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The Fordyce Letter

Straight Talk for the Recruiting Profession

Neil McNulty

Neil McNulty owns McNulty Management Group (www.mcnultymanagement.com) and teaches placement firms how to perform geographically targeted placement of military personnel leaving active duty, the only specialty that consistently delivers two placements per desk per month, in good or bad economies. He can be reached at neil@mcnultymanagement.com.

Articles by Neil McNulty

Fees, TFL archives

Fee Cheaters: The Basics for Trumping These Dirty Dealers


“Fee? I never agreed to pay a fee to hire anyone!”

“We never signed anything with your company!”

“You can say or do anything you want…we aren’t paying you!”

Anyone who stays in this business long enough will eventually hear those dreaded statements. Usually, these are people who know they owe you, but are liars. Lying fee avoiders are easier to deal with than the ones who really believe what they claim.

The Business of Recruiting

Thoughts on Geography and Search and Placement


Profitable specialties come and go, and most people who have been in the business awhile have switched specialties from time to time – usually due to a combination of factors, but most often for economic reasons. The industry or functional area they worked, for whatever reason, tanked. In an industry where two non productive months in a row can drive you out of business, flexibility is a necessity.

Desks are specialized by industry, function, geography, or combinations of these, but it’s generally accepted that geographically specialized desks run the highest risk of eventually failing, simply because geography, by its very nature, is something fixed, inflexible, and subject to nature, man made disasters, or being too closely tied to one industry (please search: “hurricanes” “oil spill” “Detroit automotive”). However, there’s something to be said for firms which dominate their local markets. I know several owners who will not work outside their office’s immediate geographic location, and over the years they have become the “go to” guys in the industry for their locations. Most of these firms have desks specialized by function, but they generate all their business from the local marketplace. I admire these firms for how they have become dominant locally.


Hang in There: Hiring Improvements Ahead


At the risk of sounding naïve, but having been in this business through three recessions, there is daylight at the end of the tunnel and for once, in my opinion, it isn’t a train.

As we all know, the recession was declared on the downward slope several months ago, but hiring never kicked in. The good news of the waning recession means little to us without hiring.

My firm was fortunate; we work in a niche that was affected less severely by the recession: placement of military personnel who are leaving active duty. Yet we felt the sting like everyone else.

We place candidates by geographic targeting, which requires speaking with business leaders and business owners located in specific cities and towns across the USA when marketing our candidates. Up until last month, almost all our placements since 2008 have been for created positions. Business leaders told us they did not have any openings when we contacted them, but they created the job for the veteran. These businesses had not planned on hiring anyone until our call.

From Fear to Optimism
In October 2008, we heard “fear” in the voices of most business leaders. In October of 2009, we heard “fatigue.” Now, we are hearing “cautious optimism.”

Companies are telling us they have actual plans to hire, but do not know when, because of uncertainty about the future. Barring another disaster, I believe that by October of this year, we will be coming out strong from the worst three years in staffing industry history. If human nature takes over, as it always does, employer “fear or hiring” will become “fear of missing out,” which will mean another war for talent, not a war for jobs.

The stock market and housing markets continue their slow-but-steady climbs, layoffs are no longer the main news of the day, and people are buying (American) cars again. As was the geography surrounding Mt Saint Helen’s in Washington state, which was completely flattened and laid waste by the volcano’s eruption, our economy is slowly turning green again. Confidence is climbing.

I joined this industry in November of 1984, at the tail end of the highly recessionary Carter years. My first 60 days on the telephone were characterized by “cautious optimism” from employers, but very little hiring.

Suddenly, in January of 1985, almost overnight, and seemingly without explanation, companies began scrambling to hire people. Our industry experienced its greatest growth ever from 1985 to 1989.

For the same reason economies crash, fear, economies roar back. People who know me know that I’m not the “rah-rah” type. I am a realist. Also, as a former Marine, I believe in these two maxims: “What doesn’t kill us strengthens us,” and “The hottest fire makes the strongest steel.”

Congratulations! If you are reading this, and the recession did not push you out of this business, then you survived probably the toughest period you will ever face in this industry. You were strengthened by adversity, tested, and will be forever stronger to face with confidence whatever comes in the future.


If You Are Not On the Telephone, Don’t Kid Yourself — You Are NOT Working!


Another one bites the dust. This guy has been doing this business for years…in fact, 27 years, to be specific, which puts him in the top 1% in the nation for tenure, and probably for career cash in as well. He was “retiring,” nothing wrong with that, but it was the way he was retiring which made me sad. He was going out the same way that washed-up prizefighters usually go out…beat up and defeated.

“Neil, I just cannot get the activity levels going which I used to do. For the last year, my sendout activity has been in the trash. I used to generate at least five first-time send outs per week. That dropped to three just six months ago, and one or two per week over the last three months. It’s time for me to go. I used to say to myself that it’s the economy, but I was kidding myself. Now I know the real reason I am not producing.”

I responded, “If you do not answer email then you are probably still kidding yourself.”

This friend of mine replied, “Bingo!”

The inventor of email was probably someone who hated salespeople in general, and our industry in specific. Got placed by someone he thought was a little too aggressive, or was a hiring authority who wanted to drag his feet, so he figured he would invent a way to get back at us.

The irony is that this person probably thought he was on to a good tool, which employers and candidates could use to hide effectively from our telephone calls.

However, if he was REALLY smart, he knew human nature, and how most salespeople would follow a path of least resistance…and choose email, their own poisons…rather than do the tough thing and make phone calls.

I know at least 10 previously very big-billing recruiters who fell into the email “addiction” and, like a drug abuser, it sent them into a living hell and out of this business. Don’t become one of email’s victims.

Email is the classic case of confusing activity with productivity. Remember to never use email in this business for anything related to selling. That means 95% of everything you do should not involve email. Additionally, only use email before work and after-hours. There is nothing on email that cannot wait until after telephone time. Instead of answering emails with emails, why not simply call that person and get it over with immediately?

The Business of Recruiting

The Bottom-Line 7 Laws On Survival In Our Business


Having just read the umpteenth article about how to survive in a tough economy, I am finally going to write my “two cents” worth. What follows applies to the majority of the practitioners in our business, not the 5% who are super billers. What works for them is great. So, anyone who cashes in over 500k, you are the exception.

I write for the masses, and I back up what I write with experience in our industry through two recessions, and a war.

  • First Law: There is nothing really new under the sun in our business. Get that into your heads, everyone. Don’t believe it when you hear how the Internet and technology have changed everything, or how certain websites are a requirement for success today, or that there are new techniques for getting employers to return calls, or this and that…ad nauseum. The basic principles of our business, like human nature itself, do not change, ever. In fact, almost everything taught today by top trainers was created by and taught first by Lou Scott at MRI back in the early 1970s. In our entire industry, all roads lead back to Lou, so don’t go around believing this or that guru has all the answers when most never even knew the questions until Lou first asked them 35 years ago.

A Sendout Per Day…


What’s the secret to success in our business? How come some people make money every month consistently, no matter what is going on in the world, while others are constantly on a rollercoaster?

Unless you are in the retained search business where you can get paid something even if you produce zero candidates for a client, making money in this business all boils down to putting human beings who are either looking for or are open to new employment in front of other human beings who have the power to hire them. Sendouts.

If you cannot generate sendouts, you cannot succeed in our business. It’s as simple as that. In fact, that applies also to the retained search people because (sensible) clients may pay a non-productive retained recruiter one time, but they will never pay him twice.

Adding It Up

We all know how “the numbers” can help us see how we are doing, and can predict with fair accuracy how our income is going to be in the near future. There are many ratios and “metrics” (I hate that term) for monitoring desk level activity, but I really only pay attention to two numbers: the number of presentations to a hiring authority a recruiter makes, and the number of first time sendouts which resulted.

Everything you need to know can be derived from those two numbers. I have managed offices of up to 12 (very) productive desks, and I train offices today which are very successful, but I have never really paid much attention to all that mathematical mumbo-jumbo that the industry “experts” say I need to carefully pay attention to as a manager. (One of the reasons I remain in this business is I am lousy in math.)

I simply know that if enough sendouts are arranged, hires result (even with incompetent recruiters). The surest way to predict a slump is seeing a drop in the number of first-time sendouts a recruiter produces.

Many recruiters would be very happy to make two placements per month. Even with small fees of 12K-20K, most people can live fairly well on that kind of production. If you are even marginally skilled and desire two placements per month…guaranteed…generate just one first-time sendout per day. That’s right…just one…five per week…20 per month…and that applies no matter what the economy is doing.

How do I know that with such certainty? Because I have been doing this business for 25 years and have trained hundreds of recruiters to live by that “metric” (that word again), and all who generate one first-time sendout per day make two placements per month, and that applies also to today’s economy.

Getting On the Phone

How do you produce one sendout per day? Simple: get on the phone and make presentation calls. Plan for making 100 presentation calls per day and somewhere in those calls will be that one sendout, maybe two. (Who knows, if you are lucky, you may get that daily sendout before noon and then you can goof off the remainder of the day).

Unfortunately, presentation calls are the hard part that unsuccessful people won’t do, always looking for the sendouts, but without the cold calls. In my book, there’s nothing that will get those folks productive.


Tuning out the Noise


There’s a ton of buzz going on about the elephant in the room. You know what I mean…let’s not kid ourselves. Not one recruiter or placer I know is not at least concerned about what they are hearing and reading.

Ninety five percent of our effectiveness in this business is the direct result of how we think. There’s a Biblical passage which says “as a man thinketh…so is he” (of course, this applies to women also).

Few occupations exist where this has greater application than in ours. If you live in fear…you will be afraid. If you live in confidence, you will be confident. If you think of yourself as effective, you will be effective.

Focus on the Call You Are Making Right Now!

I remember sitting in a morning meeting in 1990, the day after it was officially announced by our government that we were in a recession, and would be for quite a while. All 10 of our $200k (+) annual cash in producers (great production for that time) were afraid.

This was where managerial leadership played a big role in our not experiencing a single hiccup in our production over the next 12 months.

Our manager had worked a desk during 1973…where cars lined up for gas and mortgages were at 22%…and he gave us what we needed, and what his manager had given him before that:

“All you need to focus on is the call you are making right now, and the person with whom you are speaking during that call.”

He was 100% on target. We continued to bill great numbers and even had a record month.

Sell in the Moment

When it’s all said and done, the only thing that really counts in our business is who you are selling to at any specific moment in time. The person on the other end of the line could be looking to hire, looking to lay off workers, or looking for a new job, all of which we provide services for. Even when there’s many “laying off” and “looking for work” responses, the “looking to hire” responses are out there. The problem is you will miss the opportunities if you are not prepared for them…if your thinking is not straight.

People fail because they allow their thinking to be influenced by all the “noise”…all the negatives they hear. Turn on any news program, all you will hear is noise…and most of it bad. Turn off the noise! You will have a much better day if you never watch television, listen to the radio, read the papers, or surf the net. This isn’t “rah rah” motivational stuff here…it’s factual. If you listen to the noise, it will affect your productivity in a negative way. If you ignore the noise, you will be more productive.

Success is always assured if you simply pick up the phone and call people…and sell them one at a time. Tune out the noise…and keep your number of calls up.


Got the Monday Blues? Press On!


It was 5 pm on Friday. The caller ID display read a solo practitioner friend of mine who touches base periodically just to catch up on what’s new. It’s always a boost to me to hear from this guy. This time, however, it was different.

“Neil, I just had a fall off. I am absolutely sick right now. I needed the money from this one for Christmas, and now I don’t know what I’m going to do. You know, I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never admitted to anyone…ever. Even though I have been doing this business for 17 years…I HATE it!! I always have! Even when I was a national rookie of the year with (a major franchise operation before he went solo), I have always hated this business. I feel like the biggest hypocrite in the world…persuading people to change jobs if they aren’t happy…and I’ve never been happy.”

I am rarely speechless…but this time, I was. Here was a guy who had always been one of the most gung-ho recruiters I had ever known.

He has motivated me and lifted me out of many down times. Now I was deeply troubled for him, not just because my friend was having a bad day and was hurting, but because his words struck a nerve for me.

On many occasions, I have also hated this business, but I never told anyone.

The Business of Recruiting

Home Is Where the Job Is


Consider the following two quotes.


“You have a superb client company, it’s a step up in his career, more responsibility, more money, more vacation, and part ownership…what kind of candidate would not go for a pot of gold like that?”

And second:

“You will never find anyone in the local market who fits this opportunity…we know everyone, and nobody around here has what we want. That’s why we need you to conduct a nationwide search. We’ll gladly pay your fee…but we want a national effort.”

I believed the above statements only once, back in the mid 1980s. That’s because I don’t make the same mistake twice. The mistake? Performing placements where relocations are necessary.

I have filled every position I have ever filled from the local market of the client company, or I placed the candidate I was working in his/her local area, unless he/she had a special place they wanted to go, and a compelling reason to get there. That includes positions that were very unique and specialized, and very unique and specialized candidates.

Isn’t that a rather limited way to do this business? I prefer to think of it as a smarter way of doing this business.

I have always believed that within 30 miles of any point on the map every kind of candidate exists, and a good opportunity exists within 30 miles for anyone open to pursuing a new job. Relocation is rarely, if ever, necessary for any candidate or any company, even when convinced their “uniquely qualified candidate” cannot possibly be a local candidate.


Military Recruiters Who Lie


A lot is being written lately regarding the military recruiter in Texas who told a recruit who had changed his mind about joining the service that he was “going to jail” if he did not report for basic training. That’s sad, because it perpetuates the age-old stereotype of the military recruiter who will say and do anything in order to meet a quota.

As there are bad apples in any field, there are military recruiters who lie. They are a very small minority. As a former Marine Corps officer who has worked with all the services over the years, I am very familiar with military recruiting programs, policies, and recruiter tactics.