We feel like those recruiters ripped us off!

Recently, I talked with the ownership of a San Francisco bay area electrical contractor of considerable size. Very nice people. They needed a project manager/estimator with deep experience in commercial electrical subcontracting, relationships with the local general contractors, and a track record of tenure. All pretty reasonable.

As we discussed the reasons for their urgent need we came to discussing reasons for turnover, normal churn and otherwise. Their stated reasons for people’s turnover was incredibly ambiguous, particularly the outgoing project manager they are replacing. This potential client had been bizarrely difficult to communicate earlier with and then suddenly and urgently needed to talk, so I was surprised by the lack of clarity, or communication of clarity on turnover. Usually reasons for turnover is quite clear.

Time for a different tack. “What has been your experience with recruiters?” I asked.

“It’s been disappointing.” Came the quick response. “We have paid several recruiters fees for people and none of the candidates have stuck with us longer than a year.”

Puzzled, with a warning flag waving in my mind, I ask “Do you feel like the recruiters did something improper?”

“Well, yes, we feel like they ripped us off”.

“Hmmmmm… What would you do differently to avoid the situation again?”

“We don’t know. We haven’t been very impressed with recruiters.”

They didn’t appreciate hearing that recruiters cannot practically guarantee retention. It’s impossible.

We didn’t do business. There was an ugly unwinnable conversation in our collective futures about how so-and-so left for a new job and we are to blame. This company doesn’t take responsibility for their hires, for retention, and blame-shifts for their management problems. They would have had a poor experience with us also so we politely agreed to go our separate ways.


Personal responsibility is the fundamental key to success in anything. Owners who fail to take responsibility for their performance of their company holistically will be limited by those blind spots and until they are addressed. Hiring a recruiter to plug a hole before proper team cohesion and retention is achieved is foolhardy.

The #1 reason good people leave is management. People really do quit their bosses, it’s not just a clever phrase.

About the author

TJ Kastning is the principal of Ambassador Search Group, a boutique recruiting agency passionate about finding excellent professionals for amazing construction companies.

Please send us your questions and we will answer them in our ‘This Week’s Questions’ series.

Recent Articles


Author: TJ Kastning

TJ Kastning is the proud owner of Ambassador Search Group, a special high-touch, trust-based, old-fashioned headhunting firm serving only the best west coast companies.

To contact him email tj@ambassadorgroup.com.

View His Bio.