At the end of a long day of interviewing with a gauntlet of people, the owner of the agency told me that they were impressed and wanted to know if I had any concerns about becoming a recruiter.

Coming from a sales background, I would say that he did a pretty good job of sensing my uneasiness because I had a huge concern!

Based on their characterization of the recruiting profession, I was confident that I had the skills necessary to be successful; however I was very skeptical that employers would pay top dollars just to find good employees. (Top dollars is now the new four-letter word of the Industry, otherwise known as agency fees).

The owner laughed out loud after I expressed my sincere concern. Then stoically, he replied that my concern was their least concern. Their biggest concern he said, was not getting job orders or finding candidates, it was convincing someone that is employed to become a job applicant and ultimately leave one job to take another.

Based on his demeanor, I sensed that he was attempting to close me on becoming a recruiter. So just like a reluctant candidate, I attempted to slow the closing process by firing off a few questions in hopes of changing the direction of the dialog.
One particular question made him pause!

I asked, wouldn’t an employer do exactly the same thing as he, advertise their job opening where people look for jobs, specifically the classified section of the newspaper. Secondly, why would anyone be reluctant to take a better job that would pay more money?
Very confidently, he replied: sure employers advertise their job openings; however only 25% of the qualified people will read the job advertisement and actually apply for that job. The other 25% will read it and take no action and the remaining 50% will not read it at all. So how do you think the employers will reach the latter 75% he asked me?

Without waiting for my response he added: in the Industry that we serve, 90% of the applicants are known to the employers because their names, specialty and contact information are published in a directory through their association. These candidates are hammered with phone calls from recruiters on a daily basis; and 99 out of 100 will tell the recruiter that they are not interested in another job. So how would you get them to talk to you and why should they go through you instead of another recruiter or directly to the employer if they became interested? That is why we hire good recruiters!

The more I thought about his biggest concern, the more intrigued I became about the possibilities of becoming a recruiter. Coming from a hardcore sales background of cold calling, appointment cancellation, and outright rejection, recruiting compared to insurance sales appeared to be as easy as fishing in a barrel.

That dialog took place back in 1990, and I became a recruiter as a result.
Twenty years later, I will tell you that recruiting is one of the hardest jobs in the world even when qualified candidates are easy to find.
Here is why: after a qualified candidate is identified, there are far too many sales that must be made consecutively to successfully complete one placement.

First, you have to become a detective and find “the needle in the hay stacks”, the individual with the right motivation. Most likely, that person is happily employed.

Second, you have to successfully sell the job opportunity to that individual in order to convert him into a motivated job applicant.

Third, you have to successfully sell the talent of that individual to the hiring manager to generate a job interview.

Fourth, you now have to successfully coach that applicant on selling his skills to the hiring manager.

Fifth, you have to coach the hiring manager on effectively selling the job opportunity to the applicant.

The higher the compensation requirement, the longer the process. The Headhunter’s job is not over until the hiring manager put his commitment on the line with an acceptable job offer. And the applicant takes that proverbial leap of faith by resigning from his current job; leave his co-workers behind to pursue a better opportunity.

The hottest recruiting tool back them was the fax machine; I was told that it added speed to the recruitment process. Today employers are reluctant to pay agency fees because of the newest free recruitment tools call social networking using LinkiedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Ning or others. I must admit that when used effectively, these tools put all recruiters (rookie, veterans, corporate, third party, contract, retained) on a level playing field; everyone now has access to the same talent pool in their candidate search.

It doesn’t matter which one you use or how you use it to find talent because the real recruiting challenge remains the same as it did in the early 1990’s. When qualified candidates are easy to find, the real recruiting challenge is to convince someone who is employed to become a job applicant, interview effectively and ultimately leave one job to take another.

LinkedIn and other social networking tools are certainly new, however the concept of social networking has been around for years. It was known simply as headhunting.