Ten Mistakes Using Recruiters (Mistakes 10, 9, 8)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series 10 Mistake When Hiring A Recruiter

Over the years, we've heard a lot of frustration from our clients regarding recruiters. Many of them indicated that using a recruiter feels like throwing money down the drain.

Much of the frustration executives experience with recruiters stems from initial mistakes made in hiring the recruiter.

We undertook an in-depth survey project conducted over a 3-year period with 425 CEOs and senior executives. We examined the top  ten mistakes and false assumptions in working with recruiters.

Some of the Top Ten Mistakes in choosing recruiters will give you a good chuckle – particularly if you've personally fallen victim to one of these common mistakes.

Mistake #10: All Recruiters Know How to Recruit Top Talent

A major mistake that occurs during the selection of a search firm is the assumption that all recruiters are outstanding at recruiting, motivating, and nurturing the passive candidates (those candidates not actively looking for a job, but open to hearing about an opportunity if it is compelling) and engaging them in a conversation about the position. Our clients were frequently disappointed that the search firms they engaged were unable to attract and interest passive candidates. They realized that most recruiters took the easy road of fishing in the shallow end of the pool, where the candidates are all actively looking for work and don’t need to be recruited. They discovered most just ran ads to find candidates. The very best recruiters understand candidate motivation at a deep level and are able to craft compelling statements of work that appeal to the primary motivators of top talent. The Success Factor Snapshot and the Compelling Marketing Statement (you can download free examples of these CLICK HERE) provide tools for top-notch recruiters to demonstrate to a high potential candidate what they will learn, what impact they will have on the organization, and how they will grow professionally by being in this new role. The very best recruiters consistently recruit, excite, motivate and close passive candidates. You should never pay a recruiter for candidates you can find by running an ad on the job boards.

Mistake #9: A National Firm is required for an Effective Search

The executives in our study realized that choosing a national firm to conduct a search was not a guarantee of success. Issues mentioned during our survey included having the partner sell the search only to turn it over to a junior associate, not providing adequate communication, being treated as just one of many searches being conducted simultaneously, a lack of responsiveness, and once the internal budget for the project was hit, the national firm slowed or stopped working on the project. Most shocking of all, was the national search firm's lack of properly assessing the candidate. They simply box checked the skills and experience required. Rarely did the national firm link the candidate’s accomplishments to the annual or strategic goals of the company as a way to determine their ability to achieve these goals once hired.  These firms did not conduct deep and insightful interviews, did not understand how to measure or define success in the role, and were unwilling to join their clients during the interview process. Few took the time to actually meet and conduct thorough interviews with the candidates. Most simply took the easy way out and conducted a phone interview. Even when search fees range between $50K and $100K, this represents nothing more than a glorified resume service. The national search firms engaged by our survey participants lacked a rigorous process for finding and assessing talent. Too often they relied on the reputation of the firm’s name. Just because the firm has a national brand and many offices does not translate into success on search assignments.

Mistake #8: All Recruiters Have a Consultative Approach

One of the major mistakes in paying fees to recruiters is the assumption that the recruiter has a trusted advisor perspective to helping you make hires that are successful over the long term. Executives participating in our study realized that many recruiters have their own hidden agendas and short-term interests in mind when doing work for you. These can include the need to earn their fee quickly, identifying candidates with the least amount of effort, hiding negative information about the candidate, forcing a match when there is a dramatic mismatch, and overselling to close a deal that had no right to be made in the first place. The very best recruiters act as trusted advisors. They define a clear and precise process to identify and hire the talent you need. They force fierce discussions of candidate performance and fit, frequently playing devil’s advocate against your assumptions. Top talent in the recruiting field pressure their clients relentlessly to follow their rigorous process and focus on validating, vetting, and verifying candidate claims of performance and work style. They work diligently to ensure you are hiring the very best person for your open role.

You should always ask every recruiter the following question, “How does your recruiting process put candidates in the job, BEFORE we  hire them?” Most will not understand a successful recruiting and hiring process gets the candidate as close to doing the actual job as possible before they are hired. Few understand the importance of asking “How would you do X once you come on board?” Rather most ask, “Have ever done X in your background?” When the candidate replies, “Yes” they are qualified for the job. This is a common mistake.

For a comprehensive hiring process that does put candidates in the job BEFORE you hire them, consider our best-selling book “You’re NOT The Person I Hired.” CLICK HERE TO to learn more.

Want to assess your hiring process? Download our FREE 8-Point Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard. How does your company rank on these critical points? CLICK HERE to download.

Want some tips on attracting top talent? Download the chapter from our book, “You're NOT The Person I Hired” on sourcing, it is free. CLICK HERE to download this chapter.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback. If you liked this article, and found it helpful, please forward it to others.

Brad Remillard

10 Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring Recruiters

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series 10 Mistake When Hiring A Recruiter

This will be a series in which I discuss what research showed to be the ten biggest mistakes companies make when working with recruiters. This doesn't mean recruiters don't make mistakes. The purpose of the series is to assist companies in getting the most value when selecting or using a recruiter.

I'm regularly asked about using recruiters. Most of time it's because the person asking has had such bad experiences with recruiters. They want to know if they are wasting their money using a recruiter. A very valid point. Recruiters are really just a way of outsourcing the hiring function. It is not much different than most other outsourcing functions, so it is important that companies understand who they are outsourcing to and what the goal is for the outsourcing. Most companies do a lot of due diligence prior to deciding on whether or not to outsource and not on whom to outsource with. I'm constantly amazed at how little due diligence they do when outsourcing to recruiters, considering the fees are generally in the 5 figures.

First, let's understand the different types of third party recruiters. For the most part, recruiters fall into two categories, contingent and retained. Neither type of recruiter is better than the other. They both serve a purpose and there are excellent professionals doing contingent and retained searches.

1) Contingent recruiters get paid when the company hires a candidate the recruiter presented. Since there is no cost to the company unless they hire a candidate, companies often use more than one recruiting firm for the same position. The recruiter knows that this creates competition among the recruiters. This may sound like a good thing, but there are drawbacks. For instance, contingent recruiters know the first recruiter to get a candidate's resume in the hands of the company is the recruiter of record and therefore the one that gets the fee. In today's world, with email, there may only be a few seconds that determines which recruiter will get the fee. As a result, contingent recruiters tend to be very time based. As a recruiter who worked on contingency for 13 years, I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing worse than finding out you didn't think a candidate was right so you didn't send the resume or that another recruiter got a candidate's resume there before you so they get the fee. Contingency isn't always about finding the best candidate. It is often about finding a hireable candidate first. Since not all companies hire the best, sometimes average talent wins the recruiter the fee.

Also with contingent recruiters, the company takes on much more of the responsibility for the hire. Meaning, often companies only view contingent recruiters as a means to source candidates and not as a trusted adviser in the hiring process.

2) Retained recruiters are just that, they are retained by the company to fill a specific position. Like a lawyer or an accountant, the company pays a percentage of the fee up front for the recruiter's services. Since the company is paying money in advance they rarely engage more than one recruiter to do the search. Retained recruiters should be a trusted adviser to the company. The recruiter should be an integral part of the hiring process. They should be involved in every step along the way, advising the company as needed to ensure the company's hiring process is effective. Since time isn't a concern, this type of recruiter should spend a lot of time learning about the company, meeting everyone in the interviewing process, understanding the company's culture, and obtaining a deep understanding of the company's business. The recruiter should bring in resources, provide interviewing coaching, bring the proper screening tools into the process, and make sure that the company is fully aware of all issues, from compensation requirements of the candidate to concerns the candidate might have that would prevent them from accepting an offer. They should meet personally with every candidate in order to build trust with the candidate. The recruiter takes a greater responsibility to make sure that the deal comes together. If the deal doesn't come together it shouldn't be because of some surprise issue at the end of the process. A good retained recruiter will make sure all of the issues have been addressed and if there are issues that can't be overcome then there is no sense in continuing the process hoping it will all work out and wasting a lot of the company's time.

Since the retained recruiter isn't competing with other recruiters time isn't the main driver. A retained recruiter has the time to thoroughly vet the candidate. If they aren't right, then there is no need to send in the resume. Better to continue the search to find the best candidate.

As I said earlier, both types of recruiters serve a purpose and both have great professionals that are willing to help you. Deciding which one best fits your needs often depends on the position you want filled (contingent generally work on lower level to mid-manager level positions, retained work on upper level director to the “C” suite), how closely you want to work with the recruiter, what services you want the recruiter to provide, and the level of trust you have in the recruiter's ability.

Regardless of which type you use, two things should never happen with a professional recruiter; the hiring manager will never think, “You're NOT the person I hired.” and the candidate should never think, “This is NOT the position I accepted” or “You're NOT the boss that hired me.”

The next article will be on mistakes #10 All recruiters know how to recruit top talent; #9 You must have a national firm to do an effective search and #8 All recruiters have a consultative approach. I will go into detail why these are common mistakes that lead to picking the wrong recruiter.

Want some tips on attracting top talent? Download the chapter from our book, You're NOT The Person I Hired, on sourcing. CLICK HERE to download this chapter.

Want to assess your hiring process? Download our FREE 8-Point Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard. How does your company rank on these critical points? CLICK HERE to download.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback. If you liked this article and found it helpful, please forward it to others.

Brad Remillard

What Role Does Luck Play When Hiring Sales People?

If you're praying that luck will help – you're doomed to mediocre and average hires. Improve the probability of hiring top talent in your sales function. Barry and Brad discuss the elements of a rigorous hiring process for ensuring that you'll hire top-notch sales professionals. Components discussed in this radio program include finding and recruiting great candidates, interviewing sales professionals, and validating-verifying-vetting their claims of accomplishments.

To download this radio show CLICK HERE.

Why Is It So Hard To Find Great Sales People?

Most companies struggle to find and source great sales professionals. Using traditional techniques of job board postings with a job description masquerading as an advertisement, most end up attracting the bottom third of the candidate pool. Who is in the bottom third? Rejects, toxic, dysfunctional, average, mediocre, and poor performers. Occasionally you get lucky and find a good person. The focus of this radio broadcast is how to make finding and acquiring great talent a consistent process instead of a lucky hire. In this program, Brad and Barry talk about using a Compelling Marketing Statement to attract great sales professionals.

To download this radio show CLICK HERE.

Hiring is Less Accurate Than Flipping a Coin

This entry is part 4 of 3 in the series Hiring Failure

Hiring success is less accurate than flipping a coin

Hiring success, as it is traditionally done in most companies, is slightly worse than the flip of coin.

Case Study on Hiring Failure

Let’s continue down the path of our last two posts on executive hiring failure and explore this horrific statistic in a little more depth.

Over my last two blog posts, I presented a case study out of our book, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired.” on failed executive hiring. This is the third blog post in the series on Hiring Failure. You can read the first Blog Post, titled “Why Do You Keep Failing at Executive Hiring” and the second post titled “Deja Vu – Why Hiring Keeps Failing – Part Two

By the way, this was case study #1 out of thousands of stories accumulated from clients over a 25 year period. We tried to pick just a couple to include in our book – otherwise the book would have been nothing but case studies and you would have been depressed reading it.

The failure rate our client experienced with their VP of Sales Position was pain for them, but not unusual. Here's a blog article titled “Hiring Frustration #8 – You're NOT the Person I Hired” we wrote that demonstrates the common frustration of hiring someone who cannot deliver your expected results or outcomes – in other words – hiring failure.

The 56% Hiring Failure Rate Problem

When companies hire a six-figure executive, they expect them to “hit the ground running” and produce results quickly. But according to our research and surveys of more than 20,000 hiring executives over the past 15 years, and a review of the published literature on the subject of executive failure, roughly 56% of newly hired executives fail within two years of starting new jobs.


Let’s digest this statistic for a moment. Sadly, 56% hiring failure is worse than the flip of a coin.

  • If a comparable failure rate happened on the manufacturing floor, the plant would be shut down.
  • If a company’s financial statements were only accurate 56% of the time it would be disastrous.
  • If the invoices you sent to customers were only accurate 56% of the time, you would probably go out of business.
  • If the payroll checks you issued to employees were only accurate 56% of the time, you would have a mutiny on your hands.

Year after year, companies experience this syndrome of 56% hiring failure, and yet they keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for better results (didn’t Benjamin Franklin call that the “definition of insanity?”).

It seems almost as if organizations are helpless to overcome this horrific hiring failure rate.

You will NOT accept this failure rate in any other area of your business – why do you accept it when it comes to hiring?

  • Is the problem that these companies are not interviewing enough people?
  • Is the problem the right questions are not being asked in the interview?
  • Is the problem it’s impossible to predict from the interview whether someone can succeed in their new role?

No, no, and no.

The Crux of the Problem in Hiring Failure

Based on our extensive research and experience, we have determined that the most common root causes of most executive hiring failure are:

  • Focusing on irrelevant past experience and skills
  • Nebulous expectations
  • Failure to clearly communicate expectations up front
  • Flawed hiring processes

The crux of the problem is that every company wants to hire a “SUPERSTAR” who will “succeed”.”

If you ask a CEO or key executive what a SUPERSTAR looks like, or what “success” means in concrete terms like dollars, cents, percentages, time, headcount, and other hard numbers, you usually get a blank stare by way of a reply.

Is it any wonder that new hires frequently fail to meet expectations when those expectations are not clearly spelled out in the first place?

Under these circumstances, hiring essentially degrades into a process based on luck and hope – and we all know that luck and hope is not a particularly good strategy.

Hard Questions and Next Steps

What is your hiring process based on?

  • Do you insist on clear, precise, and quantifiable definitions of success?
  • Have you gone over your entire hiring process to ensure there is a high degree of rigor in assessing and evaluating candidates?
  • Are you attracting the top 25% of the candidate pool for your open opportunity or the bottom 25%?

Is NOW the time to invest in upgrading, improving, and revamping your hiring process so that you can overcome the 56% problem?

Take our Hiring Process Self-Assessment to determine if NOW is the time for a booster shot in the arm to enable you to start hiring top talent at every level on a consistent basis. Download the Hiring Process Self-Assessment Scorecard by clicking here.

Barry Deutsch

P.S. Don’t forget to join our LinkedIn Discussion Group on Hiring and Retaining Top Talent where issues of hiring process improvement are discussed.