Recruiters — Take Note

I want to preface this with the following:

If you are a recruiter — especially a recruiter within the consultant or tech industries — please do not take this the wrong way. This is not me looking down on you. This is me saying very clearly that you have a very important role to play and that it is equally important that you realize what that is in order to maximize your effect. To accomplish that, there are a few things that should be understood.

There are 3 types of employees. You need to quickly figure out which one you are targeting — before you contact them if possible.

The first type of employee is the one that will jump at money. Offer to increase their pay by a percentage and they will talk to whomever you send their way. These are most often either a fairly new consultant or analyst, or someone who has a documented history of bouncing from company to company. For new consultants it can be an easy way to get a bump in pay quickly and this is a reason it’s prevalent within the consulting firms. For experienced consultants, it may just be what they are used to, or they are constantly looking for something new. Benefits often don’t mean a whole lot as long as there is a bump in pay. (At least up front.)

The second type of employee is the one who is looking for a new opportunity — whether actively or passively. They may be searching for a career change, they may be dissatisfied with their current company, or they’re burnt out and need a change of pace. Money may not be a driving factor as long as it’s something that piques their interest. This person requires a slightly more sympathetic touch because of their emotional condition. Provide them with a shoulder to lean on, get to know them, and they will be open to working with you throughout the process.

The third type of employee is the one that is established, comfortable, and experienced. They are not actively looking for new opportunities. Often they feel a sense of loyalty to the company they work for and there are specific reasons why they are there. Getting them to even consider paying attention to you means that you either have the opportunity of a lifetime in your pocket, or you have studied their profile deeply and can speak to it intelligently. This employee has found a home and it is going to be difficult to convince them that you have something better. Receiving a response from them should be considered a success in and of itself.

Keep these 3 types in mind as we continue.

Your best targets are busy. A cold call is not efficient, and at worst can guarantee you will never talk to them.

Thinking about this from the standpoint of a business and software consultant, the employees you are targeting as a recruiter are “involved” during the standard workday.

Often heavily.

Now obviously you have no insight into their schedule, and that is perfectly fine. These are people who are glued to their phones and emails because it’s what their jobs revolve around. They are digitally connected. So unless you already have an established relationship with them, don’t dial their number. Especially if you got it from a database or a LinkedIn profile. Send them an email or a direct message through LinkedIn with a short introduction and something that stands out. They will see it.

Why do I say that, though? Why discourage cold calls? Because in the tech and consulting industries the employees you are trying to contact are working with clients. Most of their days are spent either in meetings or with their heads down trying to pinpoint solutions. As we come out the other end of this pandemic many are returning to limited travel and will also be on-site with clients and customers. As a recruiter, your job is to understand the industries that you represent. Those unexpected phone calls are distracting at best, irritating at worst, and tend to prove that you’re not on the same page as those employees you’re courting.

The worst is when all 3 contact methods come through in quick succession — almost simultaneously: a LinkedIn connection request, an email, and a phone call. It’s the equivalent of someone pounding on your front door, while shouting at you, and trying to call you just to talk to you about the non-existent Freon in your AC unit.

You might catch the first 2 types with a cold call. Maybe. Chances are slim, though. Trust me on this — send an email first. Once they have agreed to talk to you the door is wide open. Until then, just knock. They will appreciate it.

Recruiting firms are revolving doors. Understanding this can give you an advantage.

Recruiters come and recruiters go — sometimes because they are promoted, sometimes because they find a new gig, and sometimes because they switch firms. Inevitably someone new will take over that vacant desk and inherit the data that was compiled. Add to that turnover the fact that there are different regions and there is the potential for a lot of new contacts.

Speaking of contacts, I just looked at the list of phone numbers for 1 firm that I have saved under a single contact. I’ve had that contact in my phone for 6 years. There are 17 distinct numbers under that contact. Anywhere from 2 or 3 to dozens of calls from each number over those 6 years. Often twice in a row on any given day. (Tell the truth, do you use a robo-dialer or are you just super speedy with the speed dial?) I have spoken to people on the other end of 2 of those numbers. 2 out of 17.

Why point this out? Because everyone has to start somewhere. One of the things I have admired from some recruiters is they don’t come out of the gate with “I have this amazing opportunity that will be really lucrative for you!”. They start with “I took the time to review your profile and I would like to talk about your experiences with XYZ.”. The “amazing opportunities” often aren’t even relevant (where in my profile does it say I’m a developer or that I work in finance?), and when they are relevant they are either really similar to what I already do or they’re extremely bland.

Once again, “really lucrative” may work for the first group of employees — those driven by money. “Amazing opportunity” may work for the second group of employees — those who are burnt out. But unless it’s truly a “really lucrative amazing opportunity”, forget the third group of employees. They will see right through the wording and consider it a waste of time.

Unless. Unless. UNLESS.

Unless you treat them like the experienced human being that they are and try to learn from them. Prove that you have done your due diligence and can speak intelligently to what is in their profile. Work to open the door first and get to know them and they may be willing to eventually explore some of those opportunities that come across your desk. But before that happens, you will have to prove to them that you not only understand the industry but also understand what drives them.

Know the industry.

This should go without saying, but as a recruiter you absolutely must know what is going on within your assigned or chosen sector. That includes knowing the major players, having some level of insight about how they stack up against each other, understanding where things are shifting, and for goodness sake — respecting the fact that the employees you are targeting also know all of the above.

A couple years back we went through a bit of an upheaval where one of the major players began offering exorbitant salaries for standard consultant roles. It made all of us stop and take notice. Some consultants jumped ship without a second thought. But as the saying goes — if something seems too good to be true…

The truth of the matter was that this firm was offering high salaries coupled with mediocre benefits. They were able to bump the pay because the employees were entirely responsible for the cost of their benefits. As soon as you crunched the numbers those high paying consultant positions were only netting the same salary a consultant could get elsewhere. Couple that with shady practices and a questionable pipeline, and a lot of consultants regretted their decisions.

Things like this put recruiters in a bad position when they ignore the red flags and push these opportunities. It leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the employees that are being targeted. Be their advocate, not just a reaper of commissions. Everything comes back to integrity.

A couple examples.

This is already longer than I had intended, so I want to finish up with a couple of examples that truly stood out. Consider these as templates of how to catch your target’s attention.

A recruiter had sent an email with a basic description of a position that was available. The email itself was nothing unique and I don’t even remember what the details were. But this recruiter followed up with a phone call the next day and left a voicemail. Here’s how that VM went with a few name changes to protect the innocent:

“Hey Andre, I’m just following up on the email I sent yesterday. You and I spoke quite a few times when you were at XYZ Consultancy Firm. I know Jack left and I’m aware of what you’re working on over there. I have 2 clients in mind, 1 of those in particular that you would be great for. Total transparency, I know you’re not looking for contract work, but the pay would be a huge bump if you’d consider it. They are looking for permanent positions as well. They’re not too far from you in Fort Lauderdale. They are looking for the areas you are strong in: distribution, logistics, and manufacturing. I know a couple of your friends from the scene who said you’d be the guy to go to.”

It was smooth. Sketchy, but smooth. I have to give respect where it is due. Now, all things considered, there is good and bad here. The good is that this recruiter did their homework. They dropped names, they knew my strengths, they knew where I had been and where I was located, and they knew what type of work I was and was not open to. The bad is that we had never spoken before and it’s anyone’s guess if they actually knew any of my “friends”. But the delivery was so good that I didn’t mind the discrepancies.

The other example was a super simple direct message through LinkedIn. This recruiter had sent a couple connection requests previously and I had ignored them. I finally clicked through and accepted the request because I recognized the name. The message went like this:

“Hey Andre. Thank you for the connection. I hope all is well. I can see by your profile that you’re happily employed and that is fantastic! I hope that doesn’t change. I also see you’re not open to contracts. Really, I just wanted to reach out and say hello. If you’re ever interested in the future, whether actively searching or passively curious, please let me know. I would love to be a resource. Keep me in mind as well if you know of anyone who is looking.”

That right there is perfect. To me, at least. I see connection requests and messages come through regularly because there are a lot of positions to fill and not enough bodies. What I don’t see regularly are recruiters who are simply building their network. This recruiter had done their homework and it showed. They didn’t push anything. They just put themselves out there and said if the time comes consider me to be your resource.

If you gloss over everything else, here’s the truth to take out of this article:

Spend more time establishing relationships and trust and you will see more success in the long run.

The great thing is that doesn’t just apply to recruiters. It’s a universal truth for business.

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Andre Breillatt

Andre Breillatt

Writer, business consultant, traveler, lover of cats