I VolunteerDuring my undergrad years in Charlottesville, Virginia, I took an internship at the local office of a large non-profit organization. I had a variety of responsibilities, including coordinating volunteers, communicating with volunteers, and serving as witness to the Win-a-Car-With-a-Hole-in-One contest during the annual charity golf fundraiser. Like so many experiences since, the “learning” continues retrospectively.

A very important mantra within the organization was that our volunteers – who freely gave their time and talents for no compensation – were the lifeblood of the organization. We went out of our way to accommodate and appreciate them. Volunteers choose to which organizations they want to devote their time, and this means that we needed to compete for their commitment. We wooed those individuals with kindness, grace and gratitude, and with intentional actions that included extra-large doses of communication and recognition.

My reminiscing led me to think about contingency recruiters, who aid firms in identifying key hires without being paid until the hire happens. These folks are a lot like the volunteers I met during my college internship at the NPO. Contingency recruiters donate their time, resources and expertise to a recruiting effort deemed important enough for a firm to outsource help with the project. Until they are successful, however, these recruiters work for free.

The obvious objection is that recruiters are not free … nor are they non-profit entities … but they are, indeed, much like volunteers in that they decide which firms will receive the bulk of their time and loyalty. There are firms that hold them at arm’s length, do not communicate with them, and manage the relationship in an adversarial fashion, and there are firms that invest in the outsourced recruiting effort with time, attention, and feedback at every turn. Which organizations do you think will get better results? Yes, this is a leading question …

Those of you in corporate America that liaise with external contingency recruiters, please remember that they risk their resources and time on your behalf. The more engaged you are in their success, the better results you will get.