Happy All The Time? (I Think Not…)

“Happiness is an emotion associated with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy.”

Do you have problems keeping your internal clients happy? Do you arrive at work first thing in the morning dreading e-mails and phone messages from certain hiring managers? Do you ever have the urge to chase some of your internal clients around the office with a blunt instrument while screaming something like, “More candidates? I’ll give you more candidates you miserable &*%&*,” as they scatter in fear of their lives? Does any of this sound familiar?

If this charming reality is even a part of the story of your recruiting life, you can change that story by adopting a radically innovative mindset and you can do it today. I urge you to consider the following fact: it is not your job to make your internal clients happy. Never was and never will be. You might have thought it was because we were all trained to think that way, but that is not our goal from a business perspective. Our real objective is to present them with two or three qualified candidates who could be hired. End of story. If your internal clients are not happy after that, the problem is theirs, not yours, because you have done your job.

Let’s take a closer look at this concept of “happy.” Consider the following words: “profit, objective, performance, leadership.” The omission of the word “happy” in that group of words is not accidental. That is because those are business-oriented words, whereas “happy” is an emotional state of being. As recruiters, making people happy is not our job. Good, proactive, and effective recruiting is our job. Locating, attracting, and presenting candidates for the positions we are trying to fill is our business, and that is the only business with which we are involved.

Taking it one step further (Sorry I’m on a roll…) Keeping internal clients “happy” is a fool’s errand. Recruiting is difficult enough. Crazy expectations, poor response time, and un-communicated changes in requirements just scratch the surface of the recruiter’s typical day. We roam the halls with this creepy feeling that a good many of our internal clients are not happy. We struggle to do the best we can; we locate and present qualified candidates; yet, we still have this sinking feeling that they are not happy. Forget happy. Just do your job as a recruiter and that will have to be good enough.

With that in mind, let’s see how we can execute on this new way of doing business.

1) Present only candidates who could be hired. In terms of definitions, a hirable candidate is one who has a reasonable chance of accepting an offer if one is tended. For example, do not present candidates, however qualified, if there is no good reason for them to accept the position. Case in point: the comp range on your position is $80,000 and your candidate is earning $79,000 with a raise due in a month. Your commute is 45 minutes and theirs is five minutes; they get four weeks; vacation, you give two. Get the point? You have a candidate who might be qualified but generally speaking, not likely to be hired. All this candidate will do is get a hiring manager excited about someone they can’t have. Honestly, why should they change jobs?

2) Present only qualified candidates. This is a basic, but it bears repeating: never present a candidate who is not qualified. For the more senior recruiters, I know that you can get creative at times and try to present off-label candidates to create an innovative hiring solution, and that is OK. On the other hand, be advised that you really need to know what you are doing to get away with that. You need to have both a good relationship and track record with the hiring manager if you wish to swim in these waters.

3) Understand the position. Once again, a basic that’s worth repeating. Understand all that you need to know before you source your first candidate. You can’t sell what you don’t understand.

4) Understand the candidate. Do interviews that are deep enough to understand not just the candidate’s qualification but what they really want/need in their next position. Take the extra 15 minutes to really know your candidate and you will never be sorry. (See “10 Things Recruiters Should Know About Every Candidate They Interview” for some real depth on this topic.)

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5) Never make them wait. Be sure that your internal client never has to wait for you. If you have an action item as it relates to a position, a reference check, a question on their comp, whatever, do it as soon as humanly possible and get back to them with the results. Never, ever, make them wait.

6) Drive the process. You are either a driver or you are a passenger. Be a driver! If the internal client has to contact you to find out what is happening with their position, that is bad. If you contact them to ask what is happening with the candidates you have sent, that is good.

7) Document everything. Phone calls and quick hallway meetings are OK, but getting it in writing is even better. Send a “cc” to yourself on all e-mails and in the event you get verbal instructions, put it in e-mail to the hiring manager to keep it all straight. It is called CYA and yes, it is a sad way to live, but it is one of life’s realities.

8) Worry less about being liked. All of us want to be liked, but recruiters seem to carry it to an extreme. I know because I want to be liked as well as the next person. Do not let your judgment or activities be affected by this malady. There are times you will have to drive hard and make noise to get things done. Better to fill the position and scuff a few egos then fail to fill it and be loved by all. They do not pay us to be loved by all. (Looking for unconditional love? Get a dog.)

I know what you are thinking. Clients need to be happy. No — clients need to have their needs successfully met based upon the parameters established in the beginning of the relationship. If you are a driver, your job is to get them to the airport safely and on time. If you are a recruiter, your job is to present good candidates. “Happy” is an entirely different world whose meaning conjures up images of group hugs and bumper stickers that say “Have You Hugged Your Recruiter Today.” (Creepy huh?)

Personally, I think that internal clients should very happy if you manage to locate two or three candidates who are qualified and could be hired, but that’s just my opinion. All the rest is unnecessary drama; we are not in the drama business either.

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 twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


4 Comments on “Happy All The Time? (I Think Not…)

  1. Howard,

    Excellent article on the subject, actually a very direct approach to a common problem, stick to the basics.

    But, I would like to request of you a part duex. Reason, what do we do about the managers, no matter what you give them, just want to see more, and to boot, will cause you nothing but grief in your process. There are some who will ask you every day wanting to see resumes, where are my resumes? Any more, what about this afternoon? You attempt to discuss with them your agreed upon process to get them candidates and to no avail. You deliver and the job moves a little, you target that, and it moves again. Of course you have worked through the chain of command, but the manager will not hire anyone you send.

    Earlier, the manager had job spec that was really two different, opposing positions, someone who really did not exist and we managed through that by eventually appealing to the manager after weeks of ‘trying.’

    This one manager even was disruptive in asking for someone for the position who did not fit the spec at all, of course the person was not hired b/c the managers boss rejected the candidate. However, no matter how many attempted to takle the position, it was difficult to get the manager to like anyone.

    It is really difficult to get behind the issues for the manager rejecting so many actually qualified candidates. HR approached this from where the customer is always right, however, even if they contradict themselves, HR will not manage up to get clarity.

    Basically this job was a moving target and the manager was a land mine for those who attempted to assist him in finding people.

    Really, what can we as recruiters do when we hit a wall like this and the manager is never satisfied.

  2. Excellent article, telling “how it is” – couldn’t agree more!
    Joseph, I understand your situation – we all had to deal with a “hiring manager from hell” at some point in our careers, probably more than once. I found a quote from another article by Howard (Jan. 10, 2006), it answers your question: “If you are a recruiter reporting into an HR person who does not get it, I suggest that you consider yourself the person in charge and learn how to manage your boss. See How to Manage Your Boss: Developing the Perfect Working Relationship, by Ros Jay. Even if you can’t change the structure, you can still get great results.”
    Clearly, in your case the HR manager is not supporting you as he/she should, and the hiring manager’s boss is not asking some questions he/she should ask, either. I don’t know what are the dynamics within your company; is the HR (and recruiting) perceived as business partner? Is this a problem with just one hiring manager, and you have good relations and deliver results to everyone else? What was the situation of other recruiters with this hiring manager – did they have the same issues? If yes, you can build your case; document everything you do, don’t rely on verbal agreements and conversations – send an email; always stay calm, professional and polite; if this is an ongoing situation and you have enough ammunition (so to speak) either your boss, or his boss, or even better, both – should pay attention.

  3. These scenarios are so on-target, it bought back terrible memories for me. This was a disease in our company for a while. I was frustrated with the entire process from beginning to end. I eliminated the recruiter/hiring manager positions AKA the middle people and started using online marketplaces, like dayak, bounty, etc. I am the main contact and allow the the main supervisor and the middle-manager rights to an interview and the the three of us make a final decision. The entire process is streamlined to under 3-weeks depending on the position level.


  4. I often times think, gosh, “my clients are sure missing out.” I am reminded that intiative, as opposed to the intent of action, determines sales aggression. I of course know that my clients have better things to do than talk to me–Or do they? Should I be advocating for myself or about my customers/product? How often do we want to please ourselves? Well, money is definitely a motivator. I find that when there are crunches (time, money etc) –or a rice crispy chorus indicating you got up on time we find ourselves pushing the envelope, going to work and working at full speed. This is all based on the frivilous factor–the ease at which we accomplish tasks.

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