What George Clooney taught me about recruitment

If you have ever been a TV Hospital drama junkie, you would have heard the word triage many times.

Certainly I noticed my wife perk up noticeably when George Clooney strides into the waiting room on any episode of ER.

Triage is the process of prioritising patient treatment, based on the severity of their condition.

Recruitment has none of the drama or dire consequences of triage in the medical sense. Nevertheless, poor recruiting triage skills can mean the demise of your jobs, or the loss of your best talent.

Here is why.

Job orders are not all created equal. Yet I often find that a recruiter working on 12 open briefs will in fact allocate one twelfth of their time to each brief.

Bad mistake. George would never do that.

You need to regularly and consistently ‘triage’ your job orders to ensure that at all times you are working on the ones with the highest priority.

And which jobs deserve highest priority?

The most senior vacancy?  The job paying the highest salary?  The job with the highest potential fee? The job that came in most recently?

No! No!  And no a thousand times.

The jobs that survive your triage cull do so because they meet all or most of a few key criteria.

•    The job is well qualified. You know exactly what the client wants
•    The job is real and urgent
•    The hiring criteria are reasonable and achievable in today’s market (for example, the salary matches the skills required)
•    The client is committed to hire. She has signed your terms of business, and has internal approval to hire
•    The client is working with you as a partner, is returning your calls, interviewing your talent and taking your advice
•    You have the job exclusively
•    The client is a long-term supporter, who you have worked with many times

Only very few of your orders will tick all those boxes. They are top priority, and they get the majority of your attention.  Then you work down the list  ‘triaging’ your jobs for priority. And by the way, it’s a movable feast. Changed circumstances might mean a job goes up the priority list, or down.

And if you find there are a few jobs right at the end that get no attention – well, it’s sad – but they just get sacrificed. (Actually, it is not sad at all. Typically they are unqualified orders from uncommitted clients… and good riddance, to be frank!)

If you don’t do this you will be like a doctor who, in his well-meaning desire to help everyone, actually allows every patient to die through lack of attention to the ones who needed assistance most. And who would have been saved if they were given priority.

George told me that personally. Really


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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24 Responses to What George Clooney taught me about recruitment

  1. Francesca June 29, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Excellent analogy Greg. (Please let me know when you’re next catching up with George – I hear he’s single again and I’d like to learn something new from him too!)

    • Greg Savage June 29, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      I am loath to say this in a public forum Francesca, but as I have known you for 20 plus years I feel I must. I am pretty sure its George Clooney who has something to learn from you!

  2. Jan June 29, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks to your previous tips, we are paying more attention to “qualified” jobs – and totally agree we are happier and definitely having more fun & job satisfaction. Yay! However, shouldn’t we be concerned with those at the bottom of the pile, especially if they belong to important clients? After countless times of asking the client for proper job briefing & prompt feedback (requests disregarded), client kept pushing for more CVs and when they don’t get top service from you a few times, they move on to other agencies. Yes, we can celebrate that they are now wasting our competitors’ time, but we will eventually disappear from the client’s speed dial!

    • Greg Savage June 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Jan, I think we need to redefine the term “client”. If a client consistently provides unqualified orders and jerks us around i would say they are not a client at all! Try to educate them once, maybe twice…then fire them! http://tinyurl.com/yklk9b9

  3. Danni June 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I am new to reading your posts and I must say that I find the advice very helpful and a key in being able to identify and work with clients that want to work with me, rather than work over me. Thank you for the real advice that you give us!

  4. Jan June 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks, Greg – I also found your other answer in the Two killer questions… to RecruiterMum, how to politely fire a client, lllllove it!

  5. john lambert June 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    and tell the clients that are at the back of the line that they are at the back of the line and why…politely of course

  6. Jeremy Snell June 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Great post and something I think many Recruiters stopped doing in the recession. Any job was gratefully received! Now the Market is healthier it is imperative Recruiters get back (or maybe start!) qualifying and prioritising their jobs. This has been a big area of focus for me with a number of clients and although ‘letting go’ can sometimes be difficult good triage creates results very quickly and can develop capacity to deal with additional qualified jobs.

  7. Kathleen Hughes June 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    This is so obvious, but so often overlooked. Kind of like “going back to basics” really.
    Very good article. Thank you.

  8. medicalplaces June 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    As a medical doctor hiring in the medical field, I really enjoyed the analogy & it makes business sense!

  9. Paul Mason June 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Good, practical advice! The take home message is work with clients who appreciate what you do and have realistic expectations.

  10. Rossi July 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    This has been a very interesting article, especially when I have so little experience as a recruiter! Thanks

  11. Garry July 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Another quality message Greg, well done

  12. Tony Palm July 7, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    Spot on Greg, nicely said!

  13. Angela Marasco July 7, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Re-defining my client list! Thank you, George (errr Greg) for your insightfullness! 🙂

  14. Andrew Aston July 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to uncommitted clients Greg.
    You ‘Triage’ analogy is a perfect one.

    (Although I miss your ‘Hairy Biker’ analogies, where have they all gone? Surely they haven’t all had a shave and a hair cut!?)

  15. Heather Haines August 5, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    Another great article thank you Mr Savage. Made me smile!

    • Greg Savage August 5, 2011 at 7:40 am #

      Thanks Hainsy. By the way George asked me to pass on his personal regards to you…

  16. Ken Ward September 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    Greg, interesting blog as always, with strong echoes from my agency days. I think the challenge you face here is that most recruitment consultancies will extrapolate your points a little further to go for “the low hanging fruit”. Whilst I understand the commercial imperatives in doing so, this does nothing to improve the service that we clients receive from some recruitment agencies. Does this mean, in your opinion, that the recruitment agency business model and client expectation are hopelessly out of whack? Maybe old ground here, but interested to hear your views.



  17. Elena October 27, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Greg, what would be the way to tell the client with a low priority on unfillable order, that you will not work on it at all or (more difficult case) have to stop after some time spent when it becomes clear there are no candidates? I feel like letting them down, though at the same time totally agree with the need to quilify job orders.

    • Greg Savage October 27, 2011 at 10:22 am #

      Elena, the focus of the conversation with your client needs to be on WHY the order is “Unfillable. That is where you move into “trusted advisor” mode. If he salary is too low for example, that needs to be addressed. Or if the mix of skills sought is unreasonable, then that needs to be changed. So basically you lead the process down a road where either the requirements of the job are adjusted so that now it IS fillable…or if the client can’t or won’t adjust the criteria, it makes it easy for you to step back and say that its not possible to proceed with the search becuase the criteria are not appropriate. You will be tactful and diplomatic and keep the door open, but having given your professional advice on what it will take for the role to be filled..if that advice is not taken, its ok not to take on the gig

  18. Tamara Duffy December 8, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    I love your analogy; prioritizing your workload is definitely a must in any industry. And I do really like your firing suggestion for the time wasters! All very well said, and thanks for the laughs Greg

  19. Nicole Chamberlain January 21, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    I was skeptical to click on your posting….. but was pleasantly surprised to see your message. I believe that you are correct- the phone is the best connection beyond the potential initial email….. I love to cold call and have found it to be something that many recruiters resist.

    Prioritizing clients and orders is so important and again, I find both outside recruiters as well as hospital systems not qualifying. They waste a lot of time on jobs that really can’t or won’t be filled. Spend the time upfront to make that assessment and advise your clients of those opportunities you won’t be able to support to the level they might hope for.

  20. Nikhil May 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Excellent!! A lot of recruiters and recruitment firms have fallen prey to the notion of working on multiple requirements from clients with no clear direction and no two way communication from clients. Recruiters need to understand that clients at most times look to rather have their own way instead of consulting with recruiters on planning their next hire. Would help if they understood that recruiters are keen to close positions too rather than just while away their time sending profiles across

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