The Jungle

I love being a recruiter.

It is an incredibly difficult type of work where job requirements change frequently, we receive inaccurate and incomplete information from clients and candidates alike and no one trusts us.

I joined my first recruiting firm 6 months after graduating college at 20 years of age. I was “trained” by my manager who taught me that everyone lies and encouraged me to lie to every job applicant to close deals. Nice training, huh? If you ever saw the movie, “Tin Men,” we were the recruiting equivalent to those aluminum siding salesmen.

We were also told to say anything imaginable to get candidates to go on interviews. Encouraged to meet everyone in order to exert “control” and power over people and look people square in the eye as we repeated falsehoods we had been schooled in.

I remember being in a sales slump and getting a call from “Bob” saying, “Jeff, you gotta get me out of here,” and changing his resume into a work of fiction to help him find work 7 times over two years. I became a hero in my office. At 20, I didn’t have the guts or self-respect, or care for job hunters or clients to refuse.

Dysfunctional environments like many recruiting firms possess are often considered normal behavior in much the same way as an abused spouse considers the abuser’s behavior normal because it is constantly being repeated and made normal through repetition (and, yes, abused spouses have it far worse; I never came home with a black eye . . . or worse).

The difficulty of the job is often compounded by management that second guesses every decision we make and creates environments with high turnover, a modest non-existent commitment to integrity and even less with being accountable.

I want you to imagine (or if you are a New Yorker or DC resident, remember) the feelings summoned up of 9/11. The endless loops of the film of planes flying into each tower. I remember being at a staff meeting when the office manager came in and whispered something to the owner that we later learned was news of the first plane. Shortly thereafter, our stunned office manager told us the second Tower was hit and I certainly knew that this was not an accident.

Imagine being told not to leave work even though you didn’t know where your wife was or how to get home (I wound up walking out of Manhattan, hitch hiking and then finding a pay phone that worked [cell service was out] and connecting with my wife who was waiting to hear from me so she could drive to me and take me home.

That night, I received a call from the agency owner telling me I needed to come to the office. I refused. When I did come back the following Monday, I was summoned to a meeting and criticized for not having a contract with one of the affected banks for their disaster recovery business even though our company had no capabilities in that area. Bizarre, huh?

How about working for an agency that eliminates all of the tools you’ve come to rely upon but expects you to deliver as many sales as you did when you had them.

Or treats as a hero someone who is producing sales by stealing information from colleagues instead of collaboratively teaching them what he was looking for?

Being a recruiter often involves looking over your shoulder and seeing colleagues who seem out to get us, management that won’t back us up or worse, clients and job applicants who are not truthful and think it’s OK.

It is amazing that I have survived and thrived in the midst of the insanity, and helped so many find work.

For those of you who work in offices like I’ve been in, I want to offer you hope that there is a way out . . . start your own firm, network with other recruiters (message me so I can point you to the network of search firms I belong to; they are terrific. You will have to be on your own for a year before they will allow you to join), work as hard for yourself as you have for the lunatic you work for now.

By doing that, you won’t reward bad behavior and will earn the entire commission instead of a fraction.

Oh! If you trust the folks in your office, share this article and talk about it.

Good luck!


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2014