How Tough Can It Be?

Last week, a friend of mine asked me if recruiting was the toughest job I’ve ever had.

I thought about it for a minute, then told him that recruiting was a piece of cake compared to serving on the military funeral honor guard in Norfolk, Virginia, when I was a naval officer fourteen years ago. Most of the funeral ceremonies I attended were of deceased World War II veterans, the heroes of the last century. Once the color guard finished marching on the field and presenting the colors, Taps would play, and I would slowly march to the surviving spouse who was seated next to the fresh grave, kneel down, hand her a folded American flag, and say,

“On behalf of a grateful nation and a proud Navy, I present this flag to you in recognition of your husband’s years of honorable and faithful service to his country.”

I would snap a quick hand salute, and my job was finished. I could barely speak the words without choking up. I would watch the aged widows with their wrinkled and weathered loving hands reaching out for the flag as if it was emanating comfort and solace. Perhaps it was. They would firmly hold it against themselves, knowing that their dear departed husband’s life will forever be remembered by a truly thankful nation.

It was the toughest job I’ve ever had.

And now, I wonder why in this current job, a veteran of ten years working a desk in the profession of search, I still seem to struggle to do something as easy as picking up the phone.? How hard can it be? It’s just a phone.

It’s not like someone can reach through there and slap me silly upside the head if they don’t like the sound of my voice. I don’t have to fight any battles, sail to any other parts of the world for months at a time, or even do any heavy lifting. It’s just a phone, for crying out loud. It’s not the toughest thing I’ve ever done. The actions should be quite easy compared to everything else, right?

I think it’s a common situation that we all face, and the game of recruiting is really a head game. Forget about other recruiters who are competitors. You are your only competition.

I think yesterday it hit me when I pushed my way through my natural inhibitions about calling complete strangers, thinking that I may be bothering them at work, and getting them to consider a radical change in their lives so I can collect a fee.

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After about seven connections, I then proceeded to reach five candidates who seemed to fit and who seemed to have an interest in my client’s opportunity. After that point the rest of my phone calls didn’t seem so hard anymore.

Here’s the key to getting and staying on the phone: recognize that everyday has a “hurdle threshold.”

Once you push through it, the calls then seem easier. The point is to push as quick and as hard as you can so that when you reach that threshold, the rest of the day seems like a piece of cake. It can happen after four hours of phone calls or after four minutes. It’s almost like once you reach this threshold, you are reminded that the business works, that it’s fun, and that there actually are people who want to radically alter their lives and explore other opportunities.

The newest participant in my mentorship program is a two-month rookie. I told him that we want to start good habits early. I said that for this week, email me the time that you walk into the office and the time that you make your first phone call, and see if you can shrink that gap. On Tuesday he started work at 7:31 and made his first call at 7:39. His first call was to a warm prospect.

There are three lessons here:

  • First, it reminds us to start earlier. The sooner you start, the more you do. And the more you do, the more you make.
  • Second, within eight minutes he was productive. Eight minutes? It seems like most recruiters get that sort of action after eighty minutes of being in the office.
  • Third, he was smart enough to know that sometimes you just have to ease in to the day. It’s always easier to get into a warm jacuzzi than a cold swimming pool. Do it by calling a warm prospect, or better yet, make a money call.. Call someone who is in the process of accepting an offer, or just had an interview, or is on their way to an interview. When you make these types of calls, you hit that “hurdle threshold” quicker and take the sting out of the rest of the day.

Here’s a fourth idea for you if you still have trouble mustering up the energy to push toward that hurdle. Think about the toughest job you’ve ever had, and compare it to the job of making telephone calls. Once you do that, your job as a recruiter will never seem so hard again.

Scott Love increases company profit margins by working as a management consultant, author, and professional speaker with special emphasis in the executive search and staffing industries. He has been quoted in major city newspapers, national trade magazines, international business magazines, and the Wall Street Journal. He has his own weekly business column in the Gannett News Service. His free website for recruiters has over 50 free tips and tools to help you bill more.


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