26 March 2008

Profit Killers Part 3: How to waste your time at work

Time is money.

It's a statement you've probably heard many times. This is because largely, it is true. Regardless of our age or how much money we have or anything else superficial, we all have access to exactly the same amount of time each day, each week and each month as every other person.

One of the most common reasons/justifications/excuses I hear from recruiters as to why they don't consistently tackle important activities (eg prospect calling, staying in touch with candidates, completing thorough reference checks etc) is ... you guessed it ...
"I don't have enough time"
or "I'm too busy".

Unlike most other jobs, as recruiters we have a very big scoreboard that tells us how well we are managing our time in doing the things that matter - it's called our billings or gross profit/net margin. That big scoreboard doesn't care about how busy you are; all it records is how effective you are at performing activities that deliver desired results.  Confronting but true.

This is one reason why many people don't last in recruitment - they have come from previous employment backgrounds where being busy is good enough to keep their job (or get ahead). In recruitment being busy is never good enough to keep your job or get ahead.

Speaking as a recruiter, here are the 12 easiest ways to waste your time:


1.   Start the day socialising rather than on the phone
You know how this goes: 20 minutes getting toast and coffee, another 15 minutes having social chit chat around the office and then another 30 minutes on emails. The first phone call of the day is made at 9.50am.  It doesn't matter what time you arrive at the office, what really counts is when you start your outbound calls. 

2.   Writing emails
It takes about five times as long to write an email as it does to make a phone call where, in most cases, you can have the complete conversation done and dusted in about 3 minutes. If your email is more than 5 sentences long, it's really a conversation, so get on the phone!  

3.   Surfing the Internet
I love being online as much as the next person but I know that when I really need to accomplish something significant I have to close my browser. As much as the web is great for sourcing all sorts of useful stuff for our jobs, mostly recruiters use the web for personal reasons, unrelated to their job.  

4.   Interviewing too many marginal candidates
If you are not referring at least 50% of your interviewed candidates to clients within 4 weeks (for registered jobs or float/reverse market opportunities) then your screening and selection skills need to be improved immediately. I've yet to meet a recruiter who made a fee from a candidate they interviewed but didn't refer to a client.  

5.   Sole visits
Leaving the office for one visit is, quite frankly, a crime against time management. There is so much dead time soaked up in getting to and from a client or prospect visit that when you depart for a client meeting it should be the first of three back-to-back meetings you have scheduled. Book visits well in advance then make it your mission to arrange other visits around the first one.  

6.   Not completing what you start
Jumping from task to task is part of the landscape for a recruiter. Unfortunately a lot of time is wasted every time you do this (in ramp-up and wind-down time); so much so that it dramatically reduces how much you actually accomplish each day. Try operating from the DO IT, DELEGATE IT or DELETE/DUMP IT principle and DON'T get DISTRACTED before you finish it.  

7.   Opening and responding to emails immediately
One of the most effective time managers I know, only opens his emails at the beginning of the day, at lunch time and then at the end of the day. The rest of the time he is on the phone and talking to people face-to-face. You would be amazed (or maybe not) by what he doesn't miss out on by not looking at and responding to his emails as soon as they come in.  

8.   Debriefing your colleagues after every little drama
A recruiter's day is full of many minor (and sometimes major) dramas. Regardless of how interested you think your colleagues are in hearing about any of these (and here's the brutal truth), they really don't care! They have their own job to get on with. Save your war stories until post 6pm wind-down, or even better, Friday night drinks when you have a better perspective on the week's events.  

9.   Messages left with no specific point
I get annoyed when people leave a voice message and ask me to call, with no reason given. It means I can't do any preparation prior to returning the call to enable the subsequent conversation to accomplish something in the shortest amount of time. Make sure you provide specific detail in any message you leave for another person.  It's also likely they will prioritise returning your call ahead of other non-specific ‘left message' callers.  

10. Writing things down on random pieces of paper
Nothing is more frustrating than spending valuable time trying to find where you wrote down that address, salary or phone number. What worked for me was having a spiral bound A4 notebook in which I wrote down everything. I then ticked it off when I had acted upon it (eg transferred info into database, returned that call, etc).  

11. Not confronting profit killing clients soon enoughIf you have clients in this category you need to have the tough conversation with them today. The longer their errant behaviour continues, with you in obedient tow, the more your time is wasted.  

12. Not working from a prioritised ‘To Do' list
Without such a list you risk becoming highly reactive to the day's and week's events. This makes the daily and weekly accomplishment of high pay-off activities more luck-based rather than as the result of your specific, proactive intention.

I once heard yachting described as standing under a cold shower ripping up $100 notes. Something similar applies to recruiters with respect to time wasting. Allowing any of the above 12 things to continue, now that I have raised your awareness of them (although, let's face it, you secretly knew you were doing most of these anyway, didn't you?) is like throwing away $100,000 worth of annual fees or margin.

That's easily how much difference greater vigilance and action on time wasting could make to your result in a year. Just one more perm placement per month (or temp placement per week) through cutting down your time wasting activities is likely to generate a huge dividend.

Are you willing to give it a shot or will you continue committing crimes against time?

2 comments:

  1. Please comment on this article and share your views with the recruitment community.

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  2. Another highly effective time waster I have found is tying to place a candidate outside my target market. I spot a candidate that is obviously top shelf (but not my usual suspect) and decide to try and place them because I think I'm unbeatable! Rarely works as I haven't generated enough impetus in that field. When I stick to my narrow target field my desk flourishes.

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