A Profile of the World’s Most Aggressive Recruiter, Part 2

Questions and answers with Michael Lackaye (and some outrageous quotes!)

I asked Michael to highlight some of the approaches he used at Quicken Loans and at other previous employers. What follows are his responses. I think you will agree that they are aggressive?and on the edge.

What is your most/ least effective source?

Most: Employee referrals.

Least: Job fairs.

What was your typical recruiting timeline like?

“My typical recruiters would bring in on average four ‘same-day service’ candidates. These candidates would progress from phone screen, to recruiter interview, to hiring manager interview, to senior leadership interview…in one day.”

Top people are often on the market for a single day. Great firms find a way to do one-day hiring for these fast movers.

What is the dollar impact of great vs. average hires?

“Roughly…a candidate that fails after three months: -35 thousand…a successful candidate that stays a year +500 thousand. That’s an enormous gap.”

Tell me about competitive intelligence and attacking the weak.

“We thrived on team communication; if there was a company in peril or we had successful recruiting angles, it was communicated instantly.”

Some might think targeting weak firms is somehow unfair, but in business, it is survival of the fittest. When a firm puts out a bad product or raises prices, competitors naturally attack and communicate directly to customers the merits of their superior product or price. Jobs are products, and talented professionals are consumers; when a talent competitors’ product is defective, it just makes sense to offer the consumer something better.

Do you believe in hiring to hurt or learn from other firms?

“We always hire to hurt our competitors.”

What metrics do you rely on and advise others to gather?

Lackaye says he is very metrics oriented. He recommends that recruiters constantly track call time, number of outbounds, number of sendouts (interviews), etc. He also runs metrics on recruiter retention rates of and profitability of new hires.

What is your approach to prioritizing jobs?

“Our senior VPs (who supervised five to 12 hiring managers) got a call from me every 48 hours…you must know where the more dire needs are. They will feel loved, and important, and it will build the trust and respect in your relationship.”

How do you find and hire great recruiters?

“The best recruiters I have hired did third-party and AE [account-executive] work. I spearheaded development of an internal formalized recruiter training program [focused on those skills].”

He says he usually finds recruiters “through my local network. When you recruit in the same town for nearly a decade, you better know who the most aggressive firms are, who offers the best training, who turns out the best recruiters, and who might be looking.”

How do you pay for performance?

Lackaye says his approach dictates that at least half of recruiters’ first-year income should be commission, sometimes as high as 70%. (Note: If you want internal recruiters to act like the preferred “head hunter,” you must entice them like external head hunters!)

To ensure cooperation and sharing, he says “most bonuses on top of the commission structure were team-based incentives. I think tying an SLA [service-level agreement] to individual compensation is where the future is.”

What approach did you employ to make recruiters accountable?

“Recruiters were given minimum expectations according to tenure. You miss it two months, you are on warning, miss it three months…see ya.”

What is your most outrageous college recruiting tool?

“College rock concerts produced and sponsored by us [students provided a resume as admission], organized campus dodge-ball competitions, etc.”

How did you tie internal turnover to recruitment planning?

“We were always asking the hiring leaders how much attrition they planned for so we could get more candidates hired.”

What is your most outrageous job-fair approach?

“We would just grab people out of our competitors’ lines. Over half of our hires from job fairs didn’t come to our booth.”

What applicant-tracking system advice can you offer?

“We couldn’t get what we wanted from a vendor, so we made our own.”

How do you leverage social networking sites?

“I have recruited three people off of MySpace…did a search for people working in the industry, made my own page [does not mention being a recruiter]. Started with ‘nice-to-meet-you’ emails, baited them into asking me what I do, bragged about the company, and made them come to me.”

How do you advise rewarding managers for great recruiting?


What advice would you offer to others with limited budget resources?

“Set the vision early. It will be easier to do with a smaller function than reorganizing a 40-person recruiting function. Offer a clear progression and growth plan and it will be easier to get your objectives accomplished. Showing value of an internal function verses using vendors is easy. Now take that savings and sell the reinvestment of those funds that you saved the company into newer technologies, more staff, etc.”

Personal Profile

Michael Lackaye’s personal goals are to “find and work with individuals who are as passionate about recruiting as I am. To truly own the talent-acquisition piece in a growing organization that isn’t afraid to get a little crazy.”

On his strengths: “My strength is my passion. I love what I do, and it shows. I am constantly looking to find a better way to acquire top talent.”

On his weaknesses: “I am not detail oriented. I am a big-picture leader. I have been striving over the last couple years to get better at sweating the small stuff.”

On his greatest accomplishments: “Being on an internal recruiting team that hires 100+ sales people a month.”

On his learnings: “In the beginning, I wasn’t building the proper partnerships with my hiring managers. I would get a job order, confirm the opening, and never really go deep with the true needs of the hiring manager. For this, I wasted their time and mine with candidates that weren’t hitting the mark. Since then, I would schedule time in my day to simply build relationships or review goals and candidates with my hiring managers. They need to know you have their best interests in mind. They will never know that if you don’t build a relationship.”

On becoming a great recruiter: Michael’s advice on how to get better as a recruiter is abandon fear. “You are not paid to be PR, you aren’t paid to call and make friends with candidates. You are paid to find the best, sell them, assess them, and hire them. Always be asking yourself ?is this person wasting my time, or is there value in going deeper?’ If you want to build a competitive advantage for your recruiting function, be ready to try anything crazy, and fail. Engage your internal network. Brand yourself. Invest time in competitive intelligence, not only in offensive recruiting, but being cognizant of your competitors’ efforts to take your best talent.”

“Recruiters need to be hunter-gatherers. They need to know how to sell, and they need to be hungry. I like recruiters that have AE backgrounds as well as recruiting. In order to be a good recruiter, you need to master two competencies: selling and interviewing.”

His advice on how to learn about new approaches to recruiting is to read material on ERE. “I like to network with other recruiters, just to make sure we are a step ahead.”

The Future as Lackaye Sees It

Michael says his plan for the future is to “take what I have learned in my experience and apply my own vision. To continue to advocate strong internal recruiting functions that don’t rely on outside vendors. When I look at the money a strong internal recruiting function has saved my past employers, I think that it’s just a matter of time before senior leadership in today’s corporate world realizes the true value of an internal function over vendors.”

His biggest concerns for the future are “old-school thinking concerning outside vendors. But I do believe once senior leadership teams open their eyes to the bottom line, and when they start to experience an even better caliber of candidate, this will become a no brainer.”


You might not think that recruiters need to be, or even should be, aggressive. However, after reading this profile, my bet is that you now have a clearer picture of “what an aggressive recruiter looks like.”

I’ll have to see what Lackaye will do in his next leadership role before I agree to relinquish my title, but I expect he will erase all doubt about who is the world’s most aggressive recruiter. He is simply the best!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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