6 Examples of Active Management in Recruitment

Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2022 by Alison Humphreys - Award winning NED and strategic advisor

Have you recently done a round of monthly 121s?

Whatever you call them (personal development meetings, planning, review, action plan), the chances are you spent a large part of them reviewing activity and performance from a month that finished two weeks or more ago.

And a lot of conversations go like this…

Manager: So you put in x in billings. Well done. I’m concerned about your pipeline, though, the CRM says you only made Y BD calls and you haven’t got any interviews set up for this month. Why?

Consultant: yes, I know. I was so busy chasing the deals, though! There’s no getting away from that, is there?

So the conversation concludes with a few actions and no responsibility.

If you are in perm recruitment the bill, bd, bill cycle is often terribly clear on a month-by-month zig zag. The effect is muted if you work temp/contract, but it’s still there.

I find lots of managers don’t actively manage – they wait until the end of a month and then have this same conversation, which, as it is retrospective, revolves around the consultant justifying their actions. And nobody wants to put a dampener on a consultant who just hit the required level, right?

Thing is, this cycle creates enormous stress for recruiters. If your clock goes back to zero each month, the stress can lead to burnout, shortcuts and “banking” where a consultant calls a deal before it’s sealed and ends up in a permanent deficit. It’s the norm in many organisations I know, and covered up when people eventually exit with accusations of fraud and false reporting.

And the main reason it happens? Note that I don’t say the only reason, but mainly it’s because of passive management.

You can call it Leadership if it makes you more comfortable. (I note that my autocorrect capitalises Leadership, but not management).

If you manage salespeople in recruitment, you are the conductor of an orchestra. Or, if you prefer, in control of a huge mixing desk.

Your levers can be assignment control, candidate generation, client management, data management, to name just a few.

Every day, your people’s focus and priorities need to change. An Active Manager™ does this in real time, not 5 weeks after the event.

The role of the Active Manager ™ has been denigrated for decades in recruitment as “micro-management”. That’s the close inspection of detail without a view for the whole. And yes, I’ve seen that too, with inexperienced managers focused solely on quantitative KPIs as if the whole “throw enough s**t against the wall” thing were true.

True Active Managers ™ understand what is going on in each team member’s environment. They have to help them, though, tear themselves away from servicing job orders when they have maxed out the control they have over them.

This is hard. But let me give you 6 Examples of Active Management in Recruitment:

1) The best Managers plan before the day starts. They have a clear sense of the goals and priorities, and don’t allow their teams to organise their day around their inbox or easy tasks. They have a short, impactful sales meeting based on agreeing performance goals (such as signing up a client), not activity goals (such as screening CVs).

2) They give feedback in real time, not after the month end. If a consultant is not qualifying a job effectively, they intervene and make sure the task is completed effectively. If more detailed training is required, they schedule it as well.

3) In order to give effective feedback, they have a very clear vision of what constitutes best practice. This allows them to quickly identify what isn’t being done, as well as the quality of what is being done. This ability to diagnose qualitative issues as well as quantitative ones is key.

4) The best Managers share with their teams what the overall business goals are, and what that means in terms of their contribution, today. “To be the recognised market leader” is a bit nebulous when you are chasing candidates and jobs each day. But if instead it means that “this week we are going to fill three quarters of the jobs we register” then that is a verifiable way of outgunning the competition. And each team member can contribute to that by getting better control of jobs, sourcing exclusive candidates and winning new business.


Alison Humphries is a highly experienced MD and NED, with 35 years at the top of the recruitment sector.

She advises directors and owners of recruitment businesses on strategy, finance, sales and management to maximise performance, enter new markets, prepare for sale and work more efficiently. 

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