Lessons from the Wolf Pack #12 Dealing with Receptionists

Picture of a wolf pack which represents recruiters

Lessons from the Wolf Pack is an ongoing series of recruitment advice articles taken from, or inspired by, situations and events observed during our phone coaching sessions with recruitment consultants making real, live calls to win business and find candidates. This is advice directly from the recruitment front lines!

Lessons from the Wolf Pack #12

Dealing With Receptionists

Love them or hate them you are going to talk to a lot of gatekeepers over your time in recruitment.

I had felt over the last few years that the problems with gatekeepers were becoming something of a historical footnote but I’ve been asked by a few recruiters recently to give them some advice on the topic hence this blog.

Now to be clear I define a gatekeeper as anyone who isn’t the person you want to talk to. That means managers; directors or other senior individuals within an organisation can also be gatekeepers if they are between you and the person you actually want to speak with.

The ones we traditionally think of are the receptionists; secretaries and PA’s and it’s receptionists that I will focus on in this article.

First up I want to say that they should always be treated with respect. They are human beings and doing their job just like you and I. The fact that their job might include not wanting to put our call through is just an unfortunate fact of life but it isn’t grounds to be rude to them.

When it comes to me making the call and getting a gatekeeper on the phone I take the view that they are there to put my call through. I base that assumption on the fact that I know my business proposal has some value for the company and that it should be presented to a senior decision maker who can then make a decision about it.

Given that companies exist to make profit for their owners and other stakeholders and that my proposition can increase their profit then in fact it is in their best interest to speak to me. From that simply, yet powerful, mind-set I act and speak assumptively with gatekeepers. I expect them to put me through and I act accordingly.

I also do as much as I can to take the decision away from the gatekeeper as to whether or not to put my call through.

I use a strong tone, clear, concise requests e.g. “Bob Smith, please” (rather than waffling) and lots of silence to create the clear impression that I know what I want, it’s important, potentially I’m important, and consequently the call should go through.

Sometimes there is a need to give them just enough information to help them reach the decision about passing the call through. Your company name is one such piece of information. I spent a good number of years advocating that people only gave their name first and then made the receptionist ask for the company name. I don’t hold with that now. I think for the most part when asked the classic “who’s calling” question that you should say your name and then the company name.

Things change and evolve in sales and recruitment and one of those things is that many receptionists now know that when a person only gives their first name and no company name they are attempting to hide their origins!

What I would advocate is saying both with strong confidence and also, where you can, spell out the company name and fairly slowly at that. I worked with a consultant last week who quite nicely got through a gatekeeper by spelling out the name of her company a heartbeat before the question of “what is the call about” was raised. It broke the receptionist’s rhythm and she put the call through.

Obviously if you have a very simple company name then this doesn’t work. (If you are in the unfortunate position of working for a recruitment company who put ‘recruitment’ or some such in their company name then try to simple use the first name or even use an abbreviation.)

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In Summary

The key is confidence and asking with a tone and manner that makes your call seem important.

There is a lot more I could say on this topic (and indeed I have written about it twice before here and here) and it will most definitely be coming up in the Recruitment Guild podcast!

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart
Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com


Motivational Monday #85 Making Mistakes

Broken clock

Motivational Monday #85 Making Mistakes

“Making mistakes is better than faking perfection.”

I’m sorry but I’m not ready.

I have no Motivational Monday article written. Now I could explain. I could outline all the things that I have been doing, and trying to do, in both my personal and business life over the last week but the reality is that I let other things get between me and these articles.

Yes I worked a particularly long week and then spent the entire weekend hip deep in DIY but those are simply reasons for not having done what I have committed to do which is write one of these articles, ahead of time, for the betterment of all.

So I’m sorry. It’s my fault and my responsibility. I made choices, did other things and arrive now on this Monday morning unprepared.

So as I sit here at the laptop I have a few choices. I could let you all down by not writing something this week, I could hash out something quickly which would arguably let both of us down – you would get poor advice and I would diminish the reputation of these articles or I can accept that I’ve made an error and do something to fix it and make it right.

And that last option seems the best one to me. It seems to be the one that has some value and some honour in it. And no it isn’t convenient. I have other things demanding my attention this Monday morning but they will have to wait. (I have time, if I work quickly and with dedication, to catch up this afternoon with those.) So it isn’t convenient but it is the right option.

You see the thing is, we all screw up in life at some point. And let’s be honest it’s probably more often rather than less often.  Not necessarily in life threatening, end of the world ways but in small ways that are irritating to the people around us.

(Any married men reading this who don’t agree with me then just ask your wives if you ever get things wrong and see what they say!)

So if to ‘err is human’ then surely one of the tricks to life has to be working out how to manage our mistakes well.

What do we do when we mess up?

I think first of all it comes down to how you emotionally respond within yourself. Denial and defence seems to be the default reaction in most people (or maybe that’s just me) and I think that comes as a reaction to protect our ego’s.

It can be embarrassing to admit that we have messed up and we are trying to save ourselves that emotional pain when we respond ‘it wasn’t me’ like a three year old caught with their hand stuck in the cookie jar.

I genuinely feel that a great step forward emotionally for all of us would be to immediately change

‘it wasn’t me’ to

‘it bloody well was me!’

And the thing with making that change would be that it wouldn’t just make us feel better but it would make those around us happier and more confident about us. They would learn that if we tried something and got it wrong that we would take ownership of that error and that we would take steps to put it right.

And that leads me to the second mistake that I think many of us make after we have erred … we walk away from the mistake thinking, and sometimes saying, ‘it will be okay, no one will notice’.

What we need to realise is that someone has already noticed; we have. As John Wooden wrote

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Each time we don’t fix one of our hidden errors I think we erode our strength of character just a little and every time we duck and dive to avoid public responsibility for our error we do the same thing, simply on a bigger and more public scale.

And I think the reverse is true. When we admit our mistakes, both to ourselves and other people, we strengthen and build our character.

Consider how your life would be different if you followed the following two step policy every time you were at fault:

  1. Genuinely and sincerely accept that it was your fault
  2. Asked yourself “What can I do to make it right?”

I think those two steps could fundamentally change your life and for my part I sincerely hope that this article has made amends for my error in time management!

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE – If you’ve liked this article then you might like to subscribe to emailed updates (it’s free) – simply add your email address into the box on the right of your screen

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart   

Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com

Lessons from the Wolf Pack #11 The Power of Individuality

Picture of a wolf pack which represents recruiters

Lessons from the Wolf Pack is an ongoing series of recruitment advice articles taken from, or inspired by, situations and events observed during our phone coaching sessions with recruitment consultants making real, live calls to win business and find candidates. This is advice directly from the recruitment front lines!

Lessons from the Wolf Pack #11

The Power of Individuality

Do you know how many recruiters there are in the world? Quite a lot.

Even just in Britain we are talking tens of thousands. And that’s the problem. When you reach out to someone whether a head-hunt target or an active job seeker you are just another recruiter / head-hunter / faceless minion from the recruitment industry.

And candidates don’t like that.

What they want is for you to be a real, credible and genuine person who is interested in them as a real, credible and genuine person.

Now that part about treating them as an individual is something that we talk quite a bit about in recruitment. (Sadly the truth is we talk about it more than we do it but at least we do talk about it.)

What we don’t talk about as much is the power of us recruiters setting aside our generic cloak of ‘being a recruiter’ and instead wearing the cloak of ‘being a very specific, unique recruiter who is also a genuine human being’.

There are a large number of benefits to being more individual:

  • you become more memorable
  • you appear more real – which helps build rapport which in turn leads to trust
  • it creates ground for conversation – and the more they talk the more information and leads you can get from them.

And those are just three benefits, there are lots more.

So here are some specific examples of how you can demonstrate your individuality:

When you approach a candidate

  • Mention how long you have operated in their sector
  • Refer to something in their past, from their CV or LinkedIn profile, and make a personal reference to it e.g. – “I see you worked in Hull – I went to University there. Did you ever go to / see X thing, (I did that once it was amazing).”
  • When describing your client tell the story around how you won the client.
  • Compare this role with other ones like it that you have worked on e.g. – “how this one differs from the usual is …” or “I had a similar role to this in X location and the person who got the job tells me x, y, z good things about it” etc.

When you are approach a client

  • Mention your background prior to recruitment e.g. “I spent ten years in X industry prior to getting into recruitment and what that taught me was …” or “having been in x industry prior to recruitment I think that x is key to successful recruitment / business relations… ”
  • Mention specific roles you’ve worked on and get into the details e.g. “I specialise in x types of roles, to give you an example a recent client was looking for Y. Not the normal type however they had to have a, b and c now you’ll probably know how important it is for someone to have c …”
  • Tell stories about how you find candidates – don’t just say ‘head-hunting’ but go into a story about a particularly interesting networking / head-hunting experience. Especially when you did something unusual / different to get the result.
  • Share your personal views and state them as such – “Personally I like to see x in a candidate. I have that view because …”

On LinkedIn

  • Inject something of your personality into your LinkedIn Profile. Present the person who lurks inside your business clothes … share with the viewer of your profile something of what makes you tick. Consider this question

What’s special about doing business with you?

Whatever the answer consider how you can write it up positively and put it on your profile.

Banner advert about Recruitment Guild Podcast coming soon - September 2014

In Summary

The more you can be a real, genuine individual the more other people are going to remember you and the more natural you are going to come over. This is going to go a long way to defusing the natural suspicion that us recruiters are held in as well as creating an environment for the other person, candidate or client, to be more natural, individual and real.

So what about you – how do you express your individuality when you recruit? Feel free to share and comment below.

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart
Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com


Motivational Monday #84 When Quitting Is A Good Thing

Picture of Jesse and Walter White working in their meth lab

Motivational Monday #84 When Quitting is a Good Thing

“Yo, Mr White, it’s time to quit!”

Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad

My wife and I have come late to the Breaking Bad party. Despite virtually everyone I know recommending the show, we both let it pass by until it was all transmitted and then moved onto DVD.

Naturally then we tried it and lo and behold we were instantly hooked. I don’t know how addictive crystal meth is but this show, about a man deciding to manufacture and sell meth, is potent stuff.

Anyhow we are now half way through season five and honest to God if ever a man should just quit and stop what he’s doing then it’s Walter White. I will give no spoilers but suffice to say he’s a shining example of a man who’s gone too far.

Today’s world is full of people encouraging us to do more, go further and strive for that extra mile. And that’s all well and good but there is a balance to all things.

If you are ‘barking up the wrong tree, as they say where I come from, then it doesn’t do you any good to keep barking.

In the same way if you’re striving and striving to achieve a goal that really isn’t good for you – either to reach or to strive for – then it might be time to call it quits.

My wife a few years ago was progressing through her belts at kickboxing only to have to give up the sport due to knee problems. Yes she could have taken pain killers and carried on but the medical advice was it could permanently damage her knee and her ability to walk.

That was a time to take stock of why she was doing what she was doing. What was she going to get out of it and what were the downsides of continuing?

After having those conversations the answer was simple – time to quit.

When I worked with a consultant recently who was attempting to conquer their time management challenges, especially their sales pipeline creation, and they started to get very irate about the amount of work they had still to do to fix their problem it was time to pause, take a step back and, in that instance, go have a cup of tea and calm down.

It’s said that the Royal Marines never retreat but they do make a strategic withdrawal. Sometimes we need to do the same thing. Take a step back, reconsider our options and then move ahead again, sometimes in a different direction.

Quitting something doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. Just as that recruiter returned to his sales spreadsheet the following day, in a more positive mood, sometimes the gap gives us time to reflect and gather our thoughts.

What’s powerful is to look at is the ecology of our decisions.

  • Is what we are doing healthy for us
  • Is what we are doing healthy for those around us
  • Will the end goal be constructive and positive
  • Would our goals be better served by quitting – either permanently or temporarily?

So don’t be blind to the option of quitting and don’t become like Mr White and become blinded by hubris!

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE – If you’ve liked this article then you might like to subscribe to emailed updates (it’s free) – simply add your email address into the box on the right of your screen

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart   

Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com
PS Thank you to Otis Frampton for the use of his great drawing – the guy takes commissions! Otisframpton.com 

How to be Successful in Recruitment Part 10 What recruitment can learn from the military

picture of a soldier in modern battle gear

How to be Successful in Recruitment Part 10

What recruitment can learn from the military

I once asked an ex-special forces solder, who had served in some of the roughest parts of the world, what they would advise when you are trying to achieve something specific and the situation is getting stressful with people giving you verbal abuse and even threatening physical harm.

What they said was

“Focus on the mission.”

He explained that prior to any mission there would be a briefing in which the primary and secondary objectives would be outlined as would the mission plan. The mission plan would be the best option, as it was felt at that point, to achieve the mission objectives.

Now the military knows that what you plan and what happens don’t match – indeed there is a famous quote by Helmuth von Moltke, a German military strategist who said

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”

However no military action would ever start without an initial plan. Just because it’s going to need to be adapted in the field doesn’t invalidate the plan or the planning stage.

The idea with a battle, or mission, plan is that you come up with the plan that is least likely to need to be adapted, allows for easy adaptation if necessary and gives you the highest starting chance of achieving your objectives.

Then when you are in the field and all sorts of stuff is happening that wasn’t expected or desired then you ‘focus on the mission’.

Now I asked this individual for the advice because I was having a recurring issue of having to deal, in person, with a specific group of people who were verbally and physically aggressive. Yet I remember thinking at the time that this was solid advice for us in the recruitment field.

To give you an example ‘Focus on the mission’ ties into the classic recruitment advice that periodically in your day you should ask yourself:

“Is what I’m doing making me money?”

If the answer is ‘no’ then probably you should stop and do something else.

After all isn’t our ultimate mission goal in recruitment to be successful and make money?

To give you another example if you decide that this morning is the time to do business development then everything else – emails, conversations with colleagues, candidate calls, and research – are all distractions from your primary objective of winning new business.

Everything you do for those hours of business development should only be about business development – that’s focusing on the mission.

Similarly whilst you are making your business development calls and you are getting shunted aside by dismissive receptionists and PA’s or being insulted by rude decision makers you need to maintain your emotional balance and focus on your mission.

The decision maker who is rude today might warm up next time and the time after they might do business with you.

In military speak your ‘mission parameters’ should include developing future business as well as quick wins. And that means you need to be emotionally resilient to take some emotional punches and react calmly.

For myself having taken on-board this ex-soldiers advice I found that when things were getting rough, by ‘focusing on the mission’ I was able to mentally and emotionally sidestep a lot of the angst that I had been experiencing before.

That left me more able to react positively and quickly as I was able to focus  on getting what I had set out for rather than have my energies scattered and dissipated by the obstacles that occurred.

The consequence was that I was achieving my objectives more easily and with less emotional drain. Interestingly also as I got into the habit of acting in this focused way my successes seemed to become quicker and easier.

It was almost as if before, when I was less focused, I was inviting obstacles due to my willingness to discuss or engage with them. By focusing I found I was letting things go, not responding to every minor objection and this seemed to create fewer opportunities for the other people to create new issues.

I have also found that applying the principle in sales and recruitment has exactly the same benefits so remember; when objections and obstacles arise, focus on the mission.

Expanded Material

I’ll be sharing advice from every walk of life in the upcoming podcast. Certainly the military have more to teach us as do the words of law, marketing and science. At the end of the day if the advice makes us better recruiters then it doesn’t matter where it comes from (so yes expect some advice inspired from the world of TV and cinema!)

Work is moving along with the upcoming podcast, four sessions have been recorded, artwork is almost finished and the smartphone apps are in development. More news as it happens.

Edenchanges podcast alert - the podcast is coming soon

Until next time; be successful

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com

Original stock photograph can be found here; above image manipulated and produced by Edenchanges


Motivational Monday #83 What’s your direction?

Picture of a brass compass on a black background ... which links to the theme of having a goal and direction

Motivational Monday #83 What’s your direction?

“Keep taking action in the direction of your goals – however mundane or lofty they may be”

Jack Canfield

Despite our best intentions and best plans and preparations sometimes things don’t quite go right. Sometimes we just aren’t as prepared as we should, or could be.

And I think that’s okay.

As long as you have a goal.

You see the power of a goal is that it gives you a direction to move in. It say’s “get the job offer”, or “buy a reliable car” or “make a sale” and whilst it doesn’t tell you the specifics of how to achieve that it gives you the general direction to go in.

And when the path forward isn’t clear and you are dithering between different options and not choosing any of them then having a general goal gives you that direction. It’s a magnetic pull that helps direct your steps when all is dark around you.

It might be as small scale as ‘clear the inbox’ or as life changing as ‘get married to that person’ but having that overall goal gives you direction.

Now having a goal requires you to take a mental step back from your day to day life. It requires that you take some time to think about the long game and consider what you are trying to achieve in the long term.

Consider that time as an investment in yourself. Admittedly a little like buying stocks and shares it’s hard to predict which goals will fundamentally make a difference but I believe by making regular investments of this nature you are bound to reap some returns.

And sometimes that investment can be fast, mere seconds perhaps to consider

“So this morning, what’s my goal?”

I wonder if by investing those seconds on the way into the office each morning how much that would empower you to work more efficiently and more comfortably by virtue of knowing what your goal is?

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE – If you’ve liked this article then you might like to subscribe to emailed updates (it’s free) – simply add your email address into the box on the right of your screen

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart   

Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com

How to be Successful in Recruitment Part 09 Money Grabbing Candidates

Wolf cub and wolf

How to be Successful in Recruitment Part 08

Money Grabbing Candidates

What would you do for a thousand pounds?

Yes there you go – one thousand pounds on the table right now– what would you do for it?


If I was to give you £1000 right now to do something I wonder how far down the moral rabbit hole you’d be willing to go, and how willingly?

Hand grabbing a fistful of twenty pound notes

Okay time to take a step back. First I’m not actually offering you that £1000 – this is a mental exercise only (sorry to disappoint)– and secondly I do think it’s healthy to maintain a certain moral equilibrium!

Putting the question this way –

“Within normal moral and ethical parameters, what would you be willing to do for £1000?”

Now I know ‘normal moral and ethical parameters’ could be interpreted in a number of ways but think of it like this – within the bounds of what you would be willing to tell your parents and colleagues that you did – or possibly “willing to tell your partner as long as they promised to tell no one else” (which is likely to be a broader definition than the parents one!)

Now I don’t know what you’ve been thinking of, (feel free to email me as I’d be fascinated to learn what you considered) but were there things that you were willing to do as a one off or in the short term that you wouldn’t do in the long term?

I image there were. Give someone a lump of cash to do a certain thing and it’s easy for people to do that; particularly when it’s an attractive sum of money.

But the problem with money is that whilst it can be a great immediate motivator, over the long haul its power fades. It doesn’t have any intrinsic value in itself and it doesn’t have any variety.

Whilst it can buy things (and we might decide to perform action X to earn Y so we can buy Z) but once Z is bought the thrill of the money earned fades.

Offer the same deal again and the amount y starts to fade and grow dull.

Think about your own careers in recruitment – remember that first commission cheque? I bet that was exciting but I’d be willing to bet that getting the same size of commission cheque now would be something of an anti-climax.

The trick with money as a motivator is to know it’s place. For yourselves you need to think not about the money but about what it can do for you. If you are trying to motivate yourself towards higher billings; which naturally means you have to work harder and smarter, then consider not the amount extra you can earn but what you can buy with the extra money.

Indeed start with the thing that you want to buy or do and work backwards to understand how many extra billings you need and then carry on backwards to work out how many extra interviews, business development calls etc. that you need to perform to generate those billings.

Then motivate yourself to do it by remembering what you are going to do when that happens. Keep changing the thing you are going to purchase or experience which will keep your motivation fresher.

For candidates when they start bleating about their counter offers and the extra money on the table then you need to make it very clear to them how dull that offer actually is.

Divide the money out over the year and break it down to a weekly and daily amount.

Imagine a candidate getting offered a £5000 salary bump (and just remember what you were willing to do for £1000!)

“So Mr/Mrs Candidate, remember how you said you hated your boss, there were no promotional opportunities and they didn’t respect you? Well what they are now offering is £60 approximately, after tax, a week in compensation. That’s a little over £10 a day – so they are kind of offering to buy you lunch. How do you feel about that?”

I bet we’d all do a lot of things for £5000 but that we’d do far fewer things for £10!

All that is gold does not glitter so don’t be blinded by the dazzle of money – understand it’s truer value and work with that for yourself and your candidates.

Expanded Material

Candidate motivations, motivators and inspiring yourself are all going to be discussed at length in the new, subscription only podcast, from Edenchanges coming in August 2014, aimed at all career minded recruiters.

Edenchanges podcast alert - the podcast is coming soon

Until next time; be successful

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com