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Emails are Sucking the Life from Recruitment

By July 11, 20138 Comments

When I started in recruitment e-mails played a large part in the way business was done.  But thinking back, it was pretty much only to do things like send a CV or other attachment, receive CV’s from jobseekers, or perhaps share a hilarious joke e-mail that had been going around your mates in the UK and made it’s way across to me in Australia (whatever happened to those emails?)   I had a smaller range of options when it came to communicating a message across to someone, but there was a distinct order of frequency to the methods I used the most, and they were in order:

  1. The phone on my desk
  2. Meeting someone in person or wandering over to a colleague’s desk to discuss something.  Or shouting at them from my chair.
  3. Calling from my mobile phone.
  4. Texting
  5. Emailing

Without doubt emailing came in last.  I could make six or seven sales calls to clients before having a quick check of my email inbox (to see if any mates had sent a new joke or my future wife had emailed from New Zealand, mainly).   But things have changed, haven’t they?  Now I’m definitely all for progress.  I’m a change agent extraordinaire, I love it.  I have way more communication channels at my disposal now to add to the list above.  But I can’t for the life of me see how emails have been anything other than an absolute destructive distraction to us recruiters.  One of the best recruitment leadership quotes I ever heard was:


“You know the sound of tap, tap, tap on keyboards in a recruitment office?  That’s the sound of money falling into the bank accounts of your competitors.”


Yet I now find myself running my desk, and my day, and ensuring I’m on top of everything, by waging a war of attrition with my email inbox.  My constant aim in recruitment these days is to try and maintain my inbox at a level where I can still see the last email at the bottom of my inbox.  And it’s getting harder and harder to achieve.


We in recruitment are talkers, we’re networkers, we’re agitators, influencers and negotiators.  Some of us are even consultants…  But we can’t possibly be all these things over emails, can we?  Yet an internal recruiter friend of ours who is 6 weeks into a new position told me recently that 70% of the approaches or prospecting calls he gets from agency recruiters are via email.  The ones that call are always the recruiters who are either on the PSA or already have some kind of history or relationship with his company.


Another internal recruiter tells me he is losing his mind at work.  The job has become so administrative, so dominated by emailing all day, that the hushed temple of tippy-tap he works within is sucking the soul from his recruiting spirit.


Another guy who I travel to work with (in the corporate world, but not in recruitment) had a long weekend up North and returned on Wednesday to over 500 emails in his inbox.  When I suggested he’d need another day off to get through them, he said “No I won’t”.  He showed me his smartphone and bulk deleted them all right in front of me.  As of this morning he hasn’t had a single person chase him up for something he hasn’t responded to on email.


The deluge of emails in business are like pouring sugar into the petrol tank of a car.  They’re nice in moderation but completely slow down and screw up the engine of business when applied in too much volume.


So what are we doing to ourselves here?  Let’s not give in to emailing.  Stop hiding behind it.  Remember who we are in recruitment and why organisations that employ us, need us.  They need us for our gregariousness, our ability to relate, to converse, to broker deals, overcome hurdles and form solutions on the fly, to generate awesome talent attraction results for your company.


Sean, you know Sean, the bloke who sits opposite me every day (yes that Sean, sorry for reminding you)?  He worked for a massive UK telco company that once famously banned all emails, apart from branch managers sending one email per week to head office with their sales results for the week.  It caused mayhem, but eventually performance, morale, innovation and communication effectiveness all went up.


I bet the same would happen if we did that in recruitment too.  Give it a go.  Next time you’re about to robotically click “Reply”, think about it, and ask yourself if you can pick up the phone, or wander over to your colleague in person.  Amazing things could happen.

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • James Cozens says:

    Oh so true…yet another great post Jonathan.

    I remember the “good old days” when Michael Page London was like working on the Stock Exchange dealing floor or being at a Horse auction – the noise was loud, the activity was high. Consultants even got praise for having the highest home telephone bills in the team when expense claims went in.

    Now to quote Greg Savage, “you walk into a recruitment office and its quieter than a f****ing library”. I was complained about in my last employed position of being too “loud” but although I DO have a loud voice the real complaint was that I replied to my colleague “Sorry for disturbing the peace but that dusty thing on your desk is called a telephone – you might like to make some noise yourself one day”

    Have a great e-mail free weekend all of you!

  • Kevin Chappell says:

    Yeah nah…. Sort of agree with you. Depends on the content of your email, just like any communication. I think many of us resort to email after sometimes 5 or 10 attempts to call! No point leaving messages – they are never returned…. A carefully crafted email can “break the ice” and set the scene and at least make your phone call “warm”.

    Myself? I take a “RITE” approach to emails – Reply Immediately To Emails – because then my Inbox doesn’t get clogged up. And by immediately, I mean once I’ve viewed them. When you do respond to someone’s email communication, it’s just plain courteous to do so, and can sometimes only take seconds. What irks me is that I wish that those we communicate would extend the same courtesy!

  • Seth says:

    Mr Change Agent you email your blog posts?

  • Yes Seth I do. I did consider calling all of my subscribers and dictating the blog to them, but I guess the point I’m making is that where you EITHER email OR call / visit, then doing the latter will typically yield far better outcomes.

  • Jon, Death by INBox. Change your life and try Robot manages your inbox and moves unimportant items to a separate folder for you to review (anytime but it sends a reminder at 4pm each day). First 5 days sanebox calculated I had saved 3.5 hours. Inbox is zero EVERY day and you realise how mush time you waste clearing C**p emails. Frees you up to engage with your customers

  • Matt says:

    Great Article. I remember first recruitment job, London, 1999, Hays, I came in meet the other consultants, by half 8, every single one of them was on the phone, and the place was jumping. That pretty much was the induction over with…

  • Fiona Hewitt says:

    Shall we also discuss database admin/compliance? Or is that a whole new subject for another day …..

  • Stewart Farr says:

    Interesting I read this…..just after I got this:

    2:23 PM (10 minutes ago)

    to me
    Dear Stewart,

    I hope this email finds you well. We have your details on our system as actively looking for work, we understand it has been some time since we have been in touch and would love to hear what you are up to and what your plans are for the remainder of 2013.

    If your contact details or job status have changed, we would appreciate you letting us know by responding to this email.

    In the meantime, should you see a position advertised by us that interests you, do not hesitate to contact us or submit an application. Make sure you visit our website regularly at for any future opportunities!

    We hope this email finds you well, and we look forward to hearing from you.


    Carina Ewens
    Team Administrator

    Is this spam? Is this marketing. Quick google search would tell said person my status. Likewise a quick google search will tell you who this company is.
    I was going to respond, as I am gainfully employed…..and the employment didn’t come through them. But I thought – If this is spam do they really care? They didn’t care enough to Google me.

    I am all for databases – but emails like this leave me with the cold feeling that recruitment has removed the human element from HR.