Skip to main content

Does Recruitment Bring Out Your Inner Negaholic?

By July 17, 20143 Comments

I’ve had an ongoing “situation” with a candidate this week that has tested my usually high levels of optimism and positivity in the extreme.  I won’t go into too much detail at this stage because the business isn’t concluded fully yet and Monday could be an eventful day, but it’s the kind of saga that wrenches the cynic out in me.

What I’m wondering though, is whether a healthy dose of negativity and cynicism can sometimes be a recruiter’s best friend?  Certainly, if I’d allowed more of it to feature three months ago I could have saved a lot of time and money wasted chasing a golden goose, something made even more painful by working a contingent recruitment model.

Yesterday I was made aware of a growing phenomenon sweeping the world and lighting up the Twitter feeds.  It’s called negaholism and is apparently reaching epidemic proportions:

negaholic tweet


This all reminds me of my first few weeks in recruitment.  I was fairly late to it, by most standards, starting my recruitment career at the age of 29 and already in possession of a certain level of cynicism forged in the competitive London workplace.  But I had positivity, optimism, and belief in spades.  Belief in myself.  Belief in my desk.  Belief in my candidates and belief that my clients would do the right, most sensible thing.  I cringe to think of it now, but in those first weeks I would look at all of the candidates I had out on interview with clients, work out what each was worth in dollar value should I place them, and went as far as writing them up on the office whiteboard so I could see what billing numbers I would surely soon achieve.  I had so much belief that I was sure each ongoing deal would close in a positive way.

A far more experienced recruiter in the office smirked at me, that day, and told me that it was a dangerous thing to do.  I should have listened to him, of course, but I left those numbers up there.  I was oblivious to what was to come.  The counter-offered candidate.  The client turning down my candidate for an inferior internal candidate.  The candidate whose reference checks fell flat.  The candidate who broke his hand in a bar brawl the weekend before starting his new job (I was recruiting in construction and his actual job title was “Leading Hand” – pfffff…)  As I wiped each line of name, client, vacancy and fee from the board, so my levels of cynicism grew.  Doubt was born within me and with each human failing, it grew.  Once I had embarked on my second month in recruitment I had stopped this painfully naive practice, and started trying to hone a more “healthy” level of scepticism.

I certainly wouldn’t regard myself as a negaholic.  Not by a long way.  But recruitment has made me far more that way inclined than I ever was before.  Many experienced industry operators would regard this as a good thing. In the wake of the fraudulent candidate placed at Myer in Australia recently, Ross Clennett penned this blog post exploring what can be done to avoid getting duped by fake CVs, saying:

  1. Be professionally sceptical about resumes: A resume is not a legal document, it is a marketing document. A recruiter’s job is to satisfy themselves that what has been provided is accurate and complete – never assume that it is. Flanagan didn’t have a LinkedIn profile. In this day and age, this is not normal for a senior, well travelled executive, and as such, highly suspicious.

Good advice, and there’s plenty more on the post too.  If, like me, you simply don’t possess sufficient reserves of negaholism and have some nagging doubts about a candidate’s veracity, make sure you keep the checklist handy.

Of course, nearly every recruitment agency, and in-house recruitment team too for that matter, have at least one colleague who has succumbed irrevocably to negaholism.  Whenever a deal falls over it’s always the client’s fault, or the candidate’s fault.  When a new job is called in, they moan about how hard it will be to fill.  Or how low the margin will have to be.  Even when an offer is accepted, they bemaon the fact it fell in month x rather than month y.  Pity these people, but help them too.  Sure, they will probably never be duped or have their time wasted the way someone like me potentially could.  But recruitment must be truly exhausting when regarded with that kind of mindset.

How much of a negaholic are you?  And to what extent has the rollercoaster world of recruitment made you that way?

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.


  • Carmen says:

    Well JR welcome to the world of cynicism. I once got told many years ago “one thing you can be sure about people is that you can never be sure”. I often wonder if my life would have been easier in a manufacturing plant dealing with things. Looking back over 28 years of recruiting though the highs of people far outweigh the lows!!!

  • Jane Kennelly says:

    The world of recruitment makes us strong [sip] positive [sip] excited about possibilities [sip…slurp] and [said with all joking aside] I am convinced – amongst some of the most resilient people on the planet.

  • Very well said, Jonathan. There is a fine line for a recruiter to walk between being skeptical (healthy for recruitment career longevity) and being cynical (unhealthy for recruitment career longevity). I, like you, received a rude shock when I first started in recruitment (in London) with respect to the difference between what people said and what people did ( ). It’s still just as prevalent today (there also must be something in the ANZ air as Craig wrote a similar-themed blog this week on The Written reference).