If I Was a Recruiter, I Would Do This

I had a long conversation with some recruiters in a bar at Lake Tahoe in Nevada recently. They told me how challenging the work is and that they never get a break because they’re always having to follow-up on leads with potential candidates. They told me that all the normal channels of communication, such as LinkedIn, are swamped with recruiters. This makes it hard for them to stand out. I told them what I would do to solve the problem, and I’ll reveal that to you in this article.

I personally get head-hunted like crazy. I get several messages per day on LinkedIn and by email from recruiters trying to tempt me to go work somewhere else. Am I bragging? Not really, I’m just revealing to you where I have skin in this game. It’s not better to be recruited all the time, it’s not like they’re offering me a job; they’re just potentially starting a conversation that might lead to them getting a commission or meeting some key performance indicator. Part of me does feel good about being head-hunted though. It leads me to believe that perhaps I have options, even though I’m sure that I would not be a good fit for most of those apparent opportunities.

Sometimes, when I get around to sorting through the mountain of messages on LinkedIn, I will respond with, “Thank you for reaching out, but I’m not interested in moving to a different company at the moment.”

The response to this is often along the lines of, “Thanks for getting back to me. Please let me know if you can think of someone else who might be interested.”

This is someone that I don’t know asking me to refer one of my friends, potentially one of my colleagues, to them. It’s just never going to happen. The fact that they’re asking suggests that they have no idea what it’s like for me. At the risk of sounding heartless, I simply have no incentive to help them. I have a mountain of other things that are urgent and important that I’m dealing with, so why would I help them?

If I were a recruiter, I would experiment with a completely different approach. I would reach out to the best potential candidates that I could find and I would offer to take them out to lunch. I would have lunch with a different person every day. I would do it with absolutely no strings attached. I would not do it with the expectation of hiring them or placing them. I would simply do it to build a relationship, a true friendship.

I would spend the time having an authentic and deep conversation with them so that they could start to trust me and open up about what they like and don’t like about their current role and employer, and what their ideal work situation would look like. I would take notes. I would then regularly check-in with that person to see how they’re doing. I would offer myself as a kind of complimentary career consultant.

Even though I would not be specifically looking to attain the following benefits, some or all of them would surely accrue:

  • These people would be more likely to come to me when they wanted to move.
  • These people would refer their friends to me.
  • I would learn what the issues with their current situation are, which would enable me to build even more rapport with other potential candidates from that employer.
  • I would be able to determine what kind of culture would work best for them.
  • I would become a life-long source for them in finding career fulfillment.
  • Later on, they could introduce me to key people that I want to get to know.
  • I would develop a reputation with employers that I quickly get extremely high-quality, well-filling, and motivated candidates, which would enable me to charge premium commissions and be their first-call recruiter.
  • I would potentially discover or develop more opportunities for myself. For example, I might end up joining an early-stage startup as an in-house recruiter and make a few million.

This is a totally different approach to recruiting. This is about building and maintaining relationships. When I first presented this idea to my recruiter friends at Lake Tahoe, they told me that there was not enough time to do this. I pointed out that they’re already overwhelmed and swamped from doing recruiting the hard way.

If you want to make recruiting into an effortless joy, then it requires an investment of time and effort with no promise of reward. This is true of any endeavor: mastery does not come from always playing to win; it comes from experimentation, investment, and selfless giving. It comes from merging into the problem so fully that you disappear. The masterful recruiter doesn’t look like a recruiter; she looks like a highly-connected career coach.