A Recruiter’s Values

What do we stand for?

What is it we do as recruiters? Fill jobs? Source candidates? Use ATS, social networks, job boards, etc? An excellent recruiter and friend of mine — John Amodeo — has a great answer. John says we’re in the life-changing business. Think about it. When we fill a job we’ve transformed somebody’s life, hopefully for the better.

This is the human side of our work, which it seems many of us ignore. I’m just as guilty of this. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the shuffle when we’re neck deep in Linkedin, Facebook, video resumes, and all the other cool technologies we use. I was fortunate to start my career in recruiting managing a team of recruiters, never having hired anyone myself. At the time candidates were just resumes to me. It wasn’t until later that I became a hands-on recruiter. That was when I realized recruiting was more than moving documents and tracking a process.

Giving people jobs meant a lot. I got to talk with really interesting people — like the guy who did an interview on a satellite phone from an oil rig in the gulf of Mexico. Or the one who was in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and survived because he walked down 87 floors.

Finding Talent or Giving Jobs

Do you remember the thrill of getting your first offer letter, or subsequent ones? It’s usually the same for most people. Getting a job means a lot, unless one is completely jaded. A job represents more than income — it conveys a sense of self worth. It means a person can be a provider and independent of others and has something of value to contribute. But is that what we’re supposed to care about? After all, we’re paid by employers to fill jobs, and the golden rule says that he who has the gold makes the rules.

It seems the human side of recruiting is being sidelined. My recent post on discrimination against the unemployed triggered some very emotional responses. The conversation did make me wonder if as recruiters we need to do something to help these people. Are we our brother’s keepers? That’s for each of us to decide. I don’t think I am, but that doesn’t mean I can’t show more concern for others. What are our ethics? I remember a business ethics class in grad school where the professor told us on the first day that ethics meant knowing the difference between right and wrong, and doing something about the wrongs. There is something wrong about rejecting a candidate just for being unemployed, without knowing anything about the circumstances.

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With 5 million people out of work, shouldn’t we be doing something to help? Don’t we all know someone who’s in that boat? As recruiters what have we become if we can’t even show we care? Do we stand for anything other than just filling jobs? We don’t have to compromise our principles — jobs should be filled by the most qualified candidates, but reasons like unemployment should not create a permanent underclass of people. We should at least make an effort to educate hiring managers about focusing on skills and ability rather than acting as if these people don’t matter. Many of you may well believe that we owe them nothing and we’re here to do what our employers tell us to do. I happen to disagree.

We’ve automated recruiting a great deal, and mostly made it better. But let’s not forget that ultimately it’s about people. In the movie “Miracle” — about the U.S. winning the hockey gold at the 1980 winter Olympics — the coach, played by Kurt Russell, is trying to get the team to stop thinking of just themselves. In the most iconic scene he has the players skating back and forth in the ice rink. Earlier whenever he has asked them “Who do you play for?” each player responded with the name of their school. This time they keep going for a long time until finally one player replies “I play for the United States of America.”

Who do you play for?

Raghav Singh, director of analytics at Korn Ferry Futurestep, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.


20 Comments on “A Recruiter’s Values

  1. Raghav
    Simply a very beautiful article that hits right at the very core of what is needed and what appear that the last 4-5 years have managed many recruiters of whatever kind in whatever capacity to forget and be indifferent about.
    The AngloAmerican culture is good for many things and I would rarher have that than the totalitarian regimes that we see play their ugly hands currently in the Middle East, Russia and other places. However what the AngloAmerican culture is not so very good at is the feeling of shared responsibility and shared ownership and accountability. Looking at the culture of the single largest and most successful European country Germany there is a reason why they are where they are. Personal pride, personal accountability, personal involvement and personal feeling of carrying responsibility is what make Germany what it is. Everybody know their place, and play by the rules and those that do not will be told so. It is about what is best for the community, what will serve all sides equally well, what will benefit the most. No one in Germany pay exorbitant rail fares, but what is regarded as fair and in line with cost, whereas in the UK all rail services are on private hands and the prices are sky rocketing and all dependent on when you travel (premium price for traveling in rush hour, when most people need it to get to work!) With in addition a weak regulatory structure it is only beneficial to one side, the rail service operators.
    The bottom line is that the chase of the dollar the quest for superiority with the AngloAmerican structure has meant that only the strongest, the boldest and the one that know how to play the system survives. That is in principle good, but does leave a heap of casualties. With an ever increasing culture of narcissism and that those that understand how to promote themselves those that come out top, we are coming to a point of me, me me rather than us us us.
    It is deeply worrying trend and does not bode well for our civilisation, as it does not promote a sense of community, a sense of helping, a sense of understanding, and then doing something about it.
    At the same time we have come to a point of employers only wanting purple squirrels, 2 or 3 roles in one, hybrids and setting criteria that border sexism and ageism why that promote a culture of narrow mindedness, and exclusion of millions of good folks that simply cannot get a look in.
    At the very core are those that dictate this and those that serve it, and as much as one could say it is up to those involved to attempt to change it, I wonder how much that is actually possible.
    We unfortunately know that only real catalyst for change is market forces and one can only hope that our world may be on its way to a change, however as with so many things people have to be left with no options before they actually do something about it.

  2. It’s a shame that we have to remind recruiters we’re in the people business. Working for a corporation doesn’t change that. Our role is still getting the best people in place. ‘B’ recruiters focus on company needs. ‘A’ recruiters understand candidates.

    Balancing corporate and jobseekers’ interests can be challenging, but taking the candidate’s desires into consideration is paramount in getting the right match. In our current recruiting paradigm we focus too much on skills, then fit. We’re told the best way to fill a role is to get someone who needs no training because managers are too busy to train. And while this may be expedient in the short run I wonder at the motivation level of a new hire who has done this job before.

    I have only two questions when selecting a candidate: “Can they do the job?” which is about skills; and “Will they do the job?” which is about motivation. Today we spend inordinate time on the first and gloss over the second.

    For me, Raghav’s article highlights the importance of the second – motivation and the candidate’s perspective. If two candidates have similar skillsets, understanding their respective motivation levels makes all the difference. (Fit is important too, but overrated in most places – that’s another subject). The corporation is just one side of the recruiting equation. You cannot become a top recruiter unless you understand the candidate’s perspective.

  3. How about some real stories about people you’ve met who have lousy ethics and some perspective on how representative they are.

    That would add some meat to this sermon.

  4. @Animal, your style and trademark is cynicism and if that is how you think you may contribute to the world then so be it, I however happen to disagree and think you do more harm than good.
    If indeed this a sermon then Raghav follow in the steps of many great Americans that have formed the country, be it Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King (‘I have a dream’) to perhaps not sermons then inspirational speeches such as Barack Obama ‘yes we can change’ to Steve Jobs (Stanford University commencement speech 2006)
    We need people like Raghav and those before mentioned to be a counterweight to the madness we see around us taking place, the loss of looking after each other (in a wider sense) and the ever increasing selfishness, narcissism and me above anything or anybody else. We need to understand that as human beings we carry a responsibility as custodians of our world and that this mean taking some responsibility and accountability. If we continue the ‘everybody for themselves’ then we will for certain be on our way to doom and with that as with Rome, the whole thing will fall apart mired in its own greed and excess.

  5. Great article! The opportunity to help others was the reason I recently pursued and accepted a job as a recruiter. After more than 15 years in sales, I never thought that I would be standing in the unemployment line. I can’t count the times I was sidelined by companies who I felt never gave me an opportunity because I was unemployed. Even when I applied for jobs that were identical to my previous work experience I was “not qualified” for the position. It became humiliating after a while. It wasn’t until I took a part-time job making less than $50 a week, that employers gave my resume a second chance. Now, that I am working as a recruiter, I want to help others. Unemployed does not necessarily mean unqualified and unmotivated. When I review resumes I see a lot of intelligent and talented men and women, who like me, gave the best years of their lives to companies. Experience tells me that some were tossed out like yesterday’s newspaper and others eliminated due to the bad economy. Although I am a rookie, I want to a recruiter who is more than a job filler. I want to help educate hiring managers that the unemployed should not be punished for being unemployed and they are not damaged goods. But they deserve an opportunity to work again.

  6. Cheryl. For the experiences you have been through, for what you have felt yourself and for what you have written about here that will hopefully stay with you for the rest of your life you are now a recruiter with heart, one with insight and understanding and one that has a different perspective on anyone you come in contact with.
    Stay true to this and maintain highest possible level of that ‘personal touch and understanding’ and you will always be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

    Welcome to the ‘I am a recruiter that want to make a human difference club’

  7. One correction: It’s not 5 million out of work, the number officially unemployed is 11.5 million, which amounts to 7.4%. As large as that number is, it doesn’t quite tell the full story. The better indicator of the employment situation is told by the U-6 percentage. This counts not only the “officially” unemployed, but those who have all but given up looking for work, and those who working part-time because they can’t find a full time job. That 14% translates to 22.7 million.

  8. Well John if that the case (and I suspect you are right) then the more reason for someone taking an active part and attempting change (as if intial number was not enough reason)

  9. John is correct. The 5 million number refers to those considered long-term (over 6 months) unemployed. Regrettably, the situation is far worse, as he points out.

  10. @ Cheryl: I hope your idealism is neither quickly crushed nor slowly squeezed out of you like water from a sponge. My suggestion: do not expect people (especially those in charge) to be helpful, humble, courageous, and wise/competent, but accept that many of them are greedy arrogant, fearful, and ignorant/incompetent (the GAFI Principles), and that these latter characteristics often dominate how things are done. If you can recognize this and still occasionally accomplish genuine good, there’s hope for you (and for us all).



  11. Great article!!

    I think recruiting is not alone in the different types of motivation that can drive people. Doctors can do it for the money, but often it’s the satisfaction of being able to help and save people’s lives. Lawyers can do it for the money or the sense of justice they receive when doing their job at the highest level. The list goes on and on.

    Whenever people do things simply motivated by “the money” they can make, then they will cut corners, do things that might be unethical, treat people poorly, and operate in a generally selfish manner.

    When I did my first interview for an entry-level recruiting position, my interviewer asked me why I wanted to do it. The “right” answer was “to make money”. Even though he was my eventual trainer and longtime colleague, he never really understood how I could be so successful as a recruiter when money wasn’t my primary motivator.

    My answer to his confusion is that I was in the life-changing business and I loved the challenge of finding why people were unique and special even when they usually didn’t even know themselves.

    Focus on the people (not the money) and you’ll have a long, successful, and satisfying career in recruiting.

    Cheers to all the good ones out there!

  12. @ Rob. Well said.
    @ Cheryl: one more suggestion- whenever you get discouraged, just remember that except for the candidates, hiring managers, and your fellow recruiters/superiors, recruiting would be just fine! 😉


  13. I just saw that I got a reply from Jake Madsen. I don’t know what I did wrong. I just asked the author to provide some decent evidence to support his claims.

    We do live in modern age, right, when you can’t just say the moon is made out of green cheese and expect everyone to believe that it’s true.

    Jake, if you want to debate that idea with me, you’re always welcome to be a guest on The Recruiting Animal Show.

    And you’re welcome to bring as many people as you need to help you prove that evidence is bad.

    See http://AnimalShowBasics.com

  14. @Animal
    1. I go by name given me at birth and not some AgloAmerican abbreviation or version.
    2. What is it that Raghav is saying that require evidence?
    3. Thank you but no thank you for invitation to your show, I see it of little value, why I kindly decline.

  15. @Cheryl: I would like to suggest another reason companies may not have looked at you, and it may not have had anything to do with your unemployed status. You worked for the same company for over 20 years. This is a red flag to many companies. Good luck in your new career.

  16. Strange place our world and how it rolls. Probably the ERE discussions with the most ever comments was the Recruiment trilogy of 3.0, 4,0 and 5.0 by Matthew Jeffery with I believe 350 comments for the latest Recruitment 5.0 in total.
    Call it time of year, summer vacations or other, however by now there has been ample time for any comments to be made.
    When Raghav write about a guiding principle for how we go about the calling of recruitment the foundation and the beliefs behind actions it can barely scrape together 16 comments. That can only wonder and raise deep concern with how much and how deep any in the industry regard the subjects raised by Raghav and I personally find it puzzling and sad not seeing any more comments.
    One can attempt to analyse or understand, I draw my own conclusions being that people most are simply indifferent, and indifference will be the killer of any change.

  17. @ Jacob: I’d like to also attribute the relative lack of comments to the “summer doldrums”. At the same time, I’ve said elsewhere that even in the most dysfunctional systems, somebody benefits, and unless the forces of change are well organized or there’s some tipping-point scenario, things will probably stay as they are.

    No Cheers,

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and I agree that the mechanized role of recruiting should never overrule the human side. I say this not just in the theme of the “brother’s keeper” philosophy, but more in the fact that tapping into one’s “human” side makes you an overall better listener and someone who is more adaptable to change; thus a better recruiter. Mr. Madsen, your constant reference to Anglo-Americans and your sweeping statements about how you think they view the world and treat other people shows a huge lack of the humanistic traits you espouse to support. You would do well sir, not to compartmentalize people so much and cast your negative view over them as a group; kind of like the way people generalize about unemployed individuals.

  19. @John A. If I as a UK citizen and having had extensive exposure to US management styles and cultures hold the view I do (on basis of living amongst it and having daily exposure to it) then that is an opinion that I am entitled to, as much as you are entitled to disagree.
    As much as I hate generalisation and that I admit that one cannot nor should taint everybody with the same brush, I am from a subjective perspective seeing less ‘we’ and ‘us’ and more ‘I’ in the world that surround me.

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