5 recruiter mega-fails that will cost you money. And your job.

5 recruiter mega-fails that will cost you money. And your job.

We all know recruiters need to adapt. That is now trite to say. So then, why are so many recruiters around the world still stuck in the same tactics that they used in 1999?

That won’t be sustainable. In fact recruiting 2009 style won’t cut it either.

What do I mean? Who am I talking about?

The answer to this, and the solutions, I plan to share on my speaking tour of South Africa in a few weeks. South African recruiters sign up here.

If you want to know if I am talking about you, rate yourself against these 5 ‘dinosaur-recruiting’ activities, and see how you shape up.

1: Do you hide behind email? Do you avoid real life conversations? In fact, are you so stuck in old-school paradigms that you don’t even realise that what you are doing is a massive missed opportunity? You take your job briefs by email. That’s it. An emailed brief is good enough to get you working. You attach two resumes to an email, and bang it off to your client. And wait. And pray. For a response. You email a job description to a candidate, instead of a full briefing and gearing on the phone, or face to face. Recruiters like this do not seek out the opportunity to ‘engage’ when they can. And engagement means the opportunity to influence. And influencing is everything in consultative recruitment.

2: Do you focus only on ‘active’ candidates? Is your default action to bang an advert on a job board? If that, and your database is all you have got in your ‘candidate sourcing toolbox’, you are up that famous creek. You need to add e-sourcing and deep Internet searching skills. You must know how to seek out talent, headhunt, engage, and seduce. You will need to build a personal brand and a community on social media that makes you a ‘talent magnet.

See Greg talk about the 5 recruiter mega-fails

Watch video on YouTube

3: Do you suck at social media? Specifically, are you in one of these camps? You deride social media as trivial and a waste of time, or ‘too new’ for you, and you ignore it all together. Or you love social media, spend hours on it, but in fact all you are doing is wasting time and avoiding the real grunt work that all recruiting requires.

4: Do you love meetings? Dinosaur recruiters do. And administration too. And endless Internet browsing. Not ‘wasting time’ on the net exactly. But looking at client websites and trawling the database for ‘perfect’ candidates. But really it’s all just avoidance. Internal, banal, non-productive tactics, possibly at a subconscious level, which allow avoidance of the difficult tasks that need to be done, now.

5: Are you resistant to change? Examine yourself deeply now. Be honest. Many of today’s recruiters are more than resistant. They actively sabotage change. Because it scares them. Shows them up as Recruiting Neanderthals. Fresh ideas are crushed, or ridiculed, or ignored. If new ideas are successful, it is put down to ‘luck’. Training sessions are avoided or sulked through, because you know, “I am so busy, I don’t have time for this”. Recognise any of this, dear reader?

Adapt, adjust, recalibrate, upskill, reskill. Whatever you wish to call it. But do it to thrive. Ignore it and die.

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts on this. Leave me a comment below please.


The Savage Truth Tour moves on to Johannesburg and Cape Town! Two huge sessions. One for Managers, one for Recruiters. South African recruiters… get on it!


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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28 Responses to 5 recruiter mega-fails that will cost you money. And your job.

  1. Warren Z. May 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Greg, this post was as sharply crisp as salted celery.

    I wonder about your own and your other fans’ impressions of a relatively new player, the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm. From what I’ve seen and smelled already from a couple of flashily self-promoting U.S. newcomers, even these allegedly sensitized and updated firms are just as guilty of #1 and #2 as when those staff were working elsewhere. (Don’t know about nbrs 3-5, honestly.) Done right, meaning staffed right and managed right, such a new model could truly break the mold.

  2. Michael P May 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Possibly the worst blog I have read about recruitment

    • Greg Savage May 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      The WORST blog you have EVER read about recruitment Mikie? Surely not. I have written many worse than this myself!

    • Greg Savage May 6, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

      ah this is the guy who believes my blog is the worst he has EVER read. 1 years recruitment experience.


      PS, Mikie you should probably think of changing your LinkedIn address so it does not include the name of your PREVIOUS employer… Hays. Not very smart recruitment practice…Mind you based on your performance on this site, that may not be your biggest issue. But then again what could YOU learn from some old idiot like me?

      • L May 6, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

        Unnecessary, Greg! But, fair point.

      • Peter Bulman November 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

        Hey Greg
        As another old recruitment dog, I appeal to you not to risk tarnishing your reputation by a spiteful reply to a youngster. You’re bigger and better than that. And I’ll keep sharing your posts. Don’t get carried away by your fame and influence because it’s here one day and gone the next, if you’re not careful.
        Cheers and keep up the great work.

        • Greg Savage November 14, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

          Peter, can I clarify.. you are defending a guy who said this? In public?

          “Possibly the worst blog I have read about recruitment”

          Your position is that I cannot offer a mild rebuke to someone who is gratuitously rude about my ongoing and sincere efforts to share what I know?

          You are entitled to opinion and of course I published it as I publish everything people say here (unless it is libelous or obscene) but I disagree with you. I think I was restrained.

          As for “my fame”, those are your words.I am an unemployed ex-recruiter, and if people are ‘influenced” by what I say I am grateful, but its their choice. I am my own person, I write to help others, and if people are rude I usually ignore it, but sometimes it rankles and I reserve the right to say whatever I wish in my defence. It is my blog after all. And I thank you for reading it 🙂

          Please do not worry overly about “my reputation”. I am 57 years old, been recruiting for 35 years. Played with a straight bat every single day of those 35 years. My reputation is going to be ok, and if my reputation includes telling a rude young shit to get fucked, I am even more proud of it.

          (I remain very surprised, that you take the side of some buffoon who is downright rude, when I have never been rude to him..indeed its largely for guys at his stage of career I spend all this time writing blogs!)

          • Peter Bulman November 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

            Hi again Greg. No sweat mate. We don’t sweat the small things, we just keep movin’ on. That young fella will take his lessons the hard way and maybe one day he’ll learn something about respect, if in fact he stays around long enough. Meanwhile, we’ll keep reading your blogs and keep practising our respective hard learned lessons. Cheers Greg – and keep up the great work.

  3. Simon S May 6, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Greg – as ever, bang on the money. Our focus going forward is unique talent – and unique clients. Playing where the fun and the money are!!

    Michael P – if this is the worst ever, PLEASE post the details of the best ever. You must be sitting on some pretty well hidden gold dust!

  4. Chris H May 6, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    Spot on as always, evolution

  5. Helen Harvey May 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

    Well, those responses made me smile as I kicked off my week after a long UK Bank Holiday weekend! Great blog Greg – totally agree with it all, use it all the time with my mentees.

  6. Steve Levy May 6, 2014 at 10:08 pm #


    Let’s expand #2 a bit: Internet research is darn important but as I’m quick to point out, the two most underutilized social media tools are the telephone and the handshake. If a recruiter isn’t spending a few nights each month having non-douchebag face time (meaning NOT selling their opps) at targeted Meetups, association meetings, conferences (one of my go to sites is lanyrd.com) then you’ll never get to know the folks who are leaving sites like LinkedIn in droves as a result of all the recruiter “Love” InMails.

    Learn to practice the Art of Zen Recruiting simply by being in the same places as the cool folks. This approach takes more time and you’ll have to prove yourself, but if you do things like help the friends of the “cool people” with their job searches – and do it simply because you’re a nice person – in time you’ll be welcome into these communities.

    Recruiting is a contact sport and contact doesn’t always mean digital.

    From another old idiot…

  7. Alan Allebone May 7, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Greg I recall some time ago when you were speaking at a RCSA event in Melbourne that you said how important Social media was and you went on to explain in detail about Facebook, twitter etc etc. Surely that is usage of email? But is that not hiding behind email.
    There is only one way to communicate with client and candidate and that is FACE TO FACE. But there are on the occasions where one has to communicate and sometimes quite a bit by email it is unavoidable. Is that deemed to be hiding behind email?

    Item 2 I am sure most of us on impulse put an advert up immediately perhaps with the zest and energy gained from getting a real live job! But yes I must admit I do do this sometimes. bad habit as a Dinosaur myself I should know better and check the registration file first of all.

    Item 3. I do not use social media at all. I was on facebook and linkedin but found it worked against me and I still get stuff from linkedin. I am focusing on personal contact and more of it. It is working. It lazy to just use social media.

    item 4. As I mentioned and as you know Greg I am a dinosaur but at times there is a need to internet browse. I feel sometimes you do not get sufficient info from the client no matter how much you try. I do agree or think that many recruiters have nothing better to do than just internet browsing and it appears that they are busy!

    item 5 Sometimes I think that we are all subject to resistant to change. BUT we have to perhaps for the better of ourselves and the company we work for or own. Incorporating training in our lives is going to add meetings to our agenda. Obviously this is not time wasting? We should all consider change for perhaps survival.

    I do believe there is some vey good points addressed here and it is refreshing to see our colleagues opinions as well.
    Thank you greg.


    • Greg Savage May 7, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks as always for your comments and your loyal readership of the blog.

      Couple of points in reply

      Social media is nothing like email. At all. To send someone an email you have to have their email address. To develop a relationship on sm you don’t even have to initially know the person exists! At Firebrand we made upwards of 700 permanent placements a year. Half of those candidates came to us via social media. We reduced spend on job boards by 95%. Average fee was $14,000 so you only need to do the sums to work out that was a fair ROI. SM is about building brand and credibility, with a community you cannot otherwise reach. It could not be more different to email.

      Secondly I am not saying don’t use email.Obviously we need email. I am saying don’t miss an opportunity to engage and influence by hiding behind email when there is a better. I am sure you agree.

      Finally, you are a special case Alan. Along with a very few others you have decades of experience and all those relationships to fall back on. You can still do well leveraging off these. But 99% of today’s recruiter have none of that

      Very best as always


      • Alan Allebone May 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

        Good points Greg and taken onboard!

        Will note for the future

        take care and keep up the excellent work.


  8. RM May 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Yeah my hands up that I don’t do social media well. I jthink that either I dont get it or it does not suit my sector. I have only really figured out how to use it to find out candidates names. Aside from that I am not good at social media recruiting. I tend to do well over the phone, market mapping, cold calling candidates – getting them to have a chat after work.

    I also find all the emails to be very dificult and a bit frustrating but more and more I find that my clients strongly prefer email communication. My clients are typically medium sized FS organisations and HR drives recruitment, they give a high level of engagement but they tend to be younger and seem to gravitate towards email. I have one who feels she is to busy to talk over the phone but she gives me all her work and pays invoices on time – so heck, what to do…. she just does not answer her phone or return calls – at all. I have about a dozen clients and 2/3 strongly prefer email. Candidates are diferent, they seem to expect to be on the phone with a recruiter and meeting in person.

    • Robert Peek May 8, 2014 at 7:01 am #

      I am a big user of LinkedIn which means I might tend to be on it more than needed and I try and limit the amount of time I am on it.

      But RM, if you are recruiting in a geographical area consistently then just adding candidates that you have tried to reach out to, have spoken to and of course have or currently are working with, then building up your local presence happens much faster.

      As soon as I begin to call a candidate I look them up on LinkedIn. At the start it was just to build up my network and I was adding everyone that would have me. Now I can look candidates up and chances are I already have connections with them. This is an obvious advantage as I can then ask for introductions giving myself a bit more credibility than a cold calling recruiter.

      Also having a second connection you can do REAL references if you start working with a candidate. I have countless experiences in which I was able to reach out to someone I knew in my network that happened to be a second connection with someone I was going to potentially present to my clients and was able to get a true reference, off the record what do you think of this person.

      It then goes a long way to be able to tell your clients, this person has been referred by a trusted source, assuming that you had permission to do so of course.

  9. Mark May 7, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    No. 5 I have been bleating on about for Years to my current and past employers. also been blogging about it for a few months, how managers in business need to lead change – and move their business forward. Stop saying “we have always done it this way” and start saying how do we improve what we do well, and how do we make better what we don’t do so well. (which is staff retention in the whole for most agencies).

    To me recruitment needs to be about change, reviewing the above, but also making sure that the change is genuine and Habitual to change.

    Recruitment to me becomes complicated when we do it the same way we did it yesterday.

  10. Jenny Lloyd May 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    two words…PURE GOLD!! thank you.

  11. Madeline Danielle May 9, 2014 at 1:47 am #

    According to the annual Global Human Capital Trends Report for 2014 research by Deloitte, the need to “Reskill HR” was rated one of the top five challenges in every place around the world. The simple fact that business leaders don’t believe HR is up to peoples’ challenges anymore is enough to make us realize something should be changed, or else they’re going to outgrow us and it will be pretty hard for us to upgrade fast enough then. We should see there are more troubles in this field than the fact that the receptionist has on glitter nail polish or send “motivational” quotes everyday to make everything “better”.

  12. Gill Twist May 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi Greg, great blog as always, having worked in the industry for over 12 years, over the last 2 years I have had to drastically change the way I find and interact with candidates, this has included embracing blogging, utilising Twitter & engaging myself socially with Technical user groups. In the UK at the moment technical recruitment is heavily candidate driven so traditional “active candidates” are very rare and passive candidates are being bombarded with huge amounts of approaches from recruiters, you no longer can just be a “vertical market” specialist skills matching you have to be able to stand out from the crowd.

  13. Jo Rowbotham May 16, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    Great blog again Greg. It is far too easy to hide behind email and shuffle active candidates’ CVs round like a sorting office. If it were that easy, all of us would be very wealthy from it!

  14. Michael Twist June 19, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    Not the WORST blog i’ve ever read … what was that other pile of rubbish you
    dished out about loving KPI’s?!
    hahaha .. just kidding .. brilliant as always!

  15. Anita June 22, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    Hello Greg, First of all I would like to say that your blogs are very true, to the point and informative. I am new to twitter rather on social media. I have been reading your blogs and gaining alot of knowledge on the benefits of social media. Im not as experienced but I agree to your points above, as recruiters we should always find all the avenues and keep updating our process/techniques if we want to succeed.

  16. Jeremy Innes October 27, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Enjoyable blog Greg! Promotes a reminder that we have a series of tools at our disposal that need to be utilised in balance.

    From my experience I see a number of recruiters who get a little narrow in their focus and are unable to adapt their tools to the situation or opportunity

  17. Naomi November 10, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    I’m interested in the point ‘hiding behind email’ – I sometimes find it challenge to engage with people via phone or a face-to-face basis – particularly due to their remote working locations and time differences internationally.

    I think as long as the email is personalised and makes reference to information discussed in previous email communication, it is still seen in a positive light by candidates. Of course, I think this depends on the nature of the relationship one has built with the candidate. I’ve learned the hard way that bulk emailing potential candidates is a lot of work that mostly yields poor results!

  18. Audrey February 3, 2016 at 8:32 am #

    Great article Greg, couldn’t agree more itch you comments, particularly around engaging with candidates. Reading the comments and replies had me in stitches. Your honesty is so refreshing in a sea of recruiters quickly willing to offer up their opinions!

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