What 3rd party recruiters can teach YOU

Headhunting agencies get no love these days. It seems that every other day you’ll find a post on Hacker News about how recruiters are the catfish of the tech world, the scalpers, the barnacles of incompetence nestled in the cracks of a frothy market. People wholly unworthy of the money they make, and who will soon all die a fiery death. We are assholes. We’ll cold call you until your change your number, and then we’ll post your email address to a database.

That is the narrative at least. But it would be utterly foolish to believe discount 3rd party agencies all together are “getting it wrong”. They are still thriving, and are probably poaching somebody from your company as your read this. Quick! Quarantine the engineers!

I’m always overjoyed to hear that a candidate’s other offer is directly from the company, not through another recruiter…because I know I can close better.

That said, nothing is preventing you from copying their methods, learning what they do well and replicating their model…and therefore avoiding the massive fee associated with their services.

So what sort of wisdom can you apply from external recruiting? What do agencies have that you can copy?

(REMEMBER: these are characteristics of GOOD recruiting agencies! Not just any old one. So don’t pull that one on me! Yeah, some agencies are run by the mentally debilitated offspring of sleazy salesmen. Let’s not focus on those shall we!)

They are run like a sales organization

Walk into any recruiting agency and you’ll think you walked into a trading floor. Headsets are plugged in, there is a sales bell, and usually the wall is covered in some sort of leader board. Being an external recruiter is basically a sales job – and although that makes for some occasional sleaze, it does bring a hell of a lot of advantages.

  1. Metrics: Good recruiters measure everything, because the better they get, the more they get paid. Email not converting so well? Switch it up! Only making 5 calls per day and wondering why you have no pipeline? Wonder no more!
  2. Hustle: External recruiting is very much a eat what you kill job, so complacency is at a minimum. Any angle, channel, and pitch will be tested, refined, and exploited. There is no room for paper pushing HR types.
  3. Ranking: I remember when I got into Presidents Club…oh the joy! Actually, we went on a shitty cruise but still! Having rewards for a job well done beyond money brings life to sales organizations, and celebrations for good performance should be equally practiced in the recruiting world.

They keep their eyes on the prize

A typical hiring process involves a song and dance of various length, and the recruiter goes along. Coordinating a code test here, scheduling a phone call there…that is often their day to day. But once that is done, they know they need to close. They know, that there will be a day when they will be sitting there with a candidate and a pen and an offer letter, and will hopefully be faxing back good news to the client. If they don’t do that, they don’t eat. So a good recruiter does everything in her power to set that conversation up beautifully.

You can do the same. Start by focusing on the candidate up front. Find out what they want to do in their careers. And then, make sure to get your team to highlight that. Make your company look like the obvious next step in the story of their lives. Don’t just send the offer letter and hope for the best.

You can leave the 3rd party headhunters their cheesy approaches and general douchiness. But please, steal their sales tactics!

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