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Maxims for a Modern Recruiter to “Get On”

By April 30, 2015No Comments

Have you ever wondered how we managed to cope in the pre-internet years?  Without being bombarded with constant streams of cleverly curated content, compiled into numbered lists (for ease of consumption, and to get more hits), about how to do this and that better, smarter, cheaper, faster?  How did we operate businesses and navigate our ways through life without inane click-bait like “10 Must-Follow Rules of Email Etiquette“?  (Sorry to the author Bubba Page but that happened to be the first example of specious content marketing I found on Twitter just now, after looking for about 0.63 seconds…)

Well in actual fact, it seems this kind of thing has been going on way longer than the internet has been around.  My Mum used to work at Rothschild’s in London and, now retired, is helping them out with organising and preserving some archived documents.  One such document she came across really tickled my fancy, being an alphabetical list of Maxims, hand-written by Baron Rothschild in 1911, offering advice to young men who wished to “get on”.  I find the tone and style of it fascinating (and some of the advice could probably still be well-heeded today).  In the same year as the Mona Lisa was stolen and Chevrolet entered the automobile market to compete with Ford, it’s a real sign of the times:

Rothschild Maxims

So, for a bit of fun, I thought I’d take each of the lettered Maxims and bring them into the world of Recruitment in 2015, with some slightly modernised advice for Recruiters who want to Get On Be Successful:

Attend carefully to details of your business.

Keep close to clients and candidates, they’re fickle, emotional, moving targets and the best recruiters are, sadly, complete control freaks

Be prompt in all things.

Procrastination is a surefire way to fail in recruitment, with the amounts of plates spinning at all times, it pays to be decisive and act on things immediately

Consider well, then decide positively.

As above, but don’t succumb to knee-jerk reactions, even when a client or candidate badly lets you down

Dare to do right, fear to do wrong.

Taken a bad reference on a candidate right at offer stage?  Send the full transcript to your client, warts and all, they will respect you more for it and will lead to future business

Endure trials patiently.

Not exactly a trait of the top recruiters who abide more to the maxim “time kills all deals”, but sometimes a client or candidate just need time and space to consider an offer of employment

Fight life’s battles bravely, manfully.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone!

Go not into the society of the vicious.

Stick to Recruitment and steer clear of the HR Department 😉

Hold integrity sacred.

Speaks for itself, but sadly not heeded by many recruiters that give the industry a bad name…

Injure not another’s reputation, or business.

Hmmm.  Backstabbing and speaking ill of other recruitment firms?  Probably not the fairest form of competition, but sadly rife within our industry.  Stand out from the crowd by refusing to indulge in this.

Join hands only with the virtuous.

Partner with your top clients and sack your worst, they don’t value your service anyway.

Keep your mind from evil thoughts.

Especially at the Christmas office party…

Lie not for any consideration.

I feel like this was probably written with the recruiters of the future in mind, or at least that’s how others perceive us…Give candidates and clients honest and constructive feedback, even if it’s bad news

Make few acquaintances.

Clearly Baron Rothschild hadn’t factored in LinkedIn connections with people you’ve never met and buying Twitter followers by the thousands…sad indictments of this internet age.  But making acquaintances with sufficient depth and trust is really what recruiting is about…

Never try to appear what you are not.

A good lesson for all of my candidates who tell me they are $500k billers when it turns out they’re not even half of that amount…

Observe good manners.

Return phone calls and emails from job seekers

Pay your debts promptly.

Wouldn’t that be nice?  So we can pay our Contractors without having to rob banks.

Question not the veracity of a friend.

But definitely question the veracity of your candidate’s CV and references!

Respect the counsel of your parents.

Who have no idea what it is you actually do for a living…

Sacrifice money, rather than principle.

Tough one for many recruiters!  But worth bearing in mind when trying to force a deal over the line just so it falls into the current Quarter.

Touch not, taste not, handle not intoxicating drink.

Ridiculous.  You might as well leave the industry.

Use your leisure time for improvement.

Leisure time?  Hahahaha.  Use your leisure time for candidate call back evenings with company-supplied pizza.

Venture not upon the threshold of wrong.

Stick to agency recruitment and resist the lure of “no sales” internal recruitment (just kidding!)

Watch carefully over your passions.

Oh come on I’m sure a bit of placement bell-ringing wouldn’t go amiss.

Xtend to everyone a kindly salutation.

Especially when cold-calling prospective clients…

Yield not to discouragement.

…and keep smiling after they’ve hung up on you.

Zealously labor for the right.

…to present candidates even if you’re “not on the PSA”


So there you go.  Advice from 104 years ago that still has a bearing on our behaviours of today.  Kind of.  Happy Friday everyone, I gotta go get a flu jab now – hurrah.

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.