Are Recruiters Necessary?

By Bill Radin

Peter was a great candidate: Fine background, good skills, terrific references. So I decided to spin the dial and see if I could place him.

After a little research, I found a company that seemed a perfect match for Peter’s talents. So, I placed a call to the vice president.

The VP agreed that my candidate was indeed perfect, and could immediately help his company grow. However, there was a catch: Under no circumstances would they pay a recruiter’s fee.

“So, you see no value whatsoever in working with a recruiter”, I said.

“You got it,” he said, cutting me off. “We get 50 resumes a week from posting on Craigslist. So, if your candidate really wants to work for our company, I’m sure he’ll find us.”

“Sorry I wasted your time”, I told the VP. I could tell from his tone of voice that any attempt to convince him otherwise was a waste of my time as well.

Things Get Complicated

Just as the VP predicted, Peter eventually found the company online, and after an exchange of emails, the VP flew him out to interview. Not once, but twice.

Soon after the second interview, Peter received an email from the VP, and it had the look and feel of an offer—almost.. “I’d like you to come to work for us”, The VP wrote. “All we need to do is find out what sort of salary you’re looking for.”

I know all about the email, because Peter had forwarded it to me and asked for advice.

Now, I’m not one to hold a grudge; nor am I about to keep two interested parties apart, especially in light of the fact that the candidate was unemployed. So I advised the candidate to strongly state his interest and request a formal offer, with the understanding that if the offer was reasonable, he would accept the offer and set a start date.

But instead of taking my advice, the candidate took a detour, which proved fateful. In the email message to Peter, the VP went on to say that their salary range was $100k to $150k. Since Peter’s last job had paid $100k, he figured there was some room to negotiate.

So Peter emailed the VP that he needed more money to: [a] compensate for the higher cost of living where the job was located; [b] bring his salary up to “market” value, according to an online survey; and [c] provide him with a 6-percent increase to adjust for inflation during the two years he’d been unemployed.

Want to guess how the VP reacted? He pulled the offer.

I don’t blame the VP for being put off. But instead of saying, “Whoa, can we talk about it?” he took the sleazy way out. He wrote back that after careful consideration, his company actually didn’t have an appropriate position at this time. Which, of course, was a total lie.

Maybe Next Time

Had I been in a position to broker the deal, I’m certain the outcome would have been very different. Ambiguities, concerns and expectations would have been dealt with confidentially, and a smooth and orderly consensus would have been reached. Instead, Peter and the VP communicated in the manner or two dry sponges rubbing against each other; and as a result, our little drama morphed into a triple tragedy.

First, a talented and deserving candidate still has a family to feed and a creative mind that’s going to waste. True, he overplayed his hand. But that was more a reflection of inexperience than greed or malicious intent.

Second, a perfectly good company that could have reaped untold financial benefit by expanding its capacity is still turning away business.

And third, the VP who regarded my services as worthless not only let his penny wisdom and pound foolishness cost his company ten times the money he would have paid me; he also stuck a sharp stick in the eye of our country’s economic recovery.

So, the next time a company tells you they can’t afford a recruiter, you may or may not win the war of ideas. But at least you can state your point of view—that in fact, they can’t afford NOT to use you—with utter and total conviction.