When I was a recruiter I was a half-million biller…

Raise your hand if you’re an agency recruiter and have never heard a manager or a director utter that sentence.

Empty room, right…

To me, this kind of statement is symptomatic of 3 things:
  1. A manager disconnected from the reality of what it’s like recruiting today.
  2. Misplaced ego in an attempt to generate respect.
  3. Bad management.

A manager disconnected from the reality of what recruiting today is like.

Throughout my years in recruitment, I have worked with a number of managers that were more or less disconnected from the day to day of recruitment. From people who were still recruiting a little, maybe 1 senior opening per quarter, to people who have not recruited in years but teach people how to recruit.

Do I not myself fall into that latter category, you might ask. True, in 2020, I have only had 1 job open. We started the year with a full house, to the point that I was worried about not having enough laptops for everyone. But that situation came with spending 2019 focusing on recruitment, so I’m going to give myself a break and not count the first half of 2020.

So back to that disconnected manager. When was the last time they recruited? Present crisis excluded, the market for the last 6 years or so has been a candidate market. We’ve all heard about the “war for talent” and how talent has won.

I started recruitment in 2010, and believe me, except when I was searching for someone bilingual Hebrew and Turkish with fluent English, a bachelor’s degree and a work permit for Ireland for a 3 months contract, the search wasn’t exactly hard. Looking back, recruitment shifted drastically in 2012-2013. Sourcing became a thing, CV databases lost their place as the top place to find candidates. And recruitment became, not necessarily harder, but different.

If the person who’s telling you about billing half a million did it in 2009, in the pit of the GFC, that was really an achievement. Yet… How relevant is it in 2020? If they billed that during the Boom/Celtic Tiger/whatever you might call it, well… not taking anything from that achievement, this is in no way comparable and I would argue that it’s not even relevant in 2020, when the market, the candidates, the jobs, and the technologies have changed. I would probably go as far as saying that they made their highest fee of a candidate who applied to a generic job ad, so nothing compared to the carefully crafted ads, videos or messages that are the basics when it comes to recruitment these days.


Misplaced ego in an attempt to generate respect.

I get it! We're all proud of our achievements, and I personally love sharing the story of that Hebrew & Turkish role with a list of requirements longer than the duration of the contract; it usually makes everyone feel better about whatever they’re sourcing for.

When someone tells me “I used to bill half a million Euros a year”, I kind of want to ask: Ok, what’s your point? Are you trying to tell me you’re a better recruiter than me? Or that you were at some point in your life? Is it toxic positivity? Are you comparing apples and oranges? Are you trying to show that you worked harder than me when you were a recruiter?

Seriously though, what is the person trying to achieve through that? I have no way of knowing if that claim is true, so that doesn’t make me respect the skills of that person. Now, hearing them on the phone, or seeing their carefully crafted Boolean strings or job ads; that would have a different impact on me. I can say that the sky is green, that doesn’t make it so. If you’re trying to assert your skills as a recruitment manager, the amount you used to bill in a previous role, years ago, doesn’t show anything to me. As it is, I’ve no idea how you managed to bill that figure and your circumstances were probably vastly different from mine.

Bad management.

When you look at performance assessment from a People Analytics side of things, you start realising how wrong you were.

I’m currently doing a course on People Analytics (I thought it would be good to get more data into the decision-making in HR and internal recruitment) and every time, the data goes against what I would typically think. 10 years of experience make me think this… YOU’RE WRONG! Says analytics. For example, when asked if the disparity in the data would be bigger in a company of 30 people or of 300 people, my thought process was; well with 300 individuals, surely, there is less consensus… I was wrong, and the explanation makes sense – what’s annoying though is that the smaller the company the less useful analytics are as a predictor, and I work in a small company.

What I also learn is how big a part luck and chance play in the performance of an individual. We would assume that 2 people placed in the same job, receiving the same training and in the same environment would perform the same way, assuming they both worked “hard” at following what they’ve been trained on. Boy, was I wrong. Again.

The example that they used were for the recruitment for American Football teams, which I don’t understand much about, but in a nutshell, if no-one passes you the ball during the game, you’re less likely to do anything of note during that game. It’s the same in recruitment. Sometimes you will get lucky and make your first placement in your first 2 weeks in the job, or like for most people, it will take you 6-8 weeks because it takes time to build a pipeline, interview candidates, go through the recruitment process, get the offer accepted and the paperwork done. An easy to fill role, a strong referral, a short recruitment process – that’s just a stroke of luck.

So when comes the time to analyse the performance of these 2 recruiters, can we really say that the one who made their first placement within 2 weeks of starting in the job is doing better than the one who took 8 weeks?

Data also show that people who perform the best have been in their job for 2-3 years, regardless of their level. So if you’re hiring for a graduate role or a senior director role, you can expect the performance of these people to be consistently lower than the performance of their peers who have been in the job for over two years.

So the question is: have you taken this into account when managing your team and assessing their performance? When you were billing €500K, how long had you been in that job? Did you get lucky with some candidates or client processes?

Tell me: what are your pet peeves when it comes to the stuff more senior people/your manager tell you about their past?