Coaching Your Placement Team to Run Your Placement Machine

Placement is an individual, one-on-one, one-at-a-time activity. There’s nothing else in the world of work more personal than hiring or changing jobs. Recruiters are one-on-one people, too. They’re entrepreneurial types who are really CEO’s of their own “profit centers” — their desks.

In the past, it made no difference how many desks you had. “Personal production” was the only thing that mattered. Sharing job orders and candidate leads often occurred only through office espionage.

But over the past few years, the phrase “personal production” has been replaced with the letters “PDA.” That stands for “per desk average.” Successful managers everywhere have learned that team placements are not only possible — they’re profitable.

Individual recruiters can vary widely in direct production, but the bottom line is the only thing that counts. With the integration of automation, the Web and the Internet, sharing placement information can be done instantly and effortlessly.

This PTL will show you how to coach your placement team to run your placement machine:


Since our industry developed with a “desk mentality,” you probably learned in an independent environment. It’s natural to you, so you may not realize your “team” is just a “staff.”

Here are five ways to tell if you’re the culprit:

a.      Recruiters are separately managed, and believe they are together just for administrative purposes.

b.     Recruiters work independently, sometimes even competing with each other.

c.      Recruiters follow required “desk procedures,” and are not permitted to develop their own.

d.     Training is generalized, assuming that each recruiter has equal cold-calling, job-order taking, recruiting and closing skills.

e.      Reporting on placement activity is defensive with undue optimism or elaborate excuses.

In a “team-centered” office, these attributes are found:

a.      Two or more recruiters are managed simultaneously, and believe they share responsibility for making placements.

b.     Two or more recruiters work together, and competition is replaced with cooperation.

c.      “Desk procedures” are virtually non-existent, and are replaced with a flexible “division of labor.”

d.     Training is specific, usually limited to certain phases of the placement process.

e.      Defensiveness does not occur, since informal reporting is done collectively.


The term “team player” is really a misnomer. “Teams” are nothing more than individuals focusing on the same goals. So “team players” are just recruiters who have shifted their focus. Once that occurs, “the end justifies the means.” The goal becomes more important than the person doing the particular activity.

If you doubt this, just look at the best athletes in team sports. Each has a different personality, different physical attributes, and even a different approach. They’ve just subordinated individual “production” to increasing the team’s score. A “win” to them is a team win.

That doesn’t mean your present staff is balanced as a team, though. Any team can have too many “listers,” “recruiters,” or PR handshakers.

Don’t assume you know where your recruiters’ strengths and weaknesses are. As I observed in How to Turn an Interview into a Job:

One of the first things I learned in my personnel career was that people don’t change, circumstances change.

A typical example is the employee who is eased out of one company for poor work performance, then goes to another and becomes a superstar. Out of a bad marriage into a good one; failing at one school and becoming an honor student at another; the has-been actor who wins an Oscar. The opposite also occurs just as often.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? What is really happening?

Nobody is changing, but different circumstances are bringing out different attributes.

Give your “team” at least 90 days to develop its placement players and plays. Once you do, weaknesses (and strengths) will surface naturally.


As you’re working with your staff, the former titles of consultants might seem inappropriate.

Here’s the usual way functional titles evolve.

a.      Account Executive – The employer contact person. Usually there is only one for a particular “account” (not really a “client,” since it’s a non-exclusive, contingency-fee activity).

b.     Recruiter – The “headhunter” who cold-calls, qualifies, and refers viable candidates to the AE.

c.      Researcher – The person who combs newspapers, trade journals, directories, annual reports, and other materials for placement leads. This includes:

i.         Employer “trackers” who find potential clients or sources.

ii.        Candidate “developers” who find people that can be readily placed.

Research is becoming the most important function in many offices, and there’s a lot to know. There are two other functions that also develop, but should be done by you:

a.      Management

Although teams tend to have internal “checks and balances” by the shared goal striving, they also can become complacent.

We wrote “Placement Management” for this purpose. In Chapter 40 entitled “Consultant Procrastination Cures,” we observed:

At the root of the problem is the consultant’s love-hate relationship with the telephone. Any cold call invites rejection, and it usually occurs.

This phenomenon has spawned an entire subculture of “administrators who tackle the major undertakings in an office like sorting the mail, reactivating job orders, filing sendout slips, coding old resumes, inputting the computer and writing ads. Anything but getting down to business with clients and candidates.

The “cures” we recommended include:

i.         Breaking down the placement process.

ii.        Setting a time for open-ended conversations.

iii.      “Push-starting” your engine.

iv.      Taking advantage of moods.

v.        Setting up an incentive program.

vi.      Taking care of the problems first.

vii.     Minimizing interruptions.


After the first 90 days, you should be able to see where strengths are needed. Here are the questions to ask yourself:


1. Which activities does our team need performed?

o   Employer Contact

o   Candidate Contact

o   Research

2. Which position would this person fit?

o   Account Executive

o   Recruiter

o   Researcher

3. What alternate position would this person fit?

o   Account Executive

o   Recruiter

o   Researcher

4. Can the present functions be rearranged to maximize the effectiveness of the team?

o   Yes

o   No

5. If so, which ones?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

6. Have sufficient guidelines been developed to facilitate interaction between team members?

o   Yes

o   No

7. If not, what guidelines need development?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

8. Have sufficient guidelines been developed to eliminate duplication between team functions?

o   Yes

o   No

9. If not, what non-duplication guidelines need development?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

10. Will additional training be required if this person is hired?

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o   Yes

o   No

11. If so, how and when will the training be done? __________________

12. Will additional management be required if this person is hired?

o   Yes

o   No

13. If so, what additional management will be required?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

14. How will the personality of the new employee enhance the team?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

15. Who will I appoint to help the new employee become oriented? _________

16. How will I reward the person who helps the new employee?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

17. How will I monitor the new employee’s progress?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

18. What incentives would be particularly helpful to encourage the new employee?

a.      ______________________________

b.     ______________________________

c.      ______________________________

Item 18 needs some explanation: Monetary incentives and rewards for results should not be initially used. They’re too easily “used up.” You can’t ever go back to less money. Instead, try to think about how this person will be motivated toward positive production.

If he can’t, you shouldn’t hire him. You need options to stretch and mold him into the group environment. You need someone with potential. He needs praise, respect and recognition.

Meeting these needs early will have him working in a team effort. They are the team rewards — the strokes that motivate humans in everything they do.


Coaching a team requires a delicate balance of listening, encouraging and leading.
According to Search Research Institute, there are three types of “team” owner-managers:

a.      Controllers

These are the coaches who just can’t let go. Psychologically, they’re still directing single-desk operations. They tend to sabotage their own team efforts by dividing and conquering any collective action.

Most controllers consider the high-volume interaction between employees to be largely a waste of time — “small talk.” They have little patience with socializing, not realizing that it happens no matter what they do. It happens the moment they leave the office.

SRI estimates that around 40% of the “coaches” over-control.

b.     Goal-Setters

Since the “coach” is almighty, few people will challenge his arbitrary goals. Even if they’re not arbitrary, his goals are his. By definition, the team doesn’t participate in the goal-setting process.

Without the internalizing of goals, team members never develop the “consensus focus” that every successful team needs.

The SRI estimate is that 30% of all “coaches” arbitrarily “goal set.”

So you see, the chances are 70% that your “coaching” is impeding your team’s effectiveness.
If you’re in that remaining 30%, you’re a

c.      Coach

A facilitator.

You communicate ideas, allow the team to develop independently, strengthen its weaknesses, and reinforce its strengths.

You recognize the importance of the individual. You’re sensitive about how your every action is an interaction that always causes a reaction. You may not know the reaction, but it always happens. It’s usually positive or negative, rarely neutral.

You want your employees to “buy in.” To “invest” psychologically in your business.

You want that “ownership” to be so deep, that “supervision” or even “management” is just a routine function. The mutual expectations (otherwise known as peer pressure) are the “automatic pilot” that keeps the crew on course.


They should be unnecessary. Teamwork and effective coaching is the epitome of Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s comment in The One Minute Manager:

Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.

If you’re a “participative manager,” staff meetings should not be held more than once a week, or for more than one hour (no exceptions).
They should be solely used for:

a.      Reinforcing positive goals.

b.     Expressing appreciation for outstanding achievement.

c.      Listening to suggestions about future goals.

d.     Listening to comments about improving and increasing placement activity.

e.      Encouraging team consensus.

If you’d like a workbook on this subject, I recommend Team Building: An Exercise in Leadership by Robert Maddux. It is available for $6.95 from your bookstore or through

Learn to coach your placement team and it will run your placement machine.

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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