A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and it was obvious that something was weighing heavily on my mind. Actually, it was this free-to-fee recruiting business model that I read about on a LinkedIn group.
This new model appears very practical, it fulfilled a need, solves a career progression challenges and could possibly stimulate jobs growth and pull the economy out of this downward spiral.
But it was the perception and the lack of clarity on how to sell this particular service that I could not fully wrap my arms around.
A good recruiter uses proven search techniques to find people, information and solutions.
After coming to a dead-end searching the Internet for relevant information, I decided to approach it the old fashion way. I needed a different prospective, and I immediately thought of a fellow racquetball player. This guy is a real American hero. Vietnam veteran, strong family values, successful in business and still a formidable competitor on the racquetball court. Today he brands himself as an Author, Coach, Speaker, and Sales Trainer.
I had not seen him in quite awhile and as a coincidence, I went to the gym and guess who I saw? None other than the king!
To become a top recruiter one must be proficient in the art of sourcing (extracting needed information from anyone without that individual realizing your method or motive)
With my brain in sourcing mode, I quickly formulated the ideal time to engage him into a dialog, the specific subject matter to discuss and the exact phrasing of my question which should shift the conversation toward my subject matter.
Sensing the timing was right, I executed my question to direct his thoughts.
Me: I understand that you have been in sales your entire career so you might know the answer to this question; what method would you use to sell the same product or service for a fee that you have historically provided for free?
It was as if an alarm sounded inside his head. He stopped fumbling around in his gym bag, sat down and looked me square in the eyes!
Him: Are you asking me how to go about charging your candidates a fee to coach and help them find jobs? I know it is hard to find a decent job today and employers are no longer picking up the tab to find employees, is that what you are asking?
A good recruiter need to have the mentality of a professional poker player- even when you are truly taken off-guard (by a candidate, client, or gatekeeper) you maintain your focus, keep your emotions in check and quickly take back control of the situation.
Me: Why yes, that is very perceptive of you, how did you know that I was referring to the recruitment Industry?
Speaking in a slightly agitated voice and a faster tempo, he replied…
Him: A client that I coach, in the same Industry as you asked pretty much the same question! So I knew exactly what you were asking and why you asked. But what I don’t understand is why you guys continue to use the same business model that is no longer effective in today’s environment.
Recruiters has the same thought process that an attorney uses to cross examine a witness, they ask effective questions, remain silent and listen very intensively.
Me: Did I hear you say that you knew why I asked that question?
Him: Yes, because you haven’t even sold yourself on that business model, so you are seeking validation! Look, the business world has turned up-side down and it will not come back to business as usual. You need to understand that the people who were on-top will be on the bottom, people on the bottom will be on top. Things that are expensive will be cheap; things that are cheap will become expensive. Strategies that work yesterday won’t work tomorrow. All these websites like LinkedIn and Facebook that are giving away new things for free, they will start charging you a fee. Look around you, the world has changed and most of you are not sure how to respond to that change.
A good recruiter never argues with a client, candidate, gatekeeper or prospect regarding their opinion or to get his point across.
Me: Your client, did s/he mention the specific recruiting model : corporate, headhunter, retained, contract ,outplacement, temp-to-perm?
Him: Look, you are not the only Industry affected, everyone is affected. GM will be selling cars on eBay, YouTube will replace TV, no one reads newspapers or go to the post office anymore, they don’t even answer telephone anymore for Christ sake. If you were paying attention you would notice that all our jobs are being shipped overseas and they are not coming back. We are a service industry now and if you provide a service you need to define who your true clients are and how to deliver your service in a way that makes sense today. Listen, I came here to play racquetball, I don't have time to give away advice for free.
Good recruiters’ are master Interpreters; they are skilled in articulating thoughts and feelings of others.
It was clearly pointed out from someone outside of the Industry that headhunters are professionals who provide a valuable service in terms of motivating and coaching individuals in advancing their careers and becoming more productive in their chosen fields. They also strengthen organizations from a human capital perspective by supplying needed talent to make their clients more competitive in their Industry. However, their core value is being defined not as a strategic advisor or a partner, but as a vendor-simply a supplier of resumes not deserving of the fees that they are paid.
Recruitment as an Industry made its presence on the radar screen back in the dot com boon. Technology, since then has made it transparent with the perception that there is no longer a hidden job market and talent can be found everywhere by anyone.
The time has come for a leader to step forward and validate headhunters in redefining their roles as consultants; professionals who spend time with their clients to understand their needs and provide a service for a fee.
It shouldn’t matter if your client is the candidate or employer.