A Tomato Is A Fruit: Why Rules And Processes Have Their Limits

Published on

March 30, 2018

Written by

Alison Humphries


Anyone who has worked with me to grow a recruitment business will know that I am a big fan of good processes.

Used intelligently, the right processes will;

  • Reassure clients and candidates of consistent standards
  • Ensure compliance
  • Save you lost time and opportunity cost, as well as expensive errors
  • Ultimately, produce reliable business results

HR and data handling processes have probably never been more important to safeguarding your business than now.

But occasionally I meet people who forget that the recruitment business is not process-led.

It is people-led.

And when those people apply processes where they don’t link clearly to good results, or apply them without intelligence, they can have the opposite effect.

A tomato is a fruit. Technically.

But don’t put it in a fruit salad.

Many years ago, I met a business owner who saw real benefits from some of the processes I introduced. In fact, he wanted to apply processes to every area of his business. He believed that if I “scripted” every part of the recruitment playbook, he’d be able to hire cheaply, spend nothing on training and ultimately automate.

Now, his business is making less than 10% of the profit it made then.

In some ways, this guy was something of a visionary. He felt that if only you could apply a Total Quality Management system to the business, profits would skyrocket. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If your business only fills, for example, one in five of the vacancies you register, why not delete four and spend all your time working on the “dead certs”?


  1. People rarely tell you the whole truth at the beginning of a relationship. So they may not tell you that they are desperate to make a move, for instance.
  2. In spot recruitment, if you don’t work with a wider range of potential candidates and clients, you can’t build your network and relationships. And that’s what makes you a great recruiter later on- connections and relationships and market intelligence that you can call on quickly- not being able to advertise.
  3. Because people know when they are being processed, and they resent it if it’s done rudely, hurriedly or without intelligence.
  4. Because they aren’t ready to make a committed decision (to move, to hire, to switch to using you exclusively, etc.)

You can certainly think of some more reasons.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Let’s say you subscribed to an online retailer over Christmas, (perhaps for a healthy meal delivery service). But its service isn’t exactly what you expected. And the “customer service” button only gives you a fixed selection of choices when you need to speak to a person- one with judgement and authority to act. So instead of changing your order, you sign out, unsubscribe and probably won’t go there again.

Statistically, you’ll warn off several of your friends too.

But let’s get back to the process-lover…

At the time, I applied my “process” to this guy to see if I could continue to work with him.

He had authority to make a decision (sole-proprietor). Tick.

He had the budget. Tick.

He had a need to act (the business results were much improved but still unpredictable.) Tick.

But in his case, he didn’t care how people felt and couldn’t empathise with it.

And he wasn’t ready to hear an alternative path. He needed to try things out for himself.

I also applied the last bit of my process to him. I found a way to stay in touch, politely but not intrusively. Now we are working together.

I’m seeing some exceptional, driven people starting up recruitment businesses right now. They are great recruiters, but they have no experience as business leaders. So they either pay no attention to processes or over simplify them.

In the first case, they create no infrastructure and leap from managing one crisis to the next. Trainees are confused and disorientated. Clients don’t understand what the offering is.

In the second case they document a set of processes that simply aren’t sophisticated enough to meet the challenges of the market. And their trainees don’t have the experience, and apply them without intelligence. They find the job unrewarding, repetitive and leave.

That tomato? It’s a fruit. That’s information based on a process.

But despite what the processes tell you, don’t put it in a fruit salad. That’s wisdom.

Here are some of the processes you do need:

  1. Maximise the potential of all your contacts. If a client isn’t ready to act, do you have a process to remain in polite, relevant contact for when they are ready?
  2. A candidate decides to stick where she is. Do you have a process to find out why, convert them to a client, maintain relevant contact for future referrals?
  3. If a member of your staff isn’t performing, do you have a process for finding out why? Or just a process for managing them out?
  4. Is there a process for reviewing job orders that includes quality (and by “quality” I don’t mean “easy to fill”)?
  5. Do you have a process for encouraging and reviewing customer feedback? Properly used, Net Promoter Scoring can transform your business.

Without processes like these, you can’t grow a network of relationships that you can call on in the future.

And that means starting every day as if you were a beginner. A bit like putting a tomato in your fruit salad every day.

If you’d like to review your strategy and processes in 2018, contact Alison Humphries at recruitment Leadership Ltd on 07720 677557.

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