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When I get bored of the sound of my own voice, I occasionally ask candidates interview questions. One that I occasionally ask is; “Do you consider yourself a competitive person?”. Why I ask this I don’t know, but I suppose it fills the void of awkward and uncomfortable silence, before I tell them about all of my achievements. Given that agency recruiters live and die by their billing figures, and your performance is solely judged on this number versus everyone else’s number, you may expect the majority of people to say “yes“. In my experience, this is not the case. Anecdotally, less than 50% of recruiters I’ve asked this of recently consider themselves to be “competitive”. And interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between those who consider themselves “competitive” and those who are “high performing”. Some $250k recruiters feel they are competitive, some $700k claim that they’re not. On face value, it would seem that this is thankfully short blog. Alas, short blogs are no good for SEO. Also, perhaps there is more to the question than meets the eye. What could be the reason for this discrepancy?

Firstly, people lie. Like “sales”, “competitive” can be a dirty word. I’ve noticed that certainly (and sadly) amongst female recruiters, the term “competitive” carries some negative connotations. Society seems to view competitive men as “go getters”. The type of man who closes the deal, beats a stockbroker at squash over lunch, and still has the energy to roger his wife over the kitchen table on his return. For a woman, think of her co-workers describing Susan as being “nice…but very competitive”. Cue 20 rolled eyeballs across the office. Tell your Nan that you are playing women’s football at a competitive level and she’ll ask if your flatmate is your girlfriend. So bearing in mind how far we still need to go in terms of equality and equity, it is perhaps no surprise that some people don’t want to describe themselves as competitive.

Secondly, and more commonly, we lie to ourselves. I for example, do not consider myself a competitive person. I can point to scores of times in my life where I have demonstrated how non-competitive I am. But here’s the thing; with 41 years on the planet, I can point to scores of lots of things which back up any given argument. I don’t like fast-food but have eaten hundreds of KFCs and Maccas. I’m heterosexual, but there was that time at Uni. Just because I have examples of somethings at sometimes, doesn’t mean I don’t have many more examples of the opposite things. None of us really know ourselves, and I doubt there’s many who know me who would say I’m not competitive. I still personally disagree, and am happy to arm wrestle anyone who has a problem with that OK?!

Thirdly, and most importantly, we’re all probably a bit confused about what being competitive actually means. And we’re confused because it means a shit-tonne of things. I met a Recruiter this week who claimed not to be competitive at all. She shares lots of candidates, she helps train the team, she focusses on finding the right person for her clients, and acts as camp mother to those feeling down. She did also say however that if there is a BD competition for a bottle of wine, she’ll always win that. Her definition of competitiveness is that she won’t cut corners, be a dick, or screw people over to be successful. It’s like many of us believe that if we don’t take the win-at-all-costs Lance Armstrong approach, we’re clearly not competitive. And that’s part of this confusion. I would argue that those recruiters who lie to candidates, hide CVs, badmouth competitors (without reason), and do whatever it takes to be the highest biller, aren’t truly competitive. Competitiveness requires competition, and when you’re playing by a different rule set to your colleagues, you’re not competing. You’re playing a totally different game. It’s akin to doping in sport. Yeah you won, but did ya really?

My view is that a good recruiter needs to be competitive, but this can manifest itself in any number of ways. Yes, they may want to be the top biller. Maybe they want to maintain a record of zero free replacements. Maybe they make the most BD calls. Perhaps they just want to do more this month than last. The best recruiters I’ve ever met are like top level golfers. As opposed to beating their competitors, they’re trying to beat the course. Each round aiming to be better than the last. Beating the competition is just a product of that.

Anyway, enough of that. Hopefully that’s enough words to improve my SEO from last week.