What you can learn from the ‘Dark Ages’ of recruitment

I had a guy debating some recruiting matter with me on social media last week. To make his point, he finished with what he clearly felt was a telling coup de grace.

“Well, I have been recruiting since before LinkedIn came along, you know!”

In his recruiting world, LinkedIn was the ultimate game-changer. He considered it a badge of some considerable honour, that he had recruited in an era without a ready-made public database, available for rape and pillage by every recruiter on the planet.

He was clearly a good guy with a sound point of view, but it did get me reflecting.

LinkedIn? Seriously? That’s your recruiting ‘big bang’? For my many sins, I was recruiting 15 years before the Internet came along. I was deep into my recruiting career 7 years before the fax machine emerged as a business tool. And long, long before anyone had a computer on his or her desk. So no ‘data-base’ at all, unless you count cards in a box, and paper files in a cabinet.

Prehistoric? Hilarious you say? Maybe. But what can we learn from that era? What skills, honed in a different time, still resonate?

Quite a few, actually. Pay heed. Here begins the lesson from the ‘dark ages’.

1) Qualifying a job order

No one sent you a job description in the ‘dark ages’. There was no 2-line email from a disengaged client saying, ‘send me someone like you did last time’. (And trust me, many recruiters act on this type of ‘brief’ right now, scurrying around like headless chooks, busily working hard for the pleasure of NOT being paid!). No, ‘dark ages’ recruiters took briefs over the phone. Or face to face. And the good ones became mega-skilled at qualifying those orders. In other words, working with the client to create a brief that is fillable! They asked the hard questions. They gave advice. They finessed the requirement. To the benefit of all parties. They sold exclusivity and retainers. These are skills lost on most recruiters today, who hardly speak to their clients at all, and try to fill orders by keyword matching candidates’ resumes against emailed briefs. Madness. Take me back to the ‘dark ages’, please!

2) Telephone influence

Listen up! The telephone is the most powerful social tool you have. Yet, so may modern recruiters ignore this weapon of mass placements. And the beauty of the telephone is that it allows you to influence crucial decisions. (Decisions so many modern recruiters leave to chance). You try to convince a client, via email, to interview your candidate whose résumé looks a bit patchy. And I will try the same thing on the phone. Want to bet me some money who wins? You send an Inmail or email to a candidate you want to headhunt. Go on. Do it. (Millions of recruiters do only that!). What’s your success rate compared to mine, once I have them on the phone? ‘Dark ages’ recruiters were masters of telephone influence. It was a beautiful thing to listen to. I mean it. Gorgeous. I am not talking about hard sell. Quite the reverse, actually. I am talking about charm. About reason. About subtlety. About seeking to understand. About listening as an art. About common sense. There is little more exhilarating than being in a room full of sophisticated recruiters making things happen on the phone. Now? Seriously? It’s like being in a public library. Or a typing-pool from the fifties. I have to get up and leave.

3) Telephone screening

I have no time for the data-scientists and other ‘techno-screeners’ who tell us we should use keyword matching to screen candidates. In fact I see millions of dollars being lost by incompetent recruiters using 5-second résumé screening. Dark ages recruiters knew that an hour in an interview with an inappropriate candidate was a dead hour for them, and for the candidate. But they also knew that a great candidate might not shine through a résumé. So they phone screened. Powerfully, efficiently and with deadly effect. Honing in on great candidates, and gently screening out the less appropriate with empathy and guidance. Now? It’s almost as if actually speaking to the candidate is a dirty thing to do. Sad and costly.

4) Selling candidates

Oh, but now is gets sexy. I am not saying I was a super-star at this because basically I was not that good at anything to be honest, (except kicking a rugby ball, maybe, but that did not help with placements), but one of my best party tricks as a young manager in the ‘dark ages’ was to pick up the résumé of a good candidate that a recruiter was struggling to place, and phone a client to ‘sell them in’. (Any of my ex-employees remember me doing that? Please do tell in the comments below). Yes, I would research the candidate first, and yes it’s best if it’s your candidate, and you know them, and believe in them, but the lesson holds. Dark age recruiters would get their candidates interviews over the phone. Do you remember the scene from ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, where Di Caprio is unemployed and sells penny-stocks over the phone to ‘shmucks’, as they called them? Well, it’s nothing like that because I told no lies, and you must tell no lies, but it’s everything like that because it’s all about phone influence! Today? We have become experts at sending emails with résumés attached. WTF?

5) Urgency!

This makes me want to cry with nostalgia. Urgency! In the ‘dark ages’, if a great candidate came to see you, you knew that if they left your office, you had lost them. Literally in some cases, because they would go across the road to a better recruiter than you, who would move fast and get the job done. But even if they did not go to another recruiter, you had lost them for a day at least. No mobile phone. No email. So the dark ages recruiter was an urgency freak. If the person they just interviewed had the skills, and the client had the need, the two would be put together. Fast! The candidate would be given a coffee and asked to wait with a mag. The recruiter was on the phone to the client in a matter of seconds. The interview created there and then. The candidate briefed, enthused, and if necessary given the train-fare to get there. But wait! The candidate is not in her best interview clothes? No matter. I have seen with my own eyes a great dark ages recruiter take that candidate to the bathroom, and swap her corporate clothes with the jeans of the candidate, and send her off to interview. Got the job too. Today? Are we doing that? Or even thinking like that? Or are we stuck in process to the exclusion of outcome? Hmmmm?

6) Memory!

One of the things I ask recruiters to this day is this, “who are your three most placeable candidates with XYZ skills”. It is incredible how many turn automatically to their keyboard to work out that simple answer with the help of their database. The ‘dark ages’ recruiter could quote you their best candidates in their sleep. They could tell you their skills and their qualifications and their availability. They could remember candidates they placed, and did not place, from 10 years ago. There was no database other than the database of the brain, and memory was a prized dark age recruiter skill. Now? We can’t even remember how to use our database search function in some cases, let alone recall our hot candidate profiles. Digital has made us lazy and hazy.

7) Down time.

In the ‘dark ages’, when we left the office, it was over.

Think about it my recruiting friends. A recruiting job with no Internet. No mobile phone. No database. The working day was hectic, hard and non-stop in the dark ages. But when it was over, it was over. No ‘urgent’ mobile call at 8 p.m. No text with a candidate accepting a counter-offer at 9pm. No ‘urgent’ email to return at 11 pm, and stress over all night. No temp bombing out at 6 am. via Twitter.

When the work was done, the play began.

And man, how we used to play in the dark ages! But that is another blog. Another blog I will not be writing any time soon.

What about you? Do you remember the ‘dark ages’? What skills do you use today, that you learned back then. Please share in the comments below.


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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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52 Responses to What you can learn from the ‘Dark Ages’ of recruitment

  1. Shauna-Marie Wilson April 21, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I think technology is deskilling those in your industry who work in volume agencies. You’re not alone, technology can deskill people in other occupations as they overly rely upon the technology and the process becomes so mechanical there’s no way to get real insights into people. Sure, these days a candidate has an increased chance of being reviewed fairly and not rejected for their gender identity, race, etc as was often the case in the bad old days, but the cost of excess reliance on technology has been depersonalisation of the process.

    So what was good, back in the bad old days, is gone and what can be a skilful craft has been reduced to some kind of mechanical back office operation.

  2. Johan April 21, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Been there done that…. Most powerfull tool for me wasn’t the telephone it was and still is my feet…. recruitment will always be a ” belly to belly ” business.

    Down time???? not realy but that could have been an European thing…. Hours and hours of after hours networking events.

    The basics have not and will never change. You need a capable candidate that a client does not have access to or can’t find anymore because there he/she has 1.253 “professional” connections …..

  3. Mark Hall-Smith April 21, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    Outstanding writing Greg, as always. All true as well.

    • Greg Savage April 21, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks Mark, much appreciated. Hope all well with you

  4. Ben April 21, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    I loved reading this! I work in one man agency, yep me. Our industry may be viewed as a little old fashion, but these are the things my clients expect. My clients don’t sit behind a desk all day or check email every couple of minutes. They do some physical work themselves and so a phone call is always always always the preferred method of communication. We are slowly slowly getting used to texts and I still need to fax details through the some clients.

    I’m delighted to say that there are some people I have met over the last ten years of doing this stuff and I know there partners and personal stories. I had a conversation with a candidate recently about his vasectomy. He said “I didn’t think I’d ever be talking to a recruiter about this stuff, but I’m glad I can”. He refers people to me all the time.

    I was feeling like I was a bit prehistoric with this approach, but I’m glad to see others know it still works. Thanks Greg.

    I’m enthused now to go make some calls!

  5. Neil Bolton April 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    Greg, you’ve done it again. This is a “How to be a great recruiter” course in one blog post.

    Let’s keep preaching and the more recruiters do this, the better the world will be.

  6. Kara April 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    10/10 Greg. Loved the dark ages.

  7. Francesca April 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Yes, guilty of point 4. I still remember once, Greg influenced probably the most stubborn of my candidates in the dark ages, who would not cross the bridge for a great job. Greg phoned him, turned him around and placed within a week. I had egg on my face, but $$ in my pocket and a great lesson I’ve not forgotten since. Thanks again.

    • Greg Savage April 21, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

      Yes, I vaguely remember that Franca.. was that AP or AC ?

  8. Kerry Kirwan April 21, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Great article Greg. I remember those days well.

    Here’s another one – not only did candidates not have mobile phones, most didn’t have answerphones on their home lines. I can remember dropping notes into letterboxes or sticking them to front-doors asking hot candidates to call me urgently. One consulting firm I worked for even had a telegram budget so we could send out ”call me” messages.

    And we used to hand-deliver or courier resumes to clients.

  9. Roger Simpson April 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Thanks Greg, being from the “dark ages” myself, 30+ years 2 of the points that you mentioned certainly rang 2 loud bells with me. Urgency and Memory, the former doesn’t seem to be an essential ingredient in Recruitment Consultants today ( generalising and not wishing to offend anyone ). Fortunately memory still plays a huge part in day to day business and it is amazing how many placements one can make from the memory bank.

  10. Alan Allebone April 21, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    I had 2 offices in the good old days back in Southampton, England. One was my company office and the other was the “Prince of Wales” pub right next door!!!!

    Receptionist would pop into the pub and tell us Joe Bloe was on the phone wants 2 contractors./ Our response was tell him i will call him later or tomorrow!

    We learnt a hard lesson in those days.

  11. john milce April 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Good article as usual Greg, and spot on – apart from the ‘Down Time’ bit. I started in Recruitment in 1992 – before everyone had a mobile phone. Office hours were spent calling / visiting clients and identifying suitable candidate CV’s. Actually calling the candidates was done on their home numbers in the evening from home – usually between 7.00 pm and 8.30. I made it a practice not to disturb candidates during prime time TV hours.


  12. Alan Allebone April 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    perhaps I am missing something Greg.
    Often I make typing errors. I do not know where to make the changes? is there a facility to do that?


    • Greg Savage April 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      There should be an “edit” button on the bottom of your comment Alan? Try that I think, cheers Greg

  13. Sally Mlikota April 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    I’m an oldie too, can visualise my ‘database’ of candidate cards with photos on it even now, fabulous.
    I remember candidates from 15-20 years ago as well as those I met yesterday – newbies have minimal recall, it is terrifying…
    Clear ratio of more face to face and more phone = more enjoyable job and much more $$ success!
    Thanks Greg!

  14. Karen Thompson April 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    I remember those days well Greg. I ran a temp desk in the 80s. We would ask our good temps to stay by their home telephone until 10.00 or 11.00 am so we could ring them if we had same day bookings. And for other assignments, if we couldn’t contact them by phone, we’d send a message which was delivered via taxi! Ah yes, the good old days 🙂

    • Freyja April 21, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

      That made me laugh Karen because me too. In my town all the recruiters went to the same bar Thursday and Friday night. Except I’d be outside on the payphone booking temps for the first couple of hours instead of inside having fun and comparing client stories.

      Even after I moved to perm placements I still see people from 20 years ago who stop to say hello and tell me – those were the good old days – and I agree!

  15. Ray King April 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Sound article Greg.That’s exactly how it was when I began recruiting in 1995.

    The consultant/client/candidate relationship and understanding of the requirements of all parties was absolute.

    We often denounce clients for the change to what are now regarded as superficial and thankless relationships when in fact, it is our misreading the marketplace, our behaviours and our scrambling to obtain business that have caused it.

    The purist system of previous years is recoverable but it will place demands on recruiters that many will find hard to accept (particularly for those who have more recently joined the ranks of recruiters) and it may lead to a temporary downturn in revenue – but this will only be short-term.

  16. Jan van der Meer April 21, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Ah the good old dark ages! What fun we had.

  17. Teri Moxham April 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Excellent again Greg ! Yes – I learnt the trade in the “dark ages” and enjoyed amazing relationships with both my candidates and clients over the years – made many friends ! We are working to combine the best of the “old” and the “new” now and utilising ALL techniques and technologies to gain the best results for a “triple bottom line” win for everyone .
    Thanks for your insights and comments – had a good laugh – remembering !

  18. Navid April 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    As always a good post from the good ol’ days.

    There are clients and employers that still think and respond to the approach above. I must add they are amongst some of the more successful clients both their company and them as an individual.

    However there are also a lot of clients and employers that have shifted from that approach. The problem may not always be so much with the recruiter but also the approach clients like to work with.

    In many organizations the process goes along the lines of something like this:

    Managers – send me an email and I will speak to HR

    HR – We hire 99.99998% of our roles ourselves via seek and linked in and in that 0.000002% of the time that we use agencies we have a preferred supplier panel that we are “pretty” happy with.

    Now thats a typical scenario and not every company operates in that way. But in that scenario, which is not uncommon, people cant be bothered. They want to live on easy street and do just enough to get by.

    The manager will happily spend millions of dollars with a consulting company to fulfill the lack of candidate that he or she couldn’t find or basically get stuck with whoever that they were given via HR, put up with those employees for a while and then move on. The talent acquisition also doesnt have to do much. In the end they are not the one managing that candidate, so why worry about it?

    What you have mentioned above Greg would have worked in those days because technology didnt make people lazy and companies were not buried in paperwork and HR. Nowadays I am afraid, it will be a rarity for that to work.

  19. Freyja April 21, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    Thanks for a great column Greg and me too! I miss those days – recruiting now seems to skim along the surface of everything – we knew our candidates so well, as well as the nuances of our clients and were prepared for the grilling we got. And yes, our special tool was and still is the telephone because if you weren’t prepared to velvet glove the client through a candidate presentation over the phone – the placement just didn’t get done.

    We did have urgent Greg – you’ve forgotten. Urgent was by courier – bike courier in town and overnight express to other cities. Clients flew in to interview and it meant your professional life to face them and introduce your stars – and be prepared for the rebuttal and (re)sell process.

    I loved it! It took expertise to be a professional plus nerves of steal and it was learned in the trenches. The technology of today is fun to learn and keep ahead of but recruiting now doesn’t seem to take actual skill. Who could call LinkedIn challenging and fun! Seriously?

    • Ross Clennett April 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

      Haha – love the ‘Urgent was by courier’ – so true. I am old enough to remember that and also be very grateful that Greg showed me the skill of ‘selling the candidate over the phone’. A skill that has very much been lost over the years because of email.

  20. James April 21, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    great article Greg….it hit’s home because to be a good recruiter you still must be capable of undertaking all these activities at the higher level

  21. Michael April 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Great article and resonates so try in today’s recruitment market, even with our business in Dubai!

    These practices, which we try to follow in our business, makes us stand out from the thousands of other recruiters!

  22. Emma April 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Remember the freelancer card filing days very well, when we received CVs by post (snail mail!).

    Our business cards were one of our key tools and we would walk the streets of Central London leaving them with the contacts at agencies we were targeting.

    We met every client, knew their office, how to get there from the nearest tube station, what the office vibe was etc and still do. It often amazes me that people no longer leave their desk. More than anything that’s the fun bit! Plus of course you stand no hope of building a lasting relationship or nailing every brief without engaging people in person.

    We wouldn’t be without social / email (in fact would have not have seen this blog without it) but nothing beats speaking to someone, hearing someone’s voice inflections and responding to their tone.

    A very enjoyable read and a trip down memory lane!

  23. Christine April 21, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Great post and great lessons here! Everybody keeps forgetting what Human Resources (and that includes recruiting of course) is about “HUMAN” interactions and not paper or electronic transactions.
    Does technology help? of course it does. It gives a global reach and unprecedented access to information, but let’s not forget the pillars underneath all this and it all comes up to individuals interacting.

  24. Mark Edwards April 21, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Greg, that made me smile and weep in equal measure… was asked about regulations/compliance/red tape in the old days my answer…”we were not allowed to smoke in the office till 5pm”

    “box of cards” love it…stack of yellow pages was my google…

    There is often a wry smile over my face when the newbies are put in to a tailspin because their email is a few seconds delayed. God forbid us ask them to drive a telefax, fax or write a letter.

    check out this blog on a similar theme..


  25. Corinne Winter-Rousset April 21, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    While the good old dark ages are always remembered fondly in all industries by those that lived them (and I’m one!) and in order not to be considered irrelevant by today’s leaders who live by technology, I choose to live in the now. Embrace the change and still be myself that all my clients are happily accustomed to.

    Saying that, I Skype virtually everyone (we work globally) so I can see them and speak personally, I take verbal briefs and build a job description and “sell” the candidate as I chose them for the short list for a reason. THAT said, email helps me as virtually all my clients are in different time zones and that’s how they want the files to arrive so they’re on the desk. I What’s App candidates (texting free on wifi) and clients when urgently need to call and to give a warning. I love technology.

    Whereas Linked In, well well well. There is an interesting tool full of lies. Many
    CVs with false info, what makes us think people who lied on their paper CV wouldn’t continue the practice online? The one use for it is to see where someone is right now as they update their own files. No one has the time, staff or money to pay people just to update databases anymore. Plus you can no longer sell a database, no one values the 30 years of work that went into it. Ok, I’ll buy that. But Linked In has become the place where everyone is inundated by requests and so I think it will just be there and will lose it’s value. People have a boredom threshold with everything.

    But young recruiters, this is all they know. How sad. I still market map!

    Loved your article Greg.

  26. Nikki Beaumont April 21, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    As a girl of “the dark ages” that all resonates with me too, made me smile, I shall be sharing your thoughts with my team, love your work Greg!

  27. Simon Selkirk April 21, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    Great blog Greg.

    When I started out in the dark ages we used to keep strong candidates on-site after interviewing them by buying them coffee and lunch whilst the team worked up-stairs selling them over the phone to clients.

    There is no greater buzz than arranging an interview over the phone with no CV involved!!! Still possible today but harder now most clients see recruiters merely as CV jockeys!!

  28. Alan Whitford April 21, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    Hi Greg
    Yep, I am another of the Dark Ages recruiters. 3×5 cards for companies, 6×9 cards for candidates.

    3 line text ads in the NY times as candidate attraction. Interviewed every candidate in person.

    Called and set up interviews, often without ever sending the resume.

    Trust – that element that made it work. Candidates trusted you and the clients trusted you.

    I even painted a company car for a candidate to a colour his spouse liked so he would take the job.

    But, as you have pointed out, these were all skills geared to being successful – and are completely transferrable today. The phone is still faster than email.

    Looking forward to discussing some of these points on #RecHangout next week.


  29. John April 21, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

    Love this article.
    There are some great newbie recruiter drones out there processing Linked In, Github & Stackflow profiles, but they are just a very tiny cog in the corporate wheel of grinding everything down to the smallest cost.
    Recruitment suffers terribly from this and the more craft that is allowed to come back into the business the better the recruitment process will be.
    Whilst CFO office and VC’s are running recruitment (and HR) there will always be a lowest common denominator factor.
    Bring back the Human part of business…..

  30. Marc April 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm #


    I love your old school approach- I believe in it, I embrace it and make placements by doing it.

    I have been doing it this way since 1988 ~

    Twitter what?

    Thanks Greg- always a great read.

  31. Patty Martin April 23, 2015 at 12:37 am #

    Great flashback Greg! At my first contingent IT recruiting gig (in 1987), the agency owner was so cheap & old-school, we had to mail (in the mailbox) send outs to the clients b/c faxing was too expensive. LOL! I also recall “borrowing” an employee directory from a friend who worked at a big downtown bank, in order to build a database of candidates; perusing the Sun. help-wanted ads for potential job orders; and after-hours phone interviews w/candidates (pre-email) who couldn’t talk during the workday. Those were the days!

  32. Paula Watts April 23, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    I ticked all the boxes there Greg – recruiting dark ages style way the way to stay ahead of the competition back then and it still works today! I used to remember going home and not wanting to answer the phone if it rang as I’d been on the phone non stop all day – no issue with RSI or computer eye strain back then either!

    When I had a great candidate I would ring the client, sell the candidate and make an appointment for him/her as I had them still waiting in our interview room. Once I had three interviews all booked, the candidate would attend the interviews then come back to our offices and give me direct feedback and decide what job he/she would accept – that day. Placed often within an hour!

    A little different now that we have employment contracts – that’s slowed everything up! But the techniques haven’t changed.

  33. Yuriy Shevchenko April 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Absolutely superb article Greg, loved it. When I started recruiting in 2001 I think I caught the last vestiges of the “Dark Ages” with stacks of CV folders on the desk, hours of very intense “selling in” and placing as a result. One time I even sent a superb candidate to manager I knew would be interested but had never been able to reach and the candidate got an offer!!

    In those days we had massive PCs which occupied ¾ of the desk’s surface – seems like the Dark Ages now.

  34. Alex Knight April 25, 2015 at 5:39 am #

    A terrific read as always, Greg.

    I started a little later (2001 – let’s call it the Dim Age), but it was still pretty analogue.

    My ‘training’ was a series of Tony Byrne videos (cassettes, of course) from his 1980’s hey-day, red braces and all. Although a bit dated now, the central tenets still hold true today…

  35. Jen Lloyd April 25, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    So many ‘Big Bangs’ in the last 16 years!! And I thank the lack of Technology ‘back in the day’ for my great memory!
    Thanks Greg

  36. Matthew Broadbent April 25, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

    Greg, dark ages? What dark ages? Advantages of starting up:
    – know candidates like back of hand
    – urgency with roles being filled
    – coaching candidates to make sure they’re properly prepared
    – last night (a Friday) played hard

    Love it. Really love it

  37. Anthony Hesse April 26, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    As always Greg – bang on the money! You remind you of me 🙂

  38. Catherine Gamble April 27, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    I remember those days!

    The one that I used to love and firmly believed in was interviewing a candidate, and then hitting the phones with them sat in reception 🙂

    I used to do this on a temp side when I worked a catering temps desk and continued this technique through when doing Commercial perms… In fact even though I telephone interview now; I still make those calls asap after the interview – when you’re full of enthusiasm and fired up to get them a job having just spent time interviewing them – there is no better time!

    Great article Greg!

  39. Rich Mancini May 8, 2015 at 5:59 am #

    Great post, Greg, my medieval recruiting brother!

    Like you, I started in recruiting in the Dark Ages well before the internet. I absolutely resonate and agree with everything you state. In fact, I still subscribe to that “old school” approach. I don’t dismiss all of the new technologies but the magic happens in the art of engagement, as I call it, which is the personal 1:1 rapport we recruiters establish with candidates and hiring managers.

    Sadly for me, I didn’t learn the “down time” lesson soon enough. For years, my day did not end until the evening calls to the candidates at home were completed. I went so far as to make these calls while on camping vacations with my family. This is pre cell phones. As pathetic as this sounds, I’d actually leave wife and kids in a tent and I’d drive to the nearest mosquito-infested phone booth with rolls of quarters in hand to call candidates at home. Never once did I see any placement come from this ridiculous practice.

    I learned my lesson when we took a holiday to the UK (I’m based in NYC). Again, pre cell phone, so I was not going to burn money on phone calls to the states especially given the 6-hour time difference. Anyway, I came home after that trip and, without my interference, I had made 2 placements. Lesson learned – Down time is critically important to creativity, energy and letting the universe play a part!

    Thanks again for your post.

  40. Dorothy Dalton May 26, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Good post Greg – old style skills are still critical for relationship building, persuasion and negotiation. What’s interesting is the use of the phone – so many people see unscheduled calls now as intrusive. There is now a different type of etiquette evolving which is interesting to observe.

  41. Andreas Odhage May 28, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    A great post Greg.

    I was only a young boy during the “dark ages” of the 80’s. But I totally agree with you on the points about the importance of face to face meetings and phone calls.

    A database can’t tell the hart and spirit of the candidates.

    A true picture of the candidates visions, values, ethics, moral and potential can only be revealed in a genuine conversation.


  42. John July 7, 2015 at 1:43 am #

    interesting stuff, i recall this things too.

  43. Kim Edwards November 1, 2015 at 5:18 am #

    OMG Greg I am absolutely and am totally with you. I too am from the same era and boy how I love recruitment. Real recruitment with all the added advantage of today’s technology it’s fantastic. Real Recruitment is so rare and unfortunately a lot of recruitment companies have no idea hence I’ve gone out on my own. I am so grateful for all I learned in my early years. It’s like driving once you got it really got it the essentials those core skills are just a part of you and I cannot do it any other way and I’m not apologising for it anymore. My heart goes out to the young ones because unfortunately for them they don’t often get mentors like you and I. I still remember my first mentor and am grateful for her leading by example. It was great to meet you in person in London and would of loved to have chatted so much more but grateful you share in the way you do.

  44. Allena Clarke March 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    Greg, I really enjoy reading your blogs, they are always sensible and more importantly true told with great humour – thank you! As a ‘dark-ages’ recruiter who joined our wonderful industry in 1986 I have had the honour of working with and coaching many a young hungry trainee with a thirst for knowledge and the points you make always feature within my coaching plans. I hear them laugh at the tales of charm, tenacity and honesty being key reasons for success and they often start using their own ‘way’ before they realise just how many billings come from the key ingredients mentioned. Nothing makes me happier than meeting a great candidate and them agreeing to work exclusively with me then placing them in their ideal role – many of my ‘friends’ I have met as candidates and they become the clients. The circle of life exists within recruitment and to be instrumental within that makes me proud to be a consultant – the financial results sure are important but I find they follow as long as you are working in the fashion mentioned within your blog. Keep them coming please!

  45. Ross Ennis March 12, 2016 at 2:59 am #

    Yes, I was just thinking about this the other day… the sense of urgency. You’re 100% correct we were asked to phone our clients when the candidate was in the room. If we didn’t the candidate most surely would go to another agency and get a job in a company you know about. This holds true today if you work in local markets or global niche markets. Success in recruitment is essentially about ones ability to work a certain market in a meaningful way and that is case and point. That level of pro-activity is the difference between making a good living and being a high flyer. Again I cannot agree more.. Most of this can be done before 6pm everyday and never on weekends. the most influential book in my career and it’s from the ‘Dark Ages’ is ‘How to Master the Art of Selling’ by Tom Hopkins.. if you can see past the cheese and look at the message about strategy & work ethic you’ll never fail . Thanks Greg

  46. Glenn Smith November 1, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    Excellent stuff Greg, thanks for the reminders 🙂

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