Craig was on the verge of cracking a huge account.
His prospective client paid out nearly $1 million in recruiting fees last year, and Craig wanted a piece of the action.
All he had to do was fill a single position, pass an audition, to prove his worth—and the floodgates would open.
"Don't worry," Craig told the client. "I can find a needle in a haystack."
"Good," said the client. "Because we've been trying to fill this job for 19 months, and five other recruiters before you have failed."
"I won't let you down," promised Craig. And so the search began.
In Need of a Great Performance
You have to admire Craig's attitude. His outlook was positive, his confidence was strong and his goals were ambitious.
But his idealism cost him dearly. Blinded by the allure of big game, Craig totally ignored three red flags that foretold the disaster that lay ahead.
Did you spot them? The first red flag was the "audition" condition, a set-up by employers that nearly always ends in heartbreak.
Taking on a challenge is fine, as long as the playing field is level, and the other side has a stake in your success. Unfortunately, auditions put a huge burden on the recruiter to perform at the very highest level, while all the employer has to do is say "no."
Which is exactly what happened to Craig. Every time he presented a suitable candidate, the client merely shrugged and told him to find someone better.
No Safe Harbinger
But Craig should have predicted this, because of the second red flag: the position had been open for 19 months. Craig reasoned that the longer the job remained open, the more urgently the employer would need to fill it.
In reality, I've found the exact opposite to be true: a job that goes unfilled for more than a year and a half will probably stay unfilled forever. A client's sense of urgency isn't defined by how long a position has been open, but by the consequence of the work that's not getting done. If the job is really important, the company will quickly find someone to do it, even if the person isn't perfect.
The Third Red Flag
Remember the Powell Doctrine from the first Gulf War? That you should only fight a battle in which you have overwhelming odds?
Well, that's the way I prefer to compete. Given the choice, I'd rather have the odds strongly in my favor, not the other way around.
So when a client says that five other recruiters have failed, it sends a signal that something is wrong with this picture; and that maybe the odds are inherently stacked against you.
Of course, Craig thought he was better than the other recruiters. And maybe that's the case. But he should also have given his competitors some credit. If every single one of them failed to satisfy the client, there must have been a reason. My guess would be red flags number one and number two.
Burned at the Stake
I feel badly for Craig, who finally gave up the search—and his dream of riches—after months of hard work and disappointment. And I can relate to his situation, because it's always a struggle to temper your heart with your head.
Idealism can be a powerful motivator, especially when core principles or humanitarian goals are involved. Sometimes it takes a heroic or inspired effort to achieve results when others before have failed. For example, the French tried for many years to build a canal through Central America; but it was the highly motivated and idealistic Americans who finally succeeded.
As recruiters, it's our job to find the reality in every situation. And the reality is, if you're more strongly motivated to fill a position than your client, you're in big trouble. There's nothing wrong with idealism—you just don't want to end up like Joan of Arc.
Bill Radin is a top-producing recruiter, trainer and author of "Billing Power" and "The Recruiter's Almanac of Scripts, Rebuttals and Closes." ADVANCED RECRUITERS! his latest audio program, "Advanced Strategies for Recruiters," is packed with money-making ideas and tips for owners, managers, solo operators and experienced recruiters. For more information, please visit my website at www.billradin.com or give me a call at (800) 837-7224.