Recruiters Are NOT Salespeople | SourceCon


How many motivational quotes can you tick off? How many sales techniques have you trained in? How many work? Check out “10 Quotes Sales People Should Memorize” from Geoffrey James, an editor of Inc. Magazine. Yup, every single one of his quotes is pretty much translatable into the business we have chosen. I’d argue that if we followed every single thing listed, with minor changes, it would improve every aspect of what we do.

Heck, let’s go old school. The year is 1936. King Edward VIII abdicates the throne. The Hindenburg is built. The Tasmanian Wolf became extinct. One book printed in 1936 is still holding on. Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is always a great read and still very spot on. The King didn’t last out the year; the Tasmanian Devil is only a cartoon character and the Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity. The social engineering techniques are still excellent. Mr. Carnegie will never go out of style

I will still scream from the hills that recruiters and sourcers are NOT salespeople. We have never been, and we never will be. We are relationship managers and relationship facilitators. We often use the techniques, for good and ill, ascribed to salespeople.

If we are pitching anything, it is an idea. The idea that you should always have your eyes open for the next opportunity.

“Privilege implies exclusion from privilege, just as advantage implies disadvantage. In the same mathematically reciprocal way, profit implies loss. If you and I exchange equal goods, that is a trade: neither of us profits and neither of us loses. But if we exchange unequal goods, one of us profits and the other loses. Mathematically Certainly.”—Robert Anton Wilson (The full quote is here)

Profit implies loss. The goal of sales, the goal of salespeople, is to make a profit. It’s pretty simple; if you’re selling a product or selling a service, you’re doing it to make some cheddar.

I will state, unequivocally, that if the candidate you’re helping or the hiring manager you’re supporting experiences a loss then something went wrong. You made a worse decision then the bar that sold bottomless mimosas during the Kavanaugh Hearing. At some point during the process, you done screwed up.

There are two particular parts of our recruiting life cycle where there is danger from moving from facilitator to salesperson. One on the candidate side and one on the manager side.

If you find yourself pushing ideas and thoughts onto a candidate, well, you’re selling. Your job isn’t to make them drink; it’s to make them thirsty.

See what I did there?

Now you’re asking yourself how do I make it work? I’ve identified the candidate. I’ve done an intake with the manager. I’ve shared the job description with the candidate and the candidate’s LinkedIn profile with the hiring manager.

Then, the candidate has issues with the commute.

Now, the hiring manager has concerns that the potential new hire has the experience but lacks a Bachelor’s degree.

The way we can attempt to make this work is by using our experiences and our earned status as a trusted expert and counselor. How to win that I’ll leave for another day.

I might say to the candidate, “How about if we could make it two days from home and three days in the office?” I possibly would remind the manager of that amazingly skilled person we hired who was a turd masquerading as a human despite (or perhaps because of) a masters degree from Yale. I’d remind her of the candidate’s fantastic experience and even more amazing copacetic relationship they had with the team.

I would use my expertise as a recruiter, as a sourcer, as a relationship master to help them see things they wouldn’t have noticed. You don’t need to lie, ever. You do need to remember it’s often not what you say but how you present it.

The hiring process should be closer to a big bowl of jello than a saltine. It should be malleable and moldable, defining itself but what its surrounded by and choosing its form by how we help it solidify. Even if you put hot dogs in it.

The Wikipedia entry on Saltines contains this statement: “During baking, the outer layer of dough hardens first, restricting out-gassing of evolved gasses. The perforations connect the top surface to the bottom surface to prevent the cracker from pillowing as a result of these evolved gasses.”. Yup, that describes a “deal” being made around sales techniques. Dry, salty and full of holes that end up leaching gas. And, like a Saltine, will eventually crumble, as well.

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No matter what we call them, from sales techniques to social engineering, using these methods doesn’t make you a salesperson. That’s as if I say singing “Hotel California” on karaoke night makes you Don Henley.

Now that I’ve disallowed you of the idea of the idea that we are salespeople, we need to talk about our KPIs and OKRs. I don’t want to, either, but when needs come first the Devil drives.

Both corporate and agency recruiters are evaluated by the same standards which I call the CRASS evaluation. That, in the Newman Lexicon, stands for Calls, Revenue, and Asses in Seats.

We are judged on quarterly performance. Quarterly metrics as if we were a Wall Street Company with only one goal: PROFIT. We are evaluated by how many calls, how many emails and how much we saved in CPH or made in our 20% fees. When it is all tallied, we are judged by how many hires we made. Not the quality of hires or their length of stay in the role. We don’t even take into account how the manager’s time is saved or how we improved their teams and work. The value of the human being we found and how they add to our companies as a whole is not even mentioned. Nope, we are judged by volume. If you wish, we can say we are judged by how many people we sold into a role.

As Steve Levy once said to me, “A fulltime recruiter role is only an accurate description if they have a positive revenue stream.”

I have written and spoken before about many of the things people hate recruiters for are tied into KPIs and OKRs. When you are judged by the CRASS criteria, of course, you’re not calling someone back who crapped the bed in the face to face.

When the massive bill (plus interest!) of your student debt is hanging like an albatross around your neck, not to mention the rent and credit card bill, is it any wonder that we send a 1000 person mass email without looking if the recipients even fit? Is it a surprise that we look at a resume for 10 seconds and never at the human behind the paperwork? Is it shocking that we’ll only take 10 minutes on a call when if we had delved deeper and spoken to a person and not their skill set we would be better off for it?

Why then, is it shocking that the world sees us as one step above pedophiles and still less than a used car salesperson?

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We need to stop thinking of ourselves as salespeople. We need to stop thinking of our candidates as human capital or merely a commission check. We need to stop evaluating our performance based on quarterly metrics and volume.

If we can make this a philosophical change through our community, we will grow and bloom on many levels. On the personal, your center of self will be better. Our candidates will be better served by having a partner and not a pusher. Our hiring managers will appreciate the human we help them find as opposed to a cog put into a machine to hold a place.

Plus, maybe we can move up the list and get above used car salespeople and at least get on a respect level of an insurance salesperson. I dare to dream, and say we could even make it to union arbitrator level!

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