The Jerry Maguire Complex: How do we Treat Our Candidates?

During my four years as a consultant for an executive recruitment agency, my boss and I had a recurring debate over who deserved our loyalty. We were a third party recruitment agency, consulting for Wall Street firms. He believed the firms paid our salary, so they were the ones we worked for. To most high-performing recruiters this is common knowledge. However, I guess I am one of those idealistic odd-balls who believes this job can motivate you beyond just monetary incentive.

I can see both perspectives, and I know most recruiters would say it’s a no-brainer, the vendors pay us, so we owe them. What I refused to accept was the unspoken implication that our candidates were these expendable “widgets.” These inhuman, resources we bartered for in exchange for a paycheck. Maybe this sounds all too Jerry Maguire for some, but I love that movie for exactly that reason. It showed us how even in the “bottom-line” “results-driven” industry of sales there is plenty of room for authenticity and human connection. You may counter, that’s just in the movies. Well, I think a major shift is happening in how we do sales and recruitment, as a result of the internet and social media. The old school way of “Show-me-the-money” may have to take a back seat to “Show me the trust.”  Oh, for more on this read Julien Smith’s Trust Agents.

I found myself connecting with my candidates on a personal level. Who they were beyond the bullet points on their resume, were people with their own stories. These stories included a single-mom juggling a career in finance. Others included a young college graduate, who was hundred of miles from home, filled with hope and ambition, trying to make it in the big-bad city. And yes there were others, who preferred to look at recruiters as just a means to an end. These were the super slick, corporate-sharks who had little concern about building a working relationship.Often they were working with ten other recruiters, and after the placement, I would never hear from them again.  That’s when my boss would point out “we’re just a voice on the other end of the phone. All that matters to them is how much money we can get them.” Of course I never conceded to that thinking, and I’m proud to say I was always a top performer in our office.

Yet, for the most part, even in a hyper-competitive, money-fixated industry like finance, the people I worked with were down-to-earth folks who needed someone they could trust to guide them through the job hunting-maze. This is how recruitment should be; although, I fear many of my peers would argue otherwise, but in the words of John Lennon “You may say I’m just a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”


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