How to Spot Hiring Authorities With Higher Priorities, Part 2

Yesterday in part one I discussed the first three ways to know if your “hiring authority” is hiring — and an authority at all.

Today we discuss the final three ways:

4. The Weakling
Most recruiters take the inflated term “hiring authority” literally. This causes them to forget, completely, that they’re literally “consultants.”

Middle-management supervisors are undoubtedly among the most emotionally fragile people in the working world. Their “authority” is constantly questioned from above, below, and even from lateral supervisors.

Statistically, the chances of making a “wrong” decision is much higher than that of making a “right” one.

And there is a greater likelihood of someone magnifying a wrong decision to:

a. Shift the blame for a mistake.

b. Justify not paying the supervisor more.

c. Fire the supervisor.

Recruiters aren’t restrained like these folks. Truly they are “consultants,” with the objectivity that comes from freedom; the freedom of being able to deal with whomever they like. There are virtually unlimited options available.

Weaklings only “win” when you let them — you can both win if you focus on consulting not selling. Bryce Webster told how in The Power of Consultative Selling:

The client will want to feel that he has chosen reliably, so that he will not feel out on a limb. He does not want to fail, so his sense of security (“I could lose my job if I blow this one!”) may be threatened.

Keep these questions in mind to direct the flow of your presentation:

a. Have I explained the common ground that I have with the hiring authority?

b. How is the hiring authority reacting to me (“negatively and skeptically or positively and trusting”)?

c. What things have I said that interested the hiring authority most (recruiting approach, availability of candidates, contingency fee, guarantee, etc.)?

d. What objections has the hiring authority raised repeatedly? Have I ignored, fought or adequately responded to them?

e. Am I respected as an objective “consultant” or merely tolerated as a faceless “headhunter.”

The last item is the result of the first four, and without it, you might as well be calling someone else. I discussed the importance of the “consultant” image in Finding the Right Job at Midlife:

While the call can start differently and take controlling the dialogue, it should be a dialogue, not two monologues.

You may have to leave a few messages before you swing into action. If the supervisor calls back, always be courteous but too busy to talk. Ask if you can return the call in a “few minutes.” This makes you appear in demand. It then enables you to organize your thoughts, review your notes . . . and relax. Then by initiating the call, your control position is increased.

In studying the Consultant Phone Call, you’ll note that the emphasis is on helping someone else. We are utilizing one of the most basic success principles ever discovered:

You’ll get what you want, if you give others what they want.

The call also considers the natural insecurity of anyone who depends on another for emotional and financial support. It is a success principle etched in bronze on a plaque in our office: There’s a big difference between advising and assisting.

Don’t overreact and bully weaklings — work with them, not against them. Help make them look good and you’ll make placements.

A recruiter can get so hung up in “overcoming objections” that he buys into the game. It’s a no-win situation — procrastination in “giving” a job order or “confirming” a fee signals someone who can’t “close.”

As Paul Hawkinson noted in our industry guidebook Closing on Objections:

Many consultants spend endless hours with people who can’t say yes. In our business this is an ever present problem … Never try to get an iron-clad commitment from a reluctant gnome … it can’t be done. And the more you try, the worse you injure yourself.

Hang up the job order phone. Don’t procrastinate.

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5. The Rulemaker

Rulemakers invariably have little “industrial relations,” “human resources,” or “administration” empires. They surround themselves with a set of rules so they can enforce them.

Rulemakers tend to be tough, rigid people. Although they may pass most of the 10 questions in our hiring authority test, you won’t place with them.

It’s not that they intentionally sabotage you, but rulemakers have trouble getting things done — like ramrodding a job offer through the hiring cycle. Strict adherence to procedure drives movers and shakers crazy. Since they can’t openly admit rules are meant to be broken, they just make the rulemaker’s life difficult. Sandbagging a pending hire is one way.

In Office Relations, Mary DeVries observed:

Other departments and their personnel are . . . perceived as adversaries at times; competitors for a larger share of the company’s budget, for certain promotions, and for other desirable benefits. . . Although you may be competing with your peers, you must balance this position with an open, friendly and cooperative attitude.

Avoid potential conflicts by being a good listener and trying to understand the position of others.

Rigorously religious rulemakers just don’t have the time or flexibility to finesse interpersonal relationships the way you’ll need. If they lay a long list of laws on you, expect a heartbreak. They just don’t relate to the “rules” of recruiting. The law of Head-hunter’s Jungle isn’t like their rules at all.

6. The Incompetent
Too bad they don’t answer the phone “Peter Principle speaking.” They’ve reached their level of incompetence and test your level of intolerance.
A few of their traits are:

a. They’re indecisive, so readily accept your suggestions on job specs and source companies (whether you’re right or wrong).

b. They’re disorganized, so forget appointments, get distracted during interviews, and lose hiring paperwork (resumes, applications and even fee schedules).

c. They’re shortsighted, so accept referrals from anyone who calls.

d. They’re inconsistent, so revoke accepted job offers before the start date.

e. They’re unrealistic, so give you a wish list, then blame you for producing recruits who won’t make a lateral move.

f. They’re insecure, so insist on “qualified” candidates but sabotage their placement (calling them “overqualified,” “too senior,” or just “unsuitable”).

But what do you do in response to these things? Are you the kind of person Donald Smith was talking about in How to Cure Yourself of Positive Thinking?

The easy way to live with inefficiency, bungling and monumental stupidity is to go along with it and to respond with a cheerful and enthusiastic “Right, Chief!” and establish yourself as a positive thinker, eager and willing to go along with the times. . . The person who is working you into a corner with an unreasonable or selfish demand cares not a fig for your feelings and that is exactly what you owe him . . . It isn’t working, is it? So why do you cling to the belief that it does work, or will work, or could work if only . . . (and here you can fill in any of a thousand feeble excuses).

You won’t make a placement with any of these folks. They’ll just relentlessly waste your time and infect you with an incurable case of recruiter burnout.

More than thirty-five years ago, Jeffrey G. Allen, J.D., C.P.C. turned a decade of recruiting and human resources management into the legal specialty of placement law. Since 1975, Jeff has collected more placement fees, litigated more trade secrets cases, and assisted more placement practitioners than anyone else. From individuals to multinational corporations in every phase of staffing, his name is synonymous with competent legal representation. Jeff holds four certifications in placement and is the author of 24 popular books in the career field, including bestsellers How to Turn an Interview into a Job, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book and the revolutionary Instant Interviews. As the world?s leading placement lawyer, Jeff?s experience includes: Thirty-five years of law practice specializing in representation of staffing businesses and practitioners; Author of ?The Allen Law?--the only placement information trade secrets law in the United States; Expert witness on employment and placement matters; Recruiter and staffing service office manager; Human resources manager for major employers; Certified Personnel Consultant, Certified Placement Counselor, Certified Employment Specialist and Certified Search Specialist designations; Cofounder of the national Certified Search Specialist program; Special Advisor to the American Employment Association; General Counsel to the California Association of Personnel Consultants (honorary lifetime membership conferred); Founder and Director of the National Placement Law Center; Recipient of the Staffing Industry Lifetime Achievement Award; Advisor to national, regional and state trade associations on legal, ethics and legislative matters; Author of The Placement Strategy Handbook, Placement Management, The National Placement Law Center Fee Collection Guide and The Best of Jeff Allen, published by Search Research Institute exclusively for the staffing industry; and Producer of the EMPLAW Audio Series on employment law matters. Email him at


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