The Recruiter’s Guide to Being Totally Miserable

Someone once said that in this life, suffering is mandatory but misery is optional. I concur; but so many of us live day to day with more frustration, anxiety, and stress than is really necessary. We try to never lose a resume, to get back to every candidate and to attempt to close each and every deal. Often we try this all in the same day, and we wonder why we are half nuts by the time Friday rolls around. As recruiters, we build great businesses, and that is an awesome responsibility. As such, there are times when things simply do not go the way we would like them to go. That’s just how life works.

As a result, it is best to remember that we will ultimately be judged by the greater part of what we have accomplished as opposed to the alternative fragment where we have fallen short. The objective of recruiting, as in life, is to do the best you can and move on. Despite what you or anyone else might think, the future of western civilization will not depend on a given metric, the fleeting approval of an otherwise hysterical hiring manager, or on closing one particular deal. You do the best you can and then it is history. This is the only sane and sensible way in which to live. (If you want unconditional love, might I suggest you get a dog?) For those of you who have yet to understand that you can’t win them all and that being a great recruiter is not the same as being a martyr, I have put together a brief but comprehensive guide to being miserable. If you want to continue being miserable in this profession, then I urge you to consider the following.

Keep Searching for the Perfect Candidate

This one is my personal favorite, so I put it first. If ever there was a fool’s errand, this one is a shining star. Honestly now, do you really think that there is a perfect candidate? (Are you a perfect employee? Be honest. Shoot me an email; it will be our little secret.) Business needs change, management changes, projects change, and people change. Looking for the perfect candidate is the holy grail of so many recruiters, but in the end, all candidates, like us, are human. H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of the bestseller Life’s Little Instruction Book, says, “Strive for excellence, not perfection.” This is an excellent way to think. Can you even imagine if every candidate you found was excellent, and therefore turned into an excellent employee? If you’re tired of the chase for the perfect candidate, just find and present excellent candidates and call it a day. The perfect candidate, like the perfect mate (John Sullivan?) is just an illusion, so let it be someone else’s obsession, not yours.

Beat Yourself Up Over the Deals That Did Not Close

I like this almost as much as the first one. I once asked an audience I was speaking to if they wanted to close every single deal. They said, “No.” My next question was to ask, “Which deals do you want to lose?” No one had an answer and no one spoke. Let’s face it: We want to close every deal! This is okay ó I feel the same way ó but it’s just not going to happen. Losing a deal, putting it behind you, and moving forward takes guts, but sometimes it is all you can do. The famous philosopher, lawyer and orator Robert Ingersoll said, “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” This is what we as recruiters must do. Simply stated, we must move on, close the next deal, and be glad for that.

Expect All Hiring Managers to Take Your Advice

Perhaps this happens in recruiter heaven, but to those of us anchored on Planet Earth, this is simply not one of life’s realities. Hiring managers come with all of the baggage and blemishes that you and I have (all right, sometimes more). The bottom line is there are some hiring managers who will take your advice, and others who seem to have the need to do it their way and hope for the best. This will never change with some of them, despite your great track record or their abysmal one. Have you ever noticed that hiring managers who tell you things like, “I have been hiring for 60 years,” are usually the worst at making things happen, and then when things fall apart, they tell you they didn’t really want the candidate in the first place? I suggest that you focus your time, expertise, and emotional energy on those who will make you a partner and let you do your job. For further information on dealing with hiring managers, see my articles 8 Secrets to Dealing with Non-Responsive Hiring Managers and 12 Ways Hiring Managers Can Get More from Their Recruiting Partners.

Assume That Recruiting Passive Candidates Will Be Easy

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This is probably the godfather of all bad assumptions. We have learned how to find candidates on the Internet. We then call with a big smile in our voice, a song in our heart, and a great opportunity that we can present. We expect the candidate we found to say, “Would I be open to hearing about a better situation? Of course I would!” and to come right down and interview. Instead, the candidate never even calls back. You call again, and the candidate still does not call back. You finally get the candidate on the phone and they are not interested. Now what? Don’t get me wrong; recruiting passive candidates is not optional. It’s mandatory, and it’s a great thing to do because it presents your organization with a totally different pool of candidates. I am sure that you will even manage to hire some great employees by doing this. On the other hand, recruiting passive candidates it is not easy for a host of different reasons.

Never Try Anything New

Recruiting is both art and science; some days more art, some days more science. Given that, I urge you to consider the following:

  • Great artists are constantly reaching out for the new and the different in the hope of reinventing what they do and how they do it. If you always say the same things, use the same approaches, and employ the same solutions, you will never develop the edge that separates good recruiters from great ones.
  • Concerning the science, one can clearly see that the Internet alone brings wonder and opportunity to the recruiting community on a daily basis. Some of what we hear is of great value and some is just marketing. Our job is to differentiate them — to separate the spam and silly nonsense from the real and meaningful content that will define the future of recruiting and our future within it.

Do things in the same old way without ever trying anything new and you will be shortchanging both yourself as well as your clients. If you have read this far, I suspect you are too talented to have that be your fate. Recruiting is a great profession. It allows us to create something where once nothing existed. It gives us the opportunity to show what we can accomplish and it provides us with a profession as opposed to a job. I suggest we all recognize that the suffering we all experience from time to time goes with the territory. The misery is usually our own making.

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 if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


3 Comments on “The Recruiter’s Guide to Being Totally Miserable

  1. Currently on a search for a high level cost accounting manager. I found an excellent candidate who matches about 80% of the Job Order I took from the client, and about 90 percent of the official job description. My Candidate HAS a few years cost experience, but not extensive. His background is mostly in Finance and Budgeting, but he has all the managerial experience and has been in the client’s industry for years.

    With the Hiring Manager’s scary proclamation to ‘only send me the BEST candidates,’ I have held the resume for the last few days. I grilled the candidate with more questions, I called three professional references, (all who gave glowing reviews,) I made more sourcing calls to see if I could find ‘THE PERFECT CANDIDATE.’

    However, After reading this article, I just sent off my Excellent Candidate to the client. Let the chips fall where they may. Up to now, I can find nobody better than this candidate. If somebody else can, well then…hey, they deserve the fee.

    Thanks Howard, for breaking my mental block.

  2. Howard,

    What a great approach to such a real problem! As recruiters, we often feel like we have to be mind readers, fortune tellers and psychiatrists all at the same time. I appreciate your humor, as that is how I get through some of my ‘misery’ most of the time.

    It may take a while to establsh credibility with your hiring managers, but once you do, you are on your way to winning half the battle. A mutual respect, some education, and trust are critical in understanding what your hiring manager wants. Oh, and it helps to have a great sense of humor, especially, when they think the perfect candidate actually exists!

  3. Wow, this article was good therapy. Puts things into perspective of which we sometimes lose. There are lots of excellent candidates we can source, but we need to remind hiring authorities that once we present a number of them who seem representative of excellence, and whom are also ready willing and able to take the new job, this is all anyone can reasonably expect of us as recruiters. They can wait forever for that one-of-a-kind candidate, while they watch their opportunity to build a great team go down the drain.

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