To the candidate I offended on Friday: Apologies.

You’ve been on my mind all weekend. Not in a creepy stalkery way, I promise.  I hated making you mad.  I keep thinking that you don’t understand me.  I want to make it better but I probably won’t get the chance.  In your eyes I did a bad thing, and so I am not worthy of your trust.   I’m sorry you were offended, and I hope I get a chance to make it up to you.  I realize I probably won’t.

It doesn’t happen all that often, but once in a while people get really mad at me for reaching out to them at work.

I know that many people  don’t understand what a recruiter does.  Many folks think we wait for people to decide to make a move from a position and then, once that decision has been made, we offer up  a buffet of opportunities, which is one way we work.  The other way is that we catch the eye of someone who is good at what they do, who is also happily ensconced in a position and we plant the seed that something better might be out there.  The first way we work is passive.  The second way is active, muscular – and it risks rejection and offense.  But I am at my best when I am a verb – when I carefully, respectfully, interrupt people to offer them something they may desire, when I “recruit”.

That means I have to reach out to people who haven’t signaled they are ready.  Often the only way to do that is to call or email at their job.  I am discreet.  I always ask for better methods or times to talk and the messages I leave would never signal to anyone else that you are looking for a new job.  Because you aren’t, at least not yet.

The people that I annoy by reaching out at work are a small but vocal percentage.  They may think recruiters should wait to get called.  They may not realize the power of the network, or that we are all vulnerable to the whims of the marketplace.  They may not have had they life shaped for the better by a perfectly timed call.

The fact is, most of my initial contacts will be via a work email or phone call.  That is how it works. I often get names from folks I speak with, confidentially – yes that happens.  The only thing I know is that they work at a specific company.  Every day I spend time mapping out what specific talent lives where, and then figuring out how best  to reach them.  I study how companies construct emails and I pay attention to default commands for different types of voice mail systems.  I do this because I want to tell people about opportunities they would only hear about from me.  So I send emails to your job and I call you on your work number.

I’ll reach out to a prospective candidate and  they say, “How did you get my number?” or “How did you get my email?”  Sometimes the answer is I was referred to you and I was given a way to reach out.   That is easy.  But often the answer is “I guessed.”   I do these things because the positions I choose to represent are some of the best.  My clients do good work and treat people well.  They solve interesting problems and I want to find them the people they need.  My clients depend on me.

So I offer my apologies to you, anonymous guy that I was told was a super bright guy I with whom I should speak.  I am sorry you felt I crossed a line.  I’m sorry you got mad or offended or whatever made you write me that terse email.  It made me a little sad.

But I am not sorry I did it.  I’d do it again.

7 Responses

  1. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal September 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm |

    Lisa, I know you (a bit). I think you’re a good person. This person you called hates telemarketers.

    But a call from a recruiter is not an ordinary telemarketing call. For no money at all, you’re offering him a chance to consider what be a great opportunity.

    Even if it isn’t for her, that’s a great service – for free.

    I wonder if, when he needs a job, he’ll be the type who pesters recruiters or complains that they don’t do enough for him.

  2. Dennis Young
    Dennis Young September 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm |


    I don’t know you at all but I do know how you feel because it happens to me. I guesstimate that out of 100 referral calls I make I get one curmudgeon like that. I probably get 3 out of 100 when I call someone out of the blue that I don’t know or haven’t been referred to. (I recently had a candidate tell me to never call him again because I did not give him the name of the person who referred him to me, and that’s because the person who referred him to me told me not to use his name).

    Your open letter was one of the most articulate and accurate ways of describing the “recruiting side” of our business that I am asking you for your permission to paraphrase some parts of it when I
    re-approach “recruits”, especially after they didn’t get back to me after I leave one voice message and I have their email.

    As I stated above this occasionally happens to me and I feel the same way with a little mustard on top. I’ve made it a point to never talk with someone the first time I call them to simply hang up WHENEVER they answer their phone on speaker. I get more return calls that way than you’d expect because of the curiosity factor. The reason I hang up when someone answers on a speakerphone is because that person could be working in a “bullpen” environment with no privacy or their boss could be sitting right next to them either in their office or in their car.

    I have been a RECRUITER for over 30 years and quite frankly if Human Resource organizations had internal recruiters that had the time to make phone calls to “passive recruits” they wouldn’t need us so rejoice in this rejection. The problem internal recruiters have is they generally work on filling 20-30 as high as 50 jobs at once!
    Lisa, good for you… that type of rejection means you are doing your job well and your clients appreciate you!

    Just look at all the good you’ve done for people. Way more the half the people I call tell me they would be a fool not to listen to what a recruiter has to offer and generally go out of their way to help us.

    As far as the “passive recruit” mistreating you… That person probably treats a lot of people that way and will definitely have a big career crisis and won’t have any recruiter friends to call so he’s the one that lost.

    How about this, share this persons contact information so we can him next week so we can all piss him off.

    Dennis Young

  3. Rachel
    Rachel September 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

    Hi Lisa, the guy was probably worried that his employers might suspect him of lack of loyalty/planning on leaving should they realise that he had received your call at work! I have seen such a situation before. He may have seen the call as possibly jeporodising the trust relationship between himself and his employer.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel September 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

    Another point: most companies monitor all email correspondence, and I know of a situation where an employees integrity was called into question over being headhunted via email, forcing him to resign due to trust breakdown.

  5. Rachel
    Rachel September 23, 2013 at 8:40 am |

    Not at all, I was just pointing out a possible reason, not every employment relationship between boss and employee is perfect or mutually trusting….. Otherwise you would be out of a job ; )


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