Employers Can be Their Own Stumbling Blocks in the Battle for Talent



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I have been a recruiter for more than 25 years, the past 23 as the president of Diversified Industrial Staffing. In that time, I have seen a lot of hiring cycles, shifts in unemployment, a crippling recession and the recent swing in the employment power landscape—going from an employer-controlled hiring market, to the current candidate-controlled market, where the job seeker is in the driver’s seat more often than not.

Recruiters, in essence, are middlemen. We observe the needs of the marketplace and try to solve that need. We are either trying to help employees get better jobs or attempting to help companies get more or better employees. The successes only occur, and we only get paid, when a mutually beneficial relationship between employee and employer is crafted. We do not control the marketplace; we simply observe the hiring landscape and react to its ever-shifting winds.

Yet, it never fails to amaze me how employers, especially in today’s market of full employment, think that recruiters are their enemy, that recruiters are in control of the candidates and the candidates do what recruiters tell them every time. In the minds of some employers, recruiters are puppet masters, pulling the strings of candidates to manipulate them into accepting any job that pays the recruiter their company-paid placement fee.

Allow me to illustrate this point. Below is a snippet of an actual email I received from the CEO of a manufacturing company. This company wanted to hire our candidate, “Bob,” for a hard-to-fill, skilled trades position. Bob was gainfully employed, but was open to the “right opportunity.”

“Dear Recruiting Firm CEO: It appears your candidate was not ready to make a move (since he rejected our offer). This is disappointing for a number of reasons, including the time spent by our staff interviewing Bob at several levels. In the future, if you continue to provide candidates for our openings, please be sure they are committed to making a move. This would help avoid a lot of wasted effort on our part for a candidate who really is not committed to leaving their current position.”

The background on this particular client is that they are a small manufacturer, they interviewed Bob, offered him $1.50 per hour less than he’s currently earning (they knew Bob’s current wage two weeks before the first interview) and are now are shocked that Bob rejected their offer. Employers fail to realize that it is difficult for people psychologically to take a step down in wage when they are currently employed. It is stressful for job seekers to justify that type of step down in wage to wives or friends, when they have a job that is paying them more per hour.

Furthermore, its somehow the fault of the recruiter for not convincing Bob to take less money per hour to work for them. Even Jerry Maguire couldn’t convince Bob to take their offer.

To paraphrase the Stockdale Paradox from the legendary business book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins—this employer refuses to confront their own “brutal reality.” They got the result of Bob rejecting their job offer, based upon their own poor decisions, not the behavior of the recruiter. Their reality is as follows:

  • They are 100 percent responsible for the employee rejecting their low-ball offer, when the employee is employed, making more money
  • They are 100 percent responsible for thinking marketplace wages did not apply to them
  • They are 100 percent responsible for using old school tactics, such as “work for us for 90 days for less money, then we will give you a review, and if you are as good as you say you are, will bump you back to your previous wage”
  • They are 100 percent responsible for not taking the counsel of the recruiter, who told them not to make an offer at the interview, which they did anyway. And, to make matters worse, they low-balled Bob to make the situation unsalvageable.
  • They are 100 percent responsible for not understanding that a currently employed person has options and will only leave the security of a job, if a new job will benefit them and their family

Change for employees such as Bob is tough. It’s uncomfortable. In today’s market, where there is a massive talent shortage of almost 1 million unfilled manufacturing job openings around the U.S. each day (projected to be 2 million by 2022), employers have to stand out and be willing to create an enticing situation for a candidate to want to make the job change. Job seekers typically get many offers, or in Bob’s case, a counter offer simply because his current boss heard he was looking for a new job. Employers need to make their offer so enticing, the employee must say yes. They need to make the offer so attractive that a counter offer is easily rebuffed by the employee. That did not happen in this case.

In the end, the company lost because Bob turned down the job offer, and so did the recruiter, who worked on a contingent basis (for free). Sadly, employers are often the biggest stumbling block to acquiring great employees such as Bob.


About the Author

Todd Palmer

Todd Palmer is the president of Diversified Industrial Staffing, a national skilled labor recruiting firm, based in Troy, Michigan. 
Contact tpalmer@diversifiedindustrialstaffing.com.