The Secrets Of Overpriced Recruiters

Here's the inside scoop on professional recruiters, and how you can use their tricks without paying a hefty fee.
Co-Founder, Brazen Careerist
October 19, 2011

Most businesses cannot afford expensive recruiters. But it’s frustrating, because the better you are at hiring, the better you will be at growing your business. So it would be nice to just hire one of those recruiters. Well, I’ve done it. And I'll share what you need to know so that you can get the same results without paying the same hefty recruiting fee.

1. Know what you’re hiring for

Here’s what happens after you decide on the recruiter you’re going to use. You write a job description, and you ask the recruiter to fill it. The recruiter whips out a contract, you sign on the dotted line and then you give half the retainer upfront.

The recruiter then tells you that your job description sucks. Here’s what she will say:

What will it look like when this person is very successful in the job? What will it take to get to that? What personality traits and skills will someone need to walk the path to grand success?

You will hate having to think through this stuff. It’s a pain. And you will say to yourself, "If I wanted to think this hard, I wouldn’t have hired an executive recruiter." But eventually, you will see that a good job description is essential to finding a candidate that's a good fit for the job. And in the end, you will like the recruiter for making you think harder.

2. Know yourself well enough to hire someone not like you

The recruiter will ask you about yourself, because undoubtedly anyone you are going to pay a lot of money to recruit for you is going to be someone you work with closely.

As you discuss your strengths and weaknesses, the recruiter tell you that one of your weaknesses is that you hire personality types that you like, rather than personality types that compensate for your weaknesses.

Do you know your Myers Briggs score? (Here’s a fast, free test if you don’t.) People who have typical scores for entrepreneurs (ENTJENTP) generally can’t stand people who are followers and artists. But you might want someone with an S if they are going to be the office manager. If you hire the type of person you’d like to hang out with, an ENTP, for example, the person will be full of good ideas—and everything in the office will be lost or broken.

So a really good executive recruiter will help you overcome your predisposition to surrounding yourself with people like you. This is where you begin to understand how the recruiter is earning her fee: She finds people you don’t hang out with.

3. Understand how to network outside of your network

So the recruiter helps you zero-in on the exact hole in your organization that you need to fill, and then the recruiter shows you the exact type of person you need to fill it. And then, surprise, you realize you don’t know a person like that.

This is frustrating, because most entrepreneurs are good at networking. And, actually, research from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business shows that the only personality trait that is consistent among successful entrepreneurs is that they are good at networking. This is how entrepreneurs compensate for their weaknesses so that those weaknesses don’t hold them back.

What is likely the case is that you’ve built a really strong network of people who can get your startup off the ground: other entrepreneurs, angel groups, business plan consultants. But the type of people you hire for the growth phase of a business is not the visionary type.  They are the get-things-done type.

One of the most cost-effective things you can do at this stage of a company is to start growing your own network of get-things-done types. These are people who join a company after the founding stock is distributed.

The best way to get to these people is through social media. And guess what. That’s how the recruiter you can’t afford would find candidates, as well. The difference is that the recruiter is an expert at finding get-things-done people via social media, and you’re not.

So in order to think like a recruiter, you need to go through the steps I outlined here; do the hard work of understanding the job, and understanding yourself. And then do the work of using social media to recruit your first (or second) wave of employees.

Joel Spolsky, co-founder and CEO of Fog Creek Software, is the poster-child for using social media as a recruiting tool. When his company was very small, Spolsky consistently got top developers because he recruited via social media.

You can do this, too. There are examples of social media recruiting success across all industries: from food and beverage to consulting. And being able to make key hires without huge costs is something that can make or break a company in the beginning. So don’t underestimate the return on your time investment to learn this skill.

Here’s more on the best practices for social recruiting and the worst practices for social recruiting.

And if you’re feeling ambitious, here’s an online seminar to get you up to speed fast on recruiting through social media for your company.

Co-Founder, Brazen Careerist