15 ways YOU will screw up your next placement

The biggest cause of placements going wrong is the recruiter making assumptions. Assumptions that are flawed. Information is what drives success in recruitment. And that is why our industry will never die. Because the craft of managing the process still determines whether a candidate is offered, and, crucially, accepts a job. Successful recruitment is not all about ‘sourcing’. It is about matching too. And then consummating the deal, usually by finessing the attitude of both client and candidate.

So next time your ‘dead cert’ placement goes belly-up, resulting in tears all round, don’t blame the candidate, the client or ‘bad luck’. It’s almost certainly your fault. Because you assumed something that is not the case at all. One of these, probably.

  1. You assume your client actually has the authority to hire. Often they don’t. Check that early in the process. Has this hire been authorised? Given sign-off? Are we good to go?
  2. You assume your client actually knows what they really need in their next hire. Often the client sets out simply to hire the same skill set and profile as the guy who just left. Meanwhile, the business has changed, the role has changed, and the skills required have changed. You need to ask the questions that expose that, because if you don’t, you will spend time looking for the wrong person. And the client will only realise that late in the process. And then they will change the brief, and ask you to start again. Sound familiar?
  3. You assume the client you take the role from is the decision-maker on who gets the job. Often not the case. Who gives the final nod?  The line manager? HR? The line manager’s manager? The CEO?
  4. You assume that your client is briefing only you on this role. Yeah, right! And every person, in every marriage, is faithful too. Always. You have to ask the question! And you need to try to get that exclusivity
  5. You assume that the ‘critical’ skills, qualifications and experience that the client described in the brief as ‘essential’ are indeed “must haves”. They rarely are. Usually there are just 2 or 3 total deal-breakers. You have to dig until you find out what they are. A client will forgive a multitude of missing skills, if your candidate has the two key things they really want.
  6. You assume your clients’ ‘top salary package’ for this role really is the ceiling. It almost never is. You have to find that out before you start your talent search.
  7. You assume your client is not considering internal candidates. They are.
  8. You assume your candidates are as interested in the role as they tell you they are. You also believe them when they say they are not looking at other roles, and they will not accept a counter-offer ‘under any circumstances’.
  9. You assume your candidate knows how to sell herself in an interview, knows how to highlight why she is suitable for the role, and won’t do dumb things like bring up money and benefits in the first five minutes. You have to coach your candidates how to interview well. Even role-playing questions and answers. Too hard? Well prepare yourself for many disappointments then.
  10. You assume your client knows how to interview and sell their company and their job. They usually don’t. Subtly, via feedback, suggestion and sometimes outright counseling, you need to make sure your client knows that they are being assessed too – and need to “perform”, or miss out on the top talent.
  11. You assume your candidate is as fixed on their ‘salary floor’ as they tell you they are. Sure. And that’s why a better recruiter than you will ‘sell’ the opportunity better than you do, and get the candidate you overlooked because they ‘wanted too much money’, to go for an interview, get the job, and accept it at 10 grand lower than they told you they would ever accept! This will help you avoid that mistake.
  12. You assume your successful candidate, knows how to resign and has the confidence to do that without succumbing to emotional or financial blackmail from their current employer. You have to manage that, prepare them for the resignation meeting, and follow up right afterwards.
  13. You assume that an offer, once accepted, is a done deal. It’s not. You have to keep in touch between acceptance and start date, every day if you must. There is many a slip between acceptance and the candidate actually turning up on day one.
  14. You assume your client will do a good induction job with the new hire. You must be in touch with both parties often after the start, smooth over difficulties, manage feedback from and to both parties. This is crucial. Many an early fall-out can be saved.
  15. You assume the candidate is making decisions on his or her own. Often wrong. The spouse or significant other is often hugely influential and sometimes actually driving the decision. Ask, “What does your wife/husband think about you making this move”.  If it’s a senior role, and maybe a geographical move, get the spouse involved. I have had the spouse meet the client before. Seriously. It worked too. If I had all the fees back that I have lost because of a spouse getting cold feet… I would be retired by now!

Assumptions. Lack of knowledge. Overconfidence. Lack of attention to detail. Missing the signals. Not asking the key questions.

All poison to your next placement.

Never ever assume anything in this business.

Assumptions in recruitment will bite you in the bum. Hard. And it hurts!


So, you read to the end of the article?  You must have thought it was at least OK, right? Why not subscribe to The Savage Truth? It takes 30 seconds and guarantees you get a regular fix of recruiting brain-food, ideas, tips, trends and opinion.


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.

Connect & Subscribe

Subscribe to this blog and join me on social media. I have a lot to say. Some of it even quite good.

Subscribe (Why wouldn't you?)
Facebook (A great recruiter hangout)
Twitter (50,000+ other people do)
LinkedIn (Find out who I actually am!)
YouTube (A great face for radio)
Instagram (Pics of my recruiting travels)
Pinterest (Pin me down)
Google+ (.. because.. it's... Google?)

21 Responses to 15 ways YOU will screw up your next placement

  1. Bob Walker November 13, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Absolutely spot on. Should be copied and attached to every recruiters desk.

  2. David Gillies November 13, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I think a big part of being a recruiter is a good sense of people and reading them well. You definitely (have to/need to) coral some candidates, however, others will be as offended as I would be with this type of pestering and lack of belief in my integrity. No easy answer here. I have definitely been lied to, and lost a placement as a result. My preference is to cross my T’ and dot my I’s as listed above, but at some point you have to take the leap of faith in your candidate.

  3. Peter Conlon November 13, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Agree completely with Bob, with the added action of reviewing it regularly, the question as to whether they have considered an internal candidate is now the first I ask, followed by questions to uncover their urgency, cost of delay and authority to hire. As usual great article Greg

  4. AK Menon November 13, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Greg-an awesome checklist.

  5. Alan Allebone November 13, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Many of us have in the past perhaps been too assumptous that has bred overconfidence!

    I still remember the saying about ASSUME = don’t make an ASS OUT OF YOU AND ME.

    Another good one Greg. Thank you


  6. Gordon Alderson November 13, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Another awesome article Greg.
    After being burned by them all I developed a solution for 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10.
    Solutions for the other 10 ways of screwing up came with experience (mostly of the bitter variety).
    It would have been so much better if I had had the advantage of OPE (other people’s experience).
    Thanks for providing your OPE to all your followers and thanks again for an excellent article.

  7. Vaibhav p kajagar November 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Tremendous checklist……..

  8. Jacqui Cotterill November 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    People are the most unpredictable products and need to be managed whether they are candidates, clients or networks. People appreciate a thorough process and someone invested in managing every part of a role transition and on boarding. We are here to facilitate a process, not just make introductions. A good facilitator mitigates all potential disasters through thorough planning, research and process management. Why take a leap of faith when you can take a well calculated and managed risk?

  9. christine November 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Excellent and well summarized! we are all aware of such issues but tend to forget them over and over. It is great to have them in such an impressive checklist!
    thanks !

  10. Bill Maynard November 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Another excellent post by Greg Savage, the word ASSUME seems to appear a lot! I live by a saying that I don’t make an offer unless I know the candidate will accept. Sounds odd but if I’ve done my job correctly, the closing of a deal should have been done pretty much during the first conversation. I’ve had 1 offer turned down in the last 5 years! Great work Greg and timely given the need for control in times like this. Thanks.

  11. medicalplaces November 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    In my experience, No 15 has been a big factor and one which we have little control over. But I have also developed a “recruiters sixth sense” – something just doesnt feel right- whether its the job spec, the Client, the Candidate or the job offer.Mostly, I’m 99 percent correct and the placement falls apart.

  12. Judy November 14, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    Wow, I have never seen this in one place before. You are absolutely correct. After all, we are dealing with the most unpredictable entity on the planet, the HUMAN BEING! If it can go wrong it WILL!

  13. JC November 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Awesome, thanks Greg

  14. Sephora November 15, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Brilliant article. This should be mandatory reading for anyone in the industry. Never assume. People are the one commodity that you can’t control!

  15. IC November 20, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    To quote the film Under Seige 2 – “Assumption is the mother of all f**kups!”.

  16. Subramani November 21, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    Super Checklist, 2 ,5 & 14 are so so familiar.

  17. Jim Roach December 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Every recruiter should know all this and do it as a matter of course – but we know we don’t – great check list – been psoted around our office.

  18. Tom Johnston January 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    A good article but frankly I think it highlights what is wrong with recruitment agencies. As a user of a recruiter’s services in the past when looking for a job, reading this blog makes me understand why I will never use one again and instead take full advantage of my own network to uncover opportunities that are far more suited to me rather than someone trying to make a buck out of my career choice.

    You assume you have control but trust me you don’t. Control is an illusion.

    • Greg Savage January 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      Thanks Tom, for commenting on the blog. Its appreciated, and you are quite right, no one controls other people..least of all recruiters.

      What I am trying to emphasise here is the importance of managing the process. Its what all effective professional do well, sales people..yes.. but also lawyers, teachers, doctors.. anyone trying to influence an outcome

      Hopefully people who are skilled at this use that talent for good… but some may not.. which is a pity, but human nature.



  1. Free Skull Download Blog - November 18, 2012

    Screw If Wrong…

    […] crucially, accepts a job. Successful recruitment is not all about ‘sourcing’ […]…

  2. The very best of ‘The Savage Truth’ 2012 – The Savage Truth - December 18, 2012

    […] 15 ways YOU will screw up your next placement […]

Leave a Reply