reputation that you believe understands your company and the needs of the role and giving them what they need to be successful in the search. In doing this, the company will have a slate of qualified, vetted and interested people with the right motivation that ensures the best possible outcome.  This is why it is still a mystery to me that companies think that they are better off working on contingency.  What a tremendous miscalculation!

Hiring Your Search Partner is Every Bit AS important as The New Hire Itself!

I’ve often consulted with clients and suggested that engaging a recruiter on Retainer is far smarter than doing so on Contingency. The basis of this is the quality of the relationship built on “Trust” that you develop with the recruiter.  You as a hirer can expect that the individual will produce the caliber of candidates within the preferred time-frame that you require.  You believe this, because you have an agreement in place and the recruiter has established some level of credibility. This is a great place to start, but it is critical to recognize that the “Object” of your confidence is as important as the method you have chosen to execute your search. (Retained)

Weak confidence in Thick ice is better than Strong confidence in Thin Ice.

I am referring to the selection of a recruiter. Selecting the right search methodology is only half of the equation.  The next and equally, if not more important is the Who.  You must choose well to ensure proper execution of your search, or you jeopardize the entire outcome. Simply because a recruiter can articulate the process and impress you with the correct vernacular does not guarantee that you’ve partnered with the right person. So, what must a hirer do to ensure they have chosen well?  References.

Consider that the selection of a recruiter is as important as the selection of a final candidate and you realize that if you’re hiring a recruiting firm after a few phone calls, you’ve not done adequate due diligence to ensure you have the best possible search consultant. Just as any reasonable sales rep can sell themselves far better than they can actually sell in a competitive selling environment for a company, recruiters are well-trained at pitching the deal. But what you don’t know from a simple phone call or two is far more telling than you can imagine.

Before hiring a recruiter, you really should ask the recruiter what the last five or so searches that they conducted were and who they worked with at the companies? Can you call their client to see how happy they were with the process and as important, the outcome?  How about clients from over a year ago?  Can you call people to see how these hires worked out over time?

If the recruiter is worth his or her salt, they should have no problem giving you some recent clients to contact in order to dig down and find out what is beneath the veneer of their flashy pitch.

Ask the references these questions:

1. How long did the search take and what did the slate of candidates look like?  Was the reference satisfied with the outcome?

2. How constructive was the input received by the hiring authority?  Was it incisive?

3.  How accurate was the recruiter’s input and analysis of the candidates? Was it all positive, posturing, or was it both strengths and weaknesses?

4. Are you happy with the outcome? How well has the hire performed compared to how you were told he/she would?

5. Would you retain the firm again in the future?

these are only a few of the more obvious questions that you should consider asking before making a selection.

Remember, recruiters are if nothing else, great at selling their pitch. You can expect them all to describe their Recruitment Process in spectacular detail, but the key question is do they actually execute that defined process or is it just part of the pitch?

It’s still TRUE whether you accept it or not!

In recent months, I challenged the value of measuring recruiting metrics. I declared that the only metric that really mattered was how successful the person was that you placed in your client’s company. I received a staggering amount of criticism from recruiters and HR people in cyberspace.  I have to admit, I knew it was a little bit edgy, but not quite blasphemous. I wrote it in respond to the prevailing views on recruiting blogs discussing which metrics are best for recruiters to measure in their business. I realize that these measurements can be useful when managing recruiters, but I was interested in challenging the conventional wisdom and making people think bigger. You might say, that I was trying to get people to think about the outcome of their work and the impact on their clients rather than their own efficiencies. My assertion that only one metric truly mattered, and if we aren’t measuring how successful the people we placed were, and the impact they have in the companies we place them in, we are missing the whole point of our profession.  What is so scandalous about that? Isn’t that the whole point? Are we not placing people to do a job? Are they not hired to effect change or growth or both? Or are we only accountable for helping companies fill open requisitions, with no connection to the results? Because if that is the case, and you’re one of those recruiters, you are guilty of malpractice.  I am not a “Career Recruiter,” so perhaps my view is tainted by actual “real world experience” where sustained results really matter. When I was working for Stryker, I occasionally hired through recruiters.  I kept track of the results of the people who I hired through recruiters and compared the results in order to validate the expense and effectiveness of hiring recruiters.  At that time, I can say that the results I obtained through recruiters was far less valuable than those I hired on my own. Subsequently, I stopped using recruiters.

People who don’t understand why companies engage recruiters  beyond simply filling vacant positions lack a fundamental  understanding the real value that companies expect of them.  Several comments that I received after my bold blog said that I had “too lofty a view” of my role, and that “it isn’t the job of the recruiter to worry about what happened after the hire occurred.”  “we don’t have any control after the hire is done!” REALLY?

No control? FALSE!  You are the “procuring cause.” You cannot distance yourself from it.  During your recruitment process, you perform due diligence to discern who, to the best of your ability, will best execute  in your client’s company and have the greatest impact on their business.  If you don’t get that granular, then you aren’t thorough enough to earn a full fee. , (this may be why so many recruiters are forced to discount their fees to levels more commensurate with the quality of their work.)  You see, I don’t think my view of the role I play in the acquisition of talent for my clients is too high; but if you think I’m wrong,  your view of this business is too low!

As a Search Consultant, you have the opportunity to be a tremendous strategic asset to a company and enjoy the many rewards that come with this type of consultative relationship with your clients and industry.

You also have the right to feed on the bottom with the majority of recruiters who see their only responsibility as “filling openings.”  The choice is yours, but the implications are huge!  Choose wisely!