Before the haters come stampeding with claims that I don’t respect recruiters or understand their challenges… just know that I’ve recruited for over 20 years (and still recruit to this day). I have experienced the crippling lows and the rewarding highs, the tiresome daily grind, and the challenge of finding the purple squirrel that likely doesn’t exist.

Now, let’s get to the point. Earlier this week I was interviewed for a podcast where we discussed the challenges of finding the right candidate in an economy that continues to boom, all while unemployment continues to hover at a 20-year low. This mix of circumstances—while great for many—makes finding candidates that are willing to engage in dialogue about your opportunities makes an already-difficult job all the more challenging.

Fast forward to about halfway through the podcast. I was asked, “What makes the difference in a great recruiter versus a poor recruiter? Is it the tools? Their tech savviness? Is it industry knowledge?” Although these do have some influence on a recruiter’s success, the reality is that none of those items is the main catalyst for success or failure.

The difference between a successful recruiter and a poor recruiter is the thought-process; not the tools.

I have seen recruiters with years of experience under their belt fail miserably, despite the fact that they also had access to all the tools, technologies, and resources available. I’ve also seen some recruiters with very little experience and limited access to the fancy new technology kill it on just about every search. So, generally speaking, the difference between success and failure isn’t in the tools, but in their heads.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with a very seasoned recruiter. This recruiter, let’s call her Sally, had put in more than 20-years in the business. She knows the industry she works in, she knows the lingo, and she’s more than capable of engaging in meaningful conversation. We were discussing a specific position she was identifying candidates for, and her description of the situation included phrases like:

• We don’t pay enough for the role.
• The people generally don’t sit in their offices so I can’t ever reach them.
• They just won’t respond to my email or InMails.
• These people are not looking for a new job so they are not calling or emailing back.
• The hiring manager is being unrealistic.
• We will never find what the hiring manager needs.

The more we spoke, the more I realized Sally had been plagued with this mindset since the beginning of her search: “The position is so hard to fill and will create a huge challenge for me moving forward.” There are always going to be positions that are difficult to fill, and hiring managers who are unreasonable, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the positions still need to be filled (and most of them are).

The expectation of failure creates a failing outcome.

Sally invested so much of her time and energy on assuming she was going to fail that she wound up trapped in a web of excuses—not solutions. There’s a saying that I like to use:

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, in the end, you are right!”


In my multiple decades of experience, training, and working side-by-side with recruiters of all levels of experience, I’ve found that there are 2 types of recruiters:

1. There are whiners.
2. There are winners.

Whiners are those that constantly look for excuses for why they can’t find the right candidate. And because of this mentality, they don’t. Winners are those who constantly look for solutions to find the right candidate and, somehow, they make do with the tools and resources they have. Just like any profession, tools, tricks, and other advantages are great to have. However, if you function with a “whiner” mentality and not a “winner” mentality… now you’re just wasting time and money.

As we kick off the new year, I challenge you to do some soul searching for yourself and/or your team. Who are the whiners and who are the winners?

What about you? Are you a whiner or are you a winner?


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