Everything Must Change: People Are Not Products

There are 8,760 hours a year. 2,190 hours per year are spent asleep (an average of 6 hours per night). 2,080 hours per year are “sold” for a paycheck (40 hours per week multiplied by 52 weeks a year). 

This leaves 4,490 hours to eat or play, or live beyond the boundaries of work and sleep. By these numbers almost 25% of a person’s life is spent working in order to afford the remaining 75% of their life. 

People want a quality of life that suits their sensibilities and preferences. Don’t we all?

The question is who will help them find a job adequate enough to fund the remaining 75% of their life? This is where the recruiting industry comes in, and we recruiters know it. Our industry survives only if there is significant unrest in the life of an employee, one deep enough to provoke a change in vocation making them the ideal person for the company we represent and the position we need to fill. Many times this unrest is stirred by the belief that the remaining 75% of their life isn’t living up to par. Many recruiting firms hope to leverage that unrest enough in order to connect them to the “perfect job” capable of living up to their career goals and dreams. In fact, many recruiting firms would rather the 25%, the job, overshadow the 75%, the rest of life, and move the person away from seeing the big picture by focusing solely on career goals. When this happens, and it often does, people fail to consider the intangible costs in light of the new and better paycheck. Disillusioned by the promise of perfection and the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome, they accept the new job, uproot family and leave behind dear friends for the pursuit of happiness, not realizing it until it is too late. 

Recruiting firms often grow their bottom-lines by capitalizing on this disillusionment by embracing a recruiting process built around occupation-specific criteria and fast turn around times. Rarely will recruiters urge caution and encourage people to consider how the new job means starting over in life. To do so could run the risk of prolonging the hire or worse, lose the ideal individual for the placement. Consequently recruiting firms lose sight of the person and fix their eyes on the money yielded by the placement with the company that hired them to fill the position quickly. By focusing solely on questions specific to occupation–skill sets, successes, career goals–recruiting firms fail to learn about the person–life goals, hopes, family dynamics. This results in treating people like products where the placement of the position is prioritized over the person

stick-figure-familyIn recruiting people can never be products. “People” are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, all with hopes, plans, failures, successes and goals. We need to know these hopes, plans, failures, successes and goals; we want to know their stories and what matters to them in the remaining 75% of their time.

We need to remind them that even though this new career opportunity could be great for their career and filled with new possibilities, an out-of-state/city could also profoundly impact their lives. It might involve uprooting their family where the children will have to change schools and make new friends, and they will leave their networks of close relationships behind and have to do the hard work of developing new ones.

We need to make sure they see the big picture from all angles, even if it means “losing” the ideal individual for the placement. Besides, what good would it serve the company that contracted us to find great people if after a few months the newly hired person experiences remorse, arrives at work unhappy and eventually resigns?  

If a recruiting firm is intentional and guided by a higher ethic beginning with the belief that people are never to be treated like products, it can maintain a holistic, high-quality recruiting process and efficient turn around time in filling the position.

In the end, treating people like products by focusing on the placement rather than the personserves no one. It makes money but also makes a mockery of a industry we care deeply about. And it happens all too often. This is why everything must change and we should work to make it so.

(this post was originally posted here at www.reinventingrecruiting.com)

Views: 374

Comment by Matt Charney on August 1, 2014 at 12:20pm

Fred: great post and fantastic insights once I read the entire thing. Thanks so much for sharing this post with our community here at RecruitingBlogs. Look forward to reading more of your stuff soon.

Comment by Anna Brekka on August 1, 2014 at 1:39pm

Well put - and agreed "In the end, treating people like products by focusing on the placement rather than the person serves no one." 

Comment by Fred Liggin on August 1, 2014 at 2:59pm

Matt, thank you sir. And thank you for help.

Comment by Fred Liggin on August 1, 2014 at 2:59pm

Anna, thanks for reading and commenting. 

Comment by Keith Halperin on August 1, 2014 at 4:29pm

Thanks, Fred. This is a noble attitude, yet I fear very unrealistic in an industry fundamentally committed to the bottom line, where the driving mantra is "you're only as good as your last placement". I believe that for every recruiting company which is ready willing and able to allow a recruiter to give up a hire for reasons such as you've mentioned, there are many more which won't.

Keep Blogging,


Comment by Keith Halperin on August 1, 2014 at 4:58pm

@ Anna: RE: "In the end, treating people like products by focusing on the placement rather than the person serves no one." 

Actually, as long as the person stays and is productive, it serves the client, and if they stay past the fee guarantee period, it serves the recruiter and whomever s/he works for...

Keith "Now Tries to See People as They Are and Not as I Would Wish Them to Be" Halperin

Comment by Tim Saumier on August 4, 2014 at 12:50pm

Fundamentally this is a shift from the traditional recruiting mentality.   It is our guide post for who we partner with and keeps us from making poor decisions.  We may never reach this desired result but it won't stop us from trying. 

Comment by Fred Liggin on August 4, 2014 at 1:18pm
Keith, thank you for the comments. Tim Saumier is the Founder/CEO of our firm so I will default to his above response. We have an aggressive and grand vision as a company: to reinvent recruiting with resolve. We hold onto to some core beliefs that serve to guide us into that vision as a team and company throughout all our locations across three states. This article was written as a reflection of one of our core beliefs as a company. The way we figure it, there's a price to be paid either way for this approach. And if we are to be a firm that practices what we believe it is best we pay the price instead of our client and his/her family. "Knock on wood" but so far so good!
Comment by Keith Halperin on August 4, 2014 at 3:54pm

Thanks, Fred and Tim. I offer a possible scenario:

Let's say one of your recruiter's showed potential yet was not a "natural- they wer making gradual progress.

The recruiter knew that he had to have a particular placement to keep his/her position, and  was at a point where if s/he closed the candidate (which s/he could clearly do), the placement would go through and the the recruiter would keep their job. On the other hand, this wouldn't be in the best interest of the candidate- it would be better if the candidate DIDN'T take the position. What would you do with this recruiter?

1) Have him/her tell the candidate NOT to take the offer, and then fire the recruiter for not making the necessary numbers?

2) Have him/her tell the candidate NOT to take the offer, and then NOT fire the recruiter for not making the necessary numbers but extend their probation?

3) Some other alternatives?

Let's say that instead of an established executive firm  (with hopefully substantial cash reserves and a  strong, established credit line) you were a new and struggling one, and if your recruiter got the placement, you'd stay in business for another month, but if you walked away, you'd need to close your doors. How would you choose to proceed: keep your principles and lose your business, or compromise them and keep your business?

Another option: you tell employees the following- "I do not EVER wish to hear that you are putting your or the company's interests in a placement above the interest of the candidate, and such behavior will not be tolerated." This is the equivalent of "Don't ask, don't tell"- culpable deniability.

Folks, what do YOU think? Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Comment by Tim Saumier on August 4, 2014 at 5:14pm


First thanks for the scenario and the questions.  There are no simple answers to your questions.  I opened this business 12 years ago and we have made many mistakes and will make many more but over the past few years we have taken a long look at who we are and most importantly who we should be and yes there is a gap between the two.  With this being said, we have established Values & Core Beliefs that we stand on and we will not waiver upon regardless of outcome.  You can find our core beliefs on our website (www.tyges.com) and if you'd like to see our values let me know and I can share them as well. 

Over our 12 year history, we have hired and retained people who share our values & beliefs even without the performance but rather the expectation of performance.  The values & beliefs are non-negotiable.  With performance, I have high patience (hard to believe) for people who bring the Attitude & Effort day in and day out and demonstrate willingness and capability to learn and apply our craft.  At some point (not easy to define) we do get to a mutual state where they are either moving forward with their performance or they are not and then it is time to gracefully exit them from the business. 

Now to answer your specific scenario - I personally don't define myself as a recruiter and nor do I ask my team to do this as well.  This is an occupation that we do day in and day out to help serve the greater good.  Over the stretch of my 12 years in business, we have been in situations similar to what you described above and while I will tell you that I may not have handled it in the correct manner early on, I have and will continue to do what is right and not what is easy (one of our values) even if it meant the end of TYGES. 


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