Many people consider me to be a lesser breed of people. That’s right I am one of them. A recruiter. It’s a dirty word. Along with estate agents and insurance brokers I fall into an ostracized category of people known as the dreaded “middle man”. Inherently, this means people do whatever they can to avoid paying me. People shrink back when I introduce myself. Some call us parasites. But the plain truth is, you all need us and if the law did not protect us, we would never get paid.
Working in telecoms, I have learnt a whole new language. Telecoms people do a technical sell, so they talk in acronyms. They have invented a new alphabet, strung it together to form random words to surmise their amazing voodoo technology.
Secretly the telecoms wizards beaver away fervently, squirreled away in an R & D lab, working their wiccy magic on networks, handsets and solutions so you and I, the lowly man in the street can speak, surf, game and download to our hearts content.
Insidiously, world hunger is growing, and I don’t mean the poor souls who queue for rice barefoot. We are all being groomed to lap it up. Need for new technology is intravenously drip fed to us across hundreds of different formats and media, and for our part we succumb. Pathetically we yearn like a child without his favourite toy.
When I first started out in recruitment, I was given a pen, paper, phone, computer and sat in an office where people came in off the street to be interviewed and sign up. The office still had a filing cabinet, with actual paper copy CVs in. Some poor soul had the job of reading each CV, then deciding which pigeon hole they fitted in best. Of course, every person had a different way of filing, so if someone was ever matched to a role it was more a case of chance and providence than actual skill. Back then, to start a recruitment agency you needed a physical office on a real high street with your name above the door and everything.
Even this very concept seems retro now. Thanks to the internet, recruitment has turned into one of many trades that you can do seamlessly from anywhere in the world. The only thing needed is an internet connection and a laptop. Even my phone runs on broadband. I can sit soaking up rays on a beach in Brazil wearing tacky shades and a cheesy grin while I deliver feedback to a CEO in Singapore. I can interview a candidate anywhere in the world “virtually” while sitting in my PJs at home over a cup of cocoa. I can drive round Europe, in a deluxe motorhome, with a satellite antenna perched on top, soaking up culture while wirelessly linked to the internet hive mind.
No longer do I have the pressures of a competitive targeted work place, I work as much as I need. Very often the most hotly debated decision of the day is “chocolate biscuit today or plain.” The merits of each can be pondered for hours.
In days gone by to be a decent recruiter, you needed a database with thousands of CVs. Candidates were faithfully collected over many years. You spent countless hours maintaining your database, calling people, updating and wiping people off. Then one sunny day you wake up and blessings rain down on you!! A job comes in that matches your candidate perfectly. Eagerly you pick up the phone to headhunt them. But disaster strikes, The number is dead, so you ring their employer, but your hopes fade as their colleague chirps “they don’t work here any more”. Your precious hard won contact is now obsolete. In that moment the sky clouds over again and your hopes fade as quickly as the British sunshine.
In the age of E-recruitment databases are used less, we have all merrily embraced, networks. Networks mean we can reach out to literally millions of people all over the world. And a revolutionary thing happens – it updates itself dynamically. People actually sign in and update their own profiles and contact information. Mamma Mia, it is the holy grail of recruitment.
Networks mean I can introduce myself and connect with people I have never met. They can see from my profile, connections and recommendations that I am reputable. This means no more nervously skulking around the muffin bars at telecoms shows nervously stalking the ever elusive lead.
In the next few years the ability to do recruitment from anywhere in the world will mean more firms will wake up to the fact that there are savvy Indian firms doing recruitment for a fraction of the price. Oops have I said too much??? Offshoring is the way recruitment will go.
What many people don’t know is that over 50% of the worlds programmers are Indians, or out of India. If these pleasant, mild-natured people ever wanted to bring the world crashing down, these geniuses could do it “virtually” while we sleep. Imagine the whole world hacked. There is not a WMD, anti terror measure or prayer that could defend us from this.
My advice to anyone thinking about starting up is this.
Don’t delude yourself – Recruitment is Sales. The hardest part of the job is not finding candidates, its finding the clients who will buy your product, your people. That means sales.
Sales means you need to be a certain type of person to start off with. You need to be naturally tenacious, determined and direct. You have to take rejection, dust yourself down and carry on. These skills can’t be learned, you are either a good sales person or not.
Be prepared for lean times, the sales cycle for recruitment is up to 6 months, this means 6 months without money when you start out.
Feast or famine. You can make lots of money all at once or nothing for several months. Like the proverbial piggy, always keep money in the bank.
Be prepared for the highs and lows. When you sell a walking talking product the reality is that it lies, it forgets, it embarrasses you. When things go wrong, just like a scene from a tacky whodunit, all hands point at you. Everyone wants to blame the middle man.
As a recruiter, you are only ever as good as your contacts. The harsh fact is we must shamelessly sell ourselves. Fastidiously we gather connections, churn through contacts daily and hoard CVs, while simultaneously making each one feel like they are precious gold to us. There is no being choosy or exclusive. Join every club, network, affiliation that will allow you. You will need a sphere of influence bigger than Greenland. (before global warming made us redraw the maps)
Move with the times. Things move so quickly that if your head is down, you will lift it up to see an empty space with only the sound of wind and the occasional tumbleweed rolling past, in the distance, there is a tiny speck, that is your competitor signing a big contract with your best client. Yes, being overtaken is your worst nightmare.
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