Confessions of a seasoned recruitment veteran

July 25 7 Comments Category: Opinion

Recruitment Dad's OpinionHaving been in the industry for nearly 16 years now, I have had my fair share of ups and downs in the business. Learning curves left right and centre. There is also a particular list of things, many of which are unique, that I learnt from. As a trainer I recognise the value of experience and what it can teach. I also recognise the value of experience in others. Understanding and modelling how others have achieved success is a great way to develop you quickly. Just look at the uptake at James Caan’s business mentor programme. Something else I came to realise is that learning from mistakes is as equally valuable as learning from success. However, particularly in a sales environment, there is a desire to focus on successes as they are celebrated and every sales person has some sort of an ego to fan when it comes to the deals they have generated.

If I had a pound for every business director I heard begin a story with “When I was a young recruiter I…” and then tell a story of amazing feats of success. What about a mistake story?

I sometimes sit back and giggle to myself about some of the things I have done in the past. Other times I hold my head in shame for some of the stupid things I have done. I want to share with you some of them. I am not necessarily proud of them (all) though I do think that some of them may make you smile! In no particular order of gravity here are my all time (so far) career mistakes:

  1. I shook hands with a candidate in reception  I was to interview and accidently pulled their prosthetic arm off. (I hadn’t realised it was prosthetic at the time and also shrieked in horror which really added to the overall rapport…)
  2. I faxed (a machine that sends documents through the telephone wire. You have to feed the document in manually and then it appears at the other end – total magic) a candidates CV to their own employer (scrub that, my Secretary at the time did it). I told the candidate (just in case) and then phoned the receptionist and successfully managed to get her to take the fax and rip it up without reading it (I also made her do it by the receiver so I could hear it).
  3. During a client meeting I told the client (a senior partner in a large law firm) that I though his wife was ugly. I did not win the business. I was also asked to leave the building. In hindsight, if I had known the HR manager was his wife I don’t think I would have said it. Typing about that one still makes the hairs on my arm stand up.
  4. During a client meeting at the secure wing (full lock down) of a mental health facility I got a fit of the giggles that would not go away when one of the patients, who looked like Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, kept running round the corridors naked being chased by a care worker. Again I did not get the business.
  5. I met a candidate who I had placed 6 months prior as a client. She was the MD of a very successful high tech manufacturing business, at a very young age. When we sat down in her office I congratulated her on her forthcoming baby and asked when it was due. She was not pregnant. She had put on a lot of weight – oops! Ground swallow me up! I did however rescue that one and still got some business.
  6. I invited some clients to a sporting lunch. Great list of clients and some great speakers. At the last minute a client dropped out so I called in a replacement – a senior level candidate who I thought may enjoy the opportunity to network. He hated it. He sat next to the chief exec who had “let him go” 6 weeks earlier for one course and then made his excuses and left. Sorry.
  7. I picked up a lead that a local business was recruiting for an FD. I called the business and spoke to the present incumbent as I knew them. As it turned out he didn’t know he was going to be leaving! They were recruiting his replacement behind his back and he didn’t know! I had an interesting conversation with his MD about 20 minutes later. Uncomfortable.
  8. I gave a presentation to 100 final year students on career advice and job hunting. Half way through the presentation I had to stop and vomit in the waste paper bin. Like a true professional I carried on. My colleague thought it was something to do with an office night out the night before which had finished around 5am. I still blame the cold sweats and sickness on a bad prawn or something….Seriously I am not proud of that. Needless to say all the students suddenly wanted to be recruiters instead of accountants.
  9. I went to meet with the new, VW appointed, MD of Bentley Motor Cars (some time ago). Upon settling into the immaculate office of the German MD’s office I had a sinking feeling. No paper in my folder and worst of all no pen. I had to sheepishly ask the highly organised MD if I could borrow a pen and if he had a spare pad. Probably not the best way to start a meeting with a new client, at any level.
  10. I agreed to meet a client for a meeting in a swimming pool. WTF?? Yes, in the water NOT at a swimming pool. Also it wasn’t a ‘standard’ swimming pool. One of those slides and waterfall type things. Imagine, me in Speedos and my client in a bathing suit? WTF was I thinking? I even contemplated taking a divers pen and paper to make notes. Wrong on every level…..

I guess aside from the fun of enjoying some of the mistakes I have made there is a learning point to this post. It is OK to make mistakes; in fact I would go as far to say it is a good thing to make mistakes. Mistakes are such a powerful learning opportunity.  I would love to hear your treasured mistakes and trust you have enjoyed some of the pain I suffered during the above!

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7 Responses

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  1. I feel your pain Dad. Those are some real crackers. I’m positive I have committed similar heinous recruitment crimes, but I think my brain may have blanked them out, as some kind of defence mechanism. I do recall several times receiving calls from clients, 30 minutes after our appointed meeting at their office, which I had forgotten to attend. That feeling was truly sickening.

    I’ll give you one confession. Around 1992, I was recruiting for an Deputy Personnel Manager (HR to you youngsters) for John Brown Engineering in Clydebank. The Personnel Manager and Director had whittled it down to two female candidates – one better qualified, but no oil painting, and the other less experienced, but a real stunner.
    The end of the quarter was looming, and I wanted the score, to tip me into a much higher bonus level (and record billing). On the last Friday of the month, the decision still hadn’t been made, so I made it for them. I walked to the big board, and wrote the name of the ugly sensible candidate, believing that to be the safe bet. Commission was made, and I had secured bragging rights in Search Consultancy in Glasgow.
    It weighed heavily on me all weekend, and sure enough I got word on the Monday that the client wanted to offer the job to the candidate with the big tits. She accepted of course. I’m not proud of it, but I stayed extra late in the office that night, and changed the name on the board. The fee was the same, but the name was changed to protect the guilty – me.

    Stephen O'Donnell 26 July 2010 at 12:00 am Permalink
  2. tremendous those fella – ypu have had an interesting time for sure – i have my own litany of disasters but none with a prosthetic arm!

    nice blog btw

    mike p 26 July 2010 at 11:49 am Permalink
  3. Nice blog, i’ll keep the vomiting on mind when I have a presentation

    kees 26 July 2010 at 9:54 pm Permalink
  4. Wow! Thanks! As a young recruiter, I appreciate you telling us about your mishaps. I will now be canceling that pool party I had planned for Friday…

    Meg Mulhearn 26 July 2010 at 10:19 pm Permalink
  5. I once did very well in an interview. As I left to leave in the end I bent down to grab my bag whilst still chatting. I’d grabbed the bottom corner of my bag and so, as I stood-up, I emptied the entire contents of my bag onto the floor: pens, pencils, sweeties, used tissues……..NOT GOOD.

    Carl 29 July 2010 at 6:11 pm Permalink
  6. This is really funny

    Olu O 2 August 2010 at 11:14 pm Permalink
  7. “fella” Essex boy?

    mark s 27 September 2010 at 6:21 pm Permalink

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