“I want someone who can bring their black book/Rolodex of contacts”
“What clients can you bring with you?”
The Rolodex hunter is a hiring manager or leader, who thinks they can
circumvent the process of hiring good salespeople by selecting someone with
a Rolodex of contacts who will “immediately bring results”. They think that
an individual has special relationships with these customers, and will be able
to persuade them to immediately dump an incumbent supplier and change
to whatever our humble walking Rolodex is carrying in their Filofax (pardon
the 80s reference, but our Rolodex hunter is usually associated with having
come up in their sales career in the 1980s).
Everything about Rolodex hunting is fundamentally flawed as a recruitment
The Rolodex hunter is often closely aligned with ‘the big spender’.
The problem with the Rolodex hunter is that they are sending a thousand
messages to internal and external recruiters and more importantly still, to the
candidates that they are trying to potentially bring into the business.
There is usually something very cynical about the Rolodex hunter. They
can’t remember the last time they met a candidate who was as good as they
were “back in the day” and they have fired a lot of salespeople in their career.
A lot of them. Very quickly, comfortably and easily. They don’t believe in
prospecting because they haven’t done any themselves for years and wouldn’t
know how to lead someone else to do it. Our Rolodex hunter usually moves
around a lot and may be missing a job or two off their CV.
It hints they are in trouble and desperate for numbers.
It implies they don’t think much, or do much due diligence about hiring.
It highlights their sales strategy and the strategy of their company as deeply
mediocre with no marketing support, brand or general strategy for the
The candidates that Rolodex hunters hire are usually at a late stage in their
career, have done their dash and are selected from a small, dwindling sphere
of influence without any prospecting or strategic thinking.
It sends the message that they will fire a candidate once they have milked
them for contacts.
They somehow seem to think that the job they have on offer is the most
desirable on the market.
Candidates typically run a mile from Rolodex hunters, unless they are utterly
desperate in one of two ways:
1. They can’t find a job.
2. They are in enormous personal debt and prepared to make a deal with
the devil for an exorbitant, above market rate salary (you can usually tell
because they have moved around a lot, and always into ridiculously risky
jobs with a high basic salary).
Firstly, let’s talk about the concept of a Rolodex or a “black book”. I know it’s
a metaphor, but the metaphor itself communicates a lot. I am 100% certain
that if I asked my colleague who joined the business fresh from university as
a graduate what a Rolodex was, that she would Google it before she gave me
an answer, or would give me that slightly pitying wan smile that she gives
me when I talk about something “retro”, (i.e. anything that, rather chillingly,
happened before 2004). The mere act of metaphorically talking about a
Rolodex or a black book of contacts dates our hiring manager immediately. It
dates their training. It dates their skill set. It dates their mindset. It says “80s
man” and worse still, anyone old enough to remember what sales was like in
the 80s will immediately subconsciously make the connection that it is how
this person rolls.
The word Rolodex does not communicate ‘CRM’ or ‘marketing automation’
or ‘Inbound lead strategy’ to a candidate. It communicates the worst moments
of the film, Glengarry Glen Ross.
By being a Rolodex hunter, our hiring manager is immediately communicating
that they are desperate for numbers. Now there is nothing wrong with being
desperate for the number. We are ALL desperate for the number but what
the Rolodex hunter is communicating is that they are not prepared to wait
for some fundamental things to happen – like the basic building of a pipeline.
They need a result, and they need it NOW! They need it yesterday! They don’t
come across as someone with a sense of urgency. Instead, they appear to be in
trouble, probably even behind the number already. In turn, it makes a subtle
set of observations about the company that they represent. It says that they
are hire and fire. It also communicates that salespeople aren’t something the
business invests in, but more something they “have a punt on”.
The Rolodex hunter rarely does enough due diligence in the hiring process.
There is an entirely different basis to the employer and employee relationship
with the Rolodex hunter. This is not an employer that clearly defines the skills
and competencies they need and sets out to interview around those with
his recruitment partners until he gets the result he needs. The relationship
between the Rolodex hunter and his new salesperson is simple. Bring me
your “contacts” and harvest from them – and if you can’t then we will part
company. Their approach does not say “I am hiring you for your skills and
abilities, or to support you while you build a healthy pipeline which, over time
you will close as part of a team effort”. The Rolodex hunter is looking for a
shortcut to success and rarely finds it.
The Rolodex hunter sends an immediate but very subtle message to the
prospective candidate pool. “I don’t have a marketing operation here and
There will be no leads for you. I am hoping that you can bring something in
from your old pals network that will buy us both some breathing space whilst
you do some real selling work, prospecting and pipeline building…and stop
my boss from firing us both”.
Rolodex hunters hire people who remember the Rolodex!
Really smart candidates in the prime of their career, unless being stupid
will run a mile from the Rolodex hunter. The companies they meet simply
have more enticing value propositions in their own brand, products, pay
and working conditions. They don’t know why they run away but they know
that that they are a lot less excited by a job with our Rolodex hunter than
the multiple opportunities they have on the go at “sexy pre IPO vendor X
with their truck load of stock options, £40million of Series B funding and
a fearsome burgeoning brand name in a cutting-edge market sector”. (Did
I mention that Rolodex hunters nearly always operate in mature markets?).
Market forces kick in and two things happen. Firstly, the recruitment agency
community (many of whom aren’t experienced enough to spot a Rolodex
hunter) subconsciously lose heart with the job spec and it slips down their
priority list. Even the most useless recruiter has one super sexy client that
they can send a super sexy candidate to meet. Therefore, the Rolodex hunter
gets sent the needy and the weak. They often meet weak candidates in later
stages of their career who are prepared to make the unwritten and unspoken
Faustian pact about the nature of the relationship. When asked at interview
if they can bring some of their clients with them, they will answer with a
resounding “HELL YES!”. After all, six months of work at a good salary is
better than no work at all and who knows, maybe in that time they might
actually be able to weave some magic in the old black book and bring
something to keep the wolf from the door for another six months.
INSIGHT: How Much Should I Pay
BOOK CLUB Ep. 134: Always Be Hiring by Jonathan Graham Part 1
BOOK CLUB Ep. 134: Always Be Hiring by Jonathan Graham Part 1