bobRecently, I was finally able to take a real vacation that did not include conferences, meetings, or speaking arrangements.  My destination: Jamaica. My goal: to swim the warm waters and drink as much rum punch.

Hey, cut me some slack. It’s pretty rare for me to just unplug and turn off the world. As you might have guessed, the Island did not disappoint.

We’re talking warm, white sand beaches, those ridiculous oversized drinks with umbrellas and neon straws and shit, and, of course, jerk chicken. This was the good life, no candidates or clients or coworkers to deal with. A guy could get used to this, I thought, sticking a twisty straw into a pineapple, the waves lapping at my feet.

One thing was for sure: I did not miss recruiting.

Not having to talk hiring, or talk shop, or talk about anything even remotely related to business gave me a chance to actually get to make a few friends with the locals. No matter how breathtakingly beautiful the beach might have been, it had nothing on the amazing culture of being content just being instead of always becoming. There’s a term, “island time,” that I totally got – and my internal clock adjusted more with every grin, high five and ya, mon that came my way.

I really wish I worked at one of those companies that had unlimited PTO. I mean, seriously – how exactly does that work?

Probably better this way, because after I used my paid days away, I actually came back. But not before making the most of the one vacation I’ve had in way to freaking long.

Trenchtown Rock.

bob-marley-picture-quotes-bob-marley-quotes-57175-1OK, so it started a little weird. I had, completely by accident, booked myself into what turned out to be a couples retreat. Since I’m eternally single, let’s just say I had a lot of time on my hands (too much, at times).

So, being the perpetual third wheel, I decided to ditch the weird Club Med thing going on around me and take the road less traveled.

Hey, I’m a recruiter, so it’s just in my nature to be curious – even if, at times, I’ll admit I might have been the teeniest bit sketched out. That’s what makes this shit fun.

I went to a bar where a bunch of rastas were shooting the breeze outside, ordered the house a round of Red Stripe, and tried to make friends. The Red Stripe helped. It wasn’t long before I started picking out those fascinating nuances that make culture so much more than a cliche corporate construct.

The first thing I heard was the way they spoke – a languid, low pidgin, a local patois known to the locals as “Patois,” which is convenient, although of course, it’s officially “Jamaican Creole,” if you’re a linguist, etymologist or douchebag. It’s like the Creole brought by the Acadians to Louisiana, only with charm and without that whole nails on blackboard sensation you get when you meet someone from, say, Shreveport. Shudder.

Of course, like in Louisiana, I was acutely aware that I was a tourist; unlike in the Cajun State, however, I respected the local culture, as there was actually local culture to appreciate. The Jamaicans habitually say hello by bumping fists, “irie, mon.” That was my favorite of the local lexicon; “irie” basically means, “feeling great,” which given the Rastafari rites and famous local fauna, sure came easy. Irie.

Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.

tumblr_m7ioeaR7wr1ruxvqdo2_400If there was one noticeable difference in the culture I saw up close in Jamaica and the much more mundane corporate version I’m used to, it’s the centrality of the core concept of “respect.” This word, said even more than irie, was used as an acknowledgement, a salutation, a goodbye and pretty much every other idiom out there. My cab driver probably used it two dozen times on the drive from the airport to the hotel; I told him, best as I could, what “respect” means in America. You know, “props.”

His response? He smiled and said, “ah, respect, man!” I’m not sure if he meant it, but it was a word he, like every other local, used less than sparingly, to say the least. Of course, my mind immediately goes to Rodney Dangerfield – hey, don’t tell me yours didn’t…or Aretha, of course. But over the course of my vacation, I heard the word “respect” so much that, considering all the time I had with my thoughts, got me to thinking about what, exactly “respect” really means and how we really use respect.

Respectively, the Kardashians, the Duggars or anyone who paid to be on Top Recruiter (which I think is pretty much everyone) show us that the concept of respect and notoriety have become dangerously commingled in our collective minds. We’ve lowered the bar, and our own standards of what’s worthy of “respect.” In the process, it seems, we’ve been so busy sharing our respects that we’ve lost sight of what’s really worth praising.

Sure, there are a million of those dumb “HR experts you should follow on Twitter” or “top recruiting thought leaders” lists out there (I just threw up a little in my mouth), and I’m not saying that those people don’t deserve credit, but respect? While frankly, many of those “thought leaders” and “influencers” are just my friends, plain and simple, the fact is when it comes to respect, there are a plethora of sourcers and recruiters doing amazing things every day who, like Rodney, never get respect. They keep their heads down, fight the good fight, and give candidates great experiences without talking about “candidate experience.”

In short, I respect recruiters who get shit done – even if they don’t keynote conferences or write rambling blog posts.

Satisfy My Soul.

“I’m not concerned with your liking me or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

Jackie Robinson

bob-marley-quotes1Sure, I’m lucky enough to have a little visibility because I’ve written a few blog posts and pontificated through a few Powerpoint presentations at industry conferences and events, but getting noticed doesn’t necessarily mean I should get respect for this sort of stuff; instead, respect is the fact that people are starting to pay attention to the fact that these posts represent a career spent learning, training, doing and just plain sticking with this whole recruiting thing.

For better or worse. That’s respectable, in my opinion, and what respect means to me more than any online recognition or social media platitude.

But I don’t ask for respect, and the fact is, no one who deserves respect does. Admiration happens because of actions, not words (says the writer) – and that’s why when it comes to the widespread lack of respect for recruiting in the court of public perception, those of us who have a whole lot of skin in this game have to do something. And fast.

Because while our profession is dismissed, scorned or ridiculed, those of us who know recruiting – and recruiters – deserve respect become more and more frustrated each and every day. Hell, at this point in time I feel like we need a support group or a twelve step program or something, because we’ve got a problem, and it’s getting worse. But we’ve got the power to put a stop to it.

Let’s start by saying a little shut to the up to every asshole hiring manager, crazy candidate or overbearing HR Lady out there and take a stand by standing up for ourselves for once. For Christ’s sake, no wonder we take so much crap; it’s not like we’re really fighting for respect letting ourselves be pushed around by everyone, the whipping boy for a broken process and backassed world of work.

I kind of feel like Howard Beale in that movie Network: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

And I kind of hope you feel the same way I do, too.

Get Up, Stand Up.

But will recruiters, myself included, risk rocking the boat? Irie, mon. Hell no – we’ve got bills to pay. So we’ll collect our paychecks and our commissions and talk about how hard recruiting is, and about how recruiters have no control over the process, and all that stuff that recruiters talk about while, being recruiters, dulling ourselves with a boat load of drinks. Hey, bottoms up, brother.

I think all of that conventional wisdom sounds good, but it’s bullshit. Come on – some of the smartest, most passionate people I know are in recruiting. The collective brain power and potential of this profession are truly staggering – if only they could be used for something more than we’re doing right now. If only we could come together instead of doing our own little thing in our own little silo. Because some of us care too much about this stuff to clock out.

The thing about recruiting is that there’s really no silver bullet; everyone’s got their own style. All you can do is take notes, follow your heart and make it about today, because today will only be the same as yesterday or tomorrow unless you actually exact the change we all need today. Lastly, know this: you are not alone. Reach out to people not just in your local recruiting community, but nationally and globally.

I know this sounds corny, but there’s never been another time in human history where humans have been so interconnected, or communications so convenient and cost efficient. Don’t let that go to waste. If you’re not sure where to start reaching out as a recruiter, check out one of the manifold Facebook or LinkedIn groups out there (be careful, some get a little spammy, since they’re mostly recruiting readers); register for or start your own site. Find a local group of recruiters, whether that’s TANS in Nashville, TAG in Atlanta, RecruitDC in NOVA or Sourcing Seven in Seattle; there’s bound to be a group gathering regularly right by you.

Hey, if you’re a recruiter, you’re family. One of us, one of us, one of us….

I’m also really happy to announce something else that’s kind of big that’s going down at the moment.

No More Trouble: Look Out, Top Recruiter. The Real #TheMovement Is Coming.

bobclenchedfistRight now, I’m not the only frustrated recruiter out there – and a bunch of us are starting to grow an organization – er, “professional association,” officially – all over the country. These local groups will be smaller parts of a national organization dedicated to supporting recruiters and sourcers of all skill levels in every industry in every talent organization, in house and external, everywhere in the country. We believe that together, this grassroots effort will collectively transform into a strong voice for us to rein in our industry – and ensure it’s worthy of the respect that it deserves.

This organization is dedicated to stopping the spammers, the frauds, the sleazebags and the RINOs (“Recruiters in Name Only”) out there who give all of us a black eye and making sure we have a profession we all can respect. There’s a wonderful proverb that says something like, “one stick can always be broken, yet when you band a group of sticks together is harder to break.”

While it’s a little too premature to share specific details, look for them here in the months to come. Here’s what I’ll tell you: this isn’t about education, certification, competing with any other groups out there or any of that BS. Nope. What we’re about is coming together, as recruiting and sourcing professionals, to create an ethical standard across our industry and making our values about more than making placements.

The ethical recruiter should, and hopefully will, be part of the rule in the future, rather than the exception.


Derek ZellerAbout the Author: Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliance. Currently, he is a Senior Sourcing Recruiter at Microsoft via Search Wizards.

He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines and technologies. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, military and college recruiting strategies.

You can read his thoughts on or or his own site  Derek currently lives in the DC area.


By Derek Zeller

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.