Success v success ….?

Image“So, tell me how successful have you been in your current role?” …

This is a question that I ask every recruiter who I meet.  It is also a question that all of my clients will ask when interviewing a potential new hire, and probably something that most recruiters would expect to be asked by other recruiters if they get chatting over a few beers. The answer that is nearly always given, in fact that is expected to be given, is the amount that they billed.  And I suppose, in an industry that defines success in terms of fees, this is no surprise.

Fair enough….to a point. But for me, judging a recruiter based purely on their billings is a bad habit that our industry has fallen into…..and we need to start thinking about it with a much wider viewpoint.

Some would argue that billings are the ultimate end goal for us all and so this is the only thing that is really important.  It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as it ends up with money in the bank. People with this mindset can be very successful and fair enough – I am sure that when they are on their ‘big billers’ trip to Vegas, they are not thinking about the candidate they forgot to get back to or the client they ignored because they couldn’t fill their brief. I didn’t…..but at the same time I was being told how awesome I was because I billed the most. The chap I sat next to missed out on the trip because I had the ‘juicy’ account that was easy to make money from. He didn’t bill as much as me but he was a far far better recruiter than me…..he could take a better client brief, write a better ad, make a better headhunt approach, could negotiate and persuade better than me, was more thorough, worked harder, even made better cups of  tea….but according to our company league table he was half as good as me. Nonsense.

When you think about it, judging performance based purely on billings is a fairly ridiculous concept anyway, given the uneven playing field that different recruiters play in. You would expect a recruiter working at the senior end of the market to bill a lot more than someone recruiting office support roles for example. And you would expect a recruiter working for a big brand with lots of PSAs to bill more than someone in a start-up….or maybe you wouldn’t if the fees they were forced to work to were ridiculously low. See what I mean. Even in the same office, the biggest biller is not necessarily the best recruiter. It isn’t in our office (I am neither the biggest biller or the best recruiter in our office …which probably isn’t a great record in an office of three and a half!).

As an industry I think we need to move the conversation away from looking at success purely as the amount someone bills, and more about how good a recruiter someone is. In my opinion, the best recruiters do not always bill the most (dah dah dah …shock horror ….did he just say that OUT LOUD!)…so let’s stop thinking purely in those terms. I would like to see more agencies giving me briefs where the focus was on things other than simply ‘someone who has billed $X’, and I would like to hear different answers from candidates other than what they billed…. something that actually tells me you are a really good recruiter. Obviously no one can generate good fees if they are utter crap at recruiting.  However it is also possible to generate good billings but also leave a trial of unhappy clients and candidates behind…. is this success?

So, how are you being measured / how do you measure your recruiters. Is it just all about the money you make (or don’t) ?

Luke Collard


5 thoughts on “Success v success ….?

  1. Dan Sawyer on Reply

    After 20 years recruiting in large metropolitan cities, we chose to move to country Victoria. I was foolishly confident that I could charge fees of 10% – after all that is a fraction of what my former clients paid for me to recruit. My mistake. With established competitors charging less than $1000 for advertised recruitment services I had to understand that it was not about the money, but the enjoyment of doing what I love, what I am good at and earning enough to support our (mortgage free) country lifestyle.

  2. nzrecruiter on Reply

    Luke, surely you’re a better recruiter than Craig…? I spoke to a recruitment manager in Wellington this week who lost a million-dollar biller (yeah we have those in NZ too, not many, but some) to another corporate firm in Melbourne. She billed ZERO in 8 months before leaving. So what you say is exactly true, but when all the owners care about is revenue and company valuation then that’s always going to be their primary metric.

  3. Frank Sommerville on Reply

    I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and on day 1 I was told if I don’t bill enough, I wont keep my job and day 7000+, 20 years later I’m still told the same thing !

    This industry always has – and always will – be about how much you can bill according to the market stream or industry you work within.

    1. lukecollard on Reply

      Thanks for your comment Frank. Agree that the industry has always been like like….disagree that is will (or should) always be like this. Admittedly it takes a bit shift in mind set for some people, especially those that have been working in the industry for a long time, to focus less on billings. But I think it essential if the industry is to survive.

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