Just what are you paying me for anyway?

The art and science of recruiting reads like a "who dunnit" mystery and rarely is any thought given to how we plan and plot our placements, much less what you as a client are paying for. While I subscribe to the cliché a great chef never gives away a recipe, I thought you might like to know a little bit about where the bucks go.

Recruiters have two things to sell: their time and their knowledge; one is interlaced with the other and there are hard costs associated with both. In another light, we're thought of as rain makers -- recruiting people who'll bring their existing business and/or knowledge that makes the top line grow and/or manages the expense lines in between the top and the bottom.

You might be surprised to know that recruiting is a "1% business". It takes 100 to get one -- only 1% of the people we meet become either candidates OR clients. And it's rare, probably less than 30% of the time that we place someone who's already in our datasphere. Personally, I do about 15 transactions a year and I manage a rolodex of 50,000 names and numbers. It's constantly shrinking and growing and fed by referrals, research and the occasional CD-ROM "data-dump". Subscriptions to on-line search engines, job posting sites, trade events and other marketing, travel & entertainment are a big part of the hard costs that have replaced what most people perceived as a big phone bill. We spend time sorting the wheat from the chaff interviewing candidates, staying current with industry trends, networking and reviewing hundreds of resumes every week. The soft costs add up and are hard to measure.

Even harder to measure is the value a recruiter delivers in the form of knowledge. Knowing where the bodies lay, how to attract them, and just who REALLY created the "Where's the beef" campaign is part of our value-add proposition. Although I loathe the paradigm, recruiters as "consultants" can provide you with solutions in the form of where to recruit from. Skills from one industry can often transfer into another -- case in point includes my work with 1-800-Flowers and their bricks & mortar business. We recruited from the restaurant industry for operators and marketing people -- think about it: similar locations, delivery, manufacturing (flower arrangements vs. cooking), perishable products -- with no health code permits and you finish the day smelling like a rose instead of fries.

If you only think of recruiters as a source for resumes then you're wasting your money; post your job on Monster.com instead. If you're just looking for someone to "float some paper" (ugh, I just cringe when I hear that) then don't pay more than two-grand per hire -- because you'll probably be replacing them in less than six months anyway. Recruiters are supposed to save you time so you can focus on what matters most: doing your job. We're responsible for the occasional whack on the side of the head -- the things that you can't see sometimes because your too close to the business and your down time is spent with the kids or on the golf course.

Think half-full:"I was smart enough to hire someone who does this all day every day so I could rest easy knowing I hired the best person for the job while I kept doing mine."