Sad but true. Recruiters cannot recruit... recruiters

Why are recruiters so cavalier about hiring their own staff?

Ponder these 7 facts, please.

Fact 1: Over the last 10 years I have had more than 1,000 people report to me, directly or indirectly. Over my working life, who knows how high that number is?

Fact 2: 90% of those people are recruiters or recruiting managers.

Fact 3: Just about the biggest issue owners and managers of recruitment companies bleat about, is finding and retaining recruiters.

Fact 4: Our industry has an appalling record of hiring, retaining, and getting productivity from its recruiters.

Fact 5: A critical part of any hiring process is the reference checking of candidates to assess cultural fit, check facts, and uncover hidden strengths and weaknesses.

Fact 6: I am available for reference checking on any person who ever worked for me. And I take it seriously, giving considered feedback. And I will spend as long as it takes. And I am easy to find, and easy to contact. And I will return your call or email if you leave a message saying you want to take a reference.

Fact 7: In the last 5 years I have taken, at most, three such reference check calls. Probably less.

How can this be so? Why does our industry make these key decisions in such a cavalier way? Regularly, I hear of someone who worked for me being hired, and I know they have hired a dud. I know it won’t last three months. And I know why. But no one asks me.

Equally, I hear of an ex-employee who is turned down somewhere, and I smile ruefully at the missed opportunity for the company concerned. Because I know this person is a winner. I would hire them back myself if circumstances were different. But, no phone call asking my opinion.

Even recently, I had a very senior ex-employee hired into very senior role, a month after he left us. It’s all good and it will be all good, I think, but wouldn’t you make the 10 minute call before you made a 200k hiring decision? Staggers me.

Are we so desperate to hire anyone who looks to have any kind of industry record, that we don’t care enough to check if they are any good? Are our own processes so sloppy, even though the impact on us could be so catastrophic?

What does it say about the robustness of the process we go through for our clients? Are we just too arrogant to think  ‘another recruiter’ could help us? Or is that we don’t believe we would get an honest appraisal?

Tell me, please, dear ‘Savage Truth’ readers. What is this craziness? It makes no sense to me at all.

Is this our dirty little secret? Recruiters simply… cannot recruit?


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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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51 Responses to Why are recruiters so cavalier about hiring their own staff?

  1. Sean Durrant October 15, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Hey Greg – I think there’s probably a large element of truth in the points you’ve raised.

    I’ve also heard Owners of Recruiting Companies state they wouldn’t trust a reference from another Recruitment Agency, if the Recruiters is good it’s not in the interest of the previous company to give a good reference.

    Not a point of view I subscribe to but I know it happens.

    I also agree that as an Industry we have a poor reputation and high staff turnover and this, maybe this says more for our ability to recruit and less about our ability to manage?

  2. Peter Goodwin October 15, 2013 at 8:44 am #


    This is so painfully true and after 30 years in the business, I should know better, but have made this mistake a couple of times for all the reasons you nominate. As I once heard you say at a breakfast session a few years ago, “assume nothing” and this applies to everything we do in recruitment.

    With the candidate’s permission, there would be no harm in talking to a couple of their major clients also for a reference, to get a viewpoint from a different perspective.

  3. Tiffany Felicienne October 15, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Well a few things to consider: 1) more people are relying on Linked In and if a recruiter has a couple dozen endorsements of coworkers or clients those endorsements can carry enough weight on their own. 2) I prefer a confidential reference that was not supplied by the candidate if possible, as opposed to accepting the candidate’s list of their bosom buddies who will say whatever they can to help their friend snag the job and 3) HR references are the most worthless references to be had. Direct managers can be bitter and give an overly negative reference if they feel betrayed by the person leaving their team. I find VP or C-level references to be the most honest and these execs are high enough up the food chain they are unafraid of giving their opinion.

    So it could be references are being checked but they are just not always verifying that reference with you directly.

    • Greg Savage October 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

      Maybe Tiffany..although scores of those people reported DIRECTLY to me so there would be no one else to check with

    • Tamba October 20, 2013 at 1:02 am #

      Good point to raise, Greg.

      The reference is one element of the decision making process so the validity / integrity of a referee should be taken in to consideration as well as the candidates capability, cultural fit etc etc..

  4. Brian Kevin Johnston October 15, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Great Post…Our Industry Needs An Intervention…

  5. Clarke October 15, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    OK here is one for you Greg.
    What is deal with calling up past managers for references. What I mean is…applicants will PROVIDE references…what are the legalities about calling up people you KNOW they have worked for and getting a reference without their express permission. Broadly I would think that this contravenes privacy laws that stipulate that you can only use information provided to you for the purpose it was provided. I would welcome your opinion. I guess another angle is to ask the candidates…I see you havent provided XYZ as a reference. Are you happy for me to call them. ..thoughts?

    • Doug Flatimus October 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      @Clarke That is a pretty straightforward conundrum – there is no law stopping me from calling anybody about anybody. At a basic level, LinkedIn is a big democratic information pool. So if someone states that they worked at ABC Co. then there is nothing to stop me calling a senior person at ABC Co. and having a discussion about that indvidual.

      The information is available on the public domain.

      The other solution is to be up-front: “I will be making contact with people you have not nominated at ABC Co and doing a little checking out. Do you have a problem with that?” This often flushes out any major issues – naturally some good people may be show anxiety, and that is easily managed, but anyone who was truly incompetent or toxic will run a mile,and you just saved yourself a lot of time and potential pain.

      Better an empty house than a bad tenant.

      Reference checking by most industries, not just our recruitment industry, is lazy and reliant upon a personality fit or personal (not professional) referrals.

      • Ross Clennett October 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

        Doug, I think you will find that under the Privacy Act you are required to gain a person’s specific permission when you are collecting information on them. You also have to state how that information is stored and used. It’s simple courtesy as well as the law. If you are not satisfied with the referees nominated then ask for alternatives and if this information is not supplied then don’t represent the candidate.

  6. Laurie Williams October 15, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    As a recruiter who works alone, this isn’t something of which I have first hand knowledge.

    Having said that, the industry sector in which I operate (retail automotive) is notorious for doing exactly the same thing!

    I constantly marvel at “known duds” being appointed to senior roles and great candidates struggling to be selected…

    I’ve been around the industry for over 20 years and I almost never have employers – even those with whom I’ve done business over a long time – call me to ask opinions on job applicants they have sourced directly…

  7. Frank Sommerville October 15, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    I think unless your ex recruiter was a senior member of your team or a direct report to you, you wouldn’t personally get the reference call anyway. Certainly someone in your organisation should, but more at the appropriate employment relationship level and for the vast majority of your ex-employees, perhaps listing the CEO as a referee would not be appropriate. If you did have that hands on relationship with all your staff – fantastic, but I don’t think it is like that in all agencies.

    If I think of the CEO’s I have reported to over the years, half would be inappropriate to use as a referee. Sure they would remember me (hopefully!), but unless they looked at the P&L statement to review my billings, they wouldn’t be able to provide a true character type reference as to who I am, how I work well, what traits I am good & bad at, where I could further develop etc..etc… – they would only be able to confirm the actuals in regards to revenue.

    Also, if it was a senior role, I also know a few owners who would have no want to speak to an owner of another agency. For whatever reason that may be, perhaps it is a perception of another agencies reputation or they just don’t trust the other owner for the feeling that they may try to push a ‘bad’ recruiter onto them. Not my opinions, just what I have heard before.

    You say that “Recruiters simply… cannot recruit?” – I think that may be a question for another topic as I don’t think really linked to the reference check hesitations of some, but for what it’s worth – I do think recruiters are far better salespeople than they are in performing the actual art of recruitment. That would also re-bring up the age old debate of do we really need rec-to-rec type agencies, as if the recruitment industry cant successfully recruit their own people, god help the quality of service they provide to their end clients.

  8. Jonathan Rice October 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    This is hilarious. Yes indeed, recruiters are terrible at hiring recruiters. And the fact you’ve only been contacted 5 times is amazing. Are rec-to-recs any better? Well we just come across more candidates in this space so our chances are higher…

    As a rec-to-rec consultant I always make sure we have references done on candidates I place. Clients of mine always require detailed references, often with extra areas to probe based on psych test results. I think clients feel this is necessary and/or expected due to the rec-to-rec fee they are about to pay. Of course, a placement fee is way less than the cost of hiring a dud recruiter, so the logic confounds me, when I hear of clients cutting corners to rush a recruiter into their organisation when they have sourced them directly, often not bothering with proper references.

    By the way, I need to talk to you about someone Greg. I’ll give you a call tomorrow 😉

  9. Frank Sommerville October 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Just in regards to Clarke’s question……… I’m no expert in the privacy laws, but I believe if you state to a candidate that ‘referees not nominated may be contacted etc …’ and does the candidate agree to allow this to happen, then permission granted by them (always best to get that in writing where possible), would allow you to proceed. If you didn’t do that and just called an ex manager of the candidate, you would have to say something like “would you be willing to provide a reference — noting that you are unclear as to whether the referee has been informed by the candidate or nominated to do so etc….” — and then terminate the conversation if the referee declines. If you did proceed, and then base your non hiring of the candidate based on the feedback you gathered via unauthorised means (to which they then find out about), they may be able to lodge an adverse action claim against you (possibly even against their ex employer) with Fair Work.

    Again, I’m certainly no expert on this topic and more than happy to be corrected if someone knows a bit more about this – but just my thoughts (sorry for the diversion of the topic Greg).

  10. Mitch Sullivan October 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Yes, the fact that recruiters can’t recruit is the industries dirty little secret. Or one of them.

    If you stop and think about it for a minute, what the majority of agency recruiters do isn’t actually recruitment – that’s what internal recruiters, HR and hiring managers do. What agencies do is spot-trade candidates around the fringes of the real recruitment that these other people are doing.

    So, why are so many agencies are so bad at hiring their own people? Because basically they’re simply commodity traders and don’t know very much about end-to-end recruitment.

    There’s some irony for you, right there.

    • David October 17, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      I would be curious about what your definition of “recruitment” is and in what areas agency recruiters fall short?

  11. Gita Lowe October 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    This is indeed the savage hard truth. I have never been asked to do a reference on any recruiter that has worked for me…and some of them were great and I would have given them their fair due.

    You have to wonder how serious people are about their own business!

  12. Ian Cook October 15, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    I have recent experience of taking a new recruit from a local competitor with a glowing reference from them ringing in my ears coupled with an interview that had me raving about our next big biller before they had arrived.
    The recruit was a dud, interviews and references are the first date, the first kiss but by no means an insight into the marriage ahead.
    Work on the induction phase is my new focus area, I am looking for signs every day in that first month.
    Good recruiters have no real reason to move on do they?

    Live and learn.

  13. RM October 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    My understanding is the same of yours. I have recruited in a bit of different “everyone knows each other”, drinks together, attends the same conferences industry for the last 5 years and my clients (hiring managers) will call up their buddies in companies and do “unofficial” checks and make hiring decisions on those… big no – no. The HR Managers I deal with do their best to stop it due to how it leaves them open to litigation and we have had 2 issues taken further by candidates but none in court or needing legal representation luckily. I would suggest anyone thinking about calling a reference without candidate consent considers 1) the ethics of exposing someone as a job seeker who may not even join you and 2) the litigation surrounding it – ask your legal advisor or research it online.

    The sound advice above is to tell the candidate who you want to take a reference from. And take it on the desk phone, not a mobile. That is how you weed out the candidates you don’t want. If they say “My Manager doesn’t know I am looking”, ask them if they want the job and then advise “no worries pending the outcome of your current Manager reference here is your offer.”

    How many direct reports have you had that have moved on? Roughly? They are the correct measurement of how many references you should have given.

    • Greg Savage October 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

      RM, over that period of time, many, but more importantly I have moved on now, so all these people are ex -employees of mine.. but calls

      • RM October 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        Yeah, that is very odd, if your ex-direct reports changed jobs then you would expect to be their reference. Everyone should only use direct Managers unless of course the candidate can demonstrate significant involvement from the next level up MANAGER. I don’t hire recruiters anymore 🙂 but recently helped recruit one for our business and the first candidate we wanted could not produce one single Manager reference! He had Senior Consultants and a Business Development Manager, 12 years in the industry and no Manager references! We queried him and he said the Managers did not know about his work, they were to distant or were out of touch with him as it was 5 years ago – ages. Next question was “Did the Manager do your performance review?” and of course the Manager did it… we hired someone with Manager references and that candidate without relevant references took about 6 weeks to find a role with another agency 🙂

        If a recruiter has worked for 2 agencies and does not have a Manager reference then they may not be your best option

    • Dan Anderson August 12, 2015 at 12:49 am #

      RM –

      I agree with what you have said about litigation, and have seen it happen (the negative referral ending up being cause for a claim, which was settled). As for giving an offer pending the reference of his/her current manager, how is that helpful when you really think it through? A manager finds out his/her employee is looking, gives a less than exemplary reference, and you rescind the offer? And now his/her current manager knows the situation? How is that in any way a better alternative?

  14. Brenda Bensted-Smith October 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Hi Greg – you hired one of my staff members and never phoned me for a reference……

    • Greg Savage October 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      I took several references on Sandra, Brenda. I could not ask you because she was still working for you when I hired her! Remember?

      • Robyn September 24, 2014 at 9:29 am #

        That raises my question Greg. There are many “job ads” I’ve seen recently that insist on you providing a “current” direct report for reference. In my experience (and this is only with friends and colleagues), applicants don’t for the most part advise their current employer that they’re looking elsewhere. What’s your take on those recruiters’ (or direct employers) mandatory requirement for current employer references?

        • Greg Savage September 24, 2014 at 9:42 am #

          Asking for a reference from a “current” employer, PRIOR to an offer being made is ridiculous. I am not aware of any serious hiring manager requesting this, and no employee should be expected to comply. However I am aware of offers being made “subject to references” which is a different and legitimate approach.

          • Dan Anderson August 12, 2015 at 12:52 am #

            Greg – good and truthful article, but regarding the checking of current manager references, I had written above in response to another:” As for giving an offer pending the reference of his/her current manager, how is that helpful when you really think it through? A manager finds out his/her employee is looking, gives a less than exemplary reference, and you rescind the offer? And now his/her current manager knows the situation? How is that in any way a better alternative? “

  15. Howard Greenwood October 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    I could not agree more, I was a senior director at one of the largest UK IT recruitment agencies and other than a few times have I never been called about past employees.

    However, I am also guilty of doing the very same on some occasions, so the question is why?

    It is no secret that unlike other industries the competition for ‘brilliant’ recruiters is hot, however, most are leaving because they cannot stand their current employer. You cannot be a manager in recruitment and have everybody love you! So why would you not call their managers?

    1. Will they tell you the truth
    2. Will they then apply pressure on your new consultant via various means (you know what I am talking about from ‘those’ agencies)
    3. Do you trust what they are saying or are we blinded by our own recruitment brilliance. I know I have been blinded a few time and suffered for it….
    4. If you got a HR reference on the person what is it truly worth!

    Yes, if I know someone in the competition who I trust I will call them for an unofficial reference, and yes I will take what they say on board and have then pulled offers because of it.

    But in the main to me our ‘dirty little secret’ is we all hate the competition so much we simply don’t trust each other. The industry needs to mature and some of the dirty restrictive practices removed for contracts so that we can all move forward.

    In the past 3 months I have had 3 senior recruiters start with me and after a while they have relayed to me some utter horror stories about their ex-bosses, after a little digging most appeared to be true and on the mark. I did not call them for a reference and why would I from the knowledge I already had of them. I did stand by one of their ex-bosses by accident not so long back and without him knowing I listened to him totally annihilate my new employee’s skills their skills an my company (I love earwigging). Which was nice.

    No one likes to lose a good recruiter, so perhaps we should asking why we lose them, and be magnanimous in defeat and bid them farewell in a professional manner. On the other hand, we all rejoice when we lose poor staff, but why pass that problem on, surely if we are to improve the image of our industry we should be trying to rid our market of these ‘players’ and not have them hop from job to job to job…. just saying.


  16. Richard October 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Very interesting topic!

    I think an element of this is recruiters having perhaps a little too much faith in their gut instinct when judging characters. A big part of the buzz of recruiting (once you’ve got used to earning commission regularly) is simply ‘getting it right’: saying to a client – “I know just who you need” and that being proven correct.
    So when a manager in recruitment (generally with a successful recruiting background) sees something in someone, they can be blinded to the point of not caring what other peers might think.
    I recall the CEO at my previous employer chatting to my team over beers, and saying exactly the same thing as you’ve said Greg – that he very rarely gets asked for references. He went on to say that he always takes them, and gave an example of a consultant who was joining the following month for whom he’d taken an “excellent” reference just that day. Now, unfortunately for him, I’d actually seen the reference on his desk that day – it was a faxed tick box reference and was pretty damning on the consultants teamwork and interpersonal skills. Far from excellent, but it was he who’d met her at first stage interview and clearly thought he knew better.
    That taught me a few things:
    1) My CEO was full of ****.
    2) Ego can get in the way of sensible hiring practice
    3) Faxed tick box references can be worth taking notice of (she was a nightmare!)

  17. Barry Smyth October 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm #


    You are completely correct and most of the comments above are valid as well. In my experience, working in a tight market in Northern Ireland, there would be a distinct lack of trust in a reference from another agency, particularly if they are a direct competitor. My first manager routinely gave great references for poor people and average references for great people. As an owner myself now, I find this behaviour appalling! It does however, hint at what I believe is the big issue here and the elephant in the room……our industry, as a whole, struggles in quite a serious way with regards to ethics.

    I’m not sure what it’s like in Australia having never worked there but in Ireland and the UK, many consultants and owners are in our industry purely to make money.

    This is not a problem in itself, but many just want to make money, have no other agenda and frankly don’t give a damn how they do so. Ethics, values, service quality, personal reputation, company reputation, industry reputation either lag way behind making money or don’t come into the equation at all.

    The end result is that not many people can be trusted, especially when it comes to verifying someone to the benefit of a competitor. So while you’re right, it’s our dirty secret that we can’t recruit, it’s an even bigger problem that our industry’s values, in many, many cases, are on the floor!

  18. Miguel Adams October 15, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Craziness or just plain laziness? There is a tendency to think “it’ll be alright”. And a lot of the time it probably will be. That is, you get away with not bothering to take up references at all or doing so many weeks into the hire – what’s the point of that? just to tick a box? However every now and again lack of due diligence is going to bite you on the proverbial, leaving egg on everyone’s face and kick-starting an ugly war of recrimination.

    We never extend an offer to a candidate until references have been checked and passed to the client – be they good, bad or indifferent – all part of the service and not our call to make, in most cases they just serve to reinforce the client’s initial thoughts anyway. I don’t see why hiring recruiters should be any different. A very successful recruiter told me recently that the recruitment model is inherently flawed. Here’s why: hiring for character plays a big part when hiring recruiters, right? However all those attractive qualities that suggest big-biller potential i.e. tenacity, drive, self-motivation, capacity for hard work, etc are the very qualities that sooner or later will drive those people to turn around and question why they’re busting a gut to fill someone else’s coffers. They will most likely leave to set up on their own or join forces with another entrepreneurial self-starter.

    Surely even more reason to check references and at the very least get a feel for “how long is this person likely to stick around?”

  19. vibeke thomsen October 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Interesting article Greg. The weakness amongst recruitment agencies when it comes to recruiting their own staff really comes down to prioritization of where time is best spent.
    Recruiting your own staff is a full time job -working the network and sourcing candidates. The agencies have their clients and candidates to focus on to keep business running. This is where a good Rec-to-rec adds value!
    As a Rec-to-Rec I would never conduct an ref check without the authorisation of my candidate. The chance of a leak in the market (jeopardizing confidentiality) would be too high and the trust between myself and my candidate would be broken. I do however, very often, request authorisation to contact a specific referee and/or ask why they were not nominated.
    By the way Greg – great presentation this morning (Brisbane) – really got me thinking!

  20. Adam T October 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    @Mitch, what is even more ironic is so-called ‘recruitment specialists’ like inhouse recruiters who can’t find talent.

    Companies use agencies for their long established networks and their ability to identify hard-to-find talent that improves the end client’s business. I’d say that is pretty fundamental to the ‘end-to-end recruitment’ process….

    • Mitch Sullivan October 16, 2013 at 1:05 am #

      Yes Adam, finding a good candidate is an important part of an end-to-end recruitment process. But it’s only one part and isn’t, as you seem to be suggesting, the process in itself.

      There’s a lot more going on in recruitment when you HAVE a to fill a job – and the vast majority of agency recruiters can (and do) walk away from vacancies. They also can (and do) put the same candidates out to other clients. Their only loyalty is to their own best interests, which again, isn’t what characterises any kind of end-to-end recruitment process.

      All of which illustrates how what most agencies do is spot-trade rather than build and run a recruitment campaign and then manage the entire shortlist through that process.

      Which is probably why they struggle to recruit for themselves.

      • David October 17, 2013 at 7:09 am #

        When I walk away from vacancies it is either because the client is not competitive enough, or they are using 20 other agencies so the odds of me filling it first are slim. It is a business decision, not a matter of fear or capability.

        Loyalty is a reciprocal process. Companies us 70 agencies. Agencies show the same candidate to multiple clients.

        I assure you that if loyalty were given, it would be reciprocated, as is with Retained Search.

        • Mitch Sullivan October 19, 2013 at 12:09 am #

          So ask for it?

          Or sell it.

          • Paul S November 1, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

            We do Mitch, when the client says no then we walk away.

            Strong recruiters understand the end to end process and will provide high levls of value-add to clients who want to partner with them.

            The truth is though that the majority of clients commodotise recruitment themselves and invite the inevitable resume races run by larger agencies by sending the spec out to a list of contacts or letting whoever calls in on the action.

            And yes, of course we send candidates to multiple jobs because they might not get the one with your company! If you were looking and a recruiter had four jobs you could be represented to and they said they would only send you to one as it is not fair to the client – would you be happy with that?

  21. Dean Whittington October 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Mitch raises a good point above, ultimately the majority of recruiters don’t think like hiring managers they think like recruiters and want to make placements regardless of the consequences.

    Agency recruiters don’t have much control over the recruitment process – they can try to influence decision makers but ultimately it’s the candidate and client that decide whether to offer / accept. So when they do make a placement the sense of victory is palpable.

    That lack of control makes it a pretty tough industry to be successful in and the unscrupulous recruiters will sometimes do anything to make a placement (e.g. the bad press the industry gets).

    So, when a recruiter finds themselves in charge of hiring recruiters they willingly make bad decisions to get that same sense of victory they get from placements – “See, I do know how to recruit!”. Unfortunately, they don’t.

  22. Jeanette Hockney October 16, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Couldn’t agree with you more Greg! It staggers me as well. Having found more success ‘growing our own’ from our specialty industry we always speak to the appropriate referee’s before hiring – if we can’t get it right how does that look to our clients! And it’s often our clients who we are hiring from so we have to be mindful of how we handle things. An interesting topic as always.

  23. David October 17, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    The same goes for recruiters evaluating recruiting firms. I always keep my options open, and whether I am happy or not, I usually take the time to talk. Like I tell my candidates…”at least find out what you know that you don’t know”….and then make a decision. Recently, I contacted a guy I knew personally and whom the particular interested firm had let go. For whatever reason, he wanted to stay on their good graces and called to tell them that he gave them a good review. They were very angry, but I am relieved. If their process/environment can’t stand scrutiny, then good riddance. As far as I am concerned, it would have been a big mistake to go with them.

  24. Patrick Boonstra October 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Very interesting point Greg. Gave it a bit of thought, and I see two distinct different types of hiring.

    I think the reason why hiring mangagers (in general, not just in recruitment) don’t ask for references is that most hire for a match of (hard) skills, on an existing profile.

    If an existing job opens up, you’re most likely to look for a replacement of skills you recognise. This info is pretty well summed up in a cv, or discovered through job interviews. Asking for a reference seems ‘overdone’. Also: asking for a reference may even seem like a of lack of your own skills on assessing someone.

    On the other hand: if you’re looking for innovators, or positions that haven’t existed before and you’re not sure what they look like, it’s more likely to look for other determining factors than just hard skills; you look for ambition, team-interaction, agility, etc. These are harder to discover through a cv, or in interviews. In this case it’s more likely to look for external sources (references) to confirm your thoughts on a candidate.

  25. Geno Zertuche October 23, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    I am often surprised when reference checking is seen as drudgery by those I work with. The quality of the reference is sometimes overlooked because the reference checker simply needed to submit two references to qualify a person to move forward in the process. I recently worked with a rather large and successful company and believe me, they take reference checking very seriously. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence their collective success and final hiring decisions go hand in hand with solid reference checking.

  26. Bronwen Kaspers October 23, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Wow, this post scares me Greg. If recruiters can’t get it right within their own business what hope have they got of getting it right for the client. Classic case of practice what you preach.

  27. Carolyn Bailey November 1, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    Beats me why no one would want to pick up the phone to check credentials with you Greg. I hope that this isn’t the norm, but then again I’m not so sure…

  28. Alan Allebone November 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Having returned from China and reading several blogs from you this one has inspired me.
    We at times in desperation hire for the sake of hiring to get staff in quick.
    Sometime we regret what we have done and have to start again.
    have a plan, stick to the plan make the plan work for the sake of everyone.
    Sometime we do not really think what we actually need, can the candidates do the job?, What do they know about the actual profession.
    it is all very well to say we can train them but If we need an Engineering recruiter then for good ness sake recruit an engineer and train.
    I was told by my first boss 38 years ago that it is easier to train an engineer to become a salesperson that a salesperson to become an engineer. HOW TRUE he is.
    Companies hire on the cheap and make promises with clauses. Tis is not the way to go.
    To spend a little more time in your own hiring processes for your own staff will save time and money and one will be more successful.
    make the right investment in hiring, training and then ongoing support. Show interest in ALL your staff.
    There is so much to write on this subject, a brilliant blog Greg.
    Thank you again


  29. Owen Bleakley November 6, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    1000 directly or indirect reports ? Wow !!

    • Greg Savage November 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Owen, from 2006 to 2010, I was CEO of Aquent International, which comprised 35 offices in 17 countries. At the peak we had about 450 staff, but with turnover etc that was many more that I actually had reporting over a period of time. Of course since then I have run a businesses with additional staff and prior to 2006 I had 20 years or more managing recruiters. So 1000 different people is probably conservative, in total

  30. Ranjit Shinde November 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I completely agree with the fact that Recruiters cannot hire their own kind. This is not only true for Agencies but also Corporate Recruiters. One reason which I probably could attribute for reference checks not being done with former employers is that Hiring Managers think that the former employer could give a negative or biased feedback which sometimes is not considered.

  31. Robert Godden November 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    I’m just glad I’ve never worked for you Greg. The thought of you viciously laying bare my inadequacies to a potential employer is appalling.
    The sad fact is this, though: I’ve been on both sides of such calls and a lot of people who reference check do it very, very badly.

    • Greg Savage November 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Strange that you automatically feel I would be “viciously lay bare your inadequacies” Robert. Why would you not be delighted that I was articulately extolling your skills and virtues?

      For the record I have never been ‘vicious” about anyone, in a reference or in a summary of their work efforts. I am fair and considered, and mostly I am generous almost to a fault as I fully appreciate every person, not least me, is a work in process.

      You are right that a lot of people reference check very badly..that is kind of the point of the article.. i like to think that I am not one of them

      • Robert Godden November 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

        It’s only because I have so many inadequacies…


  1. The Recruitment Rumour Mill - Rice Consulting - October 18, 2013

    […] know that when it comes to references (that is if references are taken – not very often according to Greg Savage’s surprising revelation this week), that the referee is going to need to say all the right things, and so particular […]

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