How to become a better executive recruiter.

How to become a better executive recruiter.

by Michael Palumbo

ISBN: 9780557041374


Published in Business & Investing/Economics

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One


The first step to becoming a successful recruiter is you have to realize it's not about you! Wow! What a way to start a book about becoming a better executive recruiter, right? It's not about you! Provocative? No, but it is the first chapter for a reason.

It's only about you when you consider the amount of research, sourcing, recruiting, consulting, and "handholding" you do to fill your positions, but that's an internal thing, like inside baseball stuff. That's inside information we know about, but most of the time the client has absolutely no idea what is involved to fill positions. In the end, your firm will be judged on the quality of the candidates you place. Period. And, the quality of those candidates placed will directly reflect the amount of repeat and referral business you will receive.

When a company hires you it is because they have a need. Period. Typically, they do not care how you fill your positions they want their position filled! They have no idea about the research, sourcing and recruiting it takes to fill your positions. In some cases, they probably don't want to know, they just want you to fill the position, as soon as possible!

One thing you have to remember, it costs a lot of money for companies to have a need, or an important hole on their staff, especially if it was unexpected.

The typical steps clients take to fill positions goes something like this:

Step one: Whom do you know?

Step two: Advertise the position

Step three: Repeat step one and two ...

Whom do you know? Means just that, companies will ask around to see if anyone knows of someone that can fill a particular position. They will ask around the office, friends in the business, etc., the reason why they do this is because they know the results they are going to get with any advertising campaign ... not much!

Advertise the position, Companies will start an advertising campaign in newspapers, trade magazines, employment and job board web sites, and their own internal company web site. And then they cross their fingers and hope that someone qualified answers their advertisements!

Repeat step one and two, Companies will repeat this step forever and ever, until they finally breakdown and realize they have to go to an outside source to fill the position. That's when you come in.

Once a client has hired your firm and determined they need to go with an outside source, at this point, they have become somewhat desperate to fill the position, however because there is a substantial recruiting fee attached to your candidates, they will not, and should not, compromise.

Hint: The longer a company has been looking to fill a particular position, they will tend to compromise a little more than usual.

When you get involved in a search, it is a race to see who can fill the position first, you and your recruiting firm, or the client. Most clients do not want to pay substantial recruiting fees, if they don't have to. So you better move fast, especially with all of the resources clients have today.

Yes it is true certain clients may like you, your personality, the way you presented your services, and your fee structure, however if you do not produce candidates they will not care a bit. You must understand, according to clients it's not about you! It's about the candidates you bring to the interviews and place with your client, because that is who they are going to be working with for forty to fifty hours a week, not you!

Hint: Do not assume a company is working with you because they like you. As soon as you stop providing good candidates and being a good source, they will stop using you. Just keep in-mind, it's not about you!

In our business, it is very common for recruiters to get big egos about how much they are billing in a month, or year, so let me be very clear on this ... clients are paying substantial recruiting fees because of the candidates they are hiring from you. Period. The candidates they are seeing from your firm are "head and shoulders" above anything they have seen from their "word of mouth" efforts, or their advertising campaign. If your colleague in the next office, or at a different recruiting firm, called them with the same type of candidates the clients would pay these substantial recruiting fees to them, not you!

Never think about the money (I'll get into this more later). I have seen professional recruiters add up exactly what the fee will be when they fill the position, even before they start recruiting for the position! You always have to keep the clients and the candidates best interests at heart. If you start thinking of the money and how much you can make every time you take a search, it will taint your thinking towards both. And, remember this is about your clients being addicted to your services, right?

A few years ago, after I have been working with a particular client for many years and placed many top and mid-level managers, this client was telling me a story about one of his employees and how great he was. Let's just call him "Tom". This client went on and on and on, and said to me "if you can find me someone like Tom, that would be great!" And I said to the client, "well I remember how hard it was to get Tom on your team and it's not going to be easy to find another guy like Tom". And, to my amazement, this client said to me "did I get Tom from you?" There went my ego! This client didn't even realize he hired this excellent candidate from me and specifically from my firm. Wow! It made me realize something that day. I wondered how many clients really do not remember the people they have hired from us? That's when I really realized it wasn't about me at all.

In another situation, I was discussing recruits and setting up interviews with a very good client. We started discussing places they can meet for a lunch or dinner near the client's office. In the process of that conversation my client started to give me directions to a meeting place and then he, for some reason, interjected "so, where is your office located Mike?" There went my ego, again! I told him where our office was located and then we moved on to something else, but there it was again. Here is a good client, which I have had a good relationship for many years and placed several people with his firm, and he did not know where I was located! It's not about you! Believe me, I have learned this lesson and you should learn it too ASAP!

Hint: As long as you produce quality candidates for your clients, you can do this business almost anywhere ... wherever you can take your phone!

So why did my good clients have absolutely no idea about the people I placed with their firm, or even where my office was located? Well, it's easy if you think about it. Our clients have so many recruiters calling them and they hire from recruiters all the time. Although it is true they like dealing with our firm, they really don't care where we are located, they want us to produce "top performing" candidates and fill positions.

Most of our clients are too busy selling their products, or services, to be concerned with small details. Besides, the candidates we place with our clients become the people they are familiar with and deal with on a day-to-day basis, not us.

It still amazes me how some recruiters, or recruiting firms, think because they have a nice office or belong to certain organizations, that is what makes them a better recruiter or recruiting firm. Not true, believe me, it's not about you!

Chapter Two


In the professional recruiting business, the products are the candidates. We know the clients want to hire, that is a given. There are some companies that play games out there, but usually they are calling you because they have a need, or could not fill a position.

Remember, you and your firm will be judged on the candidates you place, not your marketing materials, web site, golf game, personality, or family stature. All of those things may get you the search in the beginning, but in the end, it's all about the candidates!

Once again, the quality of the candidates you place will determine the amount of repeat and referral business you receive. If you are not getting referrals or clients calling you back, most likely it is the quality of the candidates you are placing. A good test of this fact is to spend a day calling your old clients (the ones you don't deal with anymore) and see if any of the candidates you placed are still there. You will be amazed at the results of this test!

How do you find the best candidates? Obviously, first they have to meet the basic criteria of the search assignment and job description given to you by the company. Secondly, they have to be "top talent" in their industry.

Remember, the company hired you to find the best, not necessarily the most motivated or the highest paid candidate but, the one that matches the criteria of the search assignment and who is the best possible candidate willing to explore the opportunity.

Do not get hung-up on the motivations of the candidates; you need to find out if they are willing to go on a meeting. That is all.

Hint: I would rather have a company see the best candidates in a given market and not be able to secure them, than the client saying I did not send them good qualified candidates.

A candidate that is gainfully employed and competing with your client would qualify as one of the best possible candidates. I will go one step further, a candidate that is gainfully employed, competing with your client on a daily basis, and not looking, is even better. Not looking? Yes.

A candidate that is not looking and is currently employed, typically does not have their resume all over the country and speaking to one hundred different "headhunters" who are marketing them to three hundred different companies. This type of candidate typically doesn't have their profile, or resume on web site job boards. Most likely they don't even have an updated resume. I love to hear a potential candidate tell me they don't have an updated resume, because if they are not actively looking and they do not have an updated resume, you will not have competition with other recruiting firms and the candidate will automatically be a better candidate, just for the fact that they are working and competing with your client. This type of candidate will be "head and shoulders" above anything your client has seen through their advertising, or word of mouth.

I can hear you asking, again "How do I find this type of candidate?" I will get into this in more detail later in this book, but the absolute first and best way is to ask your client! What? That's right. Let your client know that this is a team effort and you are both in this together, trying to reach the same goal ... find the best candidate for the position!

Ask your client for any names they would like to be added to the search assignment. Any individuals they may know in the marketplace that have good reputations and do good work. If you get some resistance from your client, get the names of the companies they would like this person to come from. If that doesn't work, ask them who they compete against in their industry, and which companies they admire in their industry. If that works, those are the companies to target first for candidates.

Hint: You will never know what you will get without asking. I have had clients send me lists, and lists, of people they want to meet!

If none of that works with your client, do some preliminary research and find fifteen to twenty companies in the local market that your client competes with and ask them about those companies one-by-one. This is a good technique because it shows your client you know the market, and it may also trigger some names from them once they start hearing the names of the companies. Sometimes when you first ask your client if they knew of anyone, you asked them cold and they really couldn't think of anyone, but once you start going through this list of companies they might start thinking of some names for you to consider in your search efforts.

Those are just some of the ways you can get your client to give you names of potential candidates for you to consider for the search assignment. It doesn't always work, especially if you are dealing with human resources, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

Secondly, and this requires a lot more work, is to take that list of fifteen to twenty companies your client competes with and find the best potential candidates within these companies and recruit them one-by-one until you find a candidate that matches the search criteria. You should not look for the most motivated, look for the best!

A good way to evaluate talent is to look at their track record. It is easy to tell how a potential candidate will perform in the future by looking at their past. How they have performed in the past is most likely how they will perform in the future. Thirdly, you want a candidate that is cooperative and does what you ask of them. Once you have determined you have a good candidate for the position and they meet all of the criteria of the search assignment, call you client and present the candidate and set-up an interview.

If you are doing this right, when you present your candidate to your client you will probably get a reaction from them, and you might even hear something similar to this "why are they looking?" "I didn't know they were looking?" and, of course, they are not looking you recruited them specifically for your client. Some clients (especially a first time client) will not believe it when all of your candidates are local and not looking, and hopefully you have a couple of local "Superstars" in there for good measure.

The reason your client will not believe this is because so few recruiters, or recruiting firms actually directly recruit! This is one of the big ways you can set yourself apart from your competition. Most recruiters do what their clients do, put "blind" post office box advertisements on web sites and newspapers and they ask around for "whom do you know?"

Hint: If you place blind advertisements in newspapers and job boards, you will get the same results as your client, before they hired you!

How do I know this is true? I'll give you an example of a true story that happened to me a few years ago.

I have a very good client in New York City and he belongs to the New York Athletic Club. Well, one day he was at the NYAC and a guy, somewhat of a friend, approached him about doing some recruiting for his company. My client had no idea this guy was in the recruiting business, so he listened to what he had to say. This guy was very convincing to my client, so my client decided to give this guy and his recruiting firm a chance. Besides, he was a member of the NYAC, he owned a New York recruiting firm, and my client's company is local, so why not? Since I have such a good relationship with my client, he called me and told me the story about using this guy he met at the NYAC and the reasons why he was going to use him. My client told me he really just wanted to "throw him a bone" and see how he performs.

After a few months, my client calls me and tells me how things are going with this New York City recruiting firm. I don't remember the exact quote, but it was something like this "I don't understand it, this guy's recruiting firm is based in New York City and he hasn't presented one candidate to me from New York State, let alone New York City!" "You're not based in New York City and every candidate you have every sent to me lives and works in New York!" "How is this possible?" After getting a little bit of the details from my client, like the first candidate this New York City firm presented to him was from Chicago, I knew right away this guy's firm wasn't directly recruiting at all. This guy's firm is the typical lazy recruiting firm out there putting advertisements on job boards and presenting my client with the first candidate who seemed to fit the search assignment.

Once I explained to my client the reasons why this guy's recruiting firm was doing the things they were doing, I told my client we were located in Alabama (he didn't know) and we have been working together ever since!

One of the things I've learned through the years, either as a recruiter, or training recruiters is we are lazy creatures. We tend to look for the easy way out. I have heard recruiters say stuff like "this candidate changes jobs every three years and he is on his third year with his current employer ... he is due for a change". Of course what this recruiter doesn't think about is what happens after this candidate has only been with his client for three years! Oops.


Excerpted from "How to become a better executive recruiter." by Michael Palumbo. Copyright © 0 by Michael Palumbo. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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