References: What Are They Saying?

I wrote about something that happened recently (and which has happened many time in the past) – someone gave me their references to check…and their references didn’t have great things to say. In other cases, I have checked someone’s references and the people I’m talking to don’t really know what the person’s competence levels are in various technical areas. To that end, I put down some thoughts on how to build a list of references – and this is something you can get started on whether you are just starting your first job out of school, or you’ve been working for 10+ years. Sometimes, references can make the difference in the outcome of a job search:

New Section for Entry-Level Engineers

To all of you entry-level engineers out there – we hear you and we want to help you! Let’s face it, sometimes getting that first job in the chemicals industry is the hardest job to land. We’ve created a page here on our website that has some resources you can use to find and land that first post-college job. We have some helpful links, some resume writing advice, and links to the career services pages at dozens of the biggest engineering programs at Universities around the country. Check it out:

Two Great Counteroffer Articles

Came across two great articles about counteroffers lately through a recruiter contact of mine and I thought I would share them. I’ve seen (first-hand) a few instances over the years of people taking counteroffers and I have to be honest, the advice shared in both of these articles has rung true more often than not. Anyway – for your reading enjoyment:

1.) From the Fordyce Letter in 2010:

2.) An old article, but a good one, by Paul Hawkinson entitled “Road to Career Ruin”:

Value of a Recruiter

Came across this interesting article today on Recruiting Blogs ( and while I’ve seen many others like it over the years, this one has actually prompted me to speak up.

To briefly summarize – the article provides the example of “Jane”, a generalized Talent Acquisition Manager with an operating company. She shared with this author what she has found in interviews with recent hires, particularly the ones who were recruited and placed by recruiting agencies. One of the stories is about a guy named “Steve” who told Jane that he received a LinkedIn InMail out of the blue, had one conversation with the agency recruiter – was submitted for the job and went through the process and ultimately accepted the position. It was Jane’s opinion that the agency recruiter basically sent a “$20,000 email” and didn’t provide much value to the equation. It is to this assertion that I would like to respond. I feel like this will be instructive not only for other Talent Acquisition people like Jane who may read this, but also to others who find themselves asking, “why use a recruiter?”

I’d like to start with a question. My question is this: “if this business (recruiting) really were as simple as sending InMails out all day, wouldn’t there be a whole lot more “successful” recruiters?” No only that, “wouldn’t most companies have caught on the ruse by now and figured out ways to do that internally?” I ask those questions because when you think about it – the answer is obvious…there is a lot more to being an agency recruiter, and having success as a recruiter, than simply being able to write and send emails/InMails. I’ll start with my own experience in this business as an example. I started as a research assistant working for an experienced recruiter. Our niche is chemical engineering and when I came in for my first day on the job, I knew nothing about Chemical Engineering. For the first 6 months on the job, I went through a crash course on lingo, industry terms, and the ins-and-outs of talking to an engineer over the phone. Afterall, you can’t just pick up a phone and have even a mildly technical conversation with an engineer without knowing a little bit about what they do — if you try that it’s going to be a very frustrating conversation (and probably pretty short too). On top of all that – you have to learn the ropes of the recruiting business itself…what does a good candidate look like on paper? How do you run a desk? How do you prioritize phone calls and how do you know where to spend your time? Once you’ve submitted someone for a job what do you do then? How do you prepare someone for a phone or face-to-face interview? What changes can you make to a resume to make it better? How do you gain new clients? How do you retain clients? And on and on and on and on. There is a ton to learn! I would say that for someone new to the recruiting business – it is going to take them at least a year or two to get to the point where they have learned the important things…not only with regard to the particular industry-niche they are in, but also in terms of learning the recruiting business itself.

So getting back to Jane’s example in the article – sure, the recruiter she was working with did simply send an email/InMail to land a recruit. But the experience that likely went into that agency recruiter being able to spot someone on LinkedIn – have a conversation with them and guide them through the interviewing process is what Jane is paying for — it’s WAY more complicated than simply sending an email.

For every example like “Steve” there are 10 examples where there is way more to the story than “hey, I got an InMail from a recruiter and the job was a great match and I ended up landing it.” The much more common story is that the agency recruiter had a relationship with someone who they had known for 10+ years and that contact gave them a referral to another person who was a good match for the job but had a crappy resume. Here’s how the story goes from there:

The recruiter spent time with that person on the phone and helped them build a better resume which they submitted to the client and that client was interested in speaking to that candidate. The recruiter called the candidate to test them out on some interview questions and realized that the candidate had poor interviewing skills so that recruiter spent time on the phone with that candidate coaching them on how to answer certain questions. As a result, the candidate did well in the phone interview and was invited to come in for a face-to-face interview. Again, the recruiter spent time with that candidate helping them to prepare for that interview by giving the candidate background on the company and the people they were going to be talking to. The candidate did well in the face-to-face interview and ends up being offered the job. The recruiter, on behalf of the company, helps to sell the candidate on the opportunity that is before them and works with the candidate and company in negotiations regarding the offer. As a result, the candidate is satisfied with the final offer and accepts the job. The recruiter then helps guide the candidate through the pre-employment milieu (background checks, drug screen) and checks in with that candidate periodically over the first 6 months they are at the new company to make sure everything is going well.

THAT, my friends, is how things go most of the time. And sometimes, we go through all of that up until the offer-stage only to have a candidate turn-down the position or take another offer they received that wasn’t a result of our efforts. Sure, every once in awhile we get lucky and we find someone on LinkedIn, Monster, or whatever…but that is by no means typical and no recruiter who has maintained long-term success in this business is making the majority of their placements based on luck. There is skill involved in this business and THAT is what the companies are paying for when they pay our fees. Just like when you go to the Dentist or Doctor’s Office – you are not paying for someone to check your blood pressure, listen to your heart or clean your teeth. You are paying for the experience that that doctor or dentist has that allows them to see when things aren’t right. You can check your own blood pressure – you don’t need someone to do that for you, what you need is for someone to be able to tell you what to do if your blood pressure is too high. Translating that metaphor – a company needs us for our specialized knowledge in a given area (in our case, engineering) and our ability to find quality candidates for their job openings – and for our ability to transform a poor resume/interviewer into someone that can effectively communicate their talents. THAT is where our value as agency recruiters lies.