Why Recruiting Is Sales

By Paul Slezak - Sep. 8, 2015
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Editor’s Note: This post is by Paul Slezak, Cofounder and CEO of RecruitLoop – the World’s largest marketplace of expert Recruiters and Sourcers available on-demand.

Recruiting is sales.

There. I said it.

But I also understand that a blog post can’t just comprise of 6 words.

Sure, recruiting is about helping candidates land their dream job; or finding ‘the unfindable’ talent for employers. But when all is said and done (and whether we like it or not), as recruiters we are all in the game of sales.

And unfortunately that in itself often comes with a bit of baggage, a stigma, a reputation … I’m sure you get where I’m coming from.

I’ve been in the game for a long time. I have been a recruiter myself; I have hired hundreds of recruiters; and today I am personally connected to thousands of recruiters right across the world.

Those recruiters who have been interviewed by me, who have worked with me, or who know me well would hopefully say I am a fair recruiter. I’d like to think they’d say I am still a good recruiter. But most importantly I really hope they would describe me as an honest recruiter.

Ethan sat opposite me once and when I asked him why he wanted to get into recruitment, he told me that he’d “always wanted to work in HR”.

I told him to go and look for a job in HR.

Bianca’s response to the same question was, “I really love helping people”.

She looked totally devastated when I suggested she consider a role in aged care.

Stephanie said, “I am happy talking to people all day”.

At first she appeared insulted when I replied, “so are hair dressers”. But a week later she thanked me when I actually placed her as a customer service rep in a contact center. She’d finally found her calling (pardon the pun).

If you can relate to Ethan, Bianca or Stephanie, then you probably haven’t truly thought about recruitment. Don’t get me wrong. I really love helping people too. And trust me … I am happy talking to people all day. After 20+ years in the industry I still talk to people all day … and many of them are in HR. But I’m not!

While I refuse to be put into the same category as a used car salesman, I still love the fact that I was able to build a very successful career in sales … in the recruitment industry.

For anyone not convinced, please allow me to explain.

Before I go on, I should make it clear that when I say, “recruiting is sales”, I am not talking about the sourcing piece – where there really isn’t any person-to-person contact required at all. I am, however, talking about any part of the recruitment process where human contact is required – whether it be dealing with candidates, clients, colleagues, or any combination of the three.

Here’s why …

Recruiting is sales if you’re an internal recruiter

It’s your job to find the best talent to work for your organisation.

But the best talent will usually be presented with other opportunities – not just yours. And it then becomes your job to convince them that the position in your organisation is the best one for them.

Convince them. (Shhh … that’s sales!).

You can’t just rely on the fact that a well-crafted job ad or your employer brand will get that ideal candidate across the line. After all it isn’t your employer brand doing the ‘courting’. It isn’t your employer brand painting the picture of their future career path within the organisation. And your employer brand can’t answer all those critical questions from a candidate faced with two amazing offers.

That responsibility lies entirely on your shoulders.

And of course all you have to do is let that hiring manager know that you’ve found an amazing candidate and they’ll interview them straight away and make them an offer on the spot. Right?

Who are we kidding here?

There’s quite a bit of effort there on your part too.

Effort on your part. (Shhh … that’s sales!).

Recruiting is sales if you’re a contract recruiter

As a contract recruiter you are selling yourself and your expertise to an organisation that might be weighing up between bringing you on board and bringing on a full-time recruiter.

For whatever reason, you made the decision to become a contract recruiter as opposed to sticking with the security of an in-house role. And more often than not you will find yourself selling to the very same person whose position you could have had.

They may now feel threatened by you and you’ll find yourself having to negotiate your rate and justifying why they should bring you in.

Negotiating and justifying. (Shhh … that’s sales!).

Recruiting is sales if you’re an agency recruiter

This one’s pretty obvious, since for the most part agency recruiters are measured by KPIs involving (sadly) cold calls, and other business development activity.

Business development activity. That’s sales! (No need for the ‘Shhh’ since it’s pretty obvious!).

I used to always tell new consultants that in their role as a recruiter they would be selling our brand to prospective clients; they would be selling their expertise and credibility to candidates and potential customers; they would be selling candidates to clients, and opportunities to candidates.

I would also have to remind them that often the hardest sell would be to their colleagues sitting right alongside them. After all, if they had a great candidate but no role, or a fantastic opportunity but no candidates, perhaps their colleagues would be able to help them out.

Surely a colleague would be happier to make half a fee by splitting it with you than to lose the candidate to a competitor. Right? Right?

You’d think if after all that reverse marketing and ad chasing, if you still couldn’t help a candidate out, then a colleague might come the rescue.

Sadly this wasn’t always the case.

Often the hardest sell of all in agency land is to your peers!

Oh and if you didn’t realise that “reverse marketing and ad chasing” is sales, you should probably stop reading this post right now! (just kidding!)

Recruiting is sales if you’re an independent recruiter

Perhaps you’ve just left a big agency behind you and you’re a recently liberated recruiter. Or maybe you’ve had your own independent recruiting business up and running for a while. Whatever stage you are in, you always have to grow your business.

You’re probably out networking all the time (that’s sales); you’re more than likely always asking clients and candidates for referrals (that’s sales); and like your former self in agency land you’ll always be selling your expertise and credibility to candidates and prospective customers.

The only difference is you don’t have that big brand name behind you and you’re now selling yourself. Your brand … and often that’s the most important sale of all.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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