Here’s a quick math problem I remember from when I was a kid:
“If there are five flies on your kitchen table and you took a fly swatter and killed one of the flies, how many flies would be left?
“The answer: One—the fly you just killed. The other four flew away.”
The reason I tell this little joke is because if a recruiter has five job orders on his desk and the recruiter only has the time or the ability to find candidates and schedule interviews for one of them, how many job orders does the recruiter have? The answer is one.
In other words, if four of the job orders aren’t worth working on—or you can’t get coverage on them—then for all practical purposes, they flew away and they don’t exist. Which means you need to find new clients.
With this story in mind, let’s take an honest look at what you’ve got going on right now.
Sizing Up Your Activity
Your workload—and by extension, your profitability—can usually be described in one of three ways:
What I’ve described is sort of a bell curve, with most recruiters sitting at number 2 in my description—somewhere in the middle of the curve. You’ve got one job—or maybe two jobs—that are “hot” and you’re getting sendout activity to cover the jobs. In other words, you’re not killing yourself to satisfy a number of equally hot assignments, but you’re not totally without business, either.
So how do you figure out how much marketing you need to do, given your situation?
Conventional wisdom would dictate that the amount of time and energy you spend marketing for new business should be in inverse proportion to the quality and the volume of activity that’s currently on your desk. And I would basically agree.
Your first obligation—your highest priority—should always be to take care of your existing clients. If you’ve made a promise to a responsive, realistic hiring manager to fill a job in which the company has demonstrated a sense of urgency, then it would be foolish to be distracted from the work at hand.
But if the quality of the work in front of you is low—and the odds of failure are high—it would make sense not to waste your time on that type of business. Instead, it would be more productive to use your time to find high-quality business, and keep on marketing until you find an assignment that’s strong, even if it means sidestepping work that fails to meet your high standards.
It’s at the extremes of the bell curve that you really need to be careful, and perhaps defy conventional wisdom.
For example, if you’ve got high-quality work up to your eyeballs and you’re really cranking, beware of putting all your eggs in that basket. Great clients and key accounts can make you rich, but like everything in life, they run in cycles. Eventually, even your best clients morph into oblivion or dysfunction. Just ask any recruiter whose long-term client suddenly brought in a consulting firm, and despite years of mutually productive work, you’re busted down to vendor management status and you’re required to cut your fee, sign a new agreement and re-direct all your communications through the proverbial Myrtle in HR.
Making Something Out of of Nothing
On the flip side, if you have nothing of value to work on, it would only seem logical that you devote 100 percent of your time marketing until the perfect job order comes along.
I have a slightly different perspective. I feel that there are times in which it makes sense to work a low-quality or low-probability job order. The reason is that if you have something tangible to work on, it puts you into your candidate marketplace with something to talk about.
By making contact, discussing jobs and interviewing candidates, you are now connecting with people and building your candidate files with people who can educate you, work with you as a potential MPC, or even share information about who’s hiring, especially if the candidate is active in the marketplace.
The trick is to not lose sight of your goal of trading up; and that once you find a hot job to work on, you shift your attention to filling that obligation—and that job order. And strong, high-profit job orders are the lifeblood of any successful recruiter.
- Bill Radin
Bill Radin is a top-producing recruiter whose innovative books, tapes and training seminars have helped thousands of recruiting professionals and search consultants achieve peak performance and career satisfaction. Bill’s extensive experience makes him an ideal source of techniques, methods and ideas for rookies who want to master the fundamentals—or veterans ready to jump to a higher level of success. more immune to future recessions.