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It’s Not the Size of the Billings That Counts…

By January 30, 20144 Comments

Mark Twain once said “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog“.

This is a well-worn mantra that is well worth recruitment leaders bearing in mind as they look to grow their consulting teams in 2014.  But not in the way you might imagine.  An improved economic outlook in New Zealand has further emboldened increasing numbers of disengaged and fidgety recruiters who are now poking their heads above the parapet and looking for a new career move.

But how do you think most recruitment leaders assess the recruitment talent presented before them?  What is the number one metric they nearly always revert to when making a decision whether to pull the trigger and make an offer or not?

That’s an easy one, right?  Billings.  Of course.

For many, a slightly scruffy appearance, arriving late for an interview, a jumpy CV or slightly underwhelming references can all be serenely overlooked when glossed over and buffed to a shine with a strong billing record.  Another quote:  “…the best predictor of future behaviour…is past behaviour…”  In the chaotic and stomach-lurching world of recruitment, applying such a neat, clean, certitude is soothing and satisfying.  It is comfortable and safe decision-making.

It’s also nonsense.  At least when it comes to recruitment anyway.

Earlier this week I met with an IT recruitment manager who works in a firm for whom I have made precisely zero placements, whereas their competitors have received a number of successful placements from me over the years.  Asking why that was, I explained that apart from the fact they’ve only recently overcome the “begrudgement” of using the services of a rec-to-rec (hey, some recruiters just begrudge using other recruiters to recruit recruiters for their recruitment firm.  Funny that, eh?  We like to call it meta recruitment.  Like typing Google into Google.  But don’t do that – apparently it breaks the internet).  Anyway, apart from that, the other reason is because they only wanted recruiters who already had IT recruitment experience.  And this, in case you wondered, is what the terms “gold dust” and “holy grail” were invented for.

Anyway, said IT recruitment manager has luckily adopted a more pragmatic and reasonable approach to his resourcing needs and is now open to recruiters from other disciplines, who show the right level of smarts, tech savvy, and willingness to happily sit in small rooms with slightly podgy IT geeks boasting damp armpits on their ironic T-shirts with watery ears widening in fear when any small-talk is attempted.

He also, very refreshingly, left the past billings part out until the very end.  He regards recruiters boasting billing records of $600k+ in exactly the same way as those with $200k+ records.  Which is very smart.  Because there are any number of extenuating circumstances that can contribute to a recruiter’s billing performance:  The sector they recruit in, the geography, the client base, the tools at their disposal, even things like the stability of their home life and length of commute to work.

Another client recently told me that one of their best recruiters hadn’t billed for 3 months.  So how was he one of their best?  His attitude and work ethic were outstanding, relentlessly upbeat, always willing to collaborate and help other consultants.  She knows he will come right given continued support.

In a similar vein, I met a recruiter in Australia last week who described how his firm’s top billing recruiter generates $200k / month (yes that per month, not per year) providing cooking and cleaning temps to the mine sites of Western Australia.  I asked him if she was a “great recruiter”.  His face said it all.  But if I presented such a candidate to many of my clients in Auckland they would bite my hand off, despite the face she may well flounder and struggle in such a dramatically different market.

Think about Ma’a Nonu…  A barn-storming, line-breaking terror in an All Blacks shirt.  Unable to make the same impact at club level without the same support structure around him.

So remember, all you who seek to grow your recruiter headcount this year:  Past billings are important, but not the be all and end all when making a hiring decision.  Twain’s mantra is what really matters.  How much fight do they have?  How much competitive spirit, tenacity, self-motivation and drive?  How is their attitude?  Tick off those boxes, put them onto the right desk, and the billings will surely follow.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Will says:

    Perhaps another question is this; Whose team would you rather have this consultant on, yours or the competition’s?

  • Mike says:

    $200k from the one client I believe… FM / soft services to WA mine sites. All contract weekly margins. She works extremely hard (from memory), basically 24/7 on call. Not sure if she is a great ‘recruiter’ but her skills and approach seem to have fitted very well to the area where she is recruiting.

  • Jackie says:

    Why don’t recruitment companies provide on going training? Do proper sales training invest in their staff? Being a top performer is great but how do we get to the next level?