Be a Control Freak and Close More Deals

According to Wikipedia, “a control freak is a derogatory term for a person who has an obsessive need to control other people or situations.”

Seldom do I argue with Wikipedia on matters of definition or fact, but I will say that being a control freak can come in handy if you happen to be in the recruiting business and are being judged on the number of positions you fill.

If I am being judged on anything, I want to exert as much control as possible to see that things go my way. I don’t suggest you spend your days trying to be in charge of everything that happens and everyone you know (you’ll soon be without friends if you do), though the concept might come in handy if you are looking to fill more positions.

A recent CEO from GE named Jack Welch said, “Control your destiny or somebody else will.” With that bit of wisdom in mind, let’s take the concept of control into the recruiting business!

Making a great hire requires solid teamwork with various people doing whatever is necessary to turn a candidate into an employee. However, there are really only three central players who make up what I call the “unholy alliance” of the hiring team. The core ingredients of the recruiting experience are the recruiter, the hiring manager, and the candidate.

As recruiters, often we manage the needs, expectations, and desires of three very different roles, which may have conflicting/contrasting sets of needs, priorities, and objectives.

These often divergent aspirations can make for a difficult ride as the hiring process moves forward, causing frustration, miscommunication, and loss of a good hire if not managed properly. With, as the saying goes, good people being hard to find, there’s no good reason this should ever happen. This is where the recruiter’s skills and talents should be brought to bear in a way that can really make a difference. It’s time for recruiters to understand that they are much more than just a part of the process. They are the ones who need to manage, control, and direct the process if they want it to have an outcome that works well for all concerned.

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Breaking things down to their most simple and basic tenets, let’s quickly look at the typical roles of the three parties involved:

  1. The Recruiter. The person charged with filling the position with the best possible candidate.
  2. The Hiring Manager. Their role is to look at several different candidates, determine which one they think has the best chance of being successful, and to work with the recruiter to hire that candidate.
  3. The Candidate. Looks at several different companies and roles to position themselves for the best possible offer and/or opportunity.

As you can see, the candidate and the hiring manager are locked in a mating dance as they eye one other carefully. (Remember, no one wants to make any mistakes here.) Although trying to make something happen, they bring different forces to bear; the hiring manager wants the best candidate and the candidate wants the best position. This odd mixture of competition, cooperation, and posturing can easily bog down or even derail the process causing the recruiter to lose a perfectly good hire. This is exactly what we, as recruiters, must work to prevent.

In addition to being the person to source and bring the candidate to the hiring manager, the recruiter must also act as the general contractor, running the show and laying the ground rules on a going-forward basis. As recruiters, we must exercise judgment in a way that will allow us to know if a candidate is lost, at least if it happened for a reason that was unavoidable as opposed to something dumb a hiring manager or candidate might have said or done in a moment of poor judgment.

If we focus on the following five key points, we will have a better chance of exercising the control required to keep everything moving more smoothly from first interview right through candidate acceptance (if it goes that far) while making the ride a lot less bumpy for both the hiring manager and candidate.

  1. Train your hiring managers. Truth be told, most hiring managers really want to do what is right as the hiring process progresses, if for no other reason than wanting to be done with it. Whether you are working with a hiring manager for the first time or for the 50th, it is never too late to sit them down and establish ground rules for an effective partnership. “The Hiring Manager’s Guide to Working With Recruiters” outlines the basics of a simple and effective partnership.
  2. Train your candidates. All candidates need to undergo basic training in how you want to work with them. It is in everybody’s best interest to know what to expect. The exact phrase I use is, “Listen, let me tell you how I work.” Outline the importance of such things as returning your calls promptly, being honest about all compensation issues, and asking any questions about the position, the company, the hiring manager, or anything else. Bottom line: this is a relationship business, so communication and honesty are critical.
  3. Communicate the next step. In the hiring process, there is always a next step as the candidate moves up or out. The hiring manager and the candidate should always know exactly what that next step is and it should be communicated to both parties by the recruiter, both by phone to personalize it and in e-mail to create a paper trail. The recruiter should also ask both parties if there is anything else they need and get it to them as soon as possible.
  4. Know your location in time and space. Recruiters juggle multiple openings and multiple candidates and this can become confusing. As recruiters, we must always know where each deal stands, what the next step is, and what we have to do to get to that next step. I suggest using a database, a notebook, a spreadsheet, or anything other than your memory to keep track of where things stand. The confusion of saying the wrong thing to the wrong candidate can have very bad results.
  5. Control that offer! Every company has its own way of making an offer, and that is okay. What is not acceptable is to come up with offers that will not be accepted. There should be a clear, definitive dialogue between the hiring manager and the recruiter as to what type of offer should be presented, and it should be presented to the candidate by the recruiter. Just as a good lawyer never asks a question in a courtroom he does not already know the answer to, a good recruiter should never make an offer he does not think has a high degree of being accepted. Bottom line: making an offer that may be rejected, after all of the work you have done to get to the offer stage, is as sad and as silly as it gets.

Many recruiters I know have what is called the surgeon’s personality: If you ask them who the three best recruiters in the world are, they can’t think of who the other two might be. Some might consider this to be egotistical. However, I call it essential for survival, as we are measured on what we accomplish.

The best recruiters wish to be better today than they were yesterday. With that type of drive for excellence, I can’t imagine anyone else other than the recruiter calling the shots, orchestrating the hire, and closing the deal.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


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