Do recruiters really have no shame?

I read a posting recently from a justifiably frustrated lawyer who posted that recruiters have “no shame.”  It really got me thinking because today I am a recruiter.  I am also a lawyer.  One of the reasons I became a recruiter is because I wanted to try and change the way recruiting was done.

Many years ago when I was a young lawyer I was happily minding my own business working in a law firm when I received my first recruitment call.  I was very flattered.  The recruiter said all of the right things to me.  More money, more power, less hours, better lifestyle, faster partnership.   I was sold.  However, after a few short weeks it was apparent that I was just a dollar sign to this recruiter and everything I was told was wrong, except the money.  But the money wasn’t everything to me and I was now working at my worst nightmare.   It was everything I was ethically opposed to, I rarely ever saw the light of day, if I even tried to Christmas shop on my lunch hour I was criticized.  The receptionist cried hourly as she was being traumatized by the partners.  This firm is left off of my work history for obvious reasons now and I resigned as fast as I possibly could.  It nearly ruined my career as a lawyer.  All of the money I spent on my education, all of the hours I spent in law school, my livelihood was nearly destroyed all so a woman who never spent a day practicing law could earn a percentage of a percentage of my yearly salary.  It took a bit but I pulled myself together and I moved on.

Now today I am where I am because of that move.  I met my husband, I am in Canada, and I work with the perspective and ethical considerations because of that situation, however, had I let it, it could have destroyed my career.  So do recruiters really have no shame?  I am not sure.  But quite a few really don’t have the foundation to realize that the power they have in their hands is substantial and that the product they are dealing with are human lives and not used cars.

So years later, I got into recruiting swearing I would be different.  It was difficult in the beginning.  When you are in larger organizations you are given quotas.  If you don’t reach them then you do not earn income or worse yet, are not employed.  And in the legal field most law firms give out their job orders to several agencies on contingencies.  So you have many agents from multiple companies in a mad frenzy competing against each other to fill one position.  So can they afford to lie in wait in response to an advertisement?  Not likely, especially when the law firm in all likelihood is also advertising as well.  Many of the junior recruiters do not have the contacts to work on referrals.  That is when the cold calling begins.  Unfortunately now your law firm will be subject to multiple calls by several agents all on the same job within a week.  It is frustrating.  It seems like they have no shame, but what they really have is no choice.  It is that or they don’t eat.  I opened my own company so I could avoid this.  I work with a smaller group of clients and I make sure I treat every career, every organization, as if it was my own.  

For frustrated law firms, there are things you can do to help; from the side of retention in your firm of your current employees, as well as how you handle recruiters when you retain them to hire on your behalf.  I will address the later first.

Retaining Recruiters

There is no real benefit to hiring more than one recruiter to fill a job for you. Build a relationship with one excellent recruiter who will represent your brand in the best possible light.  Giving the job to multiple recruiters just creates a feeding frenzy and a sense of urgency that results in quantity, not quality.  A good recruiter has access to the top talent in the industry.  This recruiter should have worked in the industry for a reasonable amount of time so you are getting someone who can speak the language with your candidates.  It creates a bond with the prospective employees and brings you a better pool of people to choose from.  If you are hiring a lawyer, your recruiter should have worked as a lawyer, if you are hiring a law clerk, your recruiter should have worked as a law clerk or higher.  You are paying for a specialist.  It is not enough to be a good salesperson in this industry.  You should be an expert in your field.  There is an influx of recruiters right now because so many people are graduating from college and with no experience, fast talking their way into a business that yields a high income and trades on valuable commodities, people’s lives and organization’s futures.  We should demand an expertise if we are going to get counsel on who to hire and why.  I believe that we should hire professionals to recruit our professionals.

Retaining Employees

I have written an entire article on this topic.  I cannot say this enough.  Transparency is the best policy.  Your employees are going to get calls from recruiters.  In this day and age where we put our information on LinkedIn, our company webpage, and more, we can’t hide.  The day is gone where if you are looking for a job you pick up the newspaper.  The jobs come to you now.  However, there are things you can do to minimize the impact to your organization.  First, the calls to the office. Tell your employees up front, in a meeting (not a memo or an email) that you know recruiters are contacting them.  That they are valuable to you so why would they not be valuable to others.  However, if they are called on company time you ask that they refer the recruiter to their home or cell number and to call when they are not on the clock.  You also can tell them that you have an open door policy.  If they are considering a move, before it gets to an offer stage, you would like to have a candid conversation about what changes you can make to the organization to retain them, and in the alternative, if they are moving on, to help you make it better for the future employees.  I also recommend as a preemptive measure to have reviews with your employees, not once, but twice a year.  This will keep you ahead of the competition and the recruiters.  You can give your employees feedback and ask for their feedback on your firm.  Communication is the key to success.  One of the three top reasons employees leave a company is lack of communication.  And remember, turn-over is not always a bad thing.  Healthy turnover is key to maintaining a thriving organization.  If you have gone through all of these steps and your employee is still leaving, then perhaps it is for the best and time to replace him/her with someone who will be more valuable in the long term. 

Recruiters are valuable to both lawyers looking to make a move, and law firms looking to hire.   I was met with a terrible one early in my career.  I have met numerous amazing ones.  It is the same as with any industry you just have to find the one that works best for you. 

Joanne Rossi

Managing Partner

JTF Recruitment Consultants