Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Practical Time Management for Recruiters

Turnover in the recruiting profession is higher than it should be.  Part of the problem is who our industry hires, part of challenge is our industry's commitment to training and a part is recruiters holding themselves accountable to the best possible daily practices.  Recruiters are social animals, which can lead to all kinds of daily distractions.  Steve Finkel wrote a great article on Practical Time Management that recruiters - that anyone (not just recruiters) who wants to succeed should read.

Practical Time Management for Recruiters
 by: Steve Finkel

What does it take to do well in a today's market?

Certainly skill improvement and perhaps changes in methodology, the manner in which you work a desk, are primary.

However, all the improved technique and methodology in the world will not be maximized if enhanced focus and time management does not accompany. As Larry Nobles, well-known speaker and author of the best foundational book ever written for our industry (see Amazon), wrote, "Stop trying to get $300K in production from $100K worth of work!"

In a strong market, it is easy to drift, getting good results from less and less time, concentration, and effort. In today's market, however, things are different. Enhanced focus on time management will yield more substantive impactful time on the phone...and that, combined with improved methodology, is the only way to survive and prosper.

Eliminate Time Theft

Wal-Mart, perhaps the most successful retailer in history, warns their employees of "Time Theft"; this refers to time taken during the working day which reduces accomplishment of the results for which they are paid. Wasting time in the office on totally non-productive activities is thus the equivalent of stealing from your own income, your own family, and your own future.

How much time do you actually spend on the phone generating income? The facts are that when this is measured by monitoring equipment, the average recruiter spends less than two hours a day on the phone. And even top producers rarely hit three hours! Where does the rest of the time go? Let's look at some common answers.

Personal Calls

For many, a major impediment to success is personal phone calls.

If not stopped and stopped quickly, these will grow to excess. The difficulty and cost of this problem goes well beyond the quantitative amount of non-work-related time that is taken on the phone, though that could be considerable. It is the great reduction of intensity that happens as a result of these constant interruptions.

Peter Drucker in his exceptional book "The Effective Executive" made reference to this when he mentioned the fact that every human activity has 3 facets; the beginning, the doing, and then the wind down. Regardless of the length of time one invests, the "beginning" and the "wind down" are pretty close to the same. Thus, according to Drucker, a one-hour block of uninterrupted time is worth not 4 but 10 15-minute blocks of time. Why? Because the doing time, the central portion that yields effectiveness, increases by a factor of 10, though the warm up and the wind down stay pretty much the same.

What this means to us is that a constant stream of incoming non-business calls tend to interrupt and cause us to have to warm up all over again! But how do you eliminate these? You can't very well hang up on nice people. Still something must be done or business will suffer...and suffer badly.

It is, of course, simple to say "But I have Caller ID. I'll just let the calls go to my answering machine". However, it may be a genuine emergency. And of course, many of us don't want to be rude and will automatically answer the phone from someone we know...only to be slightly regretful that we did. So what to do?

Try this ...

Step 1

When a call comes in, ask yourself, is this really critical? The reality is if a nurse calls from school indicating that your child's got a broken arm, you must deal with it immediately. But you won't get many such calls. An overwhelming percentage will not be critical, but just people "calling to talk". Once you figure that out, it is fairly easy to take it from there.

Step 2

Indicate that you do want to speak with this person. "Bob, I appreciate the call. I really do want to talk with you." You want to be polite and friendly to these people, quite obviously. They are probably friends or relatives. However, you have a business to run and things to accomplish.

Step 3

Claim an important conference coming up. "But I am right on the verge of a very important conference. I do want to talk with you, but I have got to get to this meeting. May I get back to you this evening?"

Step 4

Do return the phone call ... after working hours. Over a period of time, if you continue with this procedure whenever a non-critical personal call comes in, it will become clear to these "social" callers that you are busy with work, and can only take important calls. This will eventually stop the non-important ones that drain your time, energy, focus...and income.

This is significant! Between hobbies or non-business interests or friends, many recruiters will get a constant stream of these. If you don't stop it, it will affect your business.

Maybe in a strong market, you can afford these time wasters, but the reality is that in a less-than-good market, things change. Put a sign on the phone if you don't remember to do this to serve as an ongoing reminder. Slowly get them away from calling you - just like that.

Intra-Office Chat

In many offices, there is a clear separation in the determination of the recruiters to succeed in a less-than-great market.

Some recruiters will tighten up, become more focused, work both smarter and harder, and will ultimately fight their way to high production. Others will slow down, complain, become unwilling to make calls, and engage in pointless time-wasting conversation to avoid getting on the phone. Look around your office, and see these two camps. Which one are you?

The difficulty is that the latter group will make a definite effort to interfere with their tough-minded co-workers. Conversation about personal matters, complaints about management and the market, irrevelant erroneous "questions","suggestions" and "ideas" will all increase dramatically. While it is indeed the job of the manager to weed out these bad apples, it is your job to ignore them and go to work with a renewed dedication. And that is not always easy.

The best way to avoid these impediments to your success is simply to be busy. When they walk into your office/work area and attempt to engage you in pointless conversation, just say "_____, I'd love to talk with you, but I've got an assignment I've got to find people for. Let's talk after work" . Then pick up the phone and make a call. Repeat a modified version of the same thing when they try to side-track you away from your desk.

These people may be nice, but your primary function other than improving skills is staying on the phone--regardless of well-meaning distractions.

The High-Tech Time Waster

The internet as a means of identifying potential candidates and clients has merit.

However, unrelated to the internet as a business tool, it is also a major handicap in achieving your financial goals. Even if you have avoided getting involved in playing actual computer games, there is a real probability that you have not escaped other addictions relative to the internet. Consider the following:

· A Nielsen Survey found that the majority of on-line shopping, auctions, stock trading, chat room visits, news reading and, yes, porn traffic, take place during working hours.

· A recent Robert Half International survey found that 60% of executives said that time spent accessing the web for non-business purposes was undermining their employees' effectiveness on the job.

· A recent Men's Health magazine survey of 2,000 subscribers asked the question, "What interferes most with your productivity at work?". The #1 answer (74%)? The Internet!

So what's the answer to this modern high-tech time waster? Easy; get the heck off it!

First, change your computer so it does not automatically hook up to the internet. Then... don't access it until after 5 PM. If you feel you need to research to identify candidates or clients, clump that time together and do it all after 4:30 -- while you're planning....including emails! Barring a real anticipated necessity, open your emails twice a day -- morning and right before planning. Here's a test. Keep track of the emails you receive tomorrow and then ask yourself this question. "'If I didn't read these until the end of the day, how much business would I lose?" The answer? Probably none. But the interruptions? Substantial!l

What do you think would happen without non-essential internet time during prime working hours .. including emails, barring a real anticipated necessity?  Chances are, with all that extra time and reduced distraction on your hands, you'd pick up the phone and make phone calls--lots of phone calls... Maybe you should try it and see.

Maximizing Your Commute

If you commute to work, you already know that it is not the most exciting time of the day. Yet there are benefits to doing so.

Rather than listen to talk radio or top-40 music, take this opportunity to start the day with the right attitude or to improve your skills. Good-quality CD's will accomplish both.

Nightingale-Conant out of Chicago or Success Motivation Insititute out of Waco, Texas, have a number of products you may wish to consider. Among the industry-specific CD products, the best in terms of both content and manner of presentation is the Larry Nobles product "Successful Search and Placement!". It consists of twenty-four 30-minute modules, one for every working day for an entire month, addressing every facet of the recruiting business. Visit or access for complete information on his excellent CD series.

A 30-minute morning commute amounts to a solid ten hours a month of time spent driving to work. A 15-minute commute equals 5 hours a month. The drive to work sets up your attitude for the business day. It is critical to "hit the ground running". If you don't commute, listen to a 30-minute module while you shower or eat breakfast. Concentrating on the material in a topflight CD will allow the morning drive to contribute to your maximizing the time spent in the office.

Early Start

"Well begun", as the old saying goes, "is half done". Moreover, multiple sales surveys have shown that the majority of business sales are made before noon. This applies to us as well.

If you're in the habit of arriving a few minutes late in the morning, reviewing and adding to your Daily Planner ( which wasn't quite completed the night before), organizing your desk, greeting your co-workers one by one with comments to each, having several cups of coffee and then picking up the phone-you're missing out of the best selling time of the day. In our current market, you just can't afford to do so.

Look around your office at the formal starting times, and see who is at their desk and on the phone-and who is still wandering around. Which one are you?

If you're not on the phone--or at least pushing buttons to get through--early, you'd better make some changes. Especially in today's market.


In a forthcoming issue, we may cover planning in more detail, though it is addressed thoroughly in the previously-mentioned CD series and in my own book Breakthrough!. This newsletter is long enough as it is. But I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention that a specific complete written-out Daily Planner filled out at the end of the day is an absolute key to getting maximum results from the time spent in the office. Don't shortcut this!

More Information

There are several great benefits to reading books on a specific subject. The first, of course, is that you will actually learn hard information and techniques. In our business, these will directly translate into increased production. The second benefit, however, is that simply by reading a serious book, you will concentrate on the subject. To get results, you must reinforce by underlining or highlighting relevant points and then putting signs on the phone to remind yourself to implement. By doing so, you will almost automatically pay more attention to the topics addressed.

There are two books on time management that will expand your knowledge and focus on this subject. They are How to Get Control of Your Time and Life by Alan Lakein and Working Smart by Michael LeBoeuf. See Amazon.

"Reading is to the mind", Joseph Addison wrote, "as exercise is to the body". Nobody ever said it better.

The Two-Front War

It is no exaggeration to view improving production as a (bloodless) war. And if you are to prevail, this war must be fought on two fronts.

First, of course, is changing and improving skills, techniques, methodology.

To do so, however, is only half the job. The other half is to work equally hard at improving your focus, your concentration, your work ethic, maximizing time on the phone. The reality is that to survive today, you must endure some pain by pushing yourself beyond the boundaries of what is comfortable for you. While there will be no injuries in this war, there will very definitely be a fight. And the fight will be with your own motivation and discipline.

By establishing the needed habit patterns and eliminating the bad ones addressed here, you will greatly enhance your results from the other improvements that must be the foundation of your strategy. Combined with this, your increased call volume will allow you to make the most of our current market.

This two-pronged approach of skill improvement plus increased focus on effective time management will guarantee you conspicuous success in the roaring boom market that is sure to follow!

 Check out Steve's website for other solid tidbits of advice: