“Fake it until you make it” is one of those phrases thrown around the recruitment industry, often accompanied with a little grin and salesman’s wink – a bit of an in-joke. It describes those recruiters who have little experience or knowledge of the area they are recruiting in, but (think they) are ‘smart’ enough to look like they know a lot more than they do. In some parts of the recruitment industry it seems to be accepted as the norm. In fact, I have taken job specs from agencies where having someone who can ‘fake it until they make it’ is actually part of the brief.
It is something that has never sat very comfortably with me. From the time I was employed by an agency to start a desk recruiting in the emerging Biotech sector and told to ‘fake it until I make it’ it made no sense. Supposedly, I was a good fit for that sector because some years earlier I had managed to just about squeeze out a science degree…and based on that, apparently it wouldn’t be too big a step to now call myself an expert in the Biotech sector. Obviously it was for the white coat types who sniffed a fraud as soon as he walked in.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with agencies hiring young and inexperienced people to work in a specialist sector, even at a senior level. But if all you are doing is getting those people to spend an afternoon on Google reading about what they are suddenly a specialist in, and then throwing them into the world to ‘fake it’ how can this be good practice?
You might kid yourself that your clients and candidates are convinced that Jack knows his shit, but it’s more likely they will actually be thinking that Jack knows shit.
The alternative requires agencies to give their new recruiters time to develop their knowledge and experience over a period of time, gradually exposing them to more and more, until they have earned the credibility that clients and candidates expect. Of course, this relies on things that historically agencies have not embraced….time and patience being amongst them. It would also require agencies to structure themselves so not everyone is an end-to-end recruiter, and not everyone has a billing responsibility from day one in the business. (What !!! Go and wash your mouth out with that dirty talk)
Compare recruitment to the typical model of companies in other professional services sectors, where the ultimate responsibility for making money sits at a more senior level, and which you get to only once you have come through the ranks learning your trade. You wouldn’t expect a first year lawyer to defend a murder case, or a junior accountant to advise on complex global tax issues. But it is not uncommon in recruitment to see a relative newbie be asked to go and meet a CFO, take a complicated job spec and then run the assignment by them self. Crazy.
Of course, not every recruitment job requires years of experience before you can justifiably call yourself credible. I started my career recruiting office support roles and by their nature they are fairly simple roles to understand (mostly!). But I still needed to learn how to recruit. Similarly, moving from one sector that you have successfully worked in for years to another doesn’t mean you instantly lose all your credibility overnight. After all, you are still an experienced recruiter and that is equally important as any sector experience.
When there is no barrier to entry in recruitment, and no real exams and qualifications that mark what stage you are at in the industry, there is no rule book. So, it really comes down to whether you, individually and as an agency, genuinely live, believe and value the service you say you provide. If you do, you will never have to fake anything.