Fast Track Recruitment

Activities that agency recruiters need to stop doing if they’re ever going to be taken seriously.

Posted by Mitch on 19th November 2013


Recruiter, Recruitment Consultant, Search Executive, International Headhunter, Talent Acquisition Specialist.

Whatever title you give yourself, if you regularly do any of the following activities, you’re slowly advertising yourself as someone who cannot be trusted to fill jobs:

1. Blind-calling – This is like cold-calling, the difference being it’s done with little or no research.

2. Emailing CVs – Especially CVs of candidates who you claim “have expressed an interest in working for your company”. Seriously, most hiring managers, HR people or internal recruiters aren’t that stupid.

3. Emailing a list of candidate profiles – Or ‘horse-trading’ as I prefer to call it.

4. Running fake adverts – To generate candidates to email to potential clients to trick them into giving you vacancies.

5. Asking candidates where else they’re interviewing – To access jobs you’d otherwise not know about and to possibly sabotage that candidates chances of landing the job.

6. Canvassing out 2nd interview candidates to the client’s competitors – Because the client has now confirmed the candidate has some worth and you want a piece of it – aka horse-trading.

Any recruitment agency that has to spend any of their time engaging in any of these activities is, just by the very definition of doing them, declaring themselves to be utterly hopeless at the very thing they claim to be good at – recruiting.

If you have to blind-call or mailshot candidate CVs, you’re implicitly admitting to potential clients that you’re unable to retain enough clients to keep you busy. And if you can’t keep clients then the chances are you’re useless at recruitment.

But, what you’re really telling these potential clients is that what you are good at is trading candidates.

So, all those clever “new business secrets” you were probably taught by your manager or by a recruitment trainer are no longer clever, if they ever were.

What they are is a demonstration of your self-interests at the expense of the interests of the client, the candidate, or both. That would be clients and candidates who now know a lot more about how agencies operate than they ever did before the Internet, blogs and social media.

If you’ve been in recruitment for more than 2 years and are still regularly doing any of the above, you’re not a Recruiter, Recruitment Consultant, Search Executive, International Headhunter or Talent Acquisition Specialist.

What you really are is a ‘Spot-Trader in Human Capital’. And I’m being really polite here.

Most companies don’t want these types of people to solve their hiring problems – and they’ll judge you more on how you do business far more than whatever erroneous job title you’re agency has given you.

At best, most will just view you as an occasionally necessary distress purchase.

And if that’s how a client views you, then you’ve got nowhere else to go other than round in circles.


By Chadd Balbi on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Some of this makes sense, some just sounds cynical. Not cold calling or sending over CV’s? Countless amounts of times I have called a company only to hear “ABC Agency is working on this req and we don’t need the help”. I give it a week and send over a candidate I am working with and now that company wants to interview the CV I proactively sent. Why? Because they pigeon-holed themselves to that one agency and are missing out on the talent that is in their own back yard. So while I agree that blindly throwing around CV’s isn’t beneficial, I completely disagree that the practice is a waste of time.

By Mitch on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Hi Chad.

I would argue that it is a waste of time if it’s not part of a broader strategy to win that client’s future business without having to cold-call or pitch candidates to them.

Unless of course you like having to do lots of cold-calling and canvassing?  I’m assuming most recruiters don’t.

Thanks for the feedback.

By Recruiting Animal on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

1. Cold-calling – DISAGREE.

2. Emailing CVs – especially CVs of candidates who have “expressed an interest in working for my company”.—DON’T UNDERSTAND

3. Emailing a list of candidate profiles – or horse-trading as I prefer to call it.

4. Running fake adverts – AGREED.

5. Asking candidates where else they’re interviewing – to send out competition - DECEITFUL

6. Canvassing out 2nd interview candidates to the client’s competitors. - NOT SURE WHAT YOU MEAN.

If the client hires and pays you for a search is it wrong to offer the people found on his dime (but doesn’t want) to his competition? Maybe. But if she doesn’t hire anyone you can do it for sure.

By Mitch on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Animal, would you agree with the premise that the more cold-calling an agency needs to do, the more they’re likely to be bad at recruiting?

By Chadd Balbi on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

“Needing” to cold call has nothing to determining your skill as a recruiter. In fact the correlation is amusing.

I do understand that if you are a good recruiter that you should be able to work from referrals and your current client base. But how far does that get you? You should constantly expanding your network and getting in front of people.

At the end of the day recruiting is a sales job. You are selling a company to chose you to represent that candidate. Cold calling is the foundation of any position in sales, whether people want to admit it or not. It doesn’t have to be a majority of your job, but it still needs to be done.

By Mitch on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Chadd, let me explain again the correlation.

If a recruiter needs to cold call, he/she has to do it because:

1. They can’t keep clients.
2. They can’t network and get referrals.

Normally, when recruiters can’t do either of those two things, it’s because clients don’t want to come back and don’t want to refer them.

Clients always go back to and refer recruiters who are good at recruiting and who solve their recruitment problems every time.

Recruiting is partly a sales job when done properly, but it isn’t a sales job in itself, or shouldn’t be if what you’re selling is any good - which is your ability to fill jobs.

Being good at recruitment has a massive impact on the amount of cold-calling/prospecting/canvassing a recruiter has to do.

I’m surprised you can’t see that. 

Are you quite new to recruitment?

By Chadd Balbi on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I don’t completely disagree with you. I would rephrase it as the amount of cold calling is in direct correlation of your skill as a recruiter.

You’re right. If you constantly need new clients because you can’t keep yours, you should leave the industry.

At the same time, even your best clients may go on a hiring freeze and have nothing for you. And it’s during those times that you need to have a full pipeline to fall back on. So cold calling is something that should not fully get away from. Just vary the amount depending on your business at the time.

By Mitch on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

OK, thanks for the clarification Chadd.

Out of interest, do you think it’s ever possible for an agency recruiter to never have to cold-call for new business?

By Chadd Balbi on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Never cold call? That’s really a question I don’t think I could answer because I can’t speak for the entire industry.

However I have worked around varying degree’s of successful recruiters, from million dollar revenue makers on down. And they all still cold call. Again the levels and frequency at which they do it are different. But none the less it is still getting done to some extent.

The referral route is still, and always will be, the quickest way to a placement. But if you want to be a top performer it’s important to touch as many people as possible, whether you have the referral or not.

By Mitch on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

It’s interesting that you reference million dollar billers, because I actually think that the only way to make that kind of money in recruitment is to be a great trader rather than be exceptional as a recruiter.

And by recruiter, I mean someone who can win, build, run and close-off a recruitment campaign and do all of the accompanying minutiae.

Not needing to be knowledgeable about recruitment to make a lot of money at it is one of life’s great ironies.

Thanks for your comments.

By Recruiting Animal on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

“Would you agree with the premise that the more cold-calling an agency needs to do, the more they’re likely to be bad at recruiting?”

No. Cold calling candidates and potential clients is an essential part of recruiting.

You have to cold call people you haven’t met yet. Some recruiters live by referrals but most don’t.

By Mitch on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

“Cold calling candidates and potential clients is an essential part of recruiting.”

No, it’s an essential part of prospecting and building a client base.  It’s got very little to do with real recruiting, but it has a lot to do with spot-trading.

Again, we have to draw the distinction between recruiting and spot-trading.

By james on Wednesday, 20 November 2013

I don’t agree Mitch about coldcalling because if you don’t cold call\Research call, then how can you possible fully understand the candidates market or your own market for that matter?

Also surely spot trading is someone who only introducing a candidate to his\her existing clients within thier network rather then everyone that utilises those skills.

The Definition of cold calling is “a telephone call or visit made to someone who is not known or not expecting contact”

How can you claim to offer the candidate the best service, if you are only getting them in front of the select number of your existing clients you work with or through the limited companies you have referrals\ have networked with? 

If a candidate came to you looking for work, how else could you possible know every company within a commutable radius that currently utilise or are planning to work with those skills?

Granted you have to research prior to cold calling and there are many more additional factors to consider other than skills in matching a candidate, company and role alike, which you can learn through research and dialogue.
However, ultimately if you don’t engage with current and new potential clients to assertain if they use those those skills (or are planning to use those skills) then you are doing the candidate a massive disservice.

By Mitch on Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hi James

First off, I don’t believe that a real recruiter is driven by candidates.  That’s what career counsellors and outplacement people are for.

Real recruiters solve client’s recruitment problems, because client’s are where the money comes from.

So, if what you do is driven by the needs of the candidates, you’re pretty much spot-trading and looking to sell a commodity to the highest (or first) bidder.  And if that is the case, then cold-calling and spamming out loads of de-personalised CVs in an email is pretty much the bedrock of how you’re going to generate enough activity to make a living.

But if you’re a real recruiter, you’re going to eventually be spending most of your time building and running recruitment assignments for clients who always come back because you always fill their jobs. 

Clients always go back to recruiters who have a 100% success track record.

Thanks for taking the time to join in.

By Simon on Monday, 08 December 2014

Another solid blog Mitch, it’s disheartening how embedded so much of these practices have become in recruitment, particularly at the larger, meat-market style agencies.

Ultimately, I think that the key detail here that I would want(hope) more people to take note of is that ultimately, the internet has shoved candidates and clients into the light in relation to how agencies work. Naming and shaming is becoming more common-place as is a general apathy to certain firms out there. In fact, I saw a former colleague getting dragged through the mud only this morning by a pair of disgruntled candidates, who from the sounds of things he’d taken their CV’s and dropped off the face of the earth. It doesn’t matter how you might dress that up, it’s poor service, poor candidate experience and also a fantastic example of poorly managed expectations.

I don’t see that changing any time soon, and as long as these methods continue, the industry will remain as a “necessary evil” for as long as it takes technology combined with internal teams to make the contingent model virtually obsolete - which I believe they will.

By Mark Armstrong on Monday, 08 December 2014

Mitch, very good blog as usual!

In truth, I doubt there are any agency recruiters who don’t do at least some of what you mention, to be honest, there are probably some true search consultants who do as well!

I agree with you though, the real issue is that too many “recruiters” are taught a spot-trading methodology the old “candidate driven market”. Back in the dark days of the beginning of time, I was taught that way. Not enough recruiters develop from this basic spot trading methodology, though and start building strong client relationships where they have the opportunity to work on exclusive & retained assignments.

Having a smaller number of clients who ALWAYS come back to you on an exclusive or retained basis means that there is guaranteed revenue (which is accurately forecastable) is something which surely more 3rd party recruiters should be aiming for?

By Mitch on Tuesday, 09 December 2014

Yep Mark, that’s what I’m hoping some of them will start aiming for.

Otherwise, the job of being an agency recruiter will just end up being a Sisyphean nightmare.

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