Recruiters Part 2 – Please Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

Shooting the messengerAs mentioned in our last blog post (“Recruiters Part 1 – Love Them or Hate Them . . . I Feel Your Pain”), I was schooled early on in my professional life about the realities of the executive recruiting industry.  And as technology has evolved over the past decade, so have potential access points for candidates to connect with us.  We had faxes and voice mail, then email and in-mail, and now social media.  But with each new channel came new road blocks, ranging from filled voice mail machines (probably by design), email auto-responders, LinkedIn ignore buttons, and Twitter messages with no response ever needed.  So after countless ill attempts to get a lengthy conversation scheduled with that key recruiter, do you throw up your hands or simply shoot the messenger? 

As Stephen Covey in his Seven Habits said: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  So with that spirit of openness, let’s look into a day in the life of Carolyne Connor, our firm’s president and a recruiter well known across the country.  Carolyne often gets 500+ emails a day.  She has over 18,000 first level connections on LinkedIn, and, at any given time, a pipeline of LinkedIn in-mails that can exceed 1,000 messages.  Carolyne is a working mother of four children under 10, and usually has more than half her day tied up on conference calls with clients (doing candidate reviews) or discussing short lists of candidates that have made the cut for our open positions.  That gives her about an hour or two a day to prioritize and respond to urgent emails, and a few brief moments to chat with that occasional candidate who isn’t a fit for any open position, but still wants to talk.

When MatchStar launches a new search, we’ll often have 400-700 direct applicants and referrals from folks in our network.  And this is before we formally begin the headhunting process.  For this response, we are extremely grateful.  We’ve developed a process to review all 700 within a few days, parse them into “spot-ons” and “kind of spot-ons,” and then get the conversation going with 10-20 that could be contenders.  For the balance, we respond to EVERY ONE, but oftentimes email is the only practical vehicle.  Most of the candidates understand.  They realize it’s a competitive game, and that there may have been others out there with backgrounds more closely aligned to the opportunity.  But others take it very personally, and want to have that one-on-one discussion to let us know that we obviously missed something.

What I can honestly say (having been on the other side as a candidate myself) is that “I’m sorry, and that we’re doing the best we can.”  The more efficient we are at managing our limited time; the more new clients we can take on and offer more potential opportunities to our network.  We got into this business to help people, and helping someone land a job is a very, very satisfying experience.  It also plays into our spiritual belief around helping others and trying to make the world a better place.  But as my mother always said, “I’m not an octopus, and only have two hands!”  In our case, limited bandwidth simply makes it impossible to spend lengthy email or phone time with everyone that wants to have a one-on-one conversation.  Now I contemplated hiring an army of outsourced assistants in India to help, but somehow I believe those same candidates wanting 30 minutes of direct time would be even more ticked off.

To complicate things further, many candidates aren’t even interested in, or a fit for, the jobs we have open, but they just want to build a long-term relationship for future opportunities.  And I totally understand and appreciate that too.  Sometimes there’s a perception that executive recruiters are “super agents,” like Ari Gold from the hit show Entourage, who can call dial up all the studio bosses and instantly pitch the next Tom Cruise.  Unfortunately, we really spend the bulk of our waking hours actually working on engaged searches and trying to get those completed successfully.  For sure, we have large networks, and in some cases we can make a strong intro to a client (even though they are not looking to add anyone) on a prospective candidate’s behalf.  However, those are usually reserved for people we know extremely well, have worked with before, or are referred in with true rock star status.

Ok, then what’s a guy to do?  For starters, please don’t take it personally! It’s not you; it’s our bandwidth.  Second, do not think you have gone unnoticed.  We record everything meticulously and will review your profile and all past correspondence.  If you submitted a resume before, or completed a job interview questionnaire, we re-read it again to see if there’s a fit for another position – even if you are not currently applying for one.  When you refer someone to us – or even send us a nice note (so many do) – we REMEMBER that.  I have had opportunities come up for candidates after corresponding for 10 years but never directly via the phone.  Nothing you do is wasted, and always remember – a bridge never burned is one you can still walk across!

Additionally, we are trying to take much of the job search advice that would normally come out during a one-on-one phone conversation, and provide that directly to you through our site blog, LinkedIn publishing platform, future live video conferences, and other tools over the course of the following year.  We want to empower you to conduct a direct private search independent of an agency, since the bulk of all positions are not filled through outside recruiters.  These will cover topics such as resume writing/social media profile building (, and future “trade insights” around issues like equity/stock strategies at offer time, how to connect with your future boss (when it seems impossible), what to say to entice a potential board member, how to completely impress in an interview, and so on.

What I can guarantee is that all of this info will be directly actionable, meaning a playbook derived from hundreds of executive placements that you can use immediately. Who knows, maybe one of the countless cool companies in my own backyard will finally develop that long-awaited holographic technology that enables us to be “present” on demand.  But until then, please don’t shoot the recruiter; we’re just trying to help.