Recruiters, you biggest threat is probably…you.

This one is for recruiters. Especially recruiters with a couple of years experience, who think they are good. In fact you may think you are pretty damn good!

Well, there is a huge threat facing you. And it’s not social media, or technology or the economy, or RPO, nor the rise of  in-house recruiters.

It’s you.

To be more specific, it’s your attitude. And to be even more precise, it’s your complacency. I can’t tell you how many promising recruiters have fallen off the rails, because of early success, which they have mistakenly understood to mean they ‘know it all’.

One of the things I always look for when hiring new recruiters is “coachability”. I don’t even know if that’s a word, but I sure know what it means.

The ability to learn new skills, the willingness to change, a mindset which seeks improvement, and the ego which accepts there may ‘be a better way’.

I see it all the time, and have done for decades. A new recruiter has raw potential, works hard, gets some basic skills, and has some early success. God knows, we all love recognition, but why is it in this business that ‘prima donnas’ bloom so early and with so little reason? Actually I know why. We all worship at the altar of ‘fees’ in this industry. And some companies will excuse ignorance, arrogance and lack of real understanding of client and candidate need… as long as a recruiter bills. In fact they reward it. So little recruiter Johnny, who knows 2% of f***all, is now a hero because he stitched together a good quarter of billings! No wonder he thinks he knows it all!

And that is the danger period. For you. Usually after about 2 years. Complacency emerges. The barriers to learning go up. In reality, little Johnny plateaus, stagnates, and unbeknown to him, starts to whither!

Give me a dollar for every recruiter who told me ‘we always do it this way’, ‘this works for me’, ‘I know what I am doing’, or heaven save me….. ‘that won’t work in this market!’

I would be a very rich man.

Or even worse, the ‘silent antediluvian’, who does not voice disagreement, but just avoids or ignores any new tactic or advice, any technological advance. It’s not that they want to sabotage. They are just closed to any new ideas whatsoever.

Dinosaurs, who are always looking backwards, scoff at training sessions, and maintain excel spreadsheets of candidates or hard-copy résumés in their bottom drawers. FFS!

Intransigent fossils, who dismiss success by new-comers with fresh ideas, as ‘luck’, and complain that new technology, designed to help them become more efficient, merely  ‘gives them more admin to do’.

And slowly these people start to fail. And the more they fail, the more they blame it in on their employer, on the economy, on the market, on the technology, on their colleagues, on their clients, even on their admin support! Anyone, anywhere, but the real culprit. Themselves.

You want to be great at this job? Forge a real career?
 Then you have to understand the concept of your “Skills Briefcase”.

Imagine all your skills, capabilities, competencies, and knowledge – and then place them in your imaginary ‘skills briefcase’.

The question is simply this. What skills, what knowledge, what tactics, what relationships, and what competencies will be in your skills briefcase one year from now….. that are not in there today?

Or, what is in there now that was not there 12 months ago?



Tackle skills you are not good at and perfect them. Look for a mentor. Seek training and coaching. Tune into industry trends and changes and grab what you need.

Above all, be open to learning the nuances of this tough job we all do.

Anyone can match a résumé with a job description. That takes a week to learn. And you may even make some placements. But it’s the craft of recruiting I am talking about. The art. The skill of it. That takes years. Decades. Forever.

Great recruiters are sponges. For life. You are never totally ‘on top of your game‘ in this business. You can always get better.

And if you don’t, others around you most certainly will.

And then, for you, it’s welcome to the 80% of recruiters who enter our industry…and fail.


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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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26 Responses to Recruiters, you biggest threat is probably…you.

  1. Craig January 24, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    Classic Sav Dog!

  2. Halina January 24, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    How True! After 20 years in IT recruitment I still love it, have lots to learn and unti I can fill 99.9999% of the roles given to me by my cilents I feel that I have still much to do.

  3. Katherine Marron January 24, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I love this – so, so true. Recruiting is a craft and I am always looking to improve & master it – getting better day by day, year by year & learning all the time. I hope one day to become a master recruiter – no actually I don’t – for then I would become a fossil.

  4. Alan Allebone January 24, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Perfect Greg,
    It comes across very well!
    After 36 years in the recruitment business I still do not know it all and never will.
    But I say to the younger generation: hey guys hang in there, be patient, listen and learn from others and it will come!

    Rome was not built in a day!

    You will improve daily if you stick to it!

    Learn everyday!

    From a very happy Fossil who not retire!
    Good luck to all of you!


    • Greg Savage January 24, 2012 at 8:55 am #

      Alan, the fact you are still there, having success, proves you are no fossil!

  5. Chris January 24, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    So true! The recruitment process is just that – a process. Its the subtleties around the process; how you interact, engender trust, engage with clients and candidates, plan for success that make this job so great.

  6. Emma January 24, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    This is so true! Thank you for giving me the kick up the… I needed today! I think I will have a good day after reading this.

    I think being open to change is a hugely important factor – you may not see how a new process or strategy can work (it may seem ridiculous even), but give it a go and you just might surprise yourself. If it fails you can always resume what worked in the first place, or better still learn something.

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained 🙂

  7. Alan Allebone January 24, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Thank you Greg!
    Hurry up and organise the next seminar.
    I and my colleagues can’t wait!

  8. Amanda Hector January 24, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    This is a real hot topic for me Greg.

    I have been training recruiters for the last 4 years in the UK and here in Australia and one of the most common questions I get from clients is “who is this course suitable for” and altough I may specify beginner/advanced etc, it is futile if recruiters do not approach the learning experience with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

    Invariably those you arrive wanting to get the most from the session do and those that don’t, don’t.

    Thanks for provoking some thought on this topic.

  9. GB January 24, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    You have nailed it again Greg. I’m 20+ years in and still willing to learn new things. But there are also some things that I learnt a long time ago that are still highly relevant. A key one being – attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

  10. Gowan Clews January 24, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    This is bloody brilliant, pardon the anglo-saxon! It applies to so many industries as well as recruiting.

    Donald Keough’s 10 Commandments for Business Failure is also interesting and constructive reading

  11. Don Stroud January 24, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Thanks Greg
    I have been recruiting for 27 years and I must admit I have been very anti in updating my methods and consequently have not been as successful as in the past.
    This tells me my methods are in the past and need bringing into the 21st century.

  12. Alan Allebone January 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Fellow recruiters / Ladies and Gentlemen,
    It is a pity there are not more Greg Savages in our profession!
    Yes I will always call it a profession because it is!.
    We are frowned upon by many perspective clients or as my old boss in London always and still calls them Time wasters! But if they really got to know us!!!!
    I wish at times I could go back a few years of my 36 years in this game and knew what I know today!
    I am passionate about the youngsters coming through and feel saddened when after a short period they give up!
    I say again Greg when is the next get together?
    To all you young recruiters coming through STICK WITH IT, he/she who believes will achieve!!!

  13. Jeremy Sanderson January 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Right on the money with this one Greg! I’ve even had recruiters with 6 months experience and no placements under their belts telling me how they think the job should be done. I’ve only been doing it for 12 years so what the hell do I know? Every time I see that prima donna attitude I just think “another one bites the dust. He’ll be phoning me up in a year’s time trying to sell me financial services or investment products!”

  14. Jan Baremans January 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    One of your best Greg!
    The meaning of coachability is perfect, especially when you speak of ones ego.

  15. Yuriy Shevchenko January 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Greg, I’m curious. How many fossilized, older recruiters have you seen admit that something must me up (their results suck), ask for coaching, get revitalized and start thriving again?

    This is my favorite of your posts so far.

    • Greg Savage January 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      Its very rare Yuriy. The normal response is denial
      But actually I see this as partially a management challenge. Working with the person to help them see that its not working, and its not the fault of the “market” or whatever. It is often best done subtly and with tact, as its important for the experienced recruiter to maintain their pride. If that can be achieved, some “Fossils” will get re-energised and open up to new ways
      But most won’t.

  16. Tracy Wright January 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Greg, I’ve recently moved into a recruitment training role and guess what…..I’m learning again and again each day and it’s great. I’ve seen my far share of ‘Billy big boll@+*’s’ whither and die so that point made me larf.

    Coachability is spot on and will no doubt become part of the recruitment lexicon along with bouncebackability 🙂

  17. Steve Bulman January 25, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    This is a constantly changing industry which requires one core skill. The ability to adapt and adopt.

    I love the look on their face when I tell a new hire that they should not use a job board but google for candidates instead. Or see the smile when I offer a candidate to become part of my interactive talent community – content, networking and special offers abound!

  18. Yuriy Shevchenko January 25, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    @Don Stroud, Kudos to you for being dirt honest with yourself. Good luck with turning things around.

  19. Richard Morgan January 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Greg, Ive followed your posts and blogs for about 18 months now, I think this is the best yet.

    I’m going to share it with some colleagues and await their responses!!!!

  20. Doug Kelsall January 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    I must admit, another classic read! I think that in recruitment ignorance is bliss, at least at the start of any recruitment career, and early wins happen because trainee recruiters do the basics and don’t overthink the process. They take six months to settle in, a year to cut their teeth and normally a final six months of where everything catches up with them and they implode! The issue is that most trainee recruiters can hide for two years, good, bad, lucky, gifted, it doesn’t matter… When they need skill, experience and instinct to push them forward it all seems like hard work and they leave the industry forever! The tragic two year lifespan of the average recruiter.

    If you’re a novice in recruitment or a so called ‘fossil’, all you need to succeed is passion for people, business, the industry and work in an ethical, professional and understanding fashion. The rest should fall in to place,

    “…We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit…” Aristotle

    I do like your blogs though!

  21. Dinosaur Arectus February 27, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Dinosaurs, Neanderthals and stubborn old FOSSILS = NZ headhunter…?

  22. Luke Collard March 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Hello RecHub ?

  23. Kat S. April 10, 2014 at 12:47 am #

    So true…have moved from recruiting to the sales and account management side and the same principles remain true. You cannot be a stick in the mud, and have to try new ways of approaching your craft every day. There is no one true way of doing things…what is so fun about dealing with various people is honing in on their personality and how you can work specifically with them. That is a skill that never stops developing.


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