Seven Questions to Ask the Recruiter in the Mirror

Do you believe that you’ve reached your full potential as a recruiter?  As a business owner?  As a person?  Are these questions that you even ask yourself?  Recruiting can be a very rewarding profession, both personally and financially.  However, there are a lot of obstacles and pitfalls that have to be overcome and dealt with, sometimes on a daily basis.  But the recruiter who can look at himself or herself in the mirror and ask the tough questions is the recruiter who is most likely to enjoy what they do and enjoy it longer than most people in the business.  We’ve got the right questions to ask; all you have to do is bring the mirror.

1. Is my production consistent?

The key to consistent production is making sure that your pipeline is full.  What, exactly, does that mean?  It means that you have something happening at virtually every step of the recruiting process.  That includes marketing, recruiting, interviewing, closing, and everything in between.

One way to do that is to utilize a “Work In Progress”—or WIP—form.  A WIP is essentially a spreadsheet on which you track your activities in as much detail as possible.  Say, for instance, you receive a job order for an engineering position.  You put the name of the company, the position, and the date on your WIP.  Then, as you secure candidates for the position, you record that information, as well.

A WIP form is a valuable productivity and accountability tool for both firm owners and the recruiters who work for them.  Firm owners can look at the WIP forms of their recruiters and ask them questions about their next course of action regarding potential deals that are in the pipeline.  For example, if a recruiter has presented three candidates and none of them have moved to the phone interview or face-to-face interview stage, a course of action needs to be plotted.  In this fashion, the firm owner can not only ensure that each and every one of their recruiters is accountable for what they’re doing, but also establish priorities for the future.

A firm owner or independent recruiter can also use the WIP as an accountability tool.  They can accomplish this by emailing their WIP to a fellow recruiter, who will then ask them questions about the progress they’ve made with everything that’s in their pipeline.  In essence, a WIP is a pipeline snapshot, a picture of where you are, taken so that you can determine where to go next.  Remember that the goal is to keep your pipeline not only full, but balanced, as well.  Although it’s human nature to do so, don’t focus too much attention on those deals that are close to the finish line.  Make sure you keep putting fresh horses on the track and that you give your pipeline attention where it needs it the most.

So a WIP form is both a pipeline snapshot and a compass for your desk.  Once you start using a WIP, it would be in your best interests to consult it each and every day.  In this business, circumstances change on a daily basis, and you have to be able to change and adapt accordingly in order to be consistently productive.

2. Have I maximized my resources?

In order to maximize your resources, you have to be able to identify all the resources you have at your disposal.  Create a list of these resources and the ways in which you currently utilize them.  Below are some ways you may not have considered, or perhaps you do them, but just not often enough.

•    Email your companies and candidates—All you need is a database with email addresses.  Email your candidates when you secure a hot job order in their niche, and email your companies when you come across a hot candidate.  Online recruiting software packages like Big Biller® ( can help you accomplish this quickly and easily.

•    Ask for referrals with every call—In this candidates’ market, referrals are huge.  Make it a habit to ask for them every time you speak with someone.

•    Use your relationships with other recruiters for split business—This can be done either on your own or through membership in an organized network, such as Top Echelon Network.

•    Ask your companies for information—You’d be surprised what information you can gain just by asking.  An example?  A list of a company’s direct competitors.

•    Take advantage of available training—There are numerous industry trainers who offer programs in different media formats that address a wide range of industry-specific topics.  Organizations such as the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) and Top Echelon also provide online training seminars that are both convenient and valuable.

3. Am I providing the most value I can to everyone?

The two main groups to which you need to provide value, of course, are your companies and your candidates. As you might imagine, the more valuable you are to both groups, the faster you can build relationships and the more you can bill.  We’ll start with companies.

•    Publish a newsletter.  This newsletter can be in either hard copy or electronic (email) format, although the latter is less expensive.  In it, you can provide news, articles, and information that educates company officials about the current state of the job market.  This would be especially advisable these days, since many companies don’t realize just how much of a candidates’ market it really is.

•    Actively market top-notch candidates.  When you call a hiring manager or company official to let them know about a hot candidate, you’re providing a valuable service.  After all, chances are very good that they don’t even know the candidate exists.  Even if the company has no current openings, one might be created, or at the every least, the manager will remember you in the future.  Keeping companies apprised of high-level talent increases credibility and cements relationships.

•    Prep and de-brief the company in a thorough fashion.  Most everybody seems pre-occupied about prepping the candidate, but you must prep the company, as well.  Once again, this is important considering today’s market.  If an interview doesn’t lead to an offer, debriefing the company will help you to determine why that was the case and also help you to more accurately select candidates for that company in the future.  In other words, it will lead to a “more perfect fit.”  (Remember, approximately 80% of hires are made because of personal chemistry.)

Now on to the candidates, who seem to have options galore these days.  Providing value to them is certainly a prerogative, and you can do so more effectively with the suggestions below.

•    Publish a newsletter.  The reasoning is the same as above.  Provide career advancement tips and other related information.

•    Build value into your Web site.  If you don’t want to publish a newsletter for candidates, provide career tips on your Web site.  What you don’t want is a Web site that just brags about you.

•    Be knowledgeable about your companies and the job orders they give you.  This is not only in your best interests, but also the best interests of your candidates.  This will help them make a more informed decision about the direction they want to go with their career.

•    Prep and debrief the candidate in a thorough fashion.  Prepping the candidate will increase the chances that they enjoy a successful interview.  Debriefing them will help you to place them in the future if an offer was not extended.  (As an added bonus, debriefing the candidate also allows you to discover anything about the company’s interview process that might be potentially detrimental.)

4. Do I operate with 100% integrity every day?

If you can’t answer “yes” to this question, then you might consider a change in occupation, because integrity is ALL that recruiters have.  If you can’t establish credibility and operate with integrity all of the time, then you’re going to have an incredibly difficult time finding success as a recruiter.  Cutting corners not only tarnishes your reputation, it also taints the industry overall.  Below are some questions you may want to ask yourself when considering this issue.

•    Am I telling my companies about bad reference checks?  Am I completely honest about the reference work that I do, or do I simply tell hiring managers the good parts and omit anything that could be considered negative?

•    While working on splits, do I keep my trading partners consistently advised of activity regarding their candidates?  When a deal is completed, am I paying them promptly?

•    Am I recruiting out of my client companies?  If so, what changes, if any, have I made to my fee agreements with these companies?

Operating with integrity is something every recruiter should do on a daily basis.  Your long-term success in the business depends upon it.

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5. Do I have a vision and a strategy for success in my business?

The key to the clarity of your vision and the overall effectiveness of your strategy is your business model.  What is your business model?  Does it change from time to time?  If so, should your business model change because of market influences?  Do you review your business model in light of changing market conditions, or do you always conduct business in the same manner regardless of conditions?

In his book, The E-Myth, Michael Gruber talks about the fact that a good manager makes sure that things are being done right, while a good director makes sure that the right things are being done.  You have to look at your business (or your recruiting desk) as both a manager and a director.  When you do that, you’re able to decipher more accurately whether or not you should modify your business model.

Below are three ways in which you could change your business model to take advantage of existing market conditions.

•    Expanding your niche.  For example, if you place nurses, it might be a good idea to also place physical therapists and occupational therapists.

•    Expanding your market.  How would your business be affected if you started to work a national market as opposed to a regional one?  Would it be a viable (and potentially lucrative) option?

•    Making split placements a larger part of your business.  With top-notch candidates more and more difficult to find, utilizing another recruiter’s resources is certainly an attractive option.

The second step in creating a vision and strategy is to take a look at your metrics.  In other words, numbers like your fee percentage, your average dollar placement, and your sendout-to-placement ratio.  Which of these numbers drive your business?  Is that number high enough?  What do you have to do in order to make sure it is high enough?  Asking these questions and then backing them up with actions that address them will keep your business model, your vision, and your strategy more flexible and better able to overcome any obstacles and challenges you might face.

6. Am I consistently pursuing my professional development?

This question involves a topic we touched upon earlier—training.  It cannot be stressed enough how important continuous training is for recruiters.  Think for a moment about this analogy.  Which surgeon would you rather have operate on you?  The one who attends training seminars every three to four months or the one who graduated from medical school 20 years ago and hasn’t attended a single seminar since?

Okay, we agree that you know a lot about recruiting, but you don’t know it all.  Nobody does, and that’s one of the main reasons that continuous training is so important.  When you attend a training session at a conference or when you listen to a training teleconference, one of two things happen.  Either what you hear reaffirms that you’re doing the right things, or you’ll pick up some valuable pieces of information.  They don’t have to be earth-shattering revelations, either.  It could be a new twist on an old practice, but that new twist could result in increased business—and revenue.

By investing in training, you’re taking steps to differentiate yourself from other recruiters.  You can bet that your competitors are looking for every edge against you, and it’s your job to make sure they don’t get that edge.  The need for ongoing training is absolute.  It’s as important as the need to market yourself.

The good news is that there are a variety of training materials and methods available.  There are books, tapes, CDs, videos, and DVDs, for starters.  State associations also offer training for their members, as do the major networks and franchise organizations.  And as mentioned previously, online training seminars like the ones offered by NAPS and Top Echelon also provide considerable value.

7. Am I happy?

We saved the big question for last.  If your immediate answer to this question is “no,” we urge you to re-visit the first six points of this article.  Identify which points you need to focus on the most.  Then do an honest self-evaluation.  Do you believe your life is balanced?  Are you living to work or working to live?  And perhaps most importantly, are you still passionate about being a recruiter?

If you’re not passionate about recruiting, and if you don’t see yourself as providing a valuable service, chances are good that you’re experiencing reduced billings.  It’s imperative that you re-ignite your passion and revisit those reasons that you entered the profession.  That might even entail hiring a professional recruiting coach, but the payoff would be well worth it.  Many recruiters who are unhappy don’t view recruiting as a profession and don’t see themselves as a professional.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Recruiting is an extremely challenging and rewarding profession.  It possesses unlimited earning potential and serves to help others at the same time.  According to the July issue of The Fordyce Letter, last year the recruiting industry generated between $13 billion and $15 billion in direct hire placements alone.  That doesn’t even count the money that was made through contracting.  It stands to reason that recruiters will bill even more this year.

So stand tall and smile.  This is a great time to be a recruiter.  Now put down the mirror and get back on the phone.

(Dan Simmons, CPC, President of Continental Search & Outplacement, Inc., in Baltimore, Md., is one of the most successful recruiters in Top Echelon, having won numerous production awards during his tenure with the Network.  Simmons began recruiting in 1991, and he’s been a Member of the Network since 1996.  He’s also a Board Member of the Maryland Recruiters Association and a member of the National Association of Personnel Services.  Continental Search recruits top talent for companies across the nation, recruiting Sales, Technical and Management professionals from the entry to executive levels for direct hire or contract positions in the Animal Health, Animal Nutrition, and related industries.  It also assists companies in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area recruit Information Technology professionals.  Continental Search strives for an intimate understanding of its clients, supplying candidates who possess the skills, experience, and personality for success.  For more information, visit  Jim Hipskind, CPC, President of Midwest Headhunters, Inc., in Marinette, Wis., is also a Top Producer in Top Echelon.  Like Simmons, he joined the Network in 1996, and he started recruiting in 1986.  Hipskind works in the Manufacturing industry, specifically in Engineering, Management, Materials, Sales & Marketing, Human Resources, and Logistics.  Hipskind is also a Member of the National Association of Personnel Services.  To take advantage of the online training seminars that Simmons and Hipskind have conducted for Top Echelon Network, visit


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