Silver Bullets

Most of you are familiar with “Silver Bullets” – whether you are a fan of The Lone Ranger (who used them) or of folklore where silver bullets were the only way to kill a werewolf, witch or other monster – everyone knows what silver bullets are.

But today, I’ll be using the idiomatic definition as defined in Wikipedia:

The term has been adopted into a general metaphor, where “silver bullet” refers to any straightforward solution perceived to have extreme effectiveness. The phrase typically appears with an expectation that some new technology or practice will easily cure a major prevailing problem.

This is a fitting definition for folks in recruiting departments across the world.  I’ve not run into a Recruiter or Sourcer this year who didn’t look at every technology as a “silver bullet”.   First the internet, then Google, Linkedin, and now social networking – you name it and chances are that the hopes and fears of recruiters will have rested on it at one time. 

I’m not sure why our profession is always in search of “silver bullets”.  I wonder if surgeons are always looking for a silver bullet – that technology or practice that will miraculously make their jobs easy and stress free?  Maybe construction folks thought the pneumatic nail gun was their “silver bullet” – after all, no hammering – hooray!  No nail pouches around my waist? YES! Finally, my job will be a breeze.  And then on Monday, they are back to crawling around 2×4 beams in freezing weather and they finally realize “hey, my job is hard – sure this new tool makes one part of it easier but overall, my job is hard.”  There are no silver bullets in recruiting.  Recruiting is hard work.

I believe that recruiting should be hard work.  Somewhere, with all the technology silver bullets we have at our disposal, the concept of recruiting being hard work got lost on many recruiters.  I know of “Recruiters” who harvest applicants from their ATS or simply get finalists referred to them by the hiring managers, process offers, put together hiring packets and move to the next one.  Recruiting?  I think not.  Somewhere we’ve blurred the lines of the verbs “recruiting” and “hiring”.  If you are taking pre-packaged applicants and simply moving them through a process to on boarding – you are NOT a recruiter, you are a staffing person or recruiting coordinator or some other version of an HR person.  Sure your job may be busy but it’s not hard.

A true recruiter works very hard for their money.  Not frantically hard like, “I’ve had to process over 20 offers this week” but rather emotionally hard like, “I spoke to my candidate’s husband last night and he grilled me on the career path his wife would have should she accept our SVP offer” or mentally hard like, “I cold called 27 candidates and got 25 “no’s” before I found my two candidates”.  Recruiting is and always will be a unique mix of art and science and those people who do it and do it well will attest to it being hard work. 

As always, the genesis of the movement to processing rather than recruiting lies solely in what the organization measures and rewards in their staff.  What you measure you promote.  Measuring and rewarding recruiters on time-to-fill, number of hires made in a year etc. drive processing.  To drive recruiting, you need to measure and reward things like quality-of-hire, retention and business impact of hires.

Measuring quality-of-hire, retention and business impact of hires is “hard” you say?  No Silver Bullets – I told you, recruiting (and managing recruiters) is hard work!


  1. IT Staffing on September 17th, 2010 3:53 pm

    I think silver bullets used in “hollywood shootout ” too?? Or are those were “steel bulets” ? Neways nice to learn the origin to name… :) again a informative article..

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