Sourcing Worklab Open House July 3rd - 40 Guest Passes

Tikihead200July 3rd isn't a holiday. Technically. 

But for those of us at work, we should make it count. Lacey and I are holding an open house, where any recruiter can come and see what we're all about. (what is this? Go read the site!)

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

1:00 PM CST, 11:00 AM PST. 

This is 90 minutes of live candidate sourcing. We take real jobs, and we walk through searching for candidates using a number of different tools.

How do you get a guest pass?

Way #1: You can sign  signup - Send an email to with the subject July 3rd, and she'll send you a registration to the GotoMeeting. 

Way#2: If you want to learn more about SourcingWorklab, you can set up a call with me, Jim Durbin. That link will take you to my Calendly page where you can pick a time on my calendar.

There is a limited  number of guest passes. We're capping it at 40. 

So call, email, or if you've been putting it off - enroll in the SourcingWorklab today



Announcing The Sourcing Worklab

It's real, and it's spectacular.





Well, we did it. My team launched the Sourcing Worklab last night.

This is a new training model for recruiters - a program to change habits and improve performance at all levels through Visual Learning and demonstration. 

This is like nothing you've ever seen in the recruiting space, and I want to tell you why my team launched this. 

First - the model.  The SOURCING WORKLAB is a monthly subscription community for up to 200 staffing and search firms. Each week, the members send in searches they are working on, and on Monday afternoons, Lacey and I do the searches live. 

It's a 90 minute session where we work on your jobs. Who is we? Why, these two folks down here! 

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 8.35.36 AMLacey is an experienced host, moderator, and community manager. She keeps me on track and works with members on their training programs and progress. 

I'm the Social Media Headhunter, and I've trained some 9,000 people on digital tools. 

And that experience is why I decided to try something different - something that I've struggled with in front of audiences for the 10 years. 

It works like this. Webinars give you a short time to introduce a new concept. Most people get a few lessons from the webinar, but very few download or replay the videos. They're just too busy. Several years ago, I launched a store of products that covered the webinar topics of LinkedIn, Facebook, Search, Google, Twitter...) - and they sold about 100 copies. That drove me crazy. The surveys and reports of use rated them highly. The tech was easy. The packaging was beautiful. The recorded trainings were higher quality, better thought out, edited and planned. When people did buy them - they sat on the shelf. Those who watched, watched only once (even though it was set up into chapters for quick reference). 

At the same time, webinars for those same topics would drive 200 people. Why? It was the same marketing. Why take live training instead of carefully edited training? 

It was simple. Recruiters are busy. If they don't put it on their calendar, it goes down the task list. Having a physical product is not a need. Having a webinar on a calendar is a need. 

Clearly - you have to get on a calendar. 

But what happens after the training? My best results come from individuals who get repeated training sessions. Check out this reference: 

"Jim has been a fantastic mentor.  Early in my career, Jim trained me on the key components of sourcing and screening. Over the course of two years, as the positions I worked on grew more complex, he continued to provide me with new tools and tactics that matched my experience."

That's a recruiter in Houston I had the pleasure of working with for some two years. As he got better, I gave him more. Most important, we worked on open positions, not imaginary ones. And that is the formula. 

Scheduled Session + Live Requirements + Consistency

That is how you learn. That's how everyone learns. So we created the Worklab to create better results. 

There are two versions of the lab. The first is a staffing firm/independent recruiter community. The second is for internal/corporate recruiters (launching later in the year - with an exciting second speaker). 

Check out the site. Most important - tell your friends with staffing friends. Send them to the site and help them develop their recruiters.

Do You Believe In The Curse Of The First Resume?

"I never look at the first resume. It's cursed, you know. You print them off, then take the first one, crumple it up, never look at it, and throw it away. That's the only way to ensure a successful hire." - anonymous Reddit User,  /r/recruiting, July 2009

Bill Stevens wasn't your typical recruiter. His background was in documentary film making, which made for interesting stories but did little to put food on the table. After working in New Orleans during Katrina, and then following  a profiler for the FBI, he got a plum job working in the Polynesian islands. What should have been two years in paradise ended up being two months and no paycheck, and he found himself in Los Angeles, unemployed, in the middle of a recession.

Out of desperation he answered a job ad for a staffing firm, where,  based on the strength of his interviewing skills, he was hired and sent to training for a week. And then he was dropped in a cubicle with a phone and a list of contacts to call on a computer screen. The company had a lot of openings, even in those grim times, and Bill's job was to sort through the resumes and call the best ones. He was a natural, as years of pointing a camera at a person made him easy to talk to. Candidates loved him, his bills were paid off, and like many recruiters do, he took a job inside a large company that offered more stability and less sales.

Megacorp wasn't a bad place to work - the benefits were good, the hours reasonable, and the work wasn't that difficult. Perhaps that's what led Bill to start looking around for entertainment. He loved a good story, but stories take time, and his time was taken up with the process.

It was the process that led to this amazing film, and the recruiting discovery of a lifetime. Welcome everyone, to the story of Bill Stevens, the man who uncovered, The Curse Of The First Resume.


Many of  you have heard of the curse - many of you believe it. It's been trained to generations of recruiters, justified dozens of ways, and eventually, merged with the myth of a Hindu God. Today, it is considered a best practice in the halls of the Fortune 500 and the consulting firms that prowl them. 

What is the curse? Quite simply, it is the fear of looking at the first resume in a stack of resumes. Our study of other 20,000 recruiters showed that not only did 85% of them know of the curse, over half actively avoided the first resume. Not all believed it was a curse - but they knew the activity by many names. First is Worst, Not That One, and the earliest version, The Nod to Edith. They all meant the same thing - in a stack of resumes, if you take the top one and read it, the person you hire won't be any good. 

Many people we interviewed for this documentary actively addressed the curse, printing out a stack of resumes just to crumple up the first one and throw it away. It wasn't the paper - crumpling a blank sheet didn't count, and neither did skipping the first resume on a computer screen. You had to print out a stack, crumple the first resume, and throw it away. Only then would the curse be lifted.

That's where Bill Stevens entered the picture. New to the industry, he first encountered the curse when he worked a position for a product manager in Culver City. A fellow recruiter handed him a stack of resumes, but assured him he'd already given a Nod to Edith. When Bill asked what that meant, the answer led him on a seven year journey to uncover the secret origins of the Curse of the First Resume.

The story begins in late 1980's in a branch office of Megacorp. A manager by the name of Ronald McIntosh ran a call center in Pasadena. Ron, known as Big Red by his co-workers because of his tall stature and unkempt red hair, managed about 60 people handling collections for the company. His secretary at the time was a woman by the name of Edith Stossel. One day, in late fall, a young salesman from Apple One came to the door, offering new staffing services in an attempt to replace Kelly Services, the long-time vendor for Megacorp. The young man, whose name is unknown, had a secret weapon. He offered to "fax" new resumes over instead of bringing the resumes to Ron each day to review. We can imagine the conversation as Ron and the Apple One salesperson talked. 

"Fax machine," "technology," "time-saver," "wave of the future." Maybe the young man was good, or it could have been that Megacorp had been an early adopter of faxes for corporate communications, and with Apple One local, there would be no charges for receiving resumes. Ron, the manager, could review them at his leisure at night or in the morning. Whatever the reason - he signed on. The very next day, Apple One began faxing resumes to Ron to review. 

Edith Stossel was in charge of the fax machine. She treated it like a mother hen, and made sure it ran smoothly and had proper care. Twice a day, she would go to the fax and retrieve resumes that had been sent over. She would remove the cover sheet, and place the resumes in a basket for Ron.

This went on for several years, and as Megacorp grew, it expanded it's offices in Pasadena, adding several departments including human resources, credit, audit, accounting, and a new division called Information Technology. Ron advanced quickly as the company grew, and Edith was promoted along with him, every step of the way. In 1996, Ron left Megacorp, but Edith stayed on and begin to report to a new manager, David Hedrick. David had a business degree from Stanford, three years at IBM, and his plans were to quickly grow in the executive ranks. Finding Edith very useful for her knowledge of the departments and the processes she ran, he largely delegated responsibilities involving paperwork to her. 

For hiring, which now included several departments, Edith connected with an HR generalist named Jackie Sobyak. Edith still collected the faxes, but she would bring them to each manager as they came in, and then deliver them to Jackie to contact for interviews after they were screened. Jackie saw an opportunity, and offered to take the resumes, screen them, and deliver them to managers. This would allow her to determine how many resumes were delivered, as Apple Ane charged per resume at the time. Edith liked the idea, both because it took work off her plate, and because it saved the company money. Jackie was given responsibility, and after that, she would deliver resumes to each manager. 

The first day Jackie delivered resumes, the managers were displeased. They saw Jackie deliver them, but didn't see her remove the cover sheet. They correctly assumed that she had pre-screened the resumes, removing some of them  from the stack. Two of them quickly went to David Hedrick and complained. Hedrick didn't want this marring his upward mobility, so he called Jackie in, explained the situation, and told her to bring in resumes with the cover sheet, as a "Nod to Edith." Jackie did just that. The managers were happy. David was happy, and Jackie was able to cut the spending in her department considerably. When Hedrick was promoted six months later, Jackie was named the Director of Human Resources.

One of the first things Jackie did as Director was to login into job sites. Instead of paying per resume, she paid a fixed amount, and could download all the resumes she needed. When she delivered them to managers (or rather, when her assistant did), she made sure there was always a cover sheet on top. She literally had her assistant print out a cover sheet for a printed stack of resumes, prior to delivery. Many managers never knew they stopped coming from the fax machine.

 As Megacorp grew, an entire generation of recruiters grew up following Edith's workflow, which included always throwing away the first page. In 1998, Jackie left Megacorp to join a dot-com, which received massive amounts of media attention as they grew. Jackie's methods spread throughout the city, both through Megacorp, and through her own work. The spread of the idea was like wildfire.  The First is Worst idea was seen in a recruiting handbook in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1999, and The Nod To Edith was actually found in a Usenet forum for recruiters in Boston in 1997, while Jackie was still at Megacorp. The name changed, but the process spread. When you delivered resumes, you delivered them with a cover page, and remove it in front of the manager. With the growth of the job boards, cover pages were no longer standard. Faxes still came in, but these resumes were stored  in giant file cabinets, next to the resumes from the job boards, and those received in the mail. Even as resume storage went online, delivery of resumes was still done with paper. And with every delivery, more and more recruiters learned the "Nod to Edith." By May of 2002, there were over 70 mentions of removing the first piece of paper in a stack of resumes. Unfortunately, we can't track those 70 mentions - they are noted only in passing in the Internet Archive from a site called Hiring Roundup that submitted a blogpost to something known as a blog carnival. 

The name of the curse began to mature over the next seven years. Mentions of the First Resume are noted in blog comments along with a Nod to Edith, and First is Worst. But it was in 2009, that the story took an ominous new turn. 

In July of 2009, a subforum on the popular Reddit website for recruiting has a quote. The user is anonymous, but in this quote, supposedly directly from a manager, is the first use of the words, "successful hire." It received 35 upvotes. 

"I never look at the first resume. It's cursed, you know. You print them off, then take the first one, crumple it up, never look at it, and throw it away. That's the only way to ensure a successful hire." - anonymous Reddit User,  /r/recruiting, July 2009 

The subreddit would use this formulation as an inside joke for many years. In 2011,  a user from Hyderabad spoke of a Hindu god who was given the first portion of everything, or it would be cursed. This new version of the story became the inside joke, and it soon spread to other parts of the Internet. In 2014, a Buzzfeed writer picked up the story and rewrote it as original content, which was then shared over 7,000 times, garnering over 30M views on Facebook.

Shortly after that, references to the Curse of the First Resume became common. They made it into several corporate presentations over the years, and actually were written into an episode of the Office in their last season (only available as a deleted scene on the 4th disk). When we conducted the survey in 2016, almost 16,000 recruiters nationwide knew of the curse, specifically by name.

So it was in Century City, in a complex for Megacorp built for the IT department, that Bill Stevens first heard of the Nod To Edith. When he left Megacorp in 2010, he worked on several projects as a documentary film editor, but still sought out recruiters to find the origin of the story. When the Buzzfeed story on the Reddit jokes hit the mainstream, Bill began contacting recruiting departments and searching the internet archive for the earliest clues. This caught the attention of our producers, who agreed to fund the documentary if Bill could find enough content. 

Imagine Bill's surprise when he met Jackie at SXSW in 2015. He was telling his story to a friend in a bar in Austin when Jackie sat next to him. He quickly realized her place in the center of the story, and was amazed to find out that after years of research, it was indeed Megacorp that had originated the process. She was able to contact Edith, who had retired many years before, but still lived in Pasadena, and both Jackie and Edith agreed to be interviewed. Ron "Big Red" McIntosh had sadly passed, and David Hedrick, now a SVP for a hedge firm, refused all inquiries.

As the documentary wrapped production, legal threats from Megacorp prevented the initial release, until the threat of an Indiegogo crowdfunding attempt convinced the company to cease litigation. 

We are proud to announce that in the fall of 2017, Netflix will air the original documentary, "The Curse of The First Resume," by Bill Stevens, and a pre-release download will be available on the website, 

Thank you for your time, and if you have your own stories of the curse, please leave comments of your experiences to have the chance to be in the extra features.

Candidate Personas In Recruiting: An Introduction

Developing a persona is standard in the full marketing stack. The goal is to create a series of customer segments, create an individual who represents that segment, and then tailor messaging to that individual.

It's effective because good messaging is written to a person, not to a group. What "sounds good" is not the same as "what appeals to an individual. 

Recruiting has a real problem with this. We're obsessed with data, which means that we tend to view candidates in terms of lists, instead of as individuals.

This is good. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 3.27.02 PM


This is bad. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 2.04.02 PM

It seems to be common sense. Of course you want to talk about people as individuals instead of as a group. Then why don't we? Why do our ATS's lack pictures of the individual? Oh sure, compliance. Can't have any bias creeping in. Instead of an accurate picture, what if we had random pictures of people we could look at as we searched resumes and talked on the phone? That is literally the purpose of personas in marketing.

A persona is a lens that focuses our messaging on a real person and let's us discuss the impact of our message in terms of a real person. Does that sound confusing? Let me simplify it.

Your emails and phone calls are bad if you're looking at a list. They're better if you're looking at a person.

Lists focus are attention on what we want. Titles, companies we recognize, skillsets, keywords... when we write with a list in mind, our tone and message tends to be focused on what we want.

"I'm looking for full-stack programmers to work in our office in Seattle."

"We're on the search for great talent for our product team! B2B marketers experienced in lead generation using Marketo should apply now!"

I'm bored just writing that. 

When you focus on a picture, you take the attention off of your needs, and put it the candidate. Try these out.

"Your profile had links to code samples that were pretty impressive."

"Brian, your background in B2B marketing with Marketo could be a good fit for our team." 

They're still generic, but shockingly, they work. Candidate response to personalization works every time it's tried. That's not actually a positive thing. It means the bar for response is so low that your Yorkshire Terrier can jump over it. And those are very little dogs with tiny little legs. Don't get me wrong - response is important - it's the first step. But truly great recruiters and truly great hiring teams know how to take it further. They use a persona to create a messaging framework the candidate and the hiring team throughout the hiring process.

Customizing your personas requires you to do that most dreaded of exercises - putting yourself in the shoes of a candidate to understand their motivations. This series will help you do that. Stay tuned.

Advice For A New Recruiter

Had a guy reach out to me - he's looking at recruiting jobs, and asked for some advice. Here was my off the cuff thoughts. 

First  - check out the archives from, specifically 2005-2006. I talked a lot about staffing because that was my job at the time.


a) My Recruiter and Me. 

b) Do you know enough math to be a contract recruiter?

c) What to do when a candidate asks for more money after the offer.

Second -  Focus on your metrics.
1) Look at as many resumes as you can and keep count

2) Interview as many people as you can on the phone and keep count (never let a call go longer than 30 minutes
3) Interview as many people as you can in person. (never let it go over 30 minutes).
4) Make it a practice to make 100 phone calls a day.

 There is no substitute for pattern recognition in this business. Get it in early, and you'll understand recruiting faster than your peers. Being smart doesn't help. It's about repetition. 

Third - Buy a mirror and put it on your desk. As the phone rings, smile at it. An old secret but a good one.

Fourth - if is your plan to stay in this business, you have to proudly identify yourself as a recruiter and a salesperson. There are no extra points for being a good recruiter in a sea of bad ones. Understand your job is to make introductions, and try not to take it personally when clients and candidates lie to you. Over time, your successes will outweigh your failures. Never apologize for being a recruiter, and never apologize for other recruiters. That will suck the life out of you, and you'll start looking for exits. 


Kansas City Live Recruiter Training April 16th Details

I'll be in Kansas City on April 16th, leading three sessions for recruiters on the LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sign up in Kansas City at the MKSSA site. You can use Paypal!

For questions - email me at 

The Missouri and Kansas Search and Staffing Association Is hosting me in a Speaker's Series.

What:  Speaker Series with National Speaker Jim Durbin

When:  Wednesday, April 16th from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (broken into 3 sessions.)

Where:  9225 Indian Creek Pkwy, Overland Park, KS 66210 Building 32 (View Map)

**Be sure to bring your laptops because Jim Durbin will be running live searches.

NAPS (now MKSSA) was my first live training back in 2008. Since that time, I've trained over 5000 recruiters on how to use social media to make more placemtns. It's a pleasure to return and deliver training to new recruiters, as well as share some of the secrets for advanced recruiting using LinkedIn and the new Facebook Graph Search.

Laptops are recommended, as I believe Wifi access will be available for all. Seats are limited based on space.  

Below the fold, I'll post the session details. Please email me at jim at social media if you have extra questions, and let me know if you'll be attending.


Continue reading "Kansas City Live Recruiter Training April 16th Details" »

Recruiting Versus Sourcing

I did a quick column for SourceCon on the difference between recruiting and sourcing

Sourcing is not the same as recruiting. While I appreciate my talented friends who build talent pipelines, org charts, and call lists for recruiters, they’re not doing themselves any favors comparing the two skill sets.

Hiring is the process of one flawed human deciding to give money to another flawed human in hopes the second flawed human is going to make the life of the first flawed human easier. That’s the basic idea of any interview. Does the manager picture the candidate solving problems, or do they picture them creating problems? The strongest picture wins.

Sourcing is the development of a list of flawed people who interest human #1. It’s an important first step, but even if the sourcer is contacting the people on that list, it’s the easiest part. Calling someone and telling them you have an interest in them is a positive phone call.

SourceCon 2013 Seattle is in Seattle, WA, on October 2–3, 2013.Learn more »

Finding Isn't Sourcing

Bill Boorman writes about the death of sourcing after a recent SourceCon event in Atlanta.

And here is the thing, sourcing is just starting. There are plenty of tools for dissecting and finding data that gives you the answers you want. The tools may no longer mean that you no longer need to know Boolean or other internet searching tips,but understanding what data means is a real art. It is not about finding people, it’s about understanding people. Things like who might be most ready to move. who has accumulated experience since they last updated a profile. Finding people might be easy. People are represented by data, and anyone with the right tool can find data, but interpreting data is a real skill.

Bill is right on here.  I attended Sourcecon last fall to get a sense of how good I was against professional sourcers.  As a full desk recruiter, and a sales account executive before that, sourcing is in my job decsription, but it's a lot more personal, as I have to make the calls and compare my results in real time.

What I found, and what is considered basic sourcing theory, is that everyone sources different because our brains aren't alike.  Our experiences help guide us down different paths, and thus no sourcer is going to be the same in the lists they provide.  This is important, because the rise of data increases the need for sourcing, instead of decreasing it.

Think of resumes.  The more you have, the more you need to be able to get to the ones you want.  Despite the advances in search technology, I've yet to hear about an ATS or job board that hands you perfect candidates without some kind of human filter. Why would this be changed just because social profiles give more clues?

The question itself is still rather moot.  Most of you reading this know what sourcers are, but how many have a full time sourcer on staff?  The major companies do, and agencies will often hire someone to sift through resumes, but sourcing still hasn't caught on in the majority of the recruiting world.  To talk about its death is akin to saying social media was dead in 2008.  In 2008, most recruiters didn't use LinkedIn.  Many still don't.

Bottom line?  Until candidates worldwide standardize their resumes to what a client wants (through some kind of mass mental hypnosis), resumes, and people will still have to be discovered.  And that is the essence of sourcing.

Do You Know Enough Math To Be A Staffing Firm Recruiter?

I occasionally get requests to decipher comp plans from readers.  My first thought when I get them is that if you can't decipher them, either the plan is bad or your math skills aren't good enough to be a recruiter.

But that's unfair.  Comp plans are designed to be difficult.  They vary by company, and there are a lot of factors that determine their profitability.  I myself, a decade ago, flubbed an interview because my understanding of gross margin was different than the company I was interviewing with. 

So here's a guide. 

Simply stated: Gross Margin = Bill Rate - (Pay Rate X Burden).  Gross margin is sometimes referred to as net, net margin, gross net margin, and profit.  Don't assume your company's description is an accurate one. 

There are lots of ways to pay on gross margin

    Company A: Recruiter/Salesperson team generates $1,000,000 in gross margin.  Each gets $500,000 credit.  You pay 25% commission.  They each are paid $125,000. 

    Company B:  Recruiter/Salesperson generates $1,000,000 in gross margin.  They each get credited $1,000,000.  You pay only 15% commission, but they each walk away with $150,000. 

    Company C: Recruiter/Recruiter/Salesperson team (3 people) generates $1,000,000 in gross margin.  You pay 20% commission to the Salesperson for 50% of the credit, paying them $100,000.  The Recruiters pool their half of the credit, and are each paid 30%!  They each go home with $75,000.  

See what happened there?  If you don't understand, you should have been more alert in math class.  There are other ways to do this as well. 

Let's take a look at pay based on revenue, with a minimum gross profit percentage. 

   Company D pays draw of $32,000, with commissions paid as 3% of revenue if gross margin percentage is 20% and 5% of revenue if gross margin percentage is 25% or above.

How much do you revenue do you need to make $100,000 if your gross margin percentage is 22%?

If you average 2000 hours per candidate (no overtime), and you have 30 contractors, what is your average gross margin?

If your burden is 21%, what is your average pay rate? 

Answer below the fold:

Continue reading "Do You Know Enough Math To Be A Staffing Firm Recruiter?" »

Retained Search Is About Hiring. Contingent Search Is About Power.

I came late to the retained search game, starting only a few years ago as a reaction to the social media hiring market. 

After getting burned on a series of contingent searches that took months of time, only to end up with nothing, I switched over to a retained agreement and didn't look back. 

In hindsight, it's the only model for a small firm. 

A retained contract is a staffing solution where a company pays a headhunter a deposit upfront for their services. The deposit is then credited against the eventual placement.  In essence, the company is giving exclusivity to one recruiter whose job it is to find ideal candidates and close them. 

A contingent contract is a staffing solution where a company pays a headhunter only after an offer has been made and accepted, and the candidate actually starts at the position (and in many cases, that fee is not paid until the end of a guarantee period, even when the contract says otherwise).

Any search taking place without any contract in place is what is known as damned foolish, and usually only happens once in a recruiter's career. 

I like the retained search because it levels the playing field, is the most honest and fair, and allows the recruiter to serve the interests of client and candidate and internal recruiter equally.  What does that mean?


A retained seach levels the playing field by requiring everyone to put skin in the game. 

    The company pays up front.  The headhunter must deliver, as they've taken partial payment.  The internal recruiter can focus on following the process, and the candidate trusts everyone involved.  If it costs the company nothing up front, they have the option of not taking the job search seriously.  They can hold out for the perfect candidate.  They can decide to wait on hiring.  They can play games with salary.  A contigent search is a game of what if that many different people inside a company can affect.  A retained search has money going out the door, which means everyone has a stake in failure. This tends to concentrate focus. 

A retained search requires balanced service levels. 

There is a misconception from candidates that recruiters work for them.  It's not true because recruiters are paid by the company, and thus work for the company.  Under a retained search, the recruiter truly works for the company, and not against competing interests. 

Rather than explaning, I'll give some examples. 

1) The internal recruiter is still looking for a placement. 

    Internal recruiters are seldom rewarded for making awesome placements, but they are certainly penalized for having to use outside firms.  In many HR cultures, using an outside firm is an admission of failure.  An internal recruiter that needs to use outside help always has an incentive to hire their own candidate.  The argument made internally is that a third party firm should be providing a better candidate if they want to get paid. That's true, but how do you judge two candidates side by side when the choice of one candidate affects the interviewer more than the other?

What this means is that the outside firm has to deliver a clear winner.  Anyone in hiring knows this isn't how decisions are made.  This means the best candidate doesn't always win. 

2) The candidate wants more money

    In a contingent search, a candidate can ask for more money with relative certainty of having negotiating power.  They know the search was difficult for the company.  They know the recruiter doesn't want to put all that time in only to lose at the last second. The company, in addition to lost time, fears not finding another candidate.  This is a structural flaw in the contingent model.  

In retained search, the recruiter has the resources to keep a pipeline open until a placement is made.  Even when the search is looking almost complete, the retained recruiter continues making calls.  We have to have the power to cut a candidate off for playing games (and a good retained recruiter has already covered salary negotiation prior to submission).  This limits last minute power-plays, common in high-demand areas. 

3) The manager isn't sure what they want

   When it comes to new technology, and new skills, searches on the cutting edge are very dangerous for contingent recruiters.  Managers who are not involved in a heavy vetting process quite simply don't know who they want to hire.  They're skittish, because they're trusting someone else to know more than they did, often to their detriment.  Ideally, every manager wants the perfect employee at half of their market value, smart enough to do the job, but too dumb to know they can make more.  Contingent search gives managers that option, allowing then to pick and sift for the perfect candidate at the less than perfect cost. This is manifesty unfair to the recruiter, but it makes perfect sense to the manager, whose job is to minimize risk.

4) The recruiter is the only game in town.

Managers in dire need.  Managers in small companies.  Managers who just lost a key employee. All of these situations give power to the recruiter, whose day-in, day-out job is surveying the job market.  Managers lack the information recruiters possess, and the more immediate the need, the less power they have.  When you need someone now, you'll grasp at straws.  In a contingent situation, the manager is often left taking what they can get, both in terms of the staffing salesperson and the candidates they offer.  

In the videoblog Importance of Salespeople in Staffing, I discussed how salespeople are really information brokers greasing the wheels of the employment market. Our job is to identify what companies need to hire, so that we can service those accounts.  As companies only pay us when we're successful, they are dependent on what salespeople call them.  As many managers find out, the salesperson is only as good as their recruiter network, which is to say that just because someone is good at getting you on the phone, doesn't mean they deliver what you need.

Like men who only date women who make the first move, managers often end up the victims of those salespeople who do call. 

Retained Search is only a small part of the market. Companies quite frankly prefer the contingent route because they fear getting taken advantage of, and they overestimate their ability to manage the damage of choosing a recruiter. You can't measure the cost of lost time as well as you can a failed search.  And recruiters do themselves no favors, failing to sell their services at a premium and many afraid to ask for payment up front.

This isn't to suggest contingent recruiters aren't as good.  In fact, there's often more money in contingent recruiting precisely because more companies are willing to give you a chance.  If you're a recruiter, you have to ask yourself, do you want the chance to work for free?