The Best Recruiter Hires Come From Bad Companies

by Tim Sackett | Posted | Talent Acquisition

The Best Recruiter Hires Come From Bad Companies

Logical Argument (that I had recently with a Talent Acquisition Pro):

Best Recruiters = Best Companies to Work For

Rationale: The best recruiters bring in the best talent; the best talent makes the best companies.

Illogical Argument (but factual):

Worst Companies to Work For = Best Recruiters

Rationale: If your company is the worst company to work for (meaning, that you have a bad working environment, and a bunch of other negative stuff), it's going to be very hard to recruit top talent to your organization.

I was having this conversation with an HR executive who I highly respect but can be a major idiot. He's a former boss of mine, which in itself doesn't make him an idiot - he manages to do this all on his own.

Working at a bad company makes it extremely hard to recruit

Here's my point: This type of environment breeds recruiters who either fail (and usually very quickly) or, through tremendous odds, succeed in finding talent, and little by little make their organizations better.

The point my former boss makes is easy: In a great company everybody wants to work for you and recruiters cherry pick the best talent. Then they call up this talent and tell them they've won the Job Lottery (my explanation, not his!).

I'm not sure this is the chicken and egg scenario. Does the company make the recruiter great, or does the recruiter make the company great?

Working in talent acquisition for a top company makes you lazy

I really believe great recruiting can turn around a company that isn't so great. But, average or even sub-average recruiters many times won't pull down a great company. By the same token, I do believe the best companies to work for have more average recruiters than great recruiters (oh boy, I said it).


Because working in talent acquisition for a top company makes you lazy. You're no longer the hunter - you're the farmer.

Before you blow a gasket, I have to tell you that I've worked in both environments - a crappy going-out-of-business-company, where nobody wanted the job I was offering - and an industry-leading best-company-to-work-for, where everyone wants my jobs (yes, even the crappy ones).

It was easier working for the latter. Did the best company still have challenges? You bet, but it was still easier. At top companies, you have high-class problems (oh no! how do we properly select from all these great candidates?). At bad companies you have other kinds of problems (oh no! how do we keep the doors open next week if we can't hire enough people?).

Don't believe the hype of a "great recruiter"

If you're looking to hire a great, top-performing recruiter, don't believe the hype that they need to come from a "top" company. They don't. They need to come from a company that has faced major recruiting challenges but found ways to be successful in spite of these obstacles.

If you find a recruiter who has always lived in a fairy's world their entire career, then you throw them into your nightmare, it might cause their halo to fall off. Too many talent acquisition leaders want to hire recruiters from companies they admire, falsely believing the recruiter will bring over some of that magic to their shop. In my experience, that rarely happens.

Your turn: Do you agree with me that the best recruiters come from bad companies? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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