On the Verge of Leaving the Recruiting Calling …

On the verge of leaving the recruiting calling …

I am a second-generation recruit who knew he wanted to be a recruiter. In junior high I’d go to my dad’s office and stuff envelopes of candidates to prospective clients and help rewrite resumes. I went to school and studied HR management and organizational development. After a stint in social work to give back and learn more about how people ticked, I went into recruiting.

I have started departments, trained recruiters and managers on targeted interviewing, and worked for some of the top firms in life sciences and finance — making them able to compete in a global economy.

I have had the privilege to study sourcing from Shally Steckerl and to debate Lou Adler on the art of recruiting. And I read articles each day on the profession of recruiting.

So, I am stunned to say I am done.

I have been put through the wringer by “fellow recruiters.” I’ve been denied jobs because I don’t type while phone screening … I was taught you actively listen to ask follow-up questions, then type your report from hand notes.

I have encountered recruiters who are really order takers/stenographers. They stick to their script and simply take dictation. A hiring manager turned me down for a contract because I had done contracts in the past. A recruiter would have advised them that this was a plus, adding value to the process. An order taker moves on to the next candidate.

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when a temp agency had me fill out a one-hour admin data entry test, and then tell me they couldn’t discuss the opening until I got a drug test and showed them my passport. All this was for an opening that turned out to not be about recruiting at all.

Article Continues Below

I have been a finalist several times, but it took repeated calls to find out they hired someone else, the role was on hold, or the job description changed to a different industry emphasis. And it goes on and on. Over the last six months, I have been told “no” for some of the oddest reasons. I have put my life on hold with odd jobs until the next opening would arrive.

I will miss finding candidates no one else could — helping them put their best foot forward while staying authentic — and telling people we have the toughest thing to sell because our “product” can open its mouth and ruin the sale. And I loved every moment of it. But I don’t think I have left recruiting as much as it has left me.

Why many companies still see the people who make the biggest difference in their organizations as a cost center puzzles me. They farm it out to organizations that don’t understand the culture or the organizational history that differentiates them from their competition.

I thank all those who, over the years, taught me, by bouncing ideas off them, and kept me going for as long as I have. Best of luck to you all.

Richard Goldberg has been a senior technical recruiter in the life sciences and financial niches. When not doing that, he plays basketball and volunteers with welfare to work candidates in getting jobs. He is recently married living in suburban Philadelphia.


25 Comments on “On the Verge of Leaving the Recruiting Calling …

  1. “Why many companies still see the people who make the biggest difference in their organizations as a cost center puzzles me.”

    Good question. My feeling is the answer is multiple causes, from ‘order takers’ charging 30% of a candidate’s first year salary when all they’ve done is run a job ad, to hiring managers and company principals who blame their own inadequacies and incompetence on their recruiting and HR functions. There are ‘recruiters’ out there who do nothing but gather resumes and forward them, usually for a massive fee which is only supported by the competent among them who actually deliver a valued service. There are hiring managers and company principals out there who spend their entire lives destroying their brands as employers by doing everything from acting entitled to a workforce without being willing to pay for it, to outright abusive and illegal practices, and then they wonder why they can’t get ‘top performers.’ And all the while our industry seems stuck in a rut of ridiculous antiquated practices that don’t predict performance or guarantee much of anything.

    Why are we still drug testing when even in safety situations spot checks seem more effective?

    Why are we doing reference checks when they haven’t once been correlated with good or bad performance, at least so far as I know?

    Why are we still letting halfwits with no training interview people and make decisions about their job fitness?

    Why are we still allowing ephemeral hire and fire decisions when performance is fairly easy to quantify and measure?

    Why does no one, at least by and large, think of retention until after someone decides to leave?

    Why do they concentrate so much effort on retaining the one person who’s already decided to leave as opposed to changing how they treat the remaining 99.999999% of the workforce they still have and which hasn’t decided to leave yet?

    Why do so many companies, despite the ability to distill most jobs down to deliverables and deadlines and a quality metric, still insist on salaried people clocking in and out like 19th century line workers, and that they plant their ass in a chair for a minimum 8 hour day whether or not it’s necessary or even advantageous, much less healthy?

    Hell, I’ve got a marketing manager position I’m hiring for, and it came out at a meeting a couple days ago that the old manager lets his staff essentially come and go as they please, holds them to deadlines and quality and delivery of product, and the department has never run better. The owner comes out and says he doesn’t mind so long as the work is getting done, and yet people are still being subjected to ‘disciplinary action’ through the rest of the company if they worked 39.8 hours as opposed to 40. Salaried people.

    We bring this on ourselves, Mr. Goldberg. We do it, to be blunt, by not calling people out on their BS, and not being open to be called out on our own BS. People are more interested in the appearance of ‘getting things done’ than the actuality of it. It’s easy to look busy, it’s not as easy to do something worthwhile.

  2. Rich
    You are not alone my friend in your sentiments, I am nearing having to consider my future, I have 3 months left before I am forced to possibly leave the profession I love and cherish and know more about than most and have done in some of the toughest environments possible. I can by now write a book about my experiences with fellow recruiters and let me tell you I am left more puzzled and gobsmacked than about anything else I have encountered. It is simply beyond belief what is out there and those that manage to hold positions on basis of very little and very useless competences, many a time I have left an interview thinking WTF is going on here, how come that you are even being allowed to work in this company and profession. When trying to challenge, to push the agenda and to show some initiative it is met with nothing more than indifference. I have seen questions asked by people in roles of management that beggars belief, so basic and so much showing a complete lack of understanding of what they in fact deal with…… weird world we live in is all I can say.
    Sad as with people like you leaving the world of recruitment the poorer.

  3. Rich, two things…

    1. Have you ever heard of the Equine Paradox? Asks the question, “Why is it there are so few horses but so many horse’ asses?” Applies to most in recruiting…

    2. You do realize that you’ll be positively pinged over your missive and won’t leave recruiting – until the next time?

    Call me (if you studied under my pal Shally, you’ll find my number) to strategize about #2


  4. Thank you all for the positive messages. Steve, I have thought about your second point. It may take the form of leveraging my skills till I can transition. Or possibly find a place that values a professional. But this isn’t the first time I’ve only been able to get stop gap work. Many times with the false promise of temp to perm. This has been going on for 5+ years. So I can’t continue without a strong foundation of professionalism around me.


  5. Best of luck. In this day and age, despite the stock market, things ain’t that great and companies feel very entitled and empowered to demand and not have to give much in return. Professionalism isn’t the priority in such circumstances.

  6. Rich,

    Good post, and all of us in this biz for long enough sees this stupidity too much.

    Ok….my comments to you….my coffee hasn’t hit and I’m in a snarky mood.

    1. just quit- and stop complaining – or- just complain….I always like a good rant about the stupidity in our industry This is my greedy side. If one more rare, talented person in our biz quits, like you, the rest of us become more valuable.

    2. Or take solace in the fact that the agency that did this to you:
    A. Is killing their brand and may not be around too long
    B. their end client company…..if you ever discovered who they are….are now a poaching company since I would suspect it is run poorly and many of their people are ready to leave, ( I’d guess more than 50% from what I see around these days).

    Richard Araujo- Agree with your comments. Over the yrs I think we can all agree, not much will change in larger companies that “are not going out to win” but “going out to not lose”.

    What does this mean for us…….Here’s my take

    As the economy keeps recovering…oh…and a heads-up for any non-recruiting exec reading this….the economy IS better…and is getting more-better-faster than you know….you will have a harder and harder time hiring quality.

    As large companies keep the mindset of “you’re lucky to have a job”..Other companies are going out to win. They are hiring, trying new things to keep their people challenged and happy, notice I didn’t say engaged, it’s been beaten to death.

    This will mean that quality recruiting will, once again, be appreciated and asked for. And when companies that are smart, realize we are profit centers, not cost centers…That’s the first step on the right path

    All the best to all, pardon my rant

  7. Thank you Alan. I partially agree with you. A true recruiter is also someone who has been through one of these cycles. And in certain industries the demand is greater than the supply.

    I am not complaining as much as reporting the state of recruiting. I wish the barriers of entry were greater through certification such as a CPA is for accounting.

    I’ve never been afraid of competition. I am saying the system is broke.We must educate, and sell a more valuable service than who can throw a candidate at a hiring manager fastest.

  8. Rich,

    I agree with you. So now my coffee is in and I’m less snarky.

    Yes the system is broke, or, the system hasn’t caught up with the marketplace. Sort of like the law hasn’t caught up with all the things happening on the web, social, media etc, it takes longer than we would like.

    I think the talent shortages that are here in some sectors, and are spreading are going to cause bigger and bigger employers to start walking the same walk, that smaller/mid-size companies are starting to walk, now.

    The marketplace will start forcing them to do this. Yes I’d like to see it more-better-faster, but it’s coming and here in many cases. It will depend on fortune 1000 firm doing something about it. Instead of considering recruiting as a cost center, something to outsource if possible, hence the rise in RPO growth.

    Once companies realize recruiting is a profit center, not a cost center, things will start moving. And I am starting to see this already.

    Recruiters are on the front lines, see and feel the pulse of the market. If their company does not, or chooses, to not see this, then the good recruiters will be the first to leave for a better situation

  9. Rich:

    I am horrified by the content of your article and humbled by your candor. You wrote the article that most of us, myself included, are not brave enough to write.

    All I can say is that my cell phone number is 617-930-6553 and I am here to help you in any way that I can. I would consider taking all of the help offered to you as I have done in the past on many occasions.

    In terms of contacting Mr Levy, I can only say that is is a long time friend and confidant of mine. His friendship is gold.

    Please call me if I can help.


  10. Howard
    Thanks for your kind words. This has been a humbling experience.
    I have already been in touch with Mr. Levy. He is a giving recruiter.


  11. Rich,

    Your passion and dedication is crystal clear. Unfortunately, you’re a dying breed. You are high quality, businesses focused, highly talented recruiter who probably rose to success pre-internet.

    Most, but not all, but a large majority of today’s recruiters and recruitment leaders not only are pathetically, dangerously clueless, and the worse part is they don’t even know how clueless they really are, as are their HR Business Partners just as disgustingly ignorant, and I use the term Business Partners lightly. I applied last year for a senior recruitment manager role to break up my routine, and had some junior teenie bopper literally screen me on the phone by asking me perfunctory questions right off of the employment application e.g. will you now or in the future require sponsorship……….

    I’ve found almost all of my interactions with incompetent recruiters and recruitment leaders from the F10-F10,000 companies as rewarding as watching a faucet drip. Happily, I am in a place where I have achieved tremendous recruitment agency success the last 10 years, so I do not have the income pressures to continue in this field, and am also jumping for joy at the thought of bowing out and playing golf.

    I wish you much success in your future endeavors.

  12. Ty you made my night tried to write you but email kicked back.
    Send me a private message on Ere.net or LinkedIn


  13. Rich…
    Very good post,my best wishes are with you and by seeing the response i hope very soon you will the required help.
    @ Howard-Completely agree with you,this is brave enough.

  14. I’ve watch this same scenario unfold several times in my career. I hate the thought of you giving up. I’ve got 15 years in as a corporate recruiter and have gone out on my own. Scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I want to be in control of my future. For the first time I can look in the mirror and know everyday that I’m making a difference. I hope you find that again.

    Any help I can offer – 843-801-1007

    Steph McDonald

  15. @ Rich G: Been there, done that. In fact, been there DOING that…
    You want to get a decent recruiting job? Here’s what you do:
    1) Drop 30-35 years off your age.
    2) Be an attractive, perky young man or woman.
    3) Put into your conversation sorts of trendy terms like “Social Network Recruiting,” “talent communities,” “employer branding,” “employee engagement” and “innovators” .
    4) Mention a number of JARS (“Just Another Recruiting Startup”) whose products or services you’ve used.
    5) Have a burning desire to unquestioningly do whatever they want you to do- it’s called “passion”.
    6) Oh, and by the way: cut your rate 30-50%.

    If you’ve decided that the pleasure in the recruiting process and/or satisfaction in the results you get don’t outweigh the pain involved, then it may in fact be time for you to go. However remember this:
    (Here beginneth the lesson for our Gentile friends):
    In Judaism, we have the concept of “Tzedakkah” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzedakah) which is often mistranslated as “charity” though it is a different concept than charity because tzedakah is an obligation and charity is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill. Unlike philanthropy or charity, which is completely voluntary, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation, which must be performed regardless of financial standing, and must even be performed by poor people. There are various levels of tzedakah, and the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or PARTNERSHIP that will result in the recipient supporting himself instead of living upon others. This is PRECISELY what we recruiters do. (Here endeth the lesson.)

    If you do go, you’ll be sorely missed- we need more like you, not fewer.

    I do disagree with you in one area though: I don’t think we should have a substantially more-regulated recruiting environment. By and large, increased “professionalism” in various areas is a way to restrict competition and improve the lot of those who “got theirs” awhile ago and set up the rules at the expense of those who “want theirs” later on. I like things rather “wild and wooly”. Where else could a “raggedy-ass mofo” like me, rather short on innate ability but long on attitude and stubbornness, whose very career serves as a cautionary tale, make a decent living for a good number of years?

    @Rich A: Why do they do this? Because they CAN. Until the unemployment situation gets much better, the GAFIed (Greedy, Arrogant, Fearful, and Ignorant/Incompetent)-up hiring/staffing folks are in charge, and they’ll be able to do/pick pretty much whatever/whoever they like.

    @ Everybody: Being a former DJ, let’s take out the week with links to a couple of relevant YouTube music videos that take us from the pain (Audio-only with a nice ’80s retro sound from my lady Robyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMth6xZlVJU) into the hope (with the oldy but goody Cher https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifcdP7oq2HM), and from the darkness into the light.
    RECRUITER ADVISORY: These YouTube videos contain pop music and questionable production values. Caution is advised.

    Happy Easter, ‘Crutaz!

    Keith “I Keep Dancin’ On My Own” Halperin

  16. @Keith

    I think you’re wrong the ‘because they can’ aspect on this one, because these practices persist in good times in bad. The fluctuations in the job market in my experience lend themselves to employers thinking they can treat people worse, and generally they’re right. However, these are methods and practices I mentioned which seem to persist regardless of their effectiveness or lack thereof.

    I agree with you on the regulation aspect, though I think Mr. Goldberg was referencing more professional self regulation, certification orgs and the like. I have no problem with that, it’s voluntary. In fact I think it would be helpful, because we’d have third party orgs dedicated to improving recruiting results outside the GAFI limitations of existing firms. In others words, someone to tell them they’re wrong when they are wrong, and to develop real benchmarks and best practices. As long as recruiting is subsumed under HR and buried in SHRM and the like, actual effectiveness will likely be sidelined in preference of not getting sued.

  17. Rich: So sorry to hear this. I must say that I’m disgusted by your experience, though unfortunately not surprised. I second Howard’s sentiment. I’d love to offer assistance. Feel free to reach out to me at your convenience. 303-805-7635

  18. @Richard A. : Correct I was referring to certifications and self regulations. Part of the issue is a hire’s long term success is not always seen. But a poor hire is. So recruiting for retention is a metric. And people even in this economy vote every day with their feet where they want to work.

  19. I agree 100%. I’m measuring it to the degree I can currently in my company, but it’d be nice to have more data and reporting to pull from. Right now I’m excel bound for this. I would think a minimum standard would be that recruiting isn’t done until the person has been in the position at least 90 days with a final review from the HM saying they are performing to expectations.

  20. @ Richard A: I agree with you- there are S- or DOBs in all economic clients- however when economic times are worse they can get away with it more., and while Rich G is correct- people do vote with their feet, more of them are able and willing to do it when times are good.

    As far as self-regulation- I REALLY have to disagree here: look what happened when the banks and financial institutions self-regulated- millions of workers got laid off, millions of homes became foreclosed or their mortgages went seriously “under water” and the banksters walked away with with billions in bonuses, because they’re “too big to jail”.

    As far as retention is concerned- it’s fundamentally opposed to the best interests of internal and contract recruiters- churn increases work, retention decreases it. As long as they’re paying, it makes economic sense in trying to fill a sieve…Here’s another example of the need to incentivize people toward the greater interest. If you’re serious about keeping your best people (as opposed to those who have nowhere else to go) then you offer multi-year, guaranteed raise or bonuses, no-layoff-with-out cause” employment contracts.
    It’s fumny how nobody but me mentions these as a useful too whenever the discussion of retention comes up…


  21. Rich,

    I have done 29 contracts since 2008. I love this business. You are only done if you think you are. I was not “hired” to many companies because I am 50! So what, I now have the BEST job of my life because I did not quit. Email me and let’s talk.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *