It Really Is “All About Relationships”

I have been pondering the whole “it’s all about relationships” mantra quite heavily for the last few weeks. A few unfortunate incidents have really forced me to be quite introspective on this subject. What is the subject? The subject is the premise that Recruiting and Staffing is “all about relationships”. Frankly, that premise is incomplete. It should be “BUSINESS (as well as Recruiting and Staffing) is “all about relationships”. I spend hours teaching recruiters, recruiting leaders, and hiring managers that the process of recruiting (those tasks that we do on a daily basis), is actually the easy stuff. In my opinion, Recruiting is not “rocket science”. But, the relationship management part of what we do…. That is hard. I was just at the recent ERE Expo Fall 2011, where the emcee of the conference, Linda Brenner, told everyone that “Recruiting is hard”. She is pretty darn correct, in this way: “recruiting relationship management is hard… recruiting tasks are easy”.

Day in, and day out, recruiting professionals spend a huge amount of their time managing relationships with so many constituents: hiring managers, HR generalists and business partners, candidates, recruiting managers/their bosses, third-party search firms and agencies, etc. There are so many relationships to manage, and as a recruiting professional, you have to be great at making sure each of those is in fact: managed.

What’s really unfortunate though, is that many people still don’t understand the philosophy that “it’s all about relationships”. Here are some examples of some recent issues that I personally have experienced. For years, I have tried to practice the “Golden Rule” approach to relationships (for those of you who may have forgotten this rule, here it is: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”). So, when people call me asking a favor or some form of professional kindness or courtesy, I consistently have responded in the positive, and have tried to really respond to their request. I do this because: a) it’s the right thing to do, and b) the “golden rule”… if I do this, then I can expect that they will do the right thing if I call and ask for something.

Let me give you an example of how this relationship management “thing” has broken down for me recently. Obviously, I work as a management consultant, helping organizations improve their recruiting and staffing processes. I speak to lots and lots of heads of recruiting and staffing every day. I attempt to build relationships for the long term, and no, not all of these relationships will ever turn into a commercial relationship. That’s ok. However, what I really am uncomfortable with is the recent incidents where someone whom I have attempted to build a relationship with over time, and have tried to play by the “golden rule”, has contacted me to let me know that they lost their job, and want to “network” with me and leverage my contacts to help them find a new job!

It really pained me when someone who, out of my better judgment, I did refer to an open executive job as the head of recruiting in a company. This person got that job, and never even called me to tell me he got the job or to thank me for my help in referring him to the role. I found out that he got the job because the search firm who was handling the search and to whom I passed his name and resume on to, told me. I contacted him at this new company to congratulate him, and to ask him if there was a possibility that I could bid on any project or resources that he may be able to use from our firm… he said “sure, I’ll get back to you”. And of course, he never did. After being persistent, I gave up. Just 2 years later, he called me again: “so sorry about that last situation…the company didn’t have its act together, so I couldn’t do anything… and oh by the way, can you help me find a new job?” Again, the voice in my head said “No”, but I did it again. And, guess what…he got a job that I referred him to. The same song, played totally over again!

Now, just a few weeks ago, someone else whom I have tried to be helpful to, contacted me. His email pretty much said: “so sorry I have not been as accessible in the past few years. So sorry that I cancelled an appointment with you after you traveled to my city to meet me. So sorry that I was actually at the same conference you were at last year….but I was sick and didn’t want to actually introduce myself in person to you. But, besides all that, I have recently been canned from my job, and I would like to have you help me find a new one.”

Although this email was very recent, it’s not the only one I have gotten with the same message. This time, I decided to respond nicely: “so sorry about your job loss. But, I only help people find a job, with which I have developed a relationship with, and I don’t feel as if I have developed one with you. So, I cannot help you. Maybe you should contact all those other people you have built a relationship with.”

What is the moral of this sad story: please remember the golden rule. Especially: Recruiting and Staffing Leaders. I know you get a lot of sales and business development calls from vendors trying to pitch you. I know you don’t have all the time in the day. But, remember, every single contact with someone can develop into a “relationship”, and relationships need to be managed. If a vendor calls and tries to develop a relationship with you and you then ask for something as a favor, please remember to be nice and respectful and return the favor. “Tit for tat” is NOT what I am saying… just try to return the favor. Mutuality goes a long way.

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