Recruiters Essentials Guides

The Seven Biggest Mistakes of Recruitment Consultants


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Mistake #1 - Complacency

Recruiters can easily become complacent about their position. Clients that they have, clients they will win, jobs they have and jobs they think they will fill.

I can name (but won’t here) many experienced recruiters who had good billings (£60k+ per month) but found that when the recession hit many of their accounts stopped hiring. They were then left in a tough situation.

Complacency had meant that they had stopped:

  • Generating leads
  • Conducting business development activities
  • Keeping up to date with the market to identify who was hiring

A True Story!

An experienced recruiter I know went from big biller to “used to be” big biller in 6 months straight.


Same number of jobs in, almost the same amount of interviews but the conversion rate had dropped through the floor!

Reviewing the job orders he was writing it became clear he had a lot of information about the role and the company and all the info to present it to a prospective candidate.

However, there was detail lacking in two primary areas:

  1. Commitment from the client to the recruiter had started to slip. Less jobs were being closed on interview slots. Less jobs were being secured exclusively.
  2. The recruiter was writing much of the job description. Assuming that with their knowledge of Java they could suggest to the client the level of experience, salary and background they wanted rather than ask them what they would accept.

Complacency meant that he wasn’t:

  • Covering off the other steps their client had taken to fill the role
  • Closing on robust commitment
  • Finding out what the client would hire but was telling them what he thought they wanted
  • Understanding the individual clients requirements rather than the markets expectations

Another True Story!

Another recruiter I know had a nice client. A very nice client that recruited a lot of people at good margins. The recruiter loved his client and the client loved him back. Things were sweet for a few years. Suddenly, bang! (actually it was ring ring) – The decision had been made at board level to bring in a Master Vendor. No more line manager contact. No more 20%+ margins. Stiffer competition too - 6 suppliers in the mix almost over night.

Oh dear!

A recruiter who thought they had a client for life had lost their golden goose. They still place people at the business but fewer of them at lower rates.

They are not alone as others have told me similar tales.

Complacency prevented him from:

  • Developing other business, recognizing the warning signs of a high volume high margin account getting onto the radar of the corporate sales team of the RPO/Master Vendor suppliers
  • Building relationships outside of line management with the C-Suite
  • Identifying that the business was being courted by other suppliers by networking with HR and procurement to develop relationships with the entire DMU (decision making unit)

It is vital as a manager you are alert for the signs of complacency within your team. Once Recruiters begin to feel comfortable and safe then they are vulnerable to complacency.

Download our guide to Business Planning at:

Tip 1 Every quarter do a review of your team’s current client base

Ask each question

  • Who are their clients?
  • Where are their clients going?
  • What have been their success ratios?
  • When was the last time they secured feedback on jobs not filled?
  • Who do they know and how would they rate the relationship strength?
  • Can they draw an accurate organization chart for the department/teams/company?
  • Where are the gaps? Who do they not know?
  • What is the clients strategic intent regarding the procurement of recruitment solutions?
  • What have they done proactively for them recently?
  • How can they strengthen the relationship that they have with the entire organization?

What about potential clients? - can they answer the same questions???

Tip 2 Review all of the worked jobs for the past quarter

Ask every member of the team to conduct a quality of service call with all of the jobs they didn’t fill.

What could they do differently next time?

A business I worked with completed this exercise across all their offices and in the month that followed job flow increased by over 25% from clients where they had failed to fill jobs recently.

They also discovered what they needed to do differently to be more successful next time. Which is often more important than finding out what you did well when you did fill a job.

Tip 3 Set aside frequent business development time

No matter how much work a recruiter has today there is always a window of opportunity to make in roads with new clients. In their quarterly business plan ensure that each consultant has set an amount of time (even if it is only 1 hour per day) to developing new business.

Along the way they may even find a new client who turns out to be the best client they have ever had! It may be that they find a client who is better than the ones they currently work with, enabling them to be less reliant on the client who pays low fees and never gives interview feedback!

No time for business development?

Ask each member of the team to complete a Time Log everyday for one week. (These can be found in the Appendix at the back of the guide). At the end of the week review them together to discover where they could be more efficient with their use of time!

Managing performance is the most important aspect that any manager or team leader should learn.

Mistake #2 - The Path of Least Resistance

Every day recruiters are faced with choices and decisions. Sometimes the easier choice can be tempting because it’s the easier choice. This is what is known as the path of least resistance.

Here are some common dilemmas that create the choice between "The Path of Least Resistance" and the "Tougher Challenge"

Go home now and get in early to plan my calls


Stay for another 45 minutes and plan tomorrows calls. Come in tomorrow focused and ready to create results
Email those candidates who look good for the job, go home and see who replies by morning


Stay until I have found and qualified 3 good candidates
Send an inmail to that new decision maker I found on Linkedin


Pick up the phone and engage the decision maker in a conversation
Email a candidate from Linkedin about a job


Call them and present them the opportunity and deal with their potential questions and objections
Catch up with my current clients (again) and log them as sales calls


Do 2 hours of solid new business
Tell them I would normally work retained and settle for contingent exclusive with a discount thrown in


Pitch a retained mandate and stand tall in the face of client resistance

I could go on – I think you see the choices. Sometimes they are not dilemmas (that is when there are two choices) sometimes there could be any number of options available.

Recruiters can sometimes console themselves from this by relying on their old friend procrastination.

Procrastination can make someone feel like they are planning rather than bottling it. Long term procrastinators are really electing to take the path of least resistance every day.

How can you deal with this?

Caving into short-term desires is taking the path of least resistance. Short term desires for recruiters can include shying away from potential rejection, avoiding ‘confrontation’ and, for experienced recruiters, not wanting to be seen to get rejected in front of more junior staff members.

Having the mental toughness to say no to the easy choices is harder, but will give you longterm success and happiness. This requires self-discipline.

Discipline is often associated with a lack of freedom, but this is wrong.

Discipline = Freedom.

The person who has discipline can choose whatever he or she wishes for their life because they know it’s going to happen sooner or later. How do they know? Because they don’t quit. This is total freedom. The freedom to master your own life and choose whatever it is you really want.

In every recruitment business there are top billers. All of top billers we work with (£500k+ perm and £750k+ contract) have extreme amounts of discipline. Knowing that the energy and effort will far outstrip the pain of doing it.

Just like your physical body grows in response to a high level of resistance, you grow as a person in response to overcoming resistance/challenges in your life and work.

How can you create and grow successful teams?

An effective way to increase energy levels and reduce procrastination is the use of mentors. By creating a mentoring programme each recruiter can be held accountable for the commitments they make as well as modelling their behaviours on top performers within the business.

Do you have a mentoring programme?

Use our simple three step approach and create your own internal mentoring programme and increase success.

Find out more online at:


Why not use these guides to help your clients develop their own in-house mentoring programmes?

Mistake #3 - Ignoring Social Media

Let me re-affirm...

Having a Linkedin profile does not count as your social media presence being ticked!

Social media is not a game changer. It is a new expression of the game that has always existed. People like to hang out with similar people. It generates rapport and trust. We are social animals genetically. For the 100,000 years that homo sapien has been around we have sought out others to live with as clans and families to create safety and protection. Strength in numbers. Social media is the digital version. We seek out others we feel comfortable with and want to be recognized and valued for our contribution. Social media has made it easier for that aggregation to become truly global and instantaneous.


As recruiters we need to make sure we are part of this and we identify and join the communities (and maybe even lead some of them) within our markets. Linkedin Groups isn’t where it is happening anymore. Look at the discussions and they are either promotions or recruiters jobs!

Top 3 Tips for Linkedin

  1. Be active. Get involved in your market. Share and contribute
  2. Keep your network engaged.
  3. Search effectively - remember it is not a CV database.


Too many recruiters turn their nose up at Twitter as something they don’t understand or for those with too much time on their hands. I could introduce you to a recruiter who billed £200k through using Twitter as a referral generating tool, he feels very differently about it!

Top 3 Tips for Twitter

  1. Listen to the conversation. Set keyword alerts
  2. Follow and engage your market place. Be interested in them.
  3. Help others who in turn may help you.


What about blogs?

What are the blogs in your space that your clients and candidates read most often?

Which of your clients and candidates has a blog that revolves around their industry, skills, technologies or market?

Blogs are a rich source of information. Forget the content for a minute. Who do you think are all those people are commenting on the Murex blogs? What about the authors and the guest bloggers? All are going to be of interest to anyone who recruits in the Murex field.

I realise many of may not know what Murex is. My point is that no matter how niche there are people blogging about it!

Top 3 Tips for Blogs

  1. Write informative content. Avoid press release style blogs.
  2. Focus on articles that demonstrate your expertise.
  3. Promote your blog as the central hub to your social media activity.

To get somewhere close to success in social media we need to stop the labeling. The most damaging labels a recruiter can use are “client” and “candidate”. Consider everyone to be an individual. Individuals who work in your market place that you can build relationships with. At some point in the future they might end up becoming a paying client or a candidate you represent.

Right now they are neither.

They are also less likely to become one if we run head long into the china shop flashing job specs, application forms and asking “got any jobs?” every 5 minutes.

What can an already busy Recruiter do?

  • Listen to the conversation – use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to create columns tracking your clients, market trends, key influencers and hashtags
  • Check for conversation about you and your business! Use to set up some alerts
  • Use an RSS reader to subscribe to the primary blogs in your space
  • Comment on articles of interest to build your profile
  • Set up a Twitter account and use it to share content of interest to your network
  • Subscribe to our digital strategies for recruiters!
  • Stop ignoring it and get involved because it’s not going away!
  • Stop seeing social media as purely a hunting platform and engage!

Digital Strategies for Recruiters

This still remains one of our most popular workshops to date. All of our in-house workshops are completely bespoke to your team, market and industry however, a typical workshop would include the following elements:

  • Understanding how search engines work – how they index and crawl the internet
  • The effect that SEO has on the searches we conduct
  • Search syntax – the key search terms every recruiter should know and use
  • Introduction to Google and the portfolio of free tools available
  • X-ray and flip searches
  • Thinking deductively as a recruiter to develop empathy with the target market
  • Searching semantically using derivatives and adjectives rather than buzzwords
  • Finding hidden talent pools in places you think you have “fully covered”
  • Revisiting Linkedin with fresh eyes – how to find those who don’t have completed, keyword rich profiles
  • The top platforms recruiters should search including social networks
  • Using Google, Bing and Yahoo!
  • Automated functions to set up to save time

**A client who booked 4 staff onto one of our resourcing sessions generated £40k additional revenues the following month placing candidates identified using our techniques**


Find out more online at:

Mistake #4 - Phone Reluctance

How can it be possible for Recruiters, especially experienced ones, to suffer phone reluctance? Take a look at your team (or teams) - can you honestly say they are on the phone as frequently and consistently as they should be?

Things get in the way sometimes such as “admin” stuff, reporting, writing advert copy, dealing with contracts, all can hold recruiters back from getting on the phone. How often though do you find your team are sending emails to someone when really it should have been a phone call?

In an 8 hour working day I would expect a good recruiter to achieve 3.5 hours on the phone per day. That equates to less than 50%. There are businesses where 2 hours has posed a challenge for some!

The main causes of phone reluctance in Recruiters

  • Fear (of Rejection or Failure)
    Some don’t wish to make those headhunt calls, chase down leads or phone new clients because of fear. “What if they reject me?” “What if I can’t win the business or secure the prospect candidates interest?” They never will if they don’t practice. Experienced recruiters can sometimes fall out of practice doing some of the basics. It is natural for the wheels to get a little rusty. Practice is the oil that lubricates the skill. |
  • Procrastination
    Putting it off until tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes though. It is easy to feel positive about an event tomorrow and show no fear when they don’t have to do it today…
  • Displacement
    Doing other things that make them feel as though they are being productive. Dealing with all the ad responses that came in over night. Tidying things up. Reconfirming the interviews for this week for the second (or third) time. Researching clients on the internet. Running long searches on job boards to then comb through the results cherry picking the ones that are exact matches for today’s live requirements. It all eats time but feels like work.
  • Isolation
    Being the only one on the phone at 8.30 or 9.00 doing business development is a lonely place to be. We are social creatures that like to be part of a group. I have seen some recruitment businesses make their first sales call at 10:00am The early bird catches the worm.
  • False logic
    “I won’t call prospect clients at 8.30 or before 9.00 as they will have only just got in. It would be rude. Let them get settled into their day, let the gatekeepers arrive, give them a chance to get into the meetings that they will have scheduled.” or “I don’t want to call candidates at work to headhunt them, they might feel uncomfortable. I will email them and when they email me back with permission and a mobile number I will headhunt them like a sniper!”

How can you increase telephone productivity within your teams?

Dealing with phone reluctance is easy and difficult at the same time. Away from the phone, in a meeting room or review it is easy to make commitments to get on the phone more. Making it happen requires discipline and planning.

  1. Apply a core hours principal and set aside “phone time” - for client acquisition and proactive recruiting (headhunting or sourcing contractors who are on assignment for your competitors).
  2. Decide how many conversations you want them to have - then make sure they plan 5 times as many calls. This will accommodate the whole host of reasons why you fail to get hold of someone.
  3. Do call planning at the right time of day for their market. Spot check before consultants go home to ensure they have planned tomorrows calls.
    Download a sales call planner at:
  4. Avoid distractions whilst in their core phone time. Shutdown outlook if its a distraction. Someone can wait 59 minutes if they email at the beginning of an hour of business development. Politely set call backs to interruptions that are not urgent and important.
  5. Get momentum – put the receiver down with a finger and pick straight up to dial the next one.
  6. Have clear goals - Focus on why they are doing it. The clearer their objectives and goals the less of a chore it feels.
  7. Swallow the frog! - Brian Tracy wrote an excellent book covering procrastination in which he says you should consider your tasks to be frogs. Eat the ugliest one first and the rest will taste much sweeter.
  8. Get the whole team involved – If everyone makes a commitment to do similar calls at the same time activity breeds activity. Get competitive if it makes it easier!
  9. Rewards – Little rewards can help reinforce good behavior at the start. If they feel good about it they will want to do more!
  10. Get Trained – Refresh the rusty skills if it has been a while since they focused on their sales calls. Get trained on headhunting to achieve better results. It creates confidence AND belief.

Take a look at our series of online training workshops and help them increase their skills:

Mistake #5 - Working the Wrong Assignments

We all know that some jobs seem to fill quicker and easier than others.

There are a number of factors that contribute to job fillability. Yet despite this, there are recruiters who will work less then solid job roles rather than focus energy on either finding better clients and jobs or requalifying and managing client expectations.

[Once again that is the path of least resistance rearing it’s head.]

What makes a qualified assignment?

  • Do they have a complete job specification form? (i.e. is it fully qualified?)
  • Has the fee been cleared?
  • Is the requirement urgent and signed off?
  • Do they have direct access to the line manager?
  • Have they booked interview slots?
  • Do they have exclusivity?
  • Have they agreed full terms?
  • Have they identified the decision maker (not the interviewer)?
  • Does the candidate exist?
  • Is the day rate or salary at or above market rate relative to content?
  • Do they have all the interview process information?
  • Are they dealing with a co-operative employer?
  • Do they have full company information to brief their candidate?
  • Do they have complete compensation information?

To qualify as a grade A assignment they should be able to answer “yes” to a minimum of 10 of the above questions.

ALL of the first five being mandatory.

Does your team need more help with qualifying their requirements?

Download our Job Qualification powerpack:

How many of your team’s assignments are Grade A?

Take a look over the assignments your team has worked in the past 12 weeks. Review the ones they have now. How many qualify as a Grade A?

The goal of the top recruiters is to work only A assignments. Confidence to know what an A is and how to manage a client to turn a B into an A are skills that require recruiters to take control and develop a consultative approach - not just order taking.

Some clients may give your business A jobs all the time. On occasion they may throw a consultant a B or C grade job and that is when you need to take a cold look at the commercial decision you make. Work it for the relationship (with a warning to the consultant to manage their time wisely) or pass on the opportunity? When a client gives your business a job they are really giving you nothing. Their expectation is that your consultants will put in a sizeable amount of energy and effort in return for no reward (unless you work retained). Don’t kid yourself otherwise – your consultants should feel as though they are helping the client NOT the other way around.

The best recruiters in the industry fill a high proportion of their requirements because they work the right assignments. They will pick up their fair share of C and B grade roles but will consult and manage expectations to make them A Grade. If they can’t create something fillable then they don’t work it. The easiest jobs and clients to find are the ones that are willing to deal with everyone. They do this because they do not, invariably, have A grade critical assignments to fill. They also do it because the recuriters they use don’t tend to fill the jobs quickly. It could even be a case of B grade recruiters working C grade jobs.

Mistake #6 - Living for Today

It seems that there are certain cultures that create a “living for today” mentality and outlook.

Each and every month recruitment managers up and down the country ask their recruiters

“What are you going to close this month?”

With such a focus on the current month there is a pressure on today, today, today.

How many corporate businesses do you think focus their efforts purely on the current month?

Some recruitment businesses live by chasing leads. No account development. No target clients. Purely chasing today’s leads. I have seen some of these business peak and trough as their own success is momentum based.

When consultants start to think a little more strategically about their business they can develop plans to create future business that is beyond the instant wins of candidate generated leads.

This takes reflection time. When was the last time you encouraged your consultants to take 2 hours away from their desk to reflect on where they were and what they wanted to achieve?

Do it. Make it a quarterly event.

We run business planning workshops and strategic sales planning sessions. In our experience very few recruiters really have a plan beyond this month and next.

What about next quarter?
What about the quarter after that?
What are they doing today that is sowing the seeds for the future?

Questions for Quarterly Reviews

Here are a few things that your consultants should be considering every three months:

Key Thoughts this Quarter

Do a SWOT analysis. A proper one, not just 4 or 5 quick thoughts in each box

  • How many clients do I have on the database? How many do I want in 3 months time?
  • What % of clients have I spoken to, mailed or met in the last 3 months?
  • What am I doing to develop new business? Do I grade the quality of business in my prospect clients and the strength of relationships I have with them?
  • How many candidates do I have on my database? How many have I contacted in the last 2 months as a %?
  • How many jobs have I registered? Covered? Achieved interviews with? Placed? Missed?
  • Of my current clients, how many use me exclusively? How many do I want that to be in 3 months time?
  • Who are my target clients? What sort of plan could I create over the next 13 weeks to convert them?
  • What skills do I have now and at what proficiency? What new skills do I need and which ones do I need to develop further?

As a snapshot of a few questions I trust you can see the importance of reflection and business planning. Tangible activities can then be planned that will move your consultants further forward quicker than a “live for today” attitude.

We have a Recruiters Business Plan to download that has helped many other experienced recruiters in the past.

Download your Business Planning powerpack at:

Mistake #7 - Not Developing One’s Self

Do you have a car?

As a Recruitment business owner I would imagine it will be quite nice. Having it serviced is likely to run to at least £500 probably more. We diligently service our cars so that they are reliable, to prevent accidents and breakdown.

After all, it is far more expensive to fix a busted engine than to simply put oil in it.

What about proactive maintenance of your team?

Books? There are a number of good books we would recommend experienced recruiters read.

Audio Series? There is plenty of good stuff available on iTunes and

Webinars? Do a search there are lots to choose from. They could even join one of ours!

Workshops? Local and national workshops are delivered, sometimes free, at trade events and by training firms.

Training Programmes? Do you have a training programme? What training is available once someone has completed their induction or passed their probation? How do you continuously develop your experienced consultants, team leaders or managers?

If you have a good in-house Learning and Development team then make the most out of them! Conduct regular training needs analysis, book your team on courses and ask your in-house trainers to follow up with at-desk coaching sessions to make sure the theory covered in training session is being applied when back at work.

If you haven’t read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R Covey then make a commitment to buy it. I saw a stat that nearly 90% of self help books never get read to completion. Buying it is easy – read it! Encourage your team to read it also.

Habit number 7 is “Sharpen the Saw”. The chapter begins with the following story:

Imagine encountering a person cutting down a tree with a saw in the forest.

“What are you doing?” you ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply “I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim “How long have you been doing it?”

“Over five hours” he returns “and I’m beat! This is hard work”

“Well why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen the saw?” you enquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. ”I’m too busy sawing!”

If you are to busy working hard at your job to stop and sharpen your saw eventually you will find you have lost the edge.

It’s not just about training and learning from books.

Tacit learning comes from sharing experience with others. How often do you have team meetings to talk about more than figures? What about regional meetings?

Sales meetings are a great way to share an anecdote and come up with strategies to achieve better results. Roleplays are an excellent method to sharpen the saw. Becoming a mentor to a junior member of staff will also certainly sharpen a saw again. Roleplaying sales calls and candidate approaches will get the cogs turning when it is the mentors turn to “show how it is done”. Create your own in-house mentoring programme with our workshops. Read more at:

Do you record phone calls? Giving your team the opportunity to listen back and digest the calls they make can highlight all sorts of missed buying signals and opportunities.