A few days ago, I was having lunch with a few very talented professionals who used to work as recruitment consultants. Some of them have now moved on to different occupations. One of them told me that she left recruitment role because she was asked by her firm to sell jobs to potential candidates even if candidates did not match with the job requirements or job roles were not offering any career progression. She had to meet sales targets on a quarterly basis to keep her job, and her base salary would be reduced if she didn’t meet her targets. To her, recruiting was like hard-selling. I felt sad that she had had that kind of experience and that the recruitment industry had lost a talented professional.


It is because of such practices that recruitment has branded as selling, I guess. Many talented professionals (who have this perception that recruitment is selling) hesitate to consider a long term career in recruitment.


I’ve been thinking about it since my lunch that day with these professionals, and am now attempting to share my thoughts with an open mind.


It is actually true that everyone, in any profession, has to, in some way, also be a salesperson at times.  It doesn’t matter if someone is a lawyer or an IT professional or a technology recruitment consultant.  One is always trying to sell or influence others with his/her ideas. Even in our personal life for example, we sell or influence our children that they should study or be good at what they like, to be successful. But I am not looking at the subject from this perspective.


Looking at technology recruiting from two sides, Agency or In-house/Corporate, either way, would you consider your position to be that of a salesperson? Or, would you consider your role to be more a consultation that helps candidates find the right position and organisations find candidates who can deliver the job responsibilities with enthusiasm?


There is a difference between being in a sales role and having selling as one component of a role. Yes, both selling and recruiting rely on pipelines and funnels. Yes, both selling and recruiting involve a lot of calls and pitching. But no, recruiters don’t “sell” candidates to companies. And recruiters don’t “sell” jobs to candidates. Neither candidates, nor jobs, are saleable in the sense that products and services are. Jobs are relationships, not simple one-way transactions. Technology recruiting is a complicated, consultative, bi-directional matching process. It’s not a sale, in my personal opinion.


For an example, I think of doctors as consultants, and I tried to draw parallels between the roles of doctors and technology recruitment consultants, and identified the possible sales components in the process. I found that there were only three stages in the whole process where a sales component may exist. Here are the details.


Doctor Recruitment Consultant (RC) Sales Component
Has good knowledge of human body, how it works, potential diseases/causes/cures etc. Has good knowledge of various technologies/tools/relevant certifications/roles of potential tech professionals
Understands various medicines offered by pharma companies Understands clients’ job requirements, the career they can offer, the process they follow
Patients visit a doctor for a consultation Advertises the job. Candidates contact the recruitment firm and the RC contacts the potential active/passive candidates Yes
Understands the patient’s situation and condition Understands the candidate’s skills and aspirations
Screens the patient Screens the candidate
Does not make any assumptions about the patient and symptoms Validates the skills & capabilities with available evidence
Suggests potential causes/issues Looks for gaps between the candidate’s skills and the skills desired by the client. Suggests a few job opportunities
Updates the patient about the process to be followed to recover Updates candidates about the selection process if shortlisted
Runs a few tests if required to determine the most probable causes/diseases Shares recommended candidate profiles with the client, and the client follows a process of written tests and/or interviews the candidates Yes
Follows a process of elimination to diagnose the medical issue, recommends a course of treatment based on pros and cons Follows a process with client to determine the right fit
Let the patient make a decision based on the recommendation. Provides a prescription, and information about possible side effects Gets consent from the selected candidate to accept the offer. Formally offers the job to the selected candidate, gets the acceptance of terms of the offer Yes
Refer the patient to a specialist or hospital if required Thank the rejected candidates and find them alternate job opportunities that are in line with their aspirations
Asks the patient to come back if there is any reaction of medicine or there is no improvement Checks if the selected candidate joins the client and is happy with the new role
The end objective for the doctor is to make the patient healthy again as soon as possible The end objective of the Tech RC is to get the candidate the job that they want, and to provide the client with the right candidate for the role that needs to be filled.


In both cases, there are sales components but that doesn’t make the whole job about selling, as can be seen in the details of the process. If the process of doctoring is considered to be consultative rather than selling, shouldn’t the process of technology recruiting also be considered to be consultative as well?