Once upon a time there was a recruiter who was bored at his desk and lacking candidates. To amuse himself, he went on to a resume website and typed in a few random keywords to find some lost-sheep candidates.
Once he found a few repeat offenders, he called out to all of his hiring managers and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! Here’s a candidate who is great and probably has multiple offers awaiting him!”
The villagers/hiring managers all ran to the phone to help the recruiter get the candidate an interview and a solid offer. But when they got to the interview, they found no wolf but a disgruntled, opportunistic, and unemployed candidate. The recruiter laughed to himself that he could make the managers jump and thought to himself, “This is easy!”
“Don’t cry wolf, recruiter, when candidates like this are a dime a dozen. We don’t want to hire someone else’s reject or to hire someone who is under-qualified and overcompensated. And please don’t make us compete against our competitors. And for goodness sake, don’t call us with a serial job hopper.”
Later, the recruiter called and called and no one was interested in making a move. So once again he opened a job site and found a “great” resume that had all the bells and whistles that he needed to make the managers jump. To his naughty delight, he once again sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! I have the best candidate on the market. He won’t last one day!”
Once again, the hiring managers canceled their meetings, scheduled a room, and sat through another hum-drum interview of canned answers and a perfectly orchestrated resume. Within minutes, the candidate was exposed as a fraud.
When the managers saw there was no wolf, they told the recruiter sternly, “Don’t cry wolf when the candidate is a loser!” But the recruiter just grinned to himself and watched them grumbling about all recruiters and thought, “I just didn’t fool them this time. I’ll get a placement if I send enough paper! I just know it.”
Later, he attended a users’ group meeting and met a real, live wolf. This was a person who was a game changer who could put a client company on the map, who could lure away top Fortune 100 clients, and who was ready to make a move given the right circumstances.
So he turned on the volume full throttle and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf! Come quick!”
But the hiring managers thought he was tricking them again and didn’t come. A few weeks later the hiring manager saw the recruiter who was weeping that he lost the wolf.
“There really was a wolf, and I cried out for you! Now he is gone. He left and went to your competitor and now we will never get a single person from his team. We are doomed!”
The recruiter sulked back to his office and cried in his latte.
An old recruiter tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the vending machine.
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“We’ll help you find more recruits in the morning. Try to remember the cardinal rule in recruiting: no one believes a liar even when he is telling the truth.”
A recruiter needs to ask themselves if they are in this business for the long haul or to get a new house in Saratoga (an expensive suburb of San Jose, California).
Truthfully representing a candidate and working hard at locating the top talent, not just the available talent, takes time, persistence, and skill. It also takes market knowledge, a compelling opportunity, and sometimes sheer luck. In a hot job market, everyone and anyone can throw up a shingle and be a recruiter who throws resumes against a requirement and hopes that they stick.
Before the dot-com bust, it seemed like every Oracle consultant I knew would call into my company to send over a resume and set up an agency agreement. They stammered: “Why should I only get paid an employee referral fee when I can get 20%?”
In some ways, I can’t blame them, because they had only been represented by lousy recruiters who misrepresented the job, rewrote their resume, and told them exactly what to say and do to “get the offer.”
Being optimistic about a candidate can make a recruiter very persuasive to a hiring manager about a candidate’s marketability. We call this “marrying” the candidate. Recruiters who repeatedly “marry” candidates develop a reputation of only telling managers what they want to hear.
One step further, and recruiters may go on to present resumes without verifying a candidate’s background and references. They may even write or rewrite resumes and “prep” the candidates on how to answer interview questions. Once the person starts and falls short of the qualifications, the truth comes out. This gives everyone in recruiting a bad name.
The rule of thumb is that until you are paid a placement fee from a candidate, you work for the client. And the client is paying you a substantial fee to screen a candidate and not re-write a resume to fit the job requirement if it is untrue.
Once you get caught in the snare of scrimping on the details, it’s hard to win trust back. We all need to consider whether we cry wolf too often.