Time to ‘go on the attack’ when interviewing recruiters?

Mike Walmsley
Recruitment Training

Time to ‘go on the attack’ when interviewing recruiters?

HR professionals will probably shudder when they learn of the sales interview technique called, ‘The Attack.’ More about that in a moment….

Managing directors and FDs, on the other hand, shudder when they see the cost of repeated bad hires within their recruitment businesses.

According to BMS Performance, 27% of companies say a bad hire costs more than £50,000, with the impact of a wrong decision seeping into everything from employee productivity through to lost sales revenue. A separate Oxford Economics report showed that new hires take an average of 28 weeks to reach optimum productivity, with associated cost of just over £25,000 pp).

Let me repeat that – a bad recruiter hire can cost £25,000 to £50,000, according to the above.

So how much due diligence do you deploy when hiring trainee or experienced recruiters?

The attack interview method

Some years ago, I read an excellent book from legendary US sales trainer, Chet Holmes, called The Ultimate Sales Machine. In the book, Chet pointed out that 52% of salespeople give up after only one rejection. Only 4% try more than 4 times. He strongly suggests that self-esteem is the critical difference between someone who will face that rejection just one more time and then quit – or face it all day long and never quit.

It’s worth reading the book to find out how he uses The Attack method during telephone screening calls and interviews to weed out potential bad sales hires but in a nutshell, at the point where you think you might have found the right person, he advises that you say something like, “You seem like a nice person. If I had two positions, I’d probably hire you. But to be truthful, I don’t get the impression you’re really a superstar.”

Chet recommends that you deliver this tactfully, but says many people crumble at the point where you tell them you don’t think they are made of the right stuff. He says, “If the candidate agrees and thanks you for your time, let that person go – superstars never crumble. They have tremendous faith in themselves, and nothing can convince them they can’t do the job.”

"A bad recruiter hire can cost? £25,000 to £50,000, according to the above."

My take on interviewing rigorously is to assess 3 main competencies as follows:


Build competency-based questions that drill down hard into the hunger, work ethic, commitment and never say die attitude


Build competency-based questions that assess the extent to which a person cares about their job – e.g. how likely are they to call that candidate at 8 PM in the evening in order to get a deal closed? Do they need telling once and then get it (like the stars) or will you constantly need to nag them? Are they a self-learner? etc.

Interpersonal effectiveness

Build competency-based questions that drill down into persuasiveness, sales potential, empathy, ability to quickly build relationships etc

Critically, I role-play on every interview to assess interpersonal effectiveness AND THIS IS WHERE I FIND IT MOST USEFUL to incorporate The Attack interview technique.

1. If a potential trainee recruiter struggles with a realistic role-play, I find The Attack an easy way to professionally get the person to realise that recruitment isn’t for them meaning that I can save time by cutting the telephone screening short.

2. If they perform an excellent role-play, I can really test their resolve and desire for recruitment by using a version of The Attack.

I also use psychometrics extensively, my favourite being Big5Assessments.com, because this invariably uncovers strengths or weaknesses that could easily be missed during an interview.

Finally, with potential new entrants to the industry I test out their hunger for sales by setting them a task after the interview to watch some of our sales training videos.

How rigourous is your internal interviewing?